The topic of the Swift Current Branch Library being changed to a municipally run organization is certainly a hot-button issue.
For members of the Chinook Regional Library, the outlook is bleak as they face the prospect of being discarded by the City, in favour of the new municipal system being considered.
Kathryn Foley, director of the Chinook Regional Library, has dedicated many years of her life to the cause of public service in libraries. For her, this potential change is not the path forward for libraries in the southwest.
"Along the way, there is room to negotiate, but trying to destroy a system that is working extremely well in most areas? Not a good place to start negotiating from," examined Foley. "This is where we're at. We were told that they had started [the process], that they'd all voted for it, and that Council wanted Swift Current to examine how they could become a municipal library and start the process."
That process began in earnest earlier this week, with a public hearing being held during city council.
Should the City proceed with their plan, which Swift Current Mayor Al Bridal says is not yet set in stone, the Chinook Regional Library would no longer operate with Swift Current Branch Library as its central unit. Within the current setup, the Branch Library and the Chinook Headquarters in Swift Current serve over 40,000sq kilometres of small and rural communities and their local libraries.
"It's a part of taking Swift Current out of the Chinook Regional system and therefore I'm against changing boundaries," affirmed Foley. "Taking the only city out of our area is a real disservice to the area, and the whole of Saskatchewan."
The effect of the Branch Library resizing its jurisdiction under a municipal board would see it extend only to the existing City limits. No longer would projects hosted in Swift Current and funded by the City stretch out into the greater southwest via the Chinook system.
"It will impact the services of the rural municipalities as well, but mostly I honestly believe it's going to affect, very negatively, the amount of taxes that people in Swift Current are paying," Foley said. "I can't tell you how much."
While the change would see program and layout changes, Bridal promises surrounding communities would still be welcome to make use of the Branch Library.
"The City of Swift Current puts a tremendous amount into the southwest," said Bridal. "We all know that. For all our sporting facilities, there's no charge for anyone outside the city to come use these. Right now everybody can use the library, but even if it was a municipal library everybody in the region could use it no different than how they can use it today."
Even with those assurances, Foley hopes to bring the City back into the fold of the Chinook Regional Library. Whether that's with the benefits that come with its existing system or to work together on a hybrid model similar to that of Moose Jaw and the Palliser Regional Library.
"I think it needs to be looked at carefully, with what was spent on libraries in Prince Albert before they split off and after they split off from Wapiti Regional Library," said Foley. "The Mayor is interested in looking at what happens in Palliser with Moose Jaw, who have chosen to stay within Palliser, and yes, there are possibilities that we could [pursue]."
For now, the change is as mentioned, not yet set in stone. Foley plans to keep working to find an amicable solution with the City of Swift Current and to find the best possible outcome for those who use the library and its services.
"I, as Director, came to Saskatchewan to take this position on, moving from another province because Saskatchewan has on record a library system where the ideal is that we all work together for the betterment of everybody," said Foley. "I would like Swift Current to recognize that this is important to them as well and work with us for the betterment of everybody."