Fight to keep library open continues for Fogo Islanders
'If it goes, it will be gone. We won't get it back,' says Vicky Anstey
By Chris Ensing, CBC News Posted: Oct 21, 2016 2:13 PM NT Last Updated: Oct 21, 2016 2:13 PM NT
Paula Gale sits with her daughter during the public libraries consultation in Twillingate on Thursday. (Chris Ensing/CBC)
People on Fogo Island will have to travel 11 hours — including a ferry trip — to borrow a book if their library closes.
The Fogo Island library was one of 54 libraries slated to be closed when the province announced back in April it would be closing more than half of Newfoundland and Labrador's public libraries.
But the government suspended the proposed closures after fierce backlash across the province — including in Fogo Island.
"Let me just paint a picture of what it would take to get a library book for my child," Fogo Island resident Rhonda Rowe said at meeting Thursday in Twillingate.
In order for Rowe to make it to that public consultation at what will be her nearest library if Fogo Island's closes, she had to drop her children off at their grandparents' home at 6 a.m.
She then spent an hour waiting in line for the ferry, took the hour trip to Farewell harbour, and then drove an hour to Twillingate.
Rowe said she would have to do all of that again to get home, arriving around 7:30 p.m. — about 13 hours after after her day started.
"That's what it would take to borrow the book, and the same process to return it," said Rowe.
'This is dangerous territory'
Rowe, along with as six other women from Fogo Island, made the trek to Twillingate for Thursday's public consultation. The roundtable discussions are being held across the province and are led by consulting firm EY.
'If it goes, it will be gone. We won't get it back.'- Vicky Anstey
M'Liz Paul, who also lives on Fogo Island, believes closing a library in a rural community creates a divide within the province.
"Once the government decided to close our library, what they have done is set up a class system," said Paul.
"Once you set up a class system that changes a right — the right to access to knowledge, the right to access to books — once you've taken away from a group of people, you have created a class."
If the province does decide to close more than half its public libraries, Paul said the communities that keep their library will "receive a privilege" not afforded to others.
"This is very important because this is dangerous terrirtory."
Support in numbers
During their presentation, the group from Fogo heard loud applause from Summerford and Twillingate residents who were also at the consultation.
The library in Summerford is also on the list of libraries that were told to prepare to close, before the province suspended its decision pending consultations.
'I was physically ill at the thought that maybe we could be one of the ones that could close.'- Norma Hamlyn
"We have students who are doing their exams through College of the North Atlantic through our library that won't be available anymore," said Vicky Anstey, of Summerford.
According to Anstey, the library also hosts volunteer-based courses for residents to learn photography and scrap-booking.
"If it goes, it will be gone. We won't get it back," said Anstey.
"If our library closes we'll have to travel an hour there and back."
'I was physically ill'
Norma Hamlyn, chair of the Public Library Board in Twillingate, says the Twillingate library is 72 years old — and the first branch library in the province.
"Our library was born of struggle during the Second World War when donations were collected door-to-door," said Hamlyn. She's thankful the library in town was saved, but she's speaking out in support of communities, like Fogo Island and Summerford, that were told there's might be shuttered.
"I was physically ill at the thought that maybe we could be one of the ones that could close."