NEWS: Nunavut May 25, 2012 - 10:30 am

Arctic Bay DEA defends library closure

Library was a "security concern," DEA chairperson says


(updated, May 25, 11:30 a.m.)

Arctic Bay’s district of education authority came out fighting this week to defend its controversial decision to move the public library out of Inuujaq School.

And in a widely circulated letter, its chairperson accused a “vested interest group including the librarian” of using that decision to undermine the authority of the DEA and school administration.

The DEA decided to end its contract with the Nunavut Public Library services, which supports 11 libraries in Nunavut, March 31.

Qaumayuq Oyukuluk, the DEA chairperson, wrote a letter, circulated May 23, claiming there were “some issues going on” about that decision.

He said the decision to close the library was taken after a long discussion with the DEA members, the school administration and Qikiqtani School Operations.

Their main concern? That the library was a “security concern.”

“Users of the library hang around the school, go to classrooms, and sometimes go to the gym from the school side and leave the gym door open for the whole night,” Oyukuluk said.

And that’s been going on for years, he said.

The DEA was tolerant “for years,” but then things came to a point where the DEA had to make a decision, he said.

This came when the school needed more space to meet new curriculum requirements and the school’s growing population.

Reclaiming the library might not be enough, Oyukuluk said: “this is the reality and this is for the benefit of the students’ curriculum needs.”

Oyukuluk also said “recent issues” with the school librarian had “expedited” the DEA’s decision to close the library. He alleged that the librarian had violated some workplace safety rules, used inappropriate language with the DEA office manager and then quit.

So, the DEA asked the Nunavut Public Library Services to move their books out and put them at the hamlet or Arctic College.

The NPLS has since said it plans to give Arctic Bay a couple more months to find another location in the community of 825.

Oyukuluk said the school will continue to have a library which will be upgraded with new materials.

Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliott, who helped start the library, said he’s “hoping that the positive outcome will be that we’ll end up with a library in a different location.

By writing, Oykuluk said he hoped “there will be no further confusion regarding this issue.”

But some parents of kids who attend school in Arctic Bay say the DEA, an elected body, has no business referring to them as a “vested interest group.” They’re asking “what type of school comes to the conclusion that books are bad?”

Buffy MacNeil, the librarian, has retained lawyer Steven Cooper to represent her.

MacNeil will be “taking the allegations very seriously and will be taking actions appropriate to that level of concern,” Cooper told Nunatsiaq News. “The originator source (s) will be receiving a warning and demand for apology as well as damages commensurate with the harms alleged.”