It may be among the stronger libraries in eastern Newfoundland when it comes to things like circulation figures and computer usage, but the local library board chairman says the Bay Roberts Public Library is part of a system facing challenges across Newfoundland and Labrador.
That’s why Mike Hewson attended the Tuesday, April 9 council meeting. He was following up on recent correspondence the eastern division of Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries sent to the town.
In the letter, eastern division manager Andrew Lockhart highlighted one of the 18 recommendations contained in a review of public libraries in Newfoundland and Labrador, completed two years ago. This recommendation suggests the province and the Provincial Information and Library Resources Board (PILRB) should get municipalities involved in funding libraries that serve their communities.
While Lockhart wrote the provincial board acknowledges the fiscal challenges municipalities face, public libraries can relate.
“In much the same way that municipalities are struggling to maintain services in their community, the PILRB is struggling to maintain basic library services in 94 public libraries throughout the province,” he wrote.
Prior to the government-ordered review, the PILRB announced it would close dozens of public libraries across the province, including ones in Brigus, Harbour Grace and Victoria. Following a public backlash, the province reversed the decision to cut funds to the PILRB and instead ordered the review.
In the letter, Lockhart asked the town to attend local library board meetings in an ex-officio role. According to Hewson, identical letters have been sent to other municipalities across the province with libraries in their communities.
“The purpose would be to jointly identify any funding opportunities that exist for the town to provide assistance (whether in kind or monetary, no matter how great or small) to the local library board,” Lockhart wrote.
Hewson said the local board has concerns about this proposal, stating it’s not fair for the province to expect municipalities to step in and assist them in this way. He acknowledged council has, in the past, stepped in to help on individual requests, such as with funds to purchase a photocopier.
“So far, that has worked out quite well,” Hewson said, adding that does not equate to a joint-funding arrangement. “We have a number of things on the go at the library that we’re funding on our own limited funds, on the board’s funds, but I think this relates more to the future of the provincial libraries as a whole.”
Hewson did welcome council members to consider sending a representative to the local board’s annual general meeting at the end of April, noting there may be special projects the town could help with down the road. Mayor Philip Wood confirmed all members were aware of the initial letter, which was tabled at the March 12 council meeting.
“I don’t know if anybody is interested right now … but the invitation has been extended and if people are available to fit it in their schedule, they’re all going.”