A Lament for Lost Outport Libraries

Half the libraries to close—our rural places take another hit.
I considered it all, just struck in disbelief.
Just another in a slew of bad decisions
and I’m torn; should I be angry or feel grief?

First the financial disaster that is Muskrat Falls,
and the levy—not a tax; more like a fine.
And the nickel and diming, I could even take that,
but this latest move shows that we’ve crossed a line.

Still those in control insist this move will result
in a system that is better for us all.
The rurals can dump their kids to fetch some books
when they drive to town to stock up at the mall.

The plan: drop off your ‘scrip, and go grab a burger
while the library staff diligently minds your kids
then take the hour-long drive back home
on winter roads, avoiding potholes, moose and skids.

Seems all so great ‘til you think about it and realize
that’s not really how libraries are supposed to work.
They’re not dumping grounds where you grab some stuff
and take off while your kids just run berserk.

My thoughts drift back to Southern Harbour
in Placentia Bay, the place that I once called home.
Mild winters, lots of fish, good work but still
nearly always under a misty, thick fog filled dome.

On those many, many days when the weather was too poor
to chase after a puck or smack around a ball
off to the library we’d all head for the afternoon.
Me—the bookworm—I’d figure we had ‘er scalled.

The names that then became my lifelong friends
Adams, King, Archer, LeGuin, Asimov and Dick,
Niven, Clarke, Zelazney, Thompson,
Hinton, Herriot—so many more I could pick.

I’d never have known about their thoughts
and stories of worlds far better than I could dream.
Without them I figure I’d still be stuck in the past
and soaking up the crap from each new political team.

And the sense of community that Bride created
along with the library board—she made it such
that singalongs, story time and celebrations
added to books and reading that special touch.

But now austerity is the only word.
Whatever judged “not needed” has to close.
So outport libraries are seen as waste;
so called “low hanging fruit” one does suppose.

Know what? What frightens me to the core
is the realization that we are now led by
those who fail to see the beyond the moment
and understand the reasons for the outcry.

There’s more to life than working a job to make
enough to pay your taxes and your bills
with just enough left for fast food and perhaps
some meds and other stuff to treat your ills.

It’s not just about a few books and “shh.”
it’s even about more than basic literacy.
It’s more than access to internet and government docs.
It’s more than the facts to support curiosity.

No, more than anything libraries are living symbols of the hope;
the feeling that, through knowledge and wisdom we can do much more—
a thing our forebears knew so very well.
Now I fear for what the future might have in store.

Because with those closings that hope won’t shine so bright;
yet another reason to pack it up and leave.
And what of those who still decide to stay
in a place diminished, perhaps for them we’ll grieve.

For myself, and in the here and now
it won’t matter much, my job surrounds me with all I need.
Besides, right now I earn enough
to pay for Internet and the things I choose to read.

But things are cyclical and there will surely come a time
when I find myself in some underfunded private health care home
without the work and responsibility that nurtures me today
family grown and feeling so very much alone.

I will no longer get the refuge I once found
in that place of respect, knowledge, in which I felt secure;
no longer will I find the books and things
like I once did, just a short walk from my door.

But it is what it is, I and I know, it’s true
so often things are decided on a whim
by those who understand and use them the least
and just want their way; only want to win.

Still, the savings are so miniscule against
the deficit that it’s supposed to reduce
and we know the damage that this act will do
and for that stupidity there can be no excuse.


About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
This entry was posted in Newfoundland and Labrador, poetry/songs, Society and Culture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A Lament for Lost Outport Libraries

  1. Pilgrim says:

    Good grief, there is just no end.

  2. Indeed. What is it about the mindset of nearly all those in positions of decision-making (in our school) that libraries, art programs, and physical education … when, perhaps it could be argued, they are among the most important early-childhood programs … are nearly always the first to be targeted for such cuts? I can’t pretend to know the answer to that question. I’m afraid we opted out of such a system and homeschooled our kids. But the cuts you describe are larger than that. How can these folks deprive the community of such a focal point of critical thinking and learning? Again, I can’t pretend to know that answer to that question. Hang in there Maurice, hang in there.

  3. Loving the complicated tapestry of politics and prose in your more recent musings, Maurice.

  4. Maurice, I bet you have been asked numerous times to go into politics! You’d be a great Minister of Education!

  5. Mary says:

    I can’t believe this! It boggles the mind that in a province with the lowest literacy rates – the govt. would cut libraries in rural areas – Seriously stunned.
    What in the name of heavens were they thinking.
    I worked for thirty years in public libraries and was so happy to help families who could not afford to buy books at home but came week after week and signed out stacks and stacks of books in order that their children would have the benefit of language and knowledge. Also seniors who did not have laptops or know how to navigate the internet fill out forms – And so much more.
    Here in Vancouver they are building MORE libraries because they know the importance to the community education and health – One just opening in the Downtown Eastside. On the list of things young people in Attawapiskat said they would like to see that might help their community was- a library.
    Honestly – as a Newfoundlander living and working elsewhere in Canada – I’ve encountered an attitude from some that Nflders are not quite as smart – well this govt. sure seems to be working toward making that stereotype a reality.
    Idiots – they are the reason for the stereotype.
    Thanks byes.

    • We see it the same way. Like I said I’m left between anger and grief.

      • Mary says:

        Yes – a mix of anger and grief describes it – I’d also add a little shock at the fact the Province is cutting down on opportunities for education/ knowledge to rural youth at a time they need it more than ever to compete for jobs all over the country. Just heard the news from Fort Mac – Devastating.

  6. tw says:

    The local library was part of my childhood in England too but by the time I had my son in ’93 things were on the slide. Now most of them have gone the same way as our roads, public swimming pools and playgrounds. When I think about it, it seems we’ve been suffering austerity since the ’80’s and as there’s no industry left to sell off (coal, steel, ship building, railways to name a few) the cuts get deeper and deeper.

    Our politicians wonder why younger folks are turning to alcohol and drugs, see work as transient, spend what cash they have instead of saving for their futures and are increasingly suffering anxiety and depression. Isn’t it obvious? Public services in tatters, no job stability yet a requirement to work until almost 70 years of age, next to no chance to buy a property and most will be in expensive rented accommodation their whole lives, the prospect of at least £44k debt at the age of 22 thanks to student loans for any who attempt to improve their prospects (NB. That’s more than twice the annual gross salary most will earn as new graduates). I could go on but I won’t because even for me – a child of the three day week, petrol shortages, blackouts and miners strikes, the HIV crisis and ‘build your own nuclear fallout shelter’ era – today’s world is increasingly worrying and tomorrow’s appears to hold little but despair.

  7. Tiny says:

    That is so sad. It hurts to hear about this kind of “austerity”, really.

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