Proposed cuts to Toronto Public Library (TPL) funding will have negative consequences for a wide swath of Torontonians, three-quarters of whom are regular library patrons, limiting their access to library facilities, services and knowledge, according to the Toronto Public Library Workers Union (TPLWU), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4948.
A KPMG report, commissioned by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and released Thursday, July 21, suggests the City close library branches, cut hours of operation, and slash programs for children and immigrants. Taken together, the consultants hired by Mayor Ford to review library services have proposed cuts totaling approximately 35 million dollars or 20 per cent of the TPL’s budget.
“If the KPMG consultant who came up with these ideas was CEO of Tim Horton’s, he would be fired for closing outlets and reducing hours, measures that would cut into sales and profits. If accepted, the measures proposed today will have a similarly negative impact on the Toronto Public Library,” said Maureen O’Reilly, President of the 2,400-member union.
The Toronto Public Library is among the best library systems in the world. It is routinely ranked as the most used library in the world in terms of circulation.
“When you consider that Torontonians and Canadians are among the most avid readers in the world, these cuts make no sense whatsoever,” says O’Reilly.
In addition to measures that will choke physical access to the Toronto Public Library, the consultants have proposed cuts that specifically target services for children and immigrants.
“Teaching our children a love of books is one of the most important roles played by the Toronto Public Library. These kinds of programs would be cut if the City accepts these proposals,” said O’Reilly.
“We hope that those Councillors who will vote to cut children’s reading programs have the political courage to stand up and explain why this is ‘gravy.’”
As for Councillor Doug Ford’s recent public complaint that Toronto has “more libraries per person than any other city in the world,” he is wrong - even if he was just referring to Canada. According to the TPL, Toronto has one library for every 28,120 citizens, fewer than Hamilton (one per 21,629); Ottawa (27,527); and Vancouver (27,976). In the U.S., the entire state of Vermont, which has only one-quarter of the population of Toronto, has 30 libraries per 100,000 people, which is 7-1/2 times the library density of Toronto.
“We are concerned that these recommendations are only a starting point,” added O’Reilly. “When Mayor Ford and his colleagues get involved, the cuts could be much worse, including privatization of the Toronto Public Library. I think it is significant that the KPMG consultants routinely compare the Toronto Public Library to cities in the United States where outsourcing of entire library systems is a trend.”
According to a Forum Research opinion survey of Toronto residents taken earlier this month, three-quarters of Toronto residents disagree with the idea of closing local library branches as a measure to address the city’sdeficit (74 per cent), and more than one half disagree “strongly” (54 per cent). When it is their own local branch which is threatened, the proportion of those who “strongly disagree” increases to two-thirds (64 per cent).
Not only are library branch closures off the table as far as Toronto residents are concerned, more than half disagree with privatizing the delivery of any city services (55 per cent), the survey found, and more than one third disagree “strongly” (38 per cent). When the Toronto Public Library is mentioned as a privatization target, seven-in-ten Torontonians disagree (71 per cent), more than one half “strongly” (55 per cent).
“On behalf of Torontonians who love their public library, we are calling on City Council to reject the KPMG recommendations concerning the Toronto Public Library and to keep our library public,” O’Reilly said.
For more information:
Maureen O’Reilly, 647-206-7457