Hush-hush

I went to the library rally last week. I have never been to a union rally before. I suppose this makes me an outlier among library supporters, but what doesn’t.

(The last time I had anything to do with the union was the first day of the strike. So I guess I attended that rally, too. It was in the ostensible picket line at City Hall that I had an excruciating conversation with that former Boardmember and his editrix missus, who think I am some kind of fascist despite agreeing on essentially every single issue. With an attitude like that, they could be TPL management.)

Anyway. Mo was no more dysfluent than I expected, but errantly claimed the survival of the library is at stake. It manifestly is not. The library will survive. What’s at stake, on paper at present, is whether or not the library gets a 1.2%, 1.3%, or 1.5% budget increase or a 0.6% decrease.

I have trouble following the library budget. I read a lot of economics papers and I admit embarrassment at being confused by something as simple as a departmental budget. But I am. So when we were told that the first year’s operating costs for Fort York and Scarborough Civic Centre are being buried in another line-item in the city budget and not in the library budget, I was shocked that this kind of jiggery-pokery is going on but not shocked that I needed somebody else to inform me of it.

The union is organizing at a much grander scale than before, which in all likelihood will at least achieve the goal of increasing the budget by some small amount. But at the City Hall rally: Continue reading

What I can’t get an answer to

Here are some questions I can’t get an answer to.

  • What happened to Paris Is Burning and Winter Kept Us Warm, two titles I’ve put a lot of effort into

  • The question of the unwritten and laughable “criteria” for buying TV shows on DVD: Why does the library buy Star Trek in various instantiations, but not Space: 1999? The X-Files but not Twin Peaks? Marginal U.S. cable dramas (Mildred Pierce, Boss) but not Thirtysomething or Family? Battlestar Galactica but not its sequel, Caprica? (cf. Doctor Who/Torchwood)

  • How the library actually got copies of Paragraph 175 and Beyond Gay

  • Is TPL willing to cough up megabucks for the educational version of a documentary or just sit tight and wait for the retail version? (I think I know the answer: For NFB titles, maybe yes. Otherwise the library bides its time till the price drops, as happens with academic books from e.g. Routledge)

  • Why we can’t strike a Beguiling-like deal with Swipe Books

  • Replacing worn-out items with perennial demand, like Star Wars films

  • How to order a book series (in this case, Penguin Lines)

  • Why the library, despite telling me it never does so, buys single copies of anything (third languages excepted)

  • Should TPL buy the original Norwegian editions of Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle and A Man in Love? (Answer: Yes. Also, there’s a blue-form saga behind the former)

  • When Criterion comes out with an allegedly superior pressing of an old movie like La cage aux folles, do we stick with the pressing we already have?

And, most pressingly of all, why management puts the screws to frontline employees who try to help me. (Four known cases so far.)

Statement in advance of rubber-stamping of advertising program

I hate the ads on date-due slips, as do you. I filed a complaint to the farcical Advertising Review Working Group. Linda Hazzan reformatted my valid-HTML complaint so I would look as incompetent at computers and typography as TPL is, and the Working Group rejected every single point. It authorized in retrospect unlabelled PSAs, and allowed the paid vendor of the program to advertise itself despite the fact it already was.

I was invited to make a presentation tonight – at what I thought was a meeting of the Advertising Review Working Group. Nope: It’s to the full Board. It felt like I was facing a fucking firing squad all week, so I submitted the following statement. I fully expect the obstructionist secretary Nancy Marshall to refuse to distribute it, citing “clear days” or other such jargon.

Confidential to Linda Hazzan: It is not actually your job to defend the indefensible.

I was invited to present in person tonight, but, after feeling nothing but dread for the last week, I decided it was better for both sides if I didn’t subject myself to an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and of contempt.

Facts about the TPL ad program

  • Nobody wanted it. At all. It exists because this Board did not have the guts to demand an actual budget increase. (This year’s de minimus requested increase is the status quo in drag.)

    Though not quite as reprehensible as goading librarians into a strike, an achievement you will wear for the rest of your careers, it remains a stain on the library’s reputation that nobody had the guts to stand up to the fat, boorish mayor and his vindictive budget chief. (The only time the mayor reads is when he’s behind the wheel.) Yet in a Damascene conversion, Chair Ainslie has suddenly found his balls in the last couple of weeks and is now flailing impotently. When we needed him to stand up for library users, he pushed an ad campaign.

  • The Board will not reject any advertising. The Advertising Review Working Group is a farce – but that should have been expected given that it is made up of Boardmembers. The first set of date-due slips contained an ad for an ambulance-chasing lawyer, which was deemed fine and dandy after the fact.

  • The Board hides behind Linda Hazzan, who will say absolutely anything to excuse and appease the contractor, Receipt Media. (As such, her credibility is shot.)

    Asked to confirm that the Board actually knew Receipt Media was publishing unpaid, unlabelled PSAs, it didn’t. The Board clearly does not understand that every date-due slip already contains an ad for Receipt Media; it then retroactively granted that company tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of additional display-ad space.

    So you won’t pretend not to understand what I’m saying, there is no review of ad campaigns; no ads are or will be rejected; Receipt Media gets the equivalent of a kickback through free ad placement; unpaid, unlabelled PSAs run as if they were ads. This appeasement of and covering for a private contractor stands in hallowed Toronto civic tradition, dating back to MFP and manifesting itself elsewhere with Astral. It’s unethical and you’re all implicated.

  • What Hazzan downplays as mere mixed response from TPL patrons is more likely principled and angry criticism of it, which she might claim is “balanced” by comments submitted by friends and family of Receipt Media. There is no public support for this ad program and any claim to the contrary is an outright lie.

  • The preponderance of display ads for Receipt Media and of PSAs prove that Receipt Media can’t sell ads on receipt media. Hazzan’s report confirms that advertisers are dissatisfied with the program, which barely works for them (i.e., it doesn’t work).

  • Oh, and it brought in only 20 grand. Now we know what this Board’s principles are worth.

To recap: Nobody asked for this ad program. Nobody likes it. It’s run unethically: TPL staff and Board cover for and appease the contractor. There is no oversight. Advertisers don’t even like it. In fact, the only people who like it are you.

So what are you going to do? Re-up this failure for another year. You’re in far too deep in this misadventure – plus it’s already been accounted for in next year’s budget. Tonight’s process, like the Working Group, is a farce. It’s a fait accompli.

A bit more on that atmosphere of suspicion and contempt

The Board must not be under any illusions about how much it is loathed. The strongest defenders of the library hate your guts – with reason, given your cravenness and incompetence. (I ask again: Do any of you even use the library? Especially Foderick?) It might seem a blessing in disguise that one of Boardmembers’ favourite activities is resigning, but all we get in return are a new set of pikers who allegedly didn’t even have library cards until they were appointed to the Board.

You’re damaging the only civic institution Torontonians actually love, and we hate you for it. We are running out the clock until your terms mercifully expire. We will spend the next term undoing your damage. Still, you will always be the Board that put librarians on strike.

TPL Board meetings carry through the dinner hour. If I’ve learned nothing else from the backsides of library date-due slips, you have a choice of pizza joints you could visit.