Protesting too much

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“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” That famous quote from Hamlet describes the St. Albert Library chair’s (Janice Marschner) frequent attempts to justify both the new branch and current library operating costs. If it were self evident we needed another library, and that operating costs were in line, the chair would not have to continue to defend the decisions when being challenged.

In her letter to the (Gazette, Feb. 25), Marschner, made several alarming comments, and used soft numbers that are more of a diversion than information.

First, she acknowledges that the director doesn’t complete long term budgets. This is probably the biggest reason why operating costs have spiralled out of control. No one is looking at the historical data to forecast the future.

The chair then acknowledges that wages are the lion’s share of the library budget. Either the number of employees or their salaries have exploded to account for the out of control spending.

The chair states “our costs have risen in sync with other municipal services.” This is just another example of the lack of leadership displayed by the mayor in not capping city expenses to inflation and population growth. It also explains why our taxes are 50 per cent higher than Edmonton, and are the highest in the region.

Soft numbers lack meaning, but hard numbers don’t: in 2000 library operating costs totalled $1.2 million, by 2016 the costs exceeded $4.1 million.

Based on historical numbers, operating costs will top $6 million by 2019, and exceed $10 million by 2025. Costs will continue to escalate without oversight, especially after the sub branch is built. While trustees and board chair have a fiduciary role, it is the library director that needs to be held accountable for the operating costs spiralling out of control.

With reference to free memberships, the chair says: “St Albertans love the initiative, coming in for memberships in record numbers. We invite Mr. Harley to join them.” If membership information is confidential, how would the chair know if I were/weren’t a member? Second, membership is not required to use the library, only if you want to borrow items.

Norm Harley, St. Albert

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