Saturday, January 28, 2023

Sherbrooke library opens after month of closures

Reasons cited for not using volunteers prompts criticism

  • January 25 2023
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

SHERBROOKE – After a month of rolling shutdowns, the Sherbrooke library will resume public branch operations on Wednesday, Jan. 25, the board responsible for its administration announced on its website last week.

But one resident is unsatisfied with Eastern Counties Regional Library’s (ECRL) reasons for not using volunteers to keep the branch open during its scheduled Wednesday to Friday (12:30 to 5:30 p.m.) and Saturday (9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) hours.

“We are very glad that we can reopen the library on January 25,” ECRL stated on January 19, referring to the closures between December 23 and January 21. It added, however, that because “the library computer system is a database subject to privacy legislation and the requirements of the Same Page Consortium which owns the system,” it can’t use volunteers to fill in for staff.

“Only fully trained employees who have signed a confidentiality agreement can access this tool for providing basic library services like circulation of library materials,” it reported.

That, according to June Tate of Melrose, doesn’t make any sense.

In an interview with The Journal last week, the retired nurse and frequent Sherbrooke library user, stated: “Isn’t this the same [confidentiality agreement] I sign when I volunteer for SHOPS (Sherbrooke Opportunities Society) or for Kids First?

“I work with the possibility of people that are vulnerable [so] I sign [confidentiality agreements] on an almost regular basis. I also did that when I was a nurse — what I saw and heard behind those doors stayed behind those doors. It’s the same with the library, right? It’s standard everywhere you go now.”

Last week, The Journal reported that many people in St. Mary’s had been upset by the library’s prolonged closure since Christmas. Tate said that “several residents” had called her asking if she knew anything about the closures.

“We’ve got people who will volunteer,”” she told the newspaper. “I’m sure we can get enough to get it back open … What is the big qualification about checking a book out?”

In its announcement last week — entitled, Response to feedback regarding Sherbrooke Public Library — ECRL noted that it “deeply appreciates the concern of Sherbrooke Public Library users and their offers of volunteer assistance. One community member said that they need to understand the problem so that they can help solve it. We agree and want to provide information about how the library operates to provide service.”

Following its explanation regarding confidentiality, it concluded:

“We want to reassure community members that we hear them and that we are continually working towards trying to improve service. ECRL believes that it is very important that the community is engaged and that the library hears their ideas so that they can help us to improve our services. Please email your thoughts and concerns to Laura Emery at lemery@ecrl.ca.”

In an email to ECRL CEO Laura Emery last week, The Journal requested information about the reasons for the most recent closures at the library, which the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s is paying ECRL $18,800 a year to administer. The newspaper did not receive a reply by press time.