Toronto Libraries “Spared”?

I thought that title (from an article at Inside Toronto) was so ironic. Like Terri Schiavo when her parents tried to “save” her life, the Toronto library system has been “spared” by mayor Ford. Functionality will be stripped, but at least Mr. Ford is sticking to the letter of his (eventual) stand not to close any libraries. Our mayor made campaign promises not to cut any services while not raising taxes. Now the the rubber meets the road (or the books hit the road) we see what his real priorities are. Not that we should have been surprised.

According to the Star, service cuts will proceed along the following lines:

  • an almost 30 per cent reduction in the number of hours that neighbourhood branches will be open on Sundays.
  • At least 25 neighbourhood branches losing some morning service from Monday to Saturday.
  • Nearly 20,000 fewer open hours from Monday to Saturday
  • Two research and reference libraries will lose two mornings each.
  • A reduced acquisition budget, meaning more than 106,000 library items won’t now be bought.

He promised not to raise taxes. So instead he’s “taxing” our libraries. That’s what these services cuts are, really. Instead of the rich and the powerful suffering a little by paying a bit more in direct taxes and knowing what they are supporting, our youth and our poor are being punished by having these cuts at one of the times they are most needed. Sunday is one of the times when I can actually fit the library into my schedule, since I’m working the rest of the time. It is very busy, since I’m not the only one in that boat.

As a geographer, one thing that I will find interesting is to see where these cuts are expressed. “Wellbeing Toronto” is a website that presents geographic representations of a variety of demographic data over space, specifically for the city of Toronto. (I’d love to see one for the whole province.) A few of these happen to include “Library Open Hours”, “Library Activity” and “Library Space”. We’ve been assured that “Library Space” won’t change. But the other two will. I’ll be interested to see where the libraries are reduced: will it be in areas where youth can use the libraries, or where adults find them convenient? Will it be were the poor can use them as alternatives to gangs, or where the rich consider them a resource? Nor that I have anything against either adults or the rich, but both groups have more capacity to find open libraries if they’re not convenient. I hope that as Mr. Ford is making these choices that affect people he can’t relate to, that he doesn’t hurt them too badly.

Unfortunately, we probably won’t find out what areas are getting the cuts until it’s too late to do anything about it. That will be Mr. Ford’s legacy, no matter how he and his supporters try to squirm out of it. I just hope the rest of us will remember. Now that geographic data is more available through sources like “Wellbeing Toronto”, we can analyze over time as well as space. It’ll be too late for this generation, but perhaps we can learn from the mistakes Mr. Ford is making and improve the next.

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One Response to Toronto Libraries “Spared”?

  1. Pingback: Mayor Ford’s Card-troversy | The Geographer's Corner

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