Cuts leave libraries ‘making bread with no flour’

Perth Union Library CEO and Chief Librarian Erika Heeson
Perth Union Library CEO and Chief Librarian Erika Heeson delivered a report to Perth town councillors June 11 on the library’s 2018 operations and the impact of recent provincial budget cuts. Photo credit: Chris Must
Posted on: June 13, 2019

“It’s like saying please make bread, but we’re not giving you any flour to do it,” said the CEO and chief librarian of the Perth Union Library, describing the impact of recent massive budget cuts.

In a report to Perth town council at its June 11 Committee of the Whole meeting, Erika Heeson said the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) was advised in April by the provincial government that its budget would be cut by 50 per cent. As a result, the interlibrary loan delivery service operated by SOLS was cancelled as of April 26.

“We were given a week’s notice that that was going to happen,” said Heeson.

The Perth library had been lending about 150 books per month through interlibrary loans. Many were out-of-print editions that can’t be replaced by ebooks, said Heeson. The service will be reinstated with books being delivered by Canada Post, a more expensive option requiring more staff time.

As a measure to ease the pressure on the library’s budget, Mayor John Fenik suggested at the June 11 meeting that council considering reducing the $7,000 per year the library is paying to rent space in the town-owned fire hall building to “a dollar year.” The mayor introduced a motion to refer this matter to the next municipal budget process, which the rest of council voted to support.

In her report on the library’s 2018 operations, Heeson stated that the library loaned 120,084 items, received 118,512 visits, and answered 8,906 questions. As well, 22,917 ebooks were downloaded last year at the library. The average library card holder borrows 20 items a year, which would cost each individual a total of about $300 to purchase.

Article by Chris Must