Leave libraries alone


Imagine the Haliburton County Public Library seeking $1.3 million to run eight libraries in the County this year?

That’s a bit much according to some County councillors, who voiced their concerns at a budget meeting Jan. 24.

The two most outspoken were the mayors of the biggest townships in the Highlands – Dysart mayor Murray Fearrey and Minden Hills mayor Bob Carter.

Pardon my sarcasm, but these mayors are involved in arena projects. Carter was on the Minden Hills council that spent nearly $14 million of taxpayers’ money on the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena and community centre. While Carter voted against [as did councillors Pam Sayne and Jennifer Hughey], the council ultimately approved the spend.

And Fearrey is talking about a new arena and curling club on land Dysart et al recently purchased on County Road 21. While no price tag has been mentioned, we’re talking millions.

Those projects could fund libraries for the next 20 years.

And this at a time when registration for minor hockey is down. Sure, there are the Huskies, figure skating, public skating and shinny, however none of our arenas – including the Keith Tallman Memorial Arena Wilberforce – is booked out 100 per cent of the time. Not even close.

Our libraries, on the hand, are heavily used and $1.3 million is a bargain for a service that offers books, audible books, free newspapers and magazines, movies, music, passes to Algonquin Provincial Park, a loan of athletic equipment, radon testing, and a myriad of programming for children right through to adults.

Fearrey said something about the fact Dysart and Minden Hills only have one library each, when they are the biggest towns in the County.
He questioned whether the library board had ever considered the number of branches – since there is one in Algonquin Highlands, and it’s hoped a second will return to Dorset.

Highlands East has four. Imagine! There are libraries in Wilberforce, Gooderham, Cardiff and Highland Grove. In many ways, these small libraries are more important than the bigger town libraries because they provide a service, and a place to go, where there isn’t always a great deal else going on.

Perhaps most importantly, libraries are financially accessible to all. You might not be able to pony up the hockey registration fees, but you can take your kids to the library for free programming.

For many, it’s a place to connect to WiFi when the service is not good at home. Some kids do their homework there. Others download movies to watch at home.

Looking at the money, the County has been known to squander it. How about all of the consultants hired to look into public transportation, with not even a school bus running between our towns for the general public?

While some might complain it costs a lot to maintain eight library buildings, how about five main township offices, and all of the other infrastructure required to have five governments in an area of 20,000 people?

If council is looking to keep a better eye on costs, might we suggest not attacking the library budget but checking off a few of the ideas on that services delivery review to see if some efficiencies may be finally gained.