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Libraries are an integral part of our community

Community Editorial Panel with Jerry Randall
Community Editorial Panel with Jerry Randall

Early this month Vicki and I shared a table at a reception held at the 50+ Club for Premier Stephen McNeil with former town councillor Cyril Reid and his wife.  

During his years on council Cyril developed a life-long interest in libraries, and served on many boards and committees both locally and provincially in support of libraries.
He had a letter for the premier imparting some disturbing information concerning library funding, and he shared this information with me.
This is the 50th anniversary of the Cumberland libraries, and they are apparently facing a funding crisis. It seems appalling that successive provincial governments during the past eight years have increased funding by only 1.3 per cent, while the cost of living has gone up by 11.9 per cent in that same time period.
Cyril stated in his letter to the premier that unless funding is increased for the province, and Cumberland in particular, it is highly likely there will be a cutback in staff and staff hours.
This will, of course, result in a cutback of services, and in turn will negatively influence both seniors and youth programs.
I have always been a lover of books, from my very young days reading the Adventures of Tom Swift and The Hardy Boys mysteries, to a wide variety of topics as I grew older.
After my marriage, I started collecting books of wide interest, mainly for reference, but also in the hope that they would be of use to my grandchildren as references for school projects and the like. A good thought, maybe, but then came the Internet!
Now, when I want to give my books to them, they have no interest whatsoever, and I sometimes wish I had not invested all that money in books at all. I have a problem with the path they have chosen.
The Internet may be an easy source of some information, but is far from the best source for accurate and honest information. Rarely does one ever see sources of information listed in articles on the Internet. The articles one finds there are perhaps interesting, but that’s about all. Authors of books, on the other hand, always list their sources of information, and publishers rarely publish any author if their sources are not listed.
We need libraries! We cannot get into the habit of believing everything we read on the Internet, and students are especially vulnerable to this misconception. There are some things in our society that must remain sacrosanct, and continued full funding for our libraries must be close to the top of the list.
I don’t know if our teachers today spend a portion of their time teaching the pitfalls of the Internet, while encouraging students to give greater respect to the published books found in libraries, but they should.
There may well be an election this year, and this would provide an excellent opportunity to let your local politician know your feelings about the need for adequate library funding. If the threat to reduce library open hours due to inadequate funding becomes a reality, the loss will be yours, and the community’s as a whole. It might be seen as a major setback to the wished-for growth and vibrancy of our community.
Let’s not go backward as we strive to go forward. And thanks to Cyril Reid for bringing this issue to my attention.
Welcome to spring!

Jerry Randall is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Board

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