Thursday, 30 June 2016

Libraries Flip Flop: Is it a Win or a Stay of Execution?

Libraries Flip Flop: Is it a Win or a Stay of Execution?

By: Ryan Young 
Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dale Kirby announced today that he has asked the libraries board to “suspend" its decision to implement a regional library model while a complete organizational and service review of libraries is conducted.” Kirby told reporters that the decision was based on heavy pressure from the public.

At first, I read the headline and jumped for joy at this unexpected victory for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. But then I looked a little closer at the news release to see what this announcement really means. The first clue is the word “suspend.” This indicates that the regional library model is not dead, it has just been postponed until a review of the libraries system is completed. Such a review is what you would have expected a competent Minister and a competent government to do before they went about slashing and burning budget lines with reckless abandon, but as we all know competence is not this governments strong suit.

As outlined in the official news release: A steering committee will be formed including members from the Provincial Government and Provincial Information and Library Resources Board. The review will include:

  • Provincial stakeholder consultations;
  • Analysis of the current service delivery landscape including locations, types of services offered, usage and service delivery methods;
  • Review of the governance structure;
  • Review of library service standards including operating hours, programs and types of services offered; and
  • Research of trends and leading practices from other jurisdictions.

The review will also consider broader governmental objectives that focus on the use of innovation, modernized service delivery and alternative use of buildings and service locations.
During his statement today Kirby said that the review will be done by Ernst & Young and will be completed in mid-winter. A long-term decision on libraries will be made at that time.
So in short, they will be looking at all of the things that they should be looking at before considering changes to the way library services are delivered. Why wasn’t this done before the cuts to the library board were made in the first place? As outlined in my recent video, Rogues & Liars: Episode 1, Dale Kirby was a very vocal supporter of public libraries while in opposition and his sudden change of heart came as quite a surprise to many of his long-time supporters. The desire to toe the party line without having any real evidence to present is exactly the sort of thing we have heard Mr. Kirby speaking out against before he was put in a position to change things. Now the non-stop onslaught of phone calls and messages that he has received regarding the library cuts have forced his hand in trying to deflect some if the criticism away from himself.
Make no mistake, many of the library closures will still happen. This is just a tactic to buy some time and take the pressure off while they gather the evidence that the should have gathered before the decision to cut library funding was made in the first place. The whole point of evidence-based decision making is…well…evidence. The problem is that decision makers have a tendency to bend the evidence to fit their own narrative.
Some libraries may survive this review, but it will depend on how determined the communities are to keep them. This announcement is not a victory, but it is encouragement to keep up the pressure and demand that more of these short-sighted decisions are reversed. Our words and actions do matter. Don't let this announcement fool you, the fight to save our libraries has only just begun.

Official Government News Release:

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