Dalkeith library closing
North Glengarry Deputy Mayor Jamie MacDonald and other library supporters are upset after SD&G County Library Board’s “cowardly” decision to close Dalkeith, St. Andrews West and Morewood branches,
After a 3-3 tie vote at a Friday meeting, chair Bill McGimpsey broke the deadlock, sealing the fate of the branches.
Mr. MacDonald, who is County Warden, Frank Prevost, South Glengarry Deputy Mayor, and board vice-chair Barb Lehtiniemi (from Glen Robertson) all opposed the motion.
“Frank (Prevost) and I were adamant the vote shouldn’t take place,” said Mr. MacDonald. He felt blindsided when after the board rejected a reduction in Dalkeith branch hours, the motion to close the
branches was submitted.
Mayor Chris McDonell, a “staunch supporter” of the Dalkeith library was busy volunteering at the Highland Games Friday.
Mr. Prevost and Mrs. Lehtiniemi agreed the board wasn’t transparent in conducting the vote without engaging the public and municipalities involved first.
Mrs. Lehtiniemi resigned as vice-chair at the end of the meeting, adding there should have been some discussion after the final vote, when, instead, the meeting was hastily adjourned.
Mr. McGimpsey pointed out the aim of the closures was not to save money but to use the money in the budget efficiently, as directed by SDG County Council.
“I am hoping people will understand and start to use the next closest library to them,” he said. Use of the Dalkeith library had dropped by 21 per cent in June compared to the same time last year. He added it can cost the library as much as $1,000 per person annually for each user of a small branch library. The cost to run a small library 15 hours per week is about $55,000 per year. Salaries alone for the three branches amount to about $60,000 each year, confirmed Karen Franklin, director of SDG Library Services.
“When you take some of that money and put it into a large branch you can also offer better books, selection and programming in hours and impact more people,” Mr. McGimpsey said. He added people in the Dalkeith area can access the nearby, larger Alexandria library.
A 2012 consultation report showed SDG Library is “spending too much money for too little results” in certain smaller branches, so the savings from closing these branches will go back into “more inventory and money for more on-line books and hours of operation” in other branches. Mr. McGimpsey added the SDG Library is “languishing under its own weight” by maintaining branches that aren’t being adequately used. The library board previously received six different options from SDG County Library to close and/or reduce hours at some smaller branches that have low usage.
Ms. Franklin related the three branches closing are “not receiving any visitors on several days of the week,” adding: “Saturday at St. Andrews is a pretty bleak
day to be open because nobody comes. It’s been like that for a long time.”
Friends “devastated” by decision
Friends of the Dalkeith Library president Phyllis Noble said she is “devastated.”
The Friends believed if the library gained more members, it would be salvaged.
In April, the Friends and the Save Our SDG Library Branches supporters helped convince the board to rescind its earlier decision to reduce hours at the Dalkeith, St. Andrews West and Morewood branches.