Confidential to Phil Preville

Philip Preville, a resident contrarian at Toronto Life despite not living a life in Toronto, took time out from his busy suburban lifestyle to damn Rob Ford with faint praise. One of the achievements Preville attributed to him? “At Fairview Library, an automated book sorter will save $160,000. It all adds up.”

The May issue publishes (i.e., rewrites) my response:

In “The Flip Side of Ford,” the half-hearted panegyric to our mayor that appeared in our March issue, Philip Preville mentioned an automated sorter at Fairview Library that will save $160,000. He failed to note that the equipment comes at a cost of four and a half jobs. Neither did he mention that the Toronto Public Library budget was reduced in 2012, inciting librarians to strike. Preville said “it all adds up,” but he wasn’t adding all of it up

What I actually wrote:

Philip Preville – in the wrong more often than any Toronto Life columnist (and he doesn’t even live in Toronto) – blows it again in his half-assed panegyric to Rob Ford. “At Fairview Library, an automated sorter will save $160,000,” he writes, failing to mention that the equipment comes at the cost of 4.5 full-time-equivalent jobs. (That’s on top of the 107 positions by which the library is already short.)

But Preville doesn’t account for those details, or for the fact that the library budget was reduced this year under the current board, which actually managed to infuriate librarians enough for them to go on strike in 2012. So yes, “[i]t all adds up” – if what you’re adding up is really “all” of it.

Phil Preville, go fuck yourself.

Nuke Indigo

What I mean is “Eliminate Indigo ‘affiliate links.’ ” It can be done! If you don’t like the fact that the library is now a de facto Heather Reisman sales arm, you can block those links from appearing in your browser.

I noticed the affiliate links a few days before they were announced:

‘Chasing the Perfect’ with indigo.ca buy box

Let’s start a few steps back, though. Goldsbie’s piece in Now does a good job situating the TPL Board’s two obnoxious money-raising gestures – ads on due-date slips and shilling for Indigo – as the aftershock of the budget earthquake of two years ago. Except it took that long for the budget to really be reduced, so I guess the fear was simply ahead of its time.

At any rate, we have here a quote from Janet Davis, the lady who once lectured me in that condescending low voice she has (it’s preferable just to get yelled at).

“If people who can afford it start purchasing and not contributing a cent to the collective borrowing,” Davis says, “the demand will decline so you would have fewer people borrowing, fewer users. It would worry me if users declined because a certain slice of that group purchases as opposed to borrowing.”

This doesn’t make any sense. Continue reading

Reversing budget cuts

You would probably expect me to lobby city councillors to reverse TPL budget cuts. I have done so – with my own city councillor and with Adam Vaughan; with Raymond Cho, who proposed last year’s successful motion to reverse budget reductions; and with James Pasternak, who, according to legend, would have peevishly voted against Cho’s motion, defeating it on a tie vote.

I submitted minor variations of the following.

As you know, TPL is the only beloved city service

The library is the only city service that people actually love. The library is wildly and abundantly used. It’s also chronically underfunded (and short 107 staff positions, soon to be over 111).

The city always produces structural surpluses

This year, like last year and the year before that, the city will produce a budget surplus. There is more than enough money available to avoid starving the only beloved public service of the money it needs to operate.

TPL asked for a measly 0.3% increase

TPL’s budget submission asked for an increase of 0.3% (in some versions of the budget, 0.4%), or an increase of a piddling $381,000 (PDF).

But that figure already includes a reduction in the collections budget of $299,000.

The city Budget Committee, true to peevish, miserly, picayune, punitive form, knocked off one-third of that tiny budget increase and proposed increasing TPL’s budget by 0.2% (PDF).

Yes, the Budget Committee really wants to penalize the public library over a tenth of a percentage. There’s stupid and then there’s nasty; here it’s both.

TPL threw away its profits from this year’s strike

The previous TPL Board, a professional and harmonious group, managed to renegotiate the union contract without resulting in a strike. The current Board, many of whose members were allegedly appointed as a result of the mayor’s once-secret committee lists, couldn’t get its act together to maintain labour peace. We suffered through a two-week strike.

During that time, the library saved $2.566 million in expenditures, which, according to city policy, it immediately returned to city coffers (PDF).

What I want you to propose at city council

Toronto has more than enough money to adequately fund this beloved city service. Last year, budget cuts were reversed at Council (barely). This year I want the budget actually increased.

Hence, I am asking you to move at Council that:

  1. TPL’s requested 0.3% budget increase be accepted

  2. TPL be granted an additional $299,000 to reverse its planned cuts to collections

  3. TPL to be granted the $2.566 million in proceeds from the strike that occurred on its own Board’s watch, with such funds allocated solely to increasing collections and opening hours

Why you should do this

Because I’m asking you to and because the library needs the money, which the city manifestly has.

Incidentally, I am not entirely sure I am reading the documents correctly about the self-imposed $299,000 hit to the collections budget. They are so atrociously written, organized, and typeset that any errors of interpretation are caused by TPL.