Sup­port­ers cel­e­brate restoration of li­brary fund­ing

Southwest Booster - - FRONT PAGE - SCOTT AN­DER­SON SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

A party was hosted in down­town Swift Cur­rent on April 29 to cel­e­brate the restoration of fund­ing to Saskatchewan’s li­brary sys­tem.

The 90 minute cel­e­bra­tion fea­tured mu­sic, a se­ries of speeches, ap­pear­ances by Shim­mer the Don­key and Talla from Read to a Dog, plus a group story time read­ing by Anthea Lo­ran.

The li­brary sup­port­ers gath­ered in Mar­ket Square on Satur­day were in a sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent mood than they were back on April 7 when Swift Cur­rent was one of 85 com­mu­ni­ties hold­ing a ‘Drop Ev­ery­thing And Read’ rally as part of a province wide ef­fort by Save Our Saskatchewan Li­braries call­ing on the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment to re­verse their fund­ing cut to re­gional li­braries. A crowd of over 200 peo­ple at­tended that April 7 event, and province wide nearly 6,000 peo­ple ral­lied in sup­port of restor­ing full fund­ing to li­braries.

“We’re just very re­lieved and ec­static. But I think we’re all still in shock at what has hap­pened be­cause we al­most lost our li­brary sys­tem,” Swift Cur­rent Branch Li­brary Man­ager An­drea Mc­crim­mon said dur­ing Satur­day’s cel­e­bra­tion.

“We’re just thank­ful that the com­mu­nity pulled to­gether and ad­vo­cated for li­braries. I think this is a per­fect ex­am­ple of democ­racy in ac­tion.”

Saskatchewan li­braries were fac­ing an un­cer­tain fu­ture when the pro­vin­cial bud­get axed $4.8 mil­lion, or 58 per cent, of fund­ing to li­braries across Saskatchewan. The im­pact to the Chi­nook Re­gional Li­brary sys­tem was a $420,000 re­duc­tion, and lay­off notices were be­ing pre­pared for 100 em­ploy­ees across the re­gion be­fore the fund­ing was re­stored.

Mc­crim­mon ex­pressed her ap­pre­ci­a­tion for those who pulled to­gether for the li­brary sys­tem they care about so much, and their show of sup­port was a re­ac­tion not seen lo­cally for a num­ber of years.

“I think it was a re­ally im­por­tant mo­ment in the his­tory of Swift Cur­rent, and a very pow­er­ful mo­ment - gath­er­ing out­side of Pre­mier Wall’s of­fice to say Save Our Li­braries. And we’re very thank­ful that he did lis­ten to that.”

Joseph Nay­towhow, an Abo­rig­i­nal sto­ry­teller who now lives in Val Marie, shared a vic­tory song and ex­pressed his ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the li­brary fund­ing re­ver­sal. He told the au­di­ence that he used to read a lot of books from li­braries to help him make sense of the world.

“I read books that had mean­ing for me in my life. I’m re­ally glad they re-funded the li­braries.”

“The sto­ry­telling tra­di­tion is just as pow­er­ful and strong as the li­brary tra­di­tion.”

Par­ent and li­brary user Janelle Digney shared that she has been a life-long user of li­braries, start­ing as a child and con­tin­u­ing dur­ing her uni­ver­sity stud­ies.

“I still go to the li­brary to get books, but I also go to the li­brary for baby and tod­dler pro­grams and fam­ily events. And it wasn’t un­til I started go­ing to those events that I re­al­ized all of the other pro­grams that the li­brary of­fers.”

“It dawned on me that peo­ple who don’t reg­u­larly use the li­brary might not re­al­ize the broad range of pro­grams and ser­vices our li­braries of­fer.”

“Li­braries are def­i­nitely places where we can ac­cess in­for­ma­tion, and that’s a vi­tal role that they play. But they’re also safe spa­ces where com­mu­nity mem­bers can gather to learn dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties and share ideas and meet new peo­ple. And that’s why it is too sim­plis­tic to say that if we don’t have li­braries peo­ple can just read books on­line. Li­braries of­fer so much more than that. And ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and ac­cess to safe spa­ces are two of the many rea­sons why li­braries are so valu­able.”

Newly elected Saska­toon Mee­wasin MLA

Ryan Meili spoke to the au­di­ence about the pub­lic ac­tion which pres­sured the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment to re­ex­am­ine their fund­ing de­ci­sion.

“It has been so ex­cit­ing to see the re­sponse,” Meili said. “It has been dis­cour­ag­ing and up­set­ting to see the type of bud­get that we’ve been given, the un­nec­es­sary de­ci­sions that have been made that hurt peo­ple, that worsen the qual­ity of our life.”

Meili said it has been en­cour­ag­ing to see the turnout at rallies and peo­ple stand­ing up for what they think is im­por­tant in their com­mu­ni­ties. The re­stored fund­ing is a rea­son to cel­e­brate, but it also serves as a re­minder of what is pos­si­ble when vot­ers stand up against cuts to im­por­tant ser­vices.

“This is only the first step. That there are go­ing to be rallies for STC. There are go­ing to be rallies to re­store fund­ing for fu­ner­als for peo­ple who die on so­cial as­sis­tance. All of these things that are just part of de­cency. Part of giv­ing peo­ple the qual­ity of life they need and de­serve,” Meili said.

A se­ries of mu­si­cal per­for­mances were shared dur­ing Satur­day’s cel­e­bra­tion event mark­ing the re­ver­sal of fund­ing cuts to Saskatchewan li­braries.

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