Libraries are extremely popular with the Canadian public. However, library workers face many challenges that threaten the quality of services that people have come to expect and rely on.
Libraries benefit the economy. They help break the cycle of poverty by providing free access to the internet, job searching, and skills development. Libraries also promote literacy development, an essential skill in today’s job market. The economic benefits of libraries can’t be understated. Studies show that for every dollar invested in libraries, the average benefit to the community is more than five times that.
- Funding cuts have considerably reduced services available to the public. Decades of government austerity have resulted in slashed library budgets, job losses, increased workloads, service cuts, and increased risk of privatization. It is time to reinvest in our libraries.
- Employers are using new technologies, including self-service check-out, to cut jobs and reduce services. So-called “staffless libraries” have been cropping up in communities across Canada. It is time to challenge employer tactics that result in job loss and negative impacts on quality library services.
- Precarious work is a considerable challenge for library workers. In fact, most library workers are precariously employed. Precarious work may be part-time, temporary, casual or contract work. These non-permanent positions offer fewer full-time hours of work and fewer, if any, employment benefits. It is time to counter the increase in precarious employment by investing in permanent, full-time, well-paying jobs to ensure the ongoing delivery of quality library services.
- Library workers are concerned about the use of unpaid volunteers. Employers use volunteers to cut labour costs and to avoid creating new, paying jobs. Volunteers themselves are not the problem; rather, it’s how employers choose to use volunteer labour that can contribute to a negative labour relations climate. It is time to invest in full-time, permanent, well-paid jobs to support the work in our libraries.
- Libraries are not always safe workplaces. Library workers experience and witness verbal abuse, physical assaults, violence, threats and intimidation. It is time to take seriously and address violence and health and safety issues in the sector.
- Library workers went above and beyond to support our communities during the pandemic. The pandemic spotlighted the important work that library workers provide to help keep Canadians connected to each other and to their communities during a time of social isolation. Library workers have reached out to marginalized and vulnerable populations, have set up food banks, and have delivered books and other library materials to child-care centres and other care facilities. It is time to recognize the work of library workers in times of crisis.