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County’s library cuts could impact over 1,000 BWG residents

Town will either have to cut services or raise taxes by over 0.4% next year to maintain the status quo at the library
BWG Library Board Member Coun. Jonathan Scott and Board Chair Jennifer Harrison

The recent Simcoe County’s cuts to library services could impact over 1000 Bradford West Gwillimbury library patrons each month who use its multilingual services and  information technology services.

The county sent letters to each municipality and each library board at the beginning of June outlining the establishment of Information Library Service (ILS) and transitioning away from the Simcoe County Library Co-operative.

The ILS would “focus its services on providing Software as a Service (SaaS) to existing Simcoe County libraries,” the letter stated, adding the county would assume existing licensing costs and project-management costs, while the “available assets and resources of the Simcoe County Library Co-operative (would) be distributed to the municipal libraries.”

BWG Library Board Chair Jennifer Harrison says the cuts mean over 1,000 local residents, particularly racialized residents and those with disabilities, are at risk of losing the services they rely on at the library. 

"We are working to mitigate this possibility as best we can and need Simcoe County to recognize that their decision has real consequences in a diverse community like ours, which they need to help us solve," said Harrison. 

Harrison says it's been a frustrating few months since this decision was made, with the Board trying to get solid answers from the County on the finer details surrounding the cuts and options available. 

Coun. Jonathan Scott who also sits on the Board didn't hold back his frustrations with the decision at a recent council meeting, and in an interview with BradfordToday. 

“I think residents know I’m normally pretty careful with my choice of words, but frankly I’m absolutely furious about this cut to library services," he said. "It’s appalling and puts Simcoe County on a list with other regressive jurisdictions that are attacking libraries rather than standing up for basic freedoms.

"It’s 2022, for goodness sake. A regional government cannot avoid scrutiny for a decision like this, as much as they might wish no one will notice what happens up at Midhurst. Here in Bradford, we value our diversity and are hard at work to ensure our town is as inclusive as possible."

He says the County’s cuts to libraries are a "completely unnecessary step backwards", that are not only wrong but costly. 

"The County’s cuts have impacted well over $130,000 per year every year of our library’s existing services. To compensate, Bradford will either have to cut services or raise taxes by over 0.4 per cent just to maintain the status quo next year," he said. 

Scott says Simcoe County must do something to compensate South Simcoe libraries, who have the most diverse communities and the largest libraries, with transitional funding "to mitigate the mess they’ve created completely unnecessarily.”

The letter sent by the county set a deadline of July 10 to make a decision as to whether the municipality would be a member of the ILS. The library board deferred its decision and instead requested a delegation from the county to explain the new system, how it’s going to work and elaborate on some of the financial unknowns.

"The good news is we finally have a meeting coming up with County officials after months of asking, so we are hopeful we can prevent the worst from happening here," said Harrison. 

The meeting is taking place on July 26. 

-with files from Patrick Bales and Jessica Owen

Natasha Philpott

About the Author: Natasha Philpott

Natasha is the Editor for BradfordToday and InnisfilToday. She graduated from the Media Studies program at The University of Guelph-Humber. She lives in Bradford with her husband, two boys and two cats.
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