Aaand we’re back

TPLFans took a hiatus after my role as the system’s № 1 fan ceased being fun. It was one annoyance after another – an RFID system that the library will debug only if someone else complains, Muslims taking over Thorncliffe. Actually, those were pretty much all my complaints. But they weighed heavily at the time.

It was also a bit of a drag walking into a new branch for the first time and being clocked within seconds by suspicious librarians who thought I was a not-very-secret shopper. I was happy to go back to being an (atypically knowledgeable) library patron.

In fact, it was a touching moment over Xmas when I thanked the long-suffering lady at Beaches for maintaining such a welcoming environment. I actually got a frog in my throat trying to thank them at Jones for always making me feel welcome, as they had spontaneously told me I was half a year before.

But over time I almost grew embarrassed at how much I used the library. I enjoyed killing time during nice long walks downtown (or in East York or north of Eg or some other place) dropping by whatever library branch was en route. (Up to six in some cases.) I began to feel embarrassed about being such a fan of the Toronto Public Library.

But isn’t that what I really was‽ (By definition?)

The year of seething quietly

Let me just sum up the last year or so: With every new assault against the most successful and indeed cherished city service, against the only part of the city bureaucracy that people actually love, I got closer and closer to finally losing my shit altogether.

The straw that broke the camel’s back fluttered earthward last week (2012.01.12), when I was walking along Front St. repeatedly checking the Twitters for details of exactly which outrage the Executive Committee would visit unto the library. (By coincidence, the guy from the library’s PR staff who is most afraid of me walked by without noticing me.)

Right then and there I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d been telling my friends on the Inside that, when the time came, I would stomp into the role of an ACT UP–like obnoxious defender of the library. Sort of standing on a stepladder with a bullhorn, waiting till all the TV cameras are set up (“We rolling sound? OK, take one!”), them delivering a blisteringly quotable broadside.

It could still happen. But let’s talk about what I want.

  • No budget cuts whatsoever. I’m not going to get my wish. The political hacks, plus Mr. Magoo and the former tobacco lobbyist, who pretend to be the TPL Board already agreed on a 5.9% reduction. That means firing staff and a breakneck-speed rollout of the still-buggy RFID system. It’s already too much of a hit.

    What was on the table was an insanely punitive 10% budget cut that only a philistine like the mayor, and his fat-fuck brother Rob, could ever countenance. The ostensible chair of the TPL Board tried a guns-and-butter gambit, claiming that people would prefer more police to better libraries. Not post-G20, we don’t. We now know exactly how overpoliced Toronto is, and, given the choice between a place you can sit and learn or a cop with his namebadge hidden in a pocket shooting a retarded man or pushing you off your own balcony, surprise: People want the library.

  • Jane “Cipher” Pyper growing a pair. City Librarian Jane Pyper won’t even raise so much as an apologetic whimper to defend her own system. The Toronto Public Library has no public defenders inside or at the Board level. Here’s a spoiler for you: Shortly I will begin lobbying to have Pyper’s contract terminated early for nonperformance. I am telling you I want Jane Pyper fired and will start making applications to the Board to do so.

    Would we even notice the difference? Here, Jane, have some spaghetti squash carbonara.

  • Complete debugging of the RFID system. I want ironclad rules on how to deal correctly with people who innocently set off the alarm on the way in, plus I want every book sent out for a hold so done with theft bit turned off. I want the type and the wording changed on interface screens. I want terminals set up for actual wheelchair access. I want no attitude at all from staff when a patron wants staff to do all the work. And above all, I want no architectural destruction of the sort we saw at Yorkville. Especially don’t butcher the magnificent Beaches Branch.

Our new strapline: Scabrous, unapologetic defence of the Toronto Public Library

Because nobody else has the guts to do that. Let’s leave the genteel discourse to Peggy Atwood and her friends.