Library administrators in Saskatchewan say the federal government’s decision to cut funding for the Community Access Program will hurt the ability of rural communities  to access the web.

Janet Smith, director of Palliser Regional Library, said even though Saskatchewan won’t be impacted as hard as the rest of Canada because of a province sponsored network called C-NET, the lack of CAP funding will mean less opportunities for new equipment and less hours of public operation in rural areas.

“What it really does impact is the ability of our small, rural branches to replace equipment and also in the past (the funding) has also provided open hours to some of our branches for them to better serve the public,” said Smith. “By cutting off this access to the public computers and to reducing public hours … it definitely impacts the communities to offer those services.”

She said even though the impact won’t be seen wide-spread next year—because most branches just received new computers through the CAP funding—it will be felt drastically in years to come.

“Three or four years down the road—because the public are hard on computers—that’s when we’ll see people saying, ‘sorry, we don’t have any public access anymore’,” said Smith, adding the cuts will also mean less hours for employees.

“A lot of the extra hours that the libraries are open, that’s paid for by the CAP grant and when that money disappears, the libraries will have to close for those hours,” she said. “It’s not a good thing for public libraries, the government had a wonderful thing going to disperse their information, to help with tourism and to help with economic development and they’re endangering it.”

Last year roughly 40,000 people used Palliser’s public access computers funded by CAP.

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