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A real page-turner

Inter-library loaning is one of many services slashes in public libraries this year. (Bryn Karcha photo)
Inter-library loaning is one of many services slashes in public libraries this year. (Bryn Karcha photo)

We’re told our country prizes academics and encourages curiosity, but it sure has a strange way of showing it here in Canada.

The April 2012 federal budget cuts were deep and unforgiving, as were the budgets of most countries coming out of a recession. In this country, however, the departments to take the brunt of it were a peculiar selection.

At the time of release, most people noticed the scale backs being done to the CBC, and the eradication of the penny. Now that the initial shock from those headliners has worn off, more troubling trends have come to light.

The Harper government has, in a move that surprised none of its critics, substantially reduced public library funding, this time eliminating inter-library loan services almost entirely. This cut is coming not long after earlier announcements that cut the StatsCan budget by 10 per cent (according to an article by The Montreal Gazette) and reducing the Library and Archives Canada workforce by 20 per cent.

No one ever said the Conservatives were liberal with information.

I can attest from my time working at a library that these new changes will affect everyone, regardless of age or race or any other divider. I grew up and worked in a city that was mostly English but had a strong French community. The inter-library trading service made sure no one was without books because of a language barrier. I was never told that I couldn’t get the book because my library didn’t carry it.

These programs have most likely been sacrificed to protect jobs and hours of operation, but is it a fair trade off?

Nova Scotia lost its last bookmobile in April of 2011. With the inter-library sharing service being discontinued, people of all ages and cultures will suffer the reduced access to books. Equal access to information is vital to maintaining a fair society, and the inter-library loaning cuts will affect access.

The budget must be checked over again. Programs are being cut that should be kept, and attention is being drawn away from this problem by a shiny new building—the new Spring Garden library—that is supposed to solve all of our problems.

Governments of all levels need to be reminded that education and access to information, be it archives or books, is important to Canadians. No one should have to buy a book—or be forced to do without it—because their library can’t afford to stock it. Libraries are an invaluable resource for Canadians, many of whom cannot and should not have to pay to borrow a book for school or for a good read.

Maybe if I didn’t believe that education is something to value, then I wouldn’t have a problem with these cuts.

Claire Wählen
Claire Wählen
Claire was News Editor of the Gazette for Volume 146. You can follow her on Twitter at @Claire_Wahlen.

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