By KAREN WELLS
LEWISPORTE & AREA — The days of the Community Access Program (CAP) at the Lewisporte Memorial Public Library and all of the sites offering free access to the Internet may be numbered.
It was communicated to the library board by letter on April 5 by Industry Canada that, “In these challenging fiscal times, the Government remains committed to prioritizing expenditures and returning to budget balance. CAP was scheduled to end March 31, 2012, and will not be renewed.”
All this came as a surprise and shock to the local library board that hosts the CAP program. Board chairperson Myrtice Alpen said none of them were even aware that there was a prior end-date in place for CAP, or that it was even up for the possibility of renewal. The first they heard of it was the letter they received the day before Good Friday.
“This was really out of the blue,” said the boards regional representative John Sutherland. “There was no preliminary discussion, no questions asked of any member of the library as to whether or not we thought funding for the service could be reduced. There was no consultation whatsoever.
“If it’s necessary for the Federal Government to cut funding for this program, you’d think the appropriate thing to do would be to give advance notice and to at least take into consideration the views of people who are using the equipment or where the equipment is located, but instead it was just the letter you have there (from Industry Canada).”
As of the interview time with The Pilot last week, the CAP program was still operating as per normal. The board was awaiting word from the Provincial Libraries Board on how to proceed.
It was noted during the interview that the Federal Government had contributed $550,000 annually for this province to offer CAP at select libraries and community centre sites. The Provincial Government contributed another $400,000. The board was also anxiously waiting to see what would be held in the 2012 Provincial Budget (released April 24, after The Pilot deadline) to see if that funding would also be impacted.
“The cost they figure to offer this program is about 42 cents per Canadian per year,” said Ms. Alpen. “What a cheap way to educate people really for 42 cents.”
The combined CAP funding goes towards providing wireless connections at CAP sites, computers and related equipment and software, maintenance and information technology (IT) support, etcetera. There are seven computers at the CAP site in Lewisporte. Mr. Sutherland said as far as they know, the computer equipment will be left in place. It was noted however that if IT support were to be affected and those 10 or so people in those areas were impacted by job losses, it would have a negative impact on the ability to have the computers operating at the library in Lewisporte.
“Quite often we have to get in touch with them,” said librarian Bobbi Benson. “I am waiting on a call from them right now.”
Ms. Alpen said if computers go down or are unusable, the library doesn’t have the funds to deal with repairs or replacements.