In January, people all across Toronto asked their City Councillors to defend Toronto Public Library (TPL) services. As a result, millions of dollars worth of cuts were successfully kept out of the 2012 budget.
Now, City management is using labour negotiations to bring those cuts in through the back door – and make it easier to cut even more library service during next year’s budget.
Like trains with no tracks: Cuts to workers are cuts to service.
- The TPL is the most highly-used public library in North America.
- Despite successful community efforts to save service, 107 positions were still “deleted.”
- TPL staffing has now decreased by 17 per cent since amalgamation.
- But meanwhile, demand for our services has increased by 29 per cent! There were a million new visits to the library last year.
This is like building trains while removing tracks. There’s no sense in maintaining funds for materials while getting rid of the people who select, order, maintain, distribute, and connect people with those materials. A library is more than a building.
The TPL is heading towards a “big box store” staffing model, with fewer service desks and library professionals available to offer assistance and expertise. Among other things, this means:
- Longer wait times for assistance with accessing and using collections.
- Increased waits when you request or hold books online, due to “consolidation” of delivery hubs.
- Similar “consolidation” of collection development – the staff who make sure your local branch has the most suitable collection of books – and Home Library Services.
Librarians make libraries
Meanwhile, the decreasing jobs that are left aren’t being valued.
For years, the TPL has been moving towards staffing the library with more and more low-paid part-timers. Of just over 2300 library staff…
- half are part-time, and
- three quarters are women.
- Part-timers already have a hard time getting enough hours to make a living wage.
- Cuts – whether through a budget or a contract talk – affect these workers first.
And your services suffer disproportionately as a result. Since libraries are losing more and more full-time experienced staff, they’re relying more on ‘Pages’ – originally temp positions for students that have morphed over the years into permanent low-paying jobs. The work is being pushed down onto pages, for less reward.
It’s been made clear that as the current contract talks deepen, the employer will seek to make the TPL rely even further on precarious part-time labour. And this also makes future cuts even easier.
Let’s keep the public in the Toronto Public Library
Thanks to community action, we were spared many budget cuts to open hours and branches – but 107 staff positions were lost.
The books and other resources at your local branch used to be tailored directly to your community. That’s no longer the case, and as we keep losing staff it’s set to get worse. Library services are becoming increasingly less responsive to individual community needs. By negotiating for better working conditions, library workers are also negotiating for better services.