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access, libraries, politics

Library Users versus the Mayor

Wasn’t it Michael Moore that said don’t mess with the librarians? I suspect Toronto city council is finding this out the hard way.

Funny how two weekends ago when I first saw the flyer for Our Public Library I nearly rolled my eyes thinking, “our libraries don’t need rescuing….” But I soon learned how wrong I was as I got wind of all the hullabaloo at Toronto City Council regarding the KPMG report.

It is good that Mayor Rob Ford is following his word but I wonder if people understood what the “gravy” was they were committing to being cut when voting him in. I can imagine people thinking administrative or other such things being cut, not services that are vibrant and well used, like bike lanes and libraries.

The public consultation/core service review that came out showed that public libraries are eighth on list of what citizens view as necessary for the city, and fourth on list of services people think the municipality should provide. That right there should be a big hint to the Mayor and his councillors on how people feel about their libraries, but I guess not!

A friend posted on Facebook that she supports Ford and “you can’t blame Ford for Libraries being shut down .. blame the internet…. Kindle, iPad, etc”. To her, and the rest of you out there, the library is not about books anymore! It hasn’t been for decades! WAKE UP!  Ok that last bit wasn’t for her – but for you out there that hasn’t set foot in a library in years. Get out and go to one, spend an hour there and then go to a different one – they’re not all the same and you won’t “get” TPL if you only visit one branch.

Sure libraries are still the #1 place to go for book culture, but they’re more about people and information now hence all the computers, wifi and virtual reference; the TPL has probably close to a hundred databases with access to thousands of articles, stuff that is not on Google and is great not just for students, but people doing job searches, personal projects and hobbies, starting a business and so on.

The thing about libraries too is that there is less and less public space (or it’s being commercialized) and so they do often serve as role of community centre; I’d be okay with merging more of those, as long as there’s no pool near the library ;-).  Have you looked at all the programming TPL offers? I just wish I was a kid again. Sure, some of the programming may be seen as “gravy”, but newcomer programs, career searches, and computer training are essentials.

Finally, libraries used to be places for only the elite & upper class, whereas now it’s nearly the opposite and a place for the poor, working classes, and new immigrants but those groups typically don’t speak out or up for themselves. This may be the very reason we’re in this situation – who elected Ford in anyhow? And even if those who use libraries voted for him, some people just don’t know any better (cuts DO sound good after-all).

So, if you live or work in the GTA, please take a moment and visit http://ourpubliclibrary.to/ to sign the petition and spread the word. We can do a lot better than 26,441 signatures!




About Jen

An instructor, a reader, a dog-owner, and advocate; that's how I define myself and these aspects directly impact my interests and conversations.


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