Speak­ing out against li­brary cuts

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

I am writ­ing re­gard­ing the clo­sure of the pub­lic li­brary in Har­bour Grace.

The War Memo­rial Li­brary in Har­bour Grace is one of the li­braries slated be closed by the cur­rent pro­vin­cial Lib­eral gov­ern­ment. In a prov­ince with one of the low­est lit­er­acy rates in Canada, it is a back­wards step to close half our li­braries down.

Imag­ine what greater good we could do if we in­creased li­brary spend­ing and pro­vided more re­sources to the many peo­ple about to be neg­a­tively af­fected by the aus­ter­ity budget.

In Novem­ber 2015, I won the NLCU Fresh Fish Award. I would never have writ­ten the man­u­script that won if had not been for the li­brary in Har­bour Grace.

I can re­mem­ber the ex­act mo­ment when I de­cided to start writ­ing. It was Jan­uary and freez­ing. I was broke at the time; too worried about heat­ing bills to con­sider buy­ing books.

I had been to the li­brary that day and picked up a copy of “Walk­ing to Shenak” by Carmelita McGrath. Read­ing about some- one else’s iso­la­tion made me feel less alone dur­ing a hard win­ter in Har­bour Grace and it made it me want to write too.

I started writ­ing that win­ter and I con­tin­ued to read. Our small li­brary in li­brary in Har­bour Grace is full of lit­er­ary trea­sure. I would never have read “Hearts Larry Broke” by the Burn­ing Rock Col­lec­tive or “Fin­ish­ing School” by He­len Fog­will Porter had I not come upon them on Har­bour Grace Li­brary’s shelves.

I’ve read and been in­spired by “The Skin Room” by Sara Til­ley, “The To­pog­ra­phy of Love” by Ber­nice Mor­gan, “Fe­bru­ary” by Lisa Moore, The Death of Donna Whalen by Michael Win­ter, In­side by Ken­neth J. Harvey, “The Glass Har­mon­ica” by Rus­sell Wanger­sky, “Maiden from the Sea” by Nel­lie Strow­bridge and “Max­ine” by Claire Wilk­shire, to name but a few. When the li­brary closes ac­cess to these ti­tles will end for the res­i­dents of Har­bour Grace.

I don’t drive. There have been many times when I have been with­out the In­ter­net and the only way for me to ac­cess books is to walk to the li­brary.

I look around Har­bour Grace — about to lose its his­toric court­house, tourist chalet and our pub­lic li­brary — and I want to weep. I want to weep for the kid with no books at home who will now be com­pletely shut off from the lit­er­ary world.

I want to weep for all the peo­ple who use the li­brary for In­ter­net ac­cess or a quiet study space. Books on how to build a shed, on how cook to man­age di­a­betes, mys­tery nov­els and ro­mance, will all be gone.

Imag­ine if in­stead of clos­ing li­braries, and fur­ther dis­en­fran­chis­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble adults and chil­dren in this prov­ince, the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment gave the li­braries an­other mil­lion (re­ally a pit­tance in economies of this scale) how much more the li­brary sys­tem could do in this prov­ince.

Books teach us em­pa­thy, some­thing clearly lack­ing in our cur­rent Lib­eral gov­ern­ment.

Susie Tay­lor writes from Har­bour Grace

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