No luck for requests to remove vaccine requirements for library

The John M. Cuelenaere Public Library. (Herald file photo)

Local Journalism Initiative 

Multiple requests to have the City of Prince Albert remove their requirements for library patrons to either be vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test went nowhere Monday’s executive committee meeting. 

Council opted to forward the eight letters (two from one person) to the Prince Albert Library Board for discussion even while acknowledging that the board is following the guidelines set by the city.

“I’m glad the library board did that. I applaud them for doing that,” said Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick during the Executive Committee meeting where the requests were sent. 

“Nobody is being denied access to any of our facilities. To enter, it’s provide proof of vaccination or a negative test.”

In the spring, the Prince Albert Public Library board made a motion that the library would follow whatever COVID protocols the City decided on. 

The library is also offering curb-side pickup for people who do not want to enter or meet the COVID requirements.

“Within an hour the books are ready for them for roadside pickup. I just don’t get this idea (that) people (are) being denied access to the library,” said Ogrodnick. 

All of the letters were from residents who homeschool their children and, in one case, was from a resident of Christopher Lake. 

Lori Fletcher wrote two letters asking for the policy to be changed. 

“Having access to the library is now more important to us than ever given the circumstances and restrictions that have drastically reduced access to sporting events, festivals, museums and art galleries over the past year and a half that would normally be part of our home education,” she wrote. 

For many home-educated families like ours, a trip to the library is one of our only outings. Having to tell children they are no longer welcome inside the library unless certain conditions are met is heartbreaking.”

Fletcher said that some people in the group that homeschools their children are vaccinated but not all for various reasons. 

“Some of the members of the homeschool community have received the COVID injections and some cannot for medical, conscientious or religious reasons. However, access to the library is a fundamental right for us all, regardless of medical status,” she wrote. 

Another request said that reading is important to child development and homeschools rely on the library to help meet this need. 

“I am aware of the protective measures that have been introduced at the library and am confident that visits are low-risk to our community. There are seniors, families, homeschooling groups, and university students who rely heavily on library resources,” wrote Brigitt de Villiers, who said in the letter that her councillor is Terra Lennox-Zepp.

“The book pick up option is not working for many. In our experience, many of the books we’ve reserved online are not what we’ve expected. With turnaround of the resources, it’s caused more effort for both us and the library staff,” she said. 

Rather than changing their mind, councillors re-iterated their previous statements that the policy allows patrons to use the library while providing a safe environment. 

Lennox-Zepp said she was in favour of the motion to forward the correspondence to the library board rather than changing City policy. 

“I received correspondence from members in the community who advised me that they want to see this restriction continued at this time while its needed because they themselves are then able to be patrons of the library in a safe manner,” she said. 

“I respect and appreciate those who did write these letters to city council. I respect that we’re hearing concerns here but we have to balance that with what we’re dealing with, with COVID-19.” 

Lennox-Zepp also commented that the policy was put in place at the request of the medical officer of health for the city, Dr. Chokani. 

The motion was carried unanimously.