Plans to cut back service at the Silver Creek library aren’t sitting well with residents of the small community.
The planned changes for the Okanagan Regional Library (ORL) branch in Silver Creek will move from 19 staffing hours per week to 10 hours per week. This means operating hours at the branch will drop from 15 to eight, meaning the reduction of service from three open days to two.
“To us in Silver Creek, the library is more than just a building with books. It is a hub in our community, a place where people can go, meet their neighbours, participate in programs, find out information and also get internet access – many places out here can’t get that at home, so with more and more things being done online, it’s become really important for that,” says Colleen Grieg, president of the Silver Creek Community Association.
“It just goes so far beyond books. For example, a woman here, her washing machine broke and she mentioned it to Julie (White, who is the librarian) and through her connections she was able to find someone who had a washer and get this woman all hooked up, so she could wash her kids’ clothes. That’s the kind of thing the library does for us.”
A meeting is planned to discuss the proposed changes on Dec. 5, where Okanagan Regional Library CEO Stephanie Hall will be present to discuss upcoming service level changes at the Silver Creek branch.
Hall has met with the community on two other occasions to discuss the future of the branch and obtain feedback from community members, who stressed the importance of the library to a small community.
One of the options being considered for the library was a complete closure, as the library system’s research indicated many residents do use other ORL service locations, especially the Salmon Arm branch.
“But the residents made it clear that they would prefer a reduction in open hours to a closure, citing some residents who are unable to get out to other locations, and the library’s role as a community hub,” says a statement from Michal Utko, communications manager for the ORL.
He notes that the reduction in the Silver Creek operating hours, “will bring service levels in line with similar sized ORL communities such as Oyama and Cherryville, and will also help bring costs closer to tax revenues, creating a more stable funding basis for the branch going forward.”
Utko also says part of the problem rests with the provincial government.
“Provincial funding for public libraries has been frozen for more than a decade, which amounts to more than a 20 per cent cut when accounting for inflation. Provincial funding to library operations is a key component, particularly when considering how to provide the most equitable service possible in remote and rural areas.”
Grieg says she hopes residents will come out to the meeting and make a strong case for why service levels should remain the same.
“We are not just going to let this go,” she says. She points out the need to keep children, families and seniors engaged in their community.
But the library system didn’t comment on whether the service cuts are final or still up for discussion.
In the emailed statement, Utko says, “Although any adjustment to service levels is difficult, the library appreciates the strong support that was given from the local community and hope that Silver Creek residents will continue to make use of the many services being provided.”