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EDITORIAL: Library support is essential

It’s an interesting contrast. In the U.S., an issue that will come up in election campaigns is gun rights.

In Canada – Nova Scotia in particular at the moment? You’ll have to pry those books out of my cold, dead hands.

Welcome a push to see that public libraries receive sufficient funding from the province following year-upon-year stagnation. We’ve been hearing this message for quite some time, but regional libraries and the Library Boards Association of Nova Scotia are turning up the volume to see that candidates and political parties acknowledge the needs of this vital institution.

As librarians have tried to remind the public and government, they’ve seen a freeze in provincial funding in the past eight years, other than a 1.3 per cent increase a couple of years ago. In Pictou County they’ve seen some extra help from municipalities.

In some parts of the province communities fear their local branch will be forced to close. In most places, they see a time when they’ll have to cut hours and staff, and certainly be hard pressed to acquire new materials if nothing changes.

And this comes at a time when library use has been strong and even on a rise in some branches.

Head librarians in a number of communities are appealing to people to ask provincial election candidates when they show up at the door – will you support sustainable core funding for libraries?

Some branches are distributing doorknob hangers for voters to hang on their doors, expressing that message to candidates who come knocking.

Most of us have been through enough elections to guess what a candidate’s answer will be. But still, if library crunch is brought up enough times, those elected and their parties will know it matters to people.

Libraries have done an excellent job in recent years of taking stock of what they offer to ensure they are remaining relevant. Programs are offered regularly on a range of educational, how-to or cultural topics, workshops are held, authors come for visits. Parents take children for toddler activities marking for many their earliest community encounters.

When it comes to researching local history, the documents available to view are the best you’re likely to find.

And in an increasingly plugged-in world, libraries have Internet services available – along with expert guidance for those who aren’t familiar. Governments, it seems, make the assumption that everyone has these conveniences at home, but that’s simply not true. And nearly everyone will find instances when they need access.

Governments and jousting political parties make a great ballyhoo on the education front. They have to remember that education is essential, starting from an early age, and ideally remaining a lifelong endeavour. An educated society is a healthier, more productive society.

It’s not a great cost to ensure resources are available to everyone through libraries. Starving them by pinching pennies is not money saved.

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