Sunday, October 17, 2021

Libraries close over March break

Decision raises questions, warden’s ire

  • March 17 2021
  • By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    

GUYSBOROUGH – “They should be open and providing programming for our kids. They are out of school for that week. It’s a lost opportunity for the library. There’s a lack of leadership there – there’s a definite lack of leadership.”

Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) Warden Vernon Pitts didn’t mince words when responding to the closure of the two community libraries in the district over March break.

Speaking to The Journal on Monday (March 15) about the Eastern Counties Regional Library (ECRL) closures this week in Canso and Guysborough – plus the Sherbrooke library in the neighbouring District of St. Mary’s – Pitts said it doesn’t reflect the collaboration he would expect from the library relationship.

“This is supposed to be a partnership,” he said, “the library, the province, and the municipalities.” But it’s become more like a “dictatorship” on the part of the library, he said. “It’s a partnership when it’s to their liking, not ours.”

The failure to provide any hours of operation over March break is the most recent dust up between the MODG and the ECRL. Last month, council sent a letter to the ECRL in regards to an increase in funding request from the library and concerns about hours of operation at the ECRL branches in Canso and Guysborough. More recently, the MODG sent a letter of complaint regarding ECRL services to the Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage, which oversees funding for libraries, and copied to local MLA Lloyd Hines.

“We are not pleased with the operation of the library at all, period,” said Pitts. “And we are doing everything within our power to straighten this out. This can’t be allowed to go on like this … Back a number of years ago they wanted to make these libraries, the term was ‘community space’ – not necessarily just for the library. But, if you close it, what’s your option … This is no good.

“I’m afraid the CEO at the library has dropped the ball on this one … We (MODG) pay our proportional share and we expect the service for that. That is not asking too much,” concluded Pitts.

The Journal emailed ECRL CEO Laura Emery to ask why the libraries in Guysborough County were closed during regularly scheduled hours over the March break. She responded via email that “when staff are unavailable to work at one of our branch locations, that location has to close.” 

The Journal also asked why no regular staff members were available across the three Guysborough County libraries over March break and received in response: “We operate without staffing redundancy, which means we have no backup staff for any library staff person regardless of where they work.”

Emery also stated, in response to a question about the announcement of the library closures this week that “it was posted on Facebook on Tuesday, March 9.”