Regional review eyes library services

 In News

There is concern that a look at library services across the County of Simcoe as part of a Regional Government Review may put at least one of Clearview’s library branches in jeopardy.
A task force has received a Simcoe County Library System Service Delivery Review report from constants KPMG, which contains a preferred option for library consolidation, whereas 11 or more of the county’s lower tier municipalities would unite to form a single library system.
Currently, there are 14 separate library boards comprising 29 libraries and branches in Simcoe County.
“If you look at county libraries across Ontario, none of them have that many. It’s not fiscally possible to keep them all going,” said Clearview Public Library CEO Jennifer LaChapelle. “I think multi-branch systems in the county are going to see branches close because of the expense.”
The report also presented options for a modified version of the current cooperative structure with modified levels of service by offering to centralize a shared staffing structure and/or pay-for-use services and an option to create multiple union boards within the county while optimizing the balance between a localized identity, high quality of service and fair and equal levels of service by catchment area.
Library representatives, including Clearview, are weighing in on the options presented. They were surprised that the recommended option seemed to ignore all of the feedback from the libraries that had been consulted.
“The financial savings envisioned do not take into account an increased anticipated cost in salaries for any move to a county system, the only fiscal offset possible being a reduction in service points,” writes Clearview’s library board chair Diane Kelly.
A county-wide system calls into question who would own the library buildings, which are currently owned by the municipalities, and pay for their upkeep, increased wages, and infrastructure to support a large regional system.
“There are lots of cost factors that they haven’t even looked at,” said LaChapelle.
She said the situation may not be as dire as originally feared because the committee may be leaning away from the preferred option presented by the consultant and toward a modified version of the current system.
“A county system is a death knell for a lot of the smaller branches throughout the county,” said LaChapelle. “There would be a big movement across this county from users and probably even from some people who aren’t users but who appreciate what the library does for the community.”

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