Saturday, January 28, 2023

Sherbrooke library closings cause concern

  • January 18 2023
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

ST. MARY’S – Sherbrooke’s public library has been shut tight since before Christmas and at least one resident is suggesting that the board which administers it start recruiting local volunteers to help keep it open.

If the problem is staffing, says June Tate of Melrose, “Then we’ve got people who will volunteer. I’m sure we can get enough to get it back open. What is the big qualification about checking a book out?”

She’s not the only St. Mary’s resident asking questions.

According to the Facebook page of Eastern Counties Regional Library (ECRL), which administers nine branches in northeastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, the Sherbrooke location’s normal operating hours are 12:30 to 5:30 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, and 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. Yet, it’s been closed every day since Dec. 23.

On Jan. 3, the ECRL posted a Facebook notice that the “Canso Public Library and Sherbrooke Public Library will be closed January 4 - January 7. Please note [that] holds that become available while the Sherbrooke Public Library is closed will be mailed directly to users.”

The announcement prompted one St. Mary’s library user to respond: “Just wondering if the library in Sherbrooke will be open next week? Or are you going to send someone to empty the outdoor book-drop? I have two overdue books that are in there because I assumed the library would reopen after the holidays.”

To which the ECRL replied, “Sorry, the library will not be open next week, but we will empty the book drop next Wednesday. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

On Jan. 6, the ECRL again notified the public that the “Sherbrooke Public Library will be closed next week, January 11-January 14. Holds that become available while the library is closed will be mailed directly to users. If users have questions about their account or borrowing, please call 1-855-787-7323 or email membership@ecrl.ca.”

The post prompted one user to wonder whether the library was “still dealing with [road] construction” in the town.

“That’s all wrapped up,” another resident commented. “Must be staffing issues. It’s too bad because it [the library] seems to always be closed.”

Still another remarked: “I’ve watched for job postings. Never anything FT [full time].”

In an email to Laura Emery, CEO of ECRL, The Journal asked for more information about the extended closure. The newspaper did not receive a reply by press time.

In December, ECRL and the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s agreed to abide by a provincially mandated plan to work out their longstanding differences over funding and hours of operation for the Sherbrooke Library.

The dispute resolution followed a series of consultations with members of the public in St. Mary’s over the summer. “I personally attended two of those sessions,” Tate says. “They were very well attended, with at least 20 people there. Basically, our biggest problem was how to access the library. Why aren’t we getting library services?

She adds: “I have had several residents calling me and wondering why the library is closed. One said she’d love to come in and work there. She said, ‘What else do I have to do? Sit at home and look at my husband all day?’”