The organizer of an upcoming provincial read-in outside MLA offices is hoping the government reconsiders its "devastating" cuts to libraries.

"There are so many people that are upset and outraged by this," said Weyburn mother of four Leslie Richards. "The goal is to rally them together in a peaceful manner."

Drop Everything and Read will take place at noon on April 7. Saskatchewan residents are encouraged to bring a book to their local MLA's office and read outside for 15 minutes. Richards plans to bring her four children.

Richards said she thought about a petition or other online action, but "there's just something about a physical presence."

Last week, the provincial government cut its funding to libraries in Saskatoon and Regina. Regional libraries in smaller centres will see their budgets cut by more than 50 per cent.

'Lack of understanding' of libraries: CEO

The provincial government doesn't understand the vital role of libraries, particularly during tough economic times, said Saskatoon Public Library CEO Carol Cooley.

'The seriousness of the matter cannot be understated.' - Southeast Regional Library statement

"It shows a lack of support for, and lack of understanding of, the role of the public library in a community," Cooley said.

Attendance at library programs rose 30 per cent last year in Saskatoon, Cooley said. Use of its wireless Internet and desktop computers rose 10 per cent.

When times are tough, people rely on the libraries for these and many other public services, she said. Libraries allow low-income people to search online for jobs or find a place to live. Newcomers connect with distant family and friends on Facebook or take out books to hone their English language skills.

Carol Cooley - Saskatoon Public Library

The provincial government doesn't understand libraries are about more than just books, says Carol Cooley, CEO of Saskatoon Public Libraries. (CBC)

"The role of libraries is more than simply books, whether they be digital or print, although books remain a core value and a core service," Cooley said.

She disagrees with government ministers who said people can simply look up books and other information on their own electronically.

Small libraries, big impact

The Southeast Regional Library posted a statement on Facebook saying small libraries could be devastated. They'll have to stop all new purchases, cut out all programming, such as kids' book clubs, and many other services.

The statement called the cuts the greatest crisis in the history of the public library system.

"The seriousness of the matter cannot be understated," said the statement.

"We encourage all local library board members and patrons to voice their support for the regional library system at this time by contacting your MLA and local municipal government."

The cuts are part of the government's attempt to trim the provincial deficit and slow the growth of overall debt.