In the midst of a mediation process, Wapiti Regional Library chairperson Maureen McGirr is calling the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library (JMCPL) board unreasonable.
“They feel they are over and above Wapiti,” she said. “They want all the power … They don’t want anything to do with us.
If they took some time to look at the regional system, they’d find benefit in finding a resolve through mediation, she said. To pull out of the regional system would also mean pulling out from the services they offer.
Though these services will still be available to library users, taxpayers’ library fees will go up due to the added JMCPL responsibilities, she cautioned.
Under the current process, money provided by City of Prince Albert taxpayers to the library is divided into two streams.
One is the Wapiti Regional Library fund, which is allocated to administrative duties, like payroll and collections. The other is the JMCPL fund, which covers operational costs like air conditioning and building repairs.
In turn, Wapiti takes care of things like payroll, with the JMCPL benefiting from various additional services the regional system offers its libraries, including the recent addition of a Library2Go program, which provides users with access to 25,000 digital eBooks, databases and a province-wide public library catalogue of four million items — all available 24/7 from users’ home computers.
"We are different from rural municipality libraries ... and we've asked them to put us here and treat us like a special entity, and yet they have been reluctant to do that," JMCPL board chair Ted Zurakowski told the Daily Herald after council approved the mediation process in July.
There are a myriad of perceived issues within the partnership between the two libraries, including Wapiti control of JMCPL reserve dollars, doubling up of services and what Zurakowski said was the endless downloading of costs to the JMCPL.
We’re willing to negotiate with these things, but they don’t want have any of it. - Wapiti Regional Library chairperson Maureen McGirr
Zurakowski declined comment on McGirr’s comments and corresponding press release this week, due to what he describes as the “grain of salt” constituents will link to his comment as a result of the proximity to the Oct. 24 civic elections.
“We’ve been working with Wapiti for about a year and a half to resolve these issues,” he said.
JMCPL representatives met with mediators recently for between four and five hours, with another meeting between Wapiti, the JMCPL and mediators planned for the near future, he said.
Wapiti has also met with mediators, though McGirr said that she’s not optimistic things will be resolved during the second round of mediation with JMCPL.
“There has to be somewhere in the middle,” she said. “We’re willing to negotiate with these things, but they don’t want have any of it.”
The Saskatchewan Public Libraries Act should be adhered to, which stipulates that Wapiti is responsible for all branches’ administrative services, including the JMCPL’s, McGirr said.
This, she suggests, is something the JMCPL board seem to feel they’re above.
The act ensures a strong regional system, which is something the JMCPL’s withdrawal from could set a dangerous precedent, resulting in a dissolving the currently strong system.
Zurakowski has been very forceful during meetings that the JMCPL come out with the best deal and is providing little consideration for the regional system, McGirr said.
“They are only thinking of themselves. They aren’t thinking of the region, at all.”