Library board cost-saving suggestions ‘embarrassing’: Union

New Toronto library board meets to discuss options to save city $7-million

The president of the Toronto Public Library Workers’ Union (TPLWU) says cost-saving suggestions by the city’s new library board aren’t in line with the views of Toronto residents.

At a meeting last week, the eight new library board members – all appointed by Mayor Rob Ford – approved approximately $9 million in cuts, such as eliminating 100 jobs, but delaying the implementation of other cuts, such as eliminating Sunday hours in eight branches and closing branches.

“These ideas show how out of touch the new library citizen board members are with the residents of Toronto, who treasure their libraries,” says president of the TPLWU Maureen O'Reilly.

Board members submitted the proposals to the city’s chief librarian, Jane Pyper, ahead of a library budget committee meeting scheduled for Nov. 1. The 23 suggestions are intended to help the agency find $7-million in savings in order meet the mayor’s demand of a 10 per cent budget cut.

Vice-chair of the library board, Mike Foderick, told the Toronto Star that most of the suggestions come from one board member whose “very strong views” differ from the other members.

“The vast majority of these suggestions will never see the light of day,” Foderick told the paper.

Some of the suggestions the committee will review are as follows:

  • Closing the Yorkville branch, the oldest operating public library in the City of Toronto since 1907, presumably so the building could be demolished and the land sold to condo developers
  • Reducing the number of library branches to 60 from 98
  • Eliminating computers at library branches
  • Increasing rental rates for library theatres, which are principally rented by non-profit amateur groups
  • Jacking up children's overdue book rates by 150%
  • Creating a new fine system for holds not picked up fast enough
  • Allowing corporate or individual "sponsors" to pay to attach their names to prized and historic book collections
  • Reduce the size of branches like Northern District Library
  • Introduce "pay for naming rights" for library branches
  • Close the North York Central Library

"It is embarrassing for a world class library system to even think about penalizing children who might be slow readers, eliminating computers, slapping corporate names on book collections and even entire libraries,” says O'Reilly, “not to mention closing one third of our branches, including one of our largest branches, an invaluable research resource that circulates over one million items a year."

The committee will also discuss the possibility of corporate sponsorship of specific collections and naming rights at branches.

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