The provincial government hasn't promised to protect vital funding for public libraries. But library representatives have promised the government they'll negotiate those funding issues out of the media and behind closed doors, later appearing to adopt a more conciliatory tone in public. Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender was clearly heard making that promise last week while meeting with Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid behind just such a door, his voice carrying into the hallway.
In an interview, Mayor Fassbender stated, "I think the exact words I used was "˜We will not negotiate in the media.' I think what I wanted to do was to make it clear that we're not here to beat up on the government or try to negotiate through the media."
"We will have the discussions and present the business case directly to the minister. That doesn't mean that we will not communicate with the media at the appropriate times and keep the media in the loop."
But what will be the tone of those communications?
Immediately following the Tuesday meeting, Public Eye asked the president of the association representing library trustees whether he would protest cutbacks if they do happen.
"I think what we're going to do is we're going to work with government more on a collaborative process," said Andy Ackermann, helping the Campbell administration increase future library budgets if there are cuts.
When asked two days later about Mayor Fassenbender's promise, Mr. Ackermann said that commitment was being taken "out of context. What we're doing is more focusing on positive media," increasing public awareness of what libraries do.
But if the government doesn't consult with libraries about the funding issue, he stated, "I'm certainly sure you're going to hear from us again. I think if we get some pretty severe cuts you're probably going to hear from us sooner or later."
Mayor Fassbender, chair of the Fraser Valley Regional Library board, agreed, adding, "We are committed to keeping the public informed because it is their libraries we're dealing with."