COLUMN: Library closure process lacks respect

The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry library board announced the closure of three more branches on July 29th, the day before the long weekend. Branches in Morewood, St. Andrews West and Dalkeith will close by September. This is an accelerated schedule from the proposed December closings discussed before. The closures had been discussed  at county council and previous library board meetings. It comes as no shock that the final decision was made. Yet the library board has handled the sensitive situation of taking something away from a small community like hitting a fly with a sledgehammer.

This happened before in 2013. A series of short-notice meetings and lack of public consultation with library users sparked an uproar in South Dundas. The library board at the time decided to close the Williamsburg branch, consolidating services in Morrisburg and Iroquois. After a campaign of many months, a new space was built in the North Williamsburg recreation building to house the library branch. The lessons in communication, openness and transparency that should have been learned obviously were not as the library board has repeated the same mistakes.

The library board’s rational for closing the branches in Morewood, St. Andrews West and Dalkeith do make sense. Aging facilities and declining use are two key factors the board has cited. If that is the case, why has the library board not learned from their mess in 2013? Why did they not hold an open and transparent dialogue with the affected communities? The process, or lack thereof, has left a very negative feeling in those communities.

There should have been public meetings held in each of the communities by the library board to hear the public’s views. And for the public to hear the library board’s case for closing those branches. Yes it likely would not have changed the outcome, but the users in those areas would have been given the respect of being heard and treated fairly.

Since municipal amalgamation nearly 20 years ago, there has been a progressive move towards centralizing community services in a few key hubs per township. Every township in SD&G has had this happen. The villages and hamlets that lose little pieces of their community have a right to be sensitive to losing one more thing. They also had a right to be part of the process. The library board denied those communities that right, and that is unfair.

The next time the library board, or any other county service, looks at making cuts maybe they will learn from these lessons, and leave the sledgehammer in the shop.