During the past few weeks, signatures have been collected on a petition to ask the province for help in keeping public libraries open in St. Pierre and St. Malo.

Armed with that petition, Head Librarian Nicole Gregoire made her way to the Manitoba Legislative Building on Monday, May 9th.

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Nicole Gregoire and Michelle Hartin at the Legislature to discuss the future of public libraries in St. Pierre and St. Malo. (Photo Credit: Facebook/BibliothequeRegionaleJolys)

Gregoire met with Education Critic Nello Altomare and Critic for Francophone Affairs Adrien Sala, handing over the petition. She says the NDP have agreed to introduce the petition to the Legislature.

In an email to Steinbach Online, Gregoire indicates that the Jolys Regional Library (JRL) board and the Red River Valley School Division have flourished from a mutually beneficial memorandum of understanding for over 50 years.

“The JRL provides valuable resources to the French immersion École Heritage School in St Pierre Jolys. It’s important to note that students are bussed in from neighbouring municipalities – most of whom don’t have a library – in order to access French language education.”

The email goes on to express concern that the partnership is being threatened as École Heritage School needs an expansion and our government won’t fund it unless every available square footage is used for classrooms.

“That means they would need to evict the library (we’ve been served notice) and convert our beautiful auditorium/ library into classroom space. This auditorium was built in the 60’s by renowned Manitoba architect Étienne Gaboury. It’s not just a library and community learning common, it’s a well used gathering space for public programming, and theatre.”

The petition submitted to the Legislature calls on four ministers, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage, the Minister of Francophone Affairs and the Minister of Labour, Consumer Protection and Government services, to take notice and prevent the closure of the libraries.

“We ask that RRVSD consider other options to solve the classroom problem. The ultimate goal is for the province of Manitoba to grant us the auditorium space, so that we can continue to provide French language services and a Community Learning Common to our communities and our students. We would also ensure that the buildings' rich historical and architectural heritage remains central and prominent in the community.”