AMHERST – Accessing libraries in Cumberland County will get a little harder this summer.
The board of directors for the Cumberland Public Libraries announced Monday plans to reduce hours at five of its seven branches effective June 1 as it continues to deal with anticipated deficits.
“It’s really disheartening to have to go to staff and tell them you’re cutting their hours,” chief librarian Denise Corey told the Citizen-Record. “It’s something that’s definitely going to have an economic impact because these people live in Cumberland County and spend their money here, but we really didn’t have any other options other than cutting branches and that’s not something we want to do.”
Corey spent months crunching numbers trying to come up with a solution to stagnant funding from the province. She presented several options to the board of directors and the decision to cut hours was made.
“This decision was not undertaken lightly and was extremely disheartening,” board chairman Dale Fawthrop said. “We think library service is important for the people of Cumberland County, but we can no longer offer the level of services we’ve offered in the past.”
Corey said that she did not want to cut any services to the public, but the library is looking at an anticipated deficit of $5,000 in the 2018-19 fiscal year and a deficit of $30,000 in the 2019-20 fiscal year.
The reduced hours will save the library approximately $13,000 a year. Corey said the cut will enable the library to maintain all seven branches, but she cautioned further cuts may be required further down the road.
The hours’ reductions are based on the Standards for Nova Scotia Regional Public Libraries developed in 2001.
While things could change if additional funding is found, as of June 1 the Four Fathers Library in Amherst will be closed on Mondays and will only be open for a half day on Saturdays. The Pugwash branch is losing between five to 10 hours a week, Springhill is losing four hours a week and Parrsboro is losing seven hours a week.
Advocate and River Hebert are maintaining their hours since cutting those libraries hours would impact staff health benefits at both branches.
Since 2010, the Cumberland Public Libraries has had 1.3 per cent increase in funding but during that same period of time inflation has increased by almost 12 per cent.
“The library has cut as much as possible in the background, including the elimination of a staff position, the elimination of the online World Book encyclopedia and online databases, and more,“ Corey said. “There is simply no place else to cut, so now we’re left with the painful decision to cut hours. Three years from now I’m really not sure where we’ll cut. We’re out of options.”
She said the province is going to have to decide how much it appreciates the services being offered by its public library system. She’s afraid the day could come when libraries will only be available for those who can afford them.
Currently, public libraries in Nova Scotia are taking part in a core services review but there has been no indication from the provincial government that there will be additional funds at the end of this review.
All this is happening at a time when library usage is increasing. Last year, the Cumberland Public Libraries saw an overall increase of four per cent in circulation, a 4.2 per cent increase in holds, a 4.3 per cent increase in reference questions asked and a 42 per cent increase in program attendance.