Provincial library cuts already affecting services says Rumble - May 2, 2019
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Huron County Librarian Beth Rumble says that cuts to library services by the provincial government are already being felt on the front lines with local patrons.
Last week, libraries across the province heard that budgets for the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) and Ontario Library Service North (OLSN) were cut in half by Premier Doug Ford and the provincial government. These cuts resulted in the immediate cessation of the inter-library exchange program, meaning that any Huron County resident with a book from another library system had to return it immediately and that future requests would not be filled.
In a post on the Huron County Library’s Facebook page, the organization communicated that 24 SOLS drivers would be losing their jobs. In 2018, they drove nearly one million kilometres, delivering over 710,000 packages to over 150 libraries across southern Ontario.
Locally, the Huron County system brought in over 4,500 materials to the county through the exchange, while lending out over 3,600.
While SOLS operates the exchange program, it also serves a number of other centralized functions in the provincial library system, according to Rumble, like training opportunities, bulk buying and other services that she feels are made more efficient with the organization at full strength.
Rumble says that first and foremost, to her, the cuts make no sense. For a government such as Ford’s, which is preaching the need for fiscal responsibility and efficiency, the SOLS cuts are a step in the wrong direction. Not only does SOLS help local libraries to procure books for cheaper prices, but the library system is one of the leanest in the province’s portfolio.
Rumble says she’s not only confused by the decision, but, as are most other library professionals, she’s rather upset by the cuts as well.
She said that while some of what SOLS does is behind the scenes for professionals, such as training, some of these cuts, like the elimination of the exchange program, have begun affecting local library users immediately.
In an interview with The Citizen last week, Rumble said that she and the rest of the province’s library professionals were still trying to learn exactly what the cuts meant and that there was still very little information available.
Just before the interview, Rumble was one of many professionals on a conference call to discuss the cuts and how the province’s libraries planned to proceed in their wake.
A solution is still far off, she said, but discussions have begun. She also says that libraries are working to mobilize users who depend on the library, urging them to let their voices be heard.
As for the library’s next steps, Rumble says that remains to be seen, but that right now Ontario’s librarians are busy getting the word out and communicating to users just how these cuts will be affecting their usage of the library, both now and in the future.
In an interview with The Citizen last week Huron-Bruce MPP and Minister of Education Lisa Thompson said that the changes made by Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Tibollo really strike at the heart of efficiency and modernization.
“It’s about modernization,” Thompson said. “At the end of the day, it’s time to move into the digital world and that was the focus of Minister Tibollo. Again, we’re moving into the 21st century, embracing technology and recognizing the need to embrace the digitization of our reading material.”
When asked about Rumble’s concerns regarding the SOLS cuts and whether they will actually help or hurt efficiency measures, Thompson said that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work and that she would do her best to ensure Huron-Bruce concerns were being heard at the provincial level.
She said the government understands that not everyone will move along with the changes at the same pace.