St. Pierre-Jolys community members push back after school division limits access to library

The Joly Regional Library in St. Pierre-Jolys has been a pillar in the South Eastern Manitoba village since the 1960s and was the first bilingual library to be built in rural Manitoba.

Recently, though, the Red River Valley School Division made the decision to move forward with a plan to limit public access during school hours to the library, which is connected to École Héritage Immersion.

That decision is being questioned by community group Friends of the Joly Regional Library, which says the library is a valuable and much-needed service within the community.

Alison Palmer, one of the organizers, says the library is a source of community pride, and it would be a shame for residents to lose access.

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“It’s very active,” explained Palmer. “It has programming for families, programming with the seniors, programming with the daycare. So cutting all that just takes away the life from our community.”

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The group says it understands that student safety is an obvious priority for the school division, but Red River Valley School Division also operated the library in nearby Saint Malo. That library was closed two years ago ‘temporarily’ by the division, and has yet to reopen.

Global News reached out to the school division for comment but did not receive a response after several attempts.

However, the importance of the library is not lost on St. Pierre-Jolys councillor Marc Proulx, who says he empathizes with the concerns of library supporters but stresses things must change as the community continues to grow.

“Safety was not an issue 30 years ago, now it is,” Proulx states. “Space wasn’t an issue as the community grows, now it is. We can’t just tell everybody, ‘Don’t worry about it, status quo.’ No, the division can’t sit back and maintain status quo, they have to move forward.”

He continued by explaining that council is taking steps to consider other options, but was unable to provide specifics.

“We are looking at alternatives, I can say that much,” said Proulx. “But we need to work with the Library Committee Board on that, because that is provincially-driven.”

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