Two public library-related letters that were published in the 22 May 2019 North Grenville Times invite comments.
Letter to the editor – inter-library loans by Shirley Price
Reply to Michael Whittaker’s open letter to Steve Clark MPP by Steve Clark, MPP
In the first letter, Shirley Price suggests that a fee be charged to patrons for each inter library loan request they make in order to offset costs. Although interesting, the implementation of such charges is not possible for two primary reasons. First, it runs counter to the Ontario Public Libraries Act. Second, charging fees for core library services is anathema to us, as it would create a two-tier local public library. Simply put, there are individuals and families in our municipality for whom the costs would be prohibitive.
In the second letter, MPP Steve Clark responded to Michael Whittaker’s open letter in a previous issue regarding cuts to public library services. Minister Clark’s response warrants sustained commentary on our part.
First, Minister Clark points out that the provincial grant of $25 million remains in place for this fiscal year. There is no doubt that this money is needed and is very much appreciated. For the record, the North Grenville Public Library’s share of this grant is $27,444. per annum. We hope that the province continues to provide this grant in subsequent fiscal years. That said, the $25 million has remained unchanged since the late 1990s. Taking annual inflation into account, the impact of this grant has diminished each passing year.
Second, Minister Clark refers to the changes to the Southern Ontario Library Services (SOLS) and Ontario Library Service – North (OLS-N), as adjustments” which would require these bodies to find “efficiencies in order to continue to deliver their respective programs.
Absent from Minister Clark’s letter is any reference to the nature of these “adjustments.” Had the cuts been a small percentage of their budgets, then there is no doubt that efficiencies could have — and should have – been found. The “adjustment” to which Minister Clark refers was, in fact, a cut of approximately 50%, which necessitated agonizing decisions on the part of the CEOs from SOLS and OLS-N. To use an analogous situation, one wonders what sorts of “efficiencies” could be found to offset a 50% cut to one’s wage.
The Minister then expresses disappointment that the decision was made to cut interlibrary loans (even though he also suggests that the system being eliminated was inefficient). He notes that Canada Post could be used to move books from library to library. In 2017-18, SOLS moved 440,000 books and delivered 710,000 packages with its vans. The book rate offered by Canada Post is $2.25 per item; one wonders how much savings – efficiencies – would actually be realized by sending these items via Canada Post. As it stands, the cost of packaging, transporting and mailing books will need to be absorbed by individual library systems, like our own.
We are proud of our CEO (Rachel Brown), our library staff and of the work we undertake to ensure quality library services for North Grenville residents. We are writing this response in order to provide residents with a more complete picture of the situation. We also hope that the various library organizations and the provincial government will work out a way to restore interlibrary loans for all public libraries in our province.
On behalf of the North Grenville Public Library Board