Thursday, July 25, 2024

Library Blues in the Blue Mountains

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor of the Meaford Independent,

It’s been heartening for us in The Town of the Blue Mountains to read your paper’s well-reported coverage of the recent crisis in the Meaford library board and its swift resolution. In addition to showing you believe in the importance of libraries, your reports demonstrate two things that we have yet to learn here: first, that it’s not uncommon for library boards and the councils that appoint them to have serious disagreements; and second, that the best resolution to any library conflict or crisis is almost always to be found in compliance with the Public Libraries Act (PLA) and the board’s own bylaws.

For that to happen, cool heads and goodwill have to prevail, and that ultimately seems to have been the case in Meaford, despite a few missteps along the way.

Not so much in Thornbury.

We’ve been following the Meaford situation for some time now, not without a tinge of envy and, yes, admiration. We looked on in wonder recently when all the volunteer members of the Meaford board resigned over an issue of principle when they felt they had been overruled by council. Imagine acting on principle! That’s exactly what should have happened in the Town of the Blue Mountains a year ago, when every single employee of the local library was fired to accommodate a library restructuring, of which the board claims they were not fully informed. The crisis that this created has yet to be resolved.

The Meaford board moved swiftly to replace the vacancies, perhaps too swiftly and inappropriately, but that mistake was quickly corrected and your board is now back at full strength. Meanwhile in our town, the board, depleted by several resignations, remains deaf or openly hostile to our attempts to address the injustice. The mayor/chair, John McKean, in defiance of the PLA (which he claims is flawed), has balked at filling vacancies on the board. The library is no longer the welcoming place it once was, and many of its patrons now use the Meaford Public Library instead.

We can only hope that our own library board members are following your excellent coverage and perhaps learning that where there is the will, and respect for the existing library legislation, any crisis can be resolved to everyone’s benefit.

Paul Wilson
Chair, VOCAL
Voices of Community for Accountable Leadership
The Town of the Blue Mountains

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