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Government needs to fully fund libraries

I am saddened to see that there is a distinct probability that one of the libraries (Advocate, Amherst, Oxford, Parrsboro, Pugwash, River Hebert and Springhill) will be closing their doors to readers.

In a time when we should be fostering literacy and encouraging people to read, our provincial government is being extremely miserly in its attitude to the library service of Cumberland County (spending is up 1.8 per cent on 2009).

In a time when we should be fostering literacy and encouraging people to read, our provincial government is being extremely miserly in its attitude to the library service of Cumberland County (spending is up 1.8 per cent on 2009).

Lest you think that this is a 'case of oh well', please remember that libraries play a very important role in our society. Aside from book lending, the library is a crucial area for more social events. It has a significant part in our community. Also, remember not every one has electronic devices. The library provides free Internet for those who do not have the financial resources to access it for themselves. Many students use the libraries.

I can think of several events that the libraries staged to benefit young readers. Think of the importance of the library system to the more senior members of our county; many of these frequent these institutions.

Personally speaking, I am very much indebted  to the libraries of Cumberland County. As a person who works part-time, I have often had reason and opportunity to use the libraries in our county. I see at first hand their inestimable value.

True, the provincial government is not solely responsible for funding. The federal government needs to help in this.

But consider the following:

Is it right that the provincial government should spend $23,800,000 on the Bluenose II (and that is without the rudder)?

- Is it right that the federal government might spend $5-7,000,000,000 on 18 Super Hornet jet fighters?

While I recognize the symbolic value of the Bluenose II (for which one should be suitably proud, and why not?), one has to recognize that an exorbitant money has been spent by several provincial government of all political stripes for zero gain.

As for the acquisition of the planes, for me as a pacifist, I am appalled by such an astronomical expense.

Between 2015 and 2016, 118,782 items were borrowed, an increase of more 2,500 on 2014 and 2015; 9,456 reference questions were made at the five libraries; 540 programs have been offered and although the numbers are down, I still argue that the library service offers a massive social benefit to the 8,399 people who attended them.

Aside from the significant human resources that the Cumberland Public Libraries offer, the libraries' other resources include books, magazines, audio books, periodical subscriptions, online data subscriptions and public access computers .

Not everyone has computers, not everyone has Netflix.

If you are reading this on your laptop or tablet, then you are, like me, very fortunate.

Many of us these days have access to online via devices, which we take for granted. You probably check your Facebook as one of the first things you do. The library service offers 35 public access computers. True, this may be a part of its mandate/charter, but consider this:

In the run-up to our last municipal election, many if not all candidates made videos to highlight their program and policies if elected. These were then posted online. I, amongst others, called at that time for a more public forum, but that was deemed as inconvenient.

How would those who did not have such access to computers be able to see these videos if they did not have public access computers? The library and its concomitant services is the cornerstone of our democracy and has does impinge on our citizens (and residents) across the socio-economic spectrum.

My point is our library system in Cumberland County performs a massively underrated role in our society. You, your children and/or your family should be very concerned about the dire straits that your library system is facing.

The idea that our province and our federal government is being so parsimonious on such a laudable project like provincial libraries yet being so liberal in their expenses on such speculative and all-consuming is heart-breaking.

I ask you, where would prefer your money to be spent? If you think more money ought to allocated to your local library where it will help the community of all ages in a real, beneficial manner, please contact your local MLA.

Mark Foley, Amherst

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