Six Nations library has to wait for funding

The Six Nations Public Library walked away from elected council’s general finance meeting Monday not knowing when its budget for the upcoming fiscal year will be approved.

The library, which is the largest and oldest First Nations public library in the world, needs $222,000 to operate in 2021-2022 and relies mostly on elected council for its annual funding.

Feather Maracle, director of the Six Nations Public Library, said it’s a “hub of enlightenment” that has continued to serve the community throughout the pandemic.

“Since Covid, the library has continued to play a very active role behind closed doors,” said Maracle.

Staff has continued to serve about 10 to 15 customers per day in person, and more online via email.

They’ve provided contactless pick-up and quarantine returned items for 72 hours after drop off to allow for decontamination.

The SNPL also provides community members with printing, scanning and copying services, which Maracle said have been especially needed for people applying for the federal Indian Day School Settlement.

The SNPL also provides IT support to the community, said Maracle, as well as board games, puzzles, “de-stress” kits, and cursive writing kits to help both kids and adults improve their penmanship.

Those programs help people keep busy when their Internet is down and reduces screen time, she said.

The SNPL also offers audiobooks, games and puzzles to residents of Iroquois Lodge, Six Nations’ long-term care home.

The library has three permanent and two part-time staff members. It’s been closed to the public since the start of the pandemic, but staff have remained on site.

“Throughout all of Covid we have continued to provide information for people around the world,” said Maracle.

Coun. Helen Miller said it’s important to continue funding the library, especially after the provincial government slashed library funding in half in 2019.

“It’s imperative to make sure our library keeps running. Six Nations is one of the most fortunate communities to have a library. I think we need to be really supportive of the library. I think (Feather has) done a great job keeping the library going through Covid. It’s not an easy job to do for anybody. Unfortunately, they get no money. They have no money other than depending on us, council.”

Council said it would look into the library’s funding request when it makes all of their budget decisions this spring.

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