Monday, 10 April 2017

Courage, my word

Image result for the tragically hip
The Tragically Hip

It's been a significant few weeks for the introverted. I strongly disagree with the budget cuts (extreme cuts that will change the functioning of our little province's library system) that have been made in Saskatchewan. It was, to me, that one issue that might draw me out of the shadows to face my anxiety demons and take a stand and say "not if I can help it".

I've circulated a petition that asks to return funding to the 2016 levels. I've approached people I do and do not know, driven the gravel roads and gone door to door. I don't want to make this sound like too big of a deal, because when it became too much for me I allowed myself to stop. And I only had a few hours to do it. But I got some signatures and I feel that, looking back on this, I will be relieved that I didn't let the opportunity pass.

I also attended the Read In outside our local MLA's office, joined by some friends and family and other concerned library supporters. We were on the news. We will likely be in the paper. All of this is exposure that I dread with every fiber. Naturally it is also a position that puts me at odds with more conservative minded relatives that disagree strongly with my stance. In short, the whole thing stresses me out and has brought to the fore some anxious emotion.

It would be easier to allow this to pass, unmentioned. Courage. It didn't come, it doesn't matter. There have been moments when I really felt the pounding of my heart in my chest and thought, "courage, you couldn't come at a worse time".  But there is never a good time to make uncomfortable decisions and stand up for what you deep down believe in. There is also never a good time to let your values slide. 

This is a song that has taken on such dimension for me in the past weeks. For so many reasons. Read up on Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip if you are unfamiliar. 

I'm sure I'm not done putting myself in uncomfortable places for issues I care about. I'm sure I'm not done feeling like a basket case when I do. But dammit all, there's no simple explanation for anything important any of us do...the human tragedy is living with the consequences (Courage, The Hip).

Weekly Column: For want of a library

There is a proverb that goes something like this:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Around the Lloydminster area, we are familiar with the uncomfortable decisions that come with reducing spending. We get it. When you’re bringing in less money, you have to spend less money. It makes sense, and it’s what this column has been preaching for over a year.

This column has also been preaching that your local library is one of your community’s greatest resources. It is a place of inclusion—anyone can walk in and read a book, borrow a computer, or sit and study. It is a place where those without a phone or the Internet can still access these tools while they apply for jobs, look for childcare, or search for a home.

It is a place where parents bring their kids to get them excited about books and reading. When children borrow books, they learn to respect the property of others, they commit to a deadline and they become aware of the community around them.

In small towns, a library is still a thing of pride—a destination for local families that prioritize reading in their homes. While Saskatchewan’s Minister of Education, Don Morgan, feels that “the future of libraries is leaning towards electronic media,” many parents would agree that there is a decline in children’s behavior and attitudes when they are placed in front of a screen for extended amounts of time.

There is something to be said for reading paper books, which is hard to afford in an economic downturn like we have been experiencing. Yes, balancing budgets is important and worthy, but cutting libraries to this extent is taking resources from the young, the unemployed, and the marginalized people that consider the library a safe place of learning.

Whatever your child grows up to be, limiting their exposure to books now surely limits their reasoning and deductive skills later in life. Sure, they can google what they want to know. And when they do, they will have to discern for themselves what is really true. The Wikipedia page that you or I could update with our own thoughts at any time? The blog or fringe website of someone presenting themselves as an expert? There are plenty of hacks that have been published in print form, but visiting a library and exposing your child and yourself to a multitude of opinions gives you an opportunity to learn together while also becoming critical thinkers. Let’s not leave this kind of instruction up to our kids, alone on the Internet.

Perhaps these cuts won’t be the end of small town libraries. That’s hard to imagine, though, with these small main street entities already stripped down to a few hours a week. And that happened during the high-flyin’ fast livin’ days of the oil boom. If things pick up and Government revenues increase, will we ever see these little libraries reopen?

With regional libraries facing a 58% cut to their funding, programs such as interlibrary loans, e-books and literacy programming may be lost. If libraries can’t do kids programming, it’s possible that kids won’t have the same lifelong love of learning and reading. People in need will more easily fall through the cracks. The social costs of these cuts might actually be more expensive for the province and its tax payers in the long-term.

If you are passionate about books and feel libraries are an important resource in our small towns and in Lloydminster, learn more at Send a letter or email to MLA Colleen Young, Education Minister Don Morgan and Premiere Brad Wall—their contact info and a petition is provided through the link.

Or join us at noon on April 7th outside MLA Young’s office by Mary Brown’s on the East side of Lloyd—unit 2-4304 40th Ave. Bring a library book and express your concern.

Taking away libraries is like stopping buying fresh fruit and vegetables to save money. Sure, you will survive for the indefinite future. But will you be better off? Or would continuing to invest in healthy things now ensure that there aren’t gaps and learning deficits that are more expensive and harder to fix down the road?

Like the proverb cautions, in a budget of billions of dollars, cutting $3.5 million from such a necessary community resource is like neglecting the feet of your horses. What will be lost for want of a library?


  1. Oh Jill, this is terrible news! Your analogy of likening cutting library expenditures to cutting off fresh fruit and vegetables is spot on - there may be an immediate increase in cash flow but the long-term, permanent effects are devastating and far-reaching.

    I am so incredibly proud of you for putting this cause above your own comfort level; fighting the good, necessary fight when it's not something in your nature and brings discomfort. That speaks volumes to those around and to your sons, who are paying attention and learning that they can muster the strength to do hard things in an effort to accomplish great things. Decisions like these must be fought, or else there's no chance at winning a fair outcome. To quote Dr. Seuss in the Lorax, which I know for certain I read in a library, where my mother would take me because we couldn't afford many books in our single-parent, immigrant family, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not"

    I'm rooting for your courage, your bravery, and for an overturning of this terrible decision. Sending hugs along the way.

    1. Thanks so much, FD :) I babysit my friend's son and he made page 3 of the local paper along with my son and I. My friend and I agree that it's a great highlight of their childhoods that they were there to take a stand against defunding our libraries. Hopefully they will grow up to be socially conscious, fair men. Thanks so much for this comment :) Jill