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:

  • I didn’t go to great lengths counting heads, but I saw fewer than 20 people under 40 years of age.

  • I recognized a few people but talked to no one. The more I think about that, the more it bothers me.

  • As from time immemorial, the only thing that was discussed in any measure was books. It’s all well and good that Usual Suspect Toronto authors sat for short videos in support of the library, but nothing could be a more obvious example of preaching to the converted.

    At no time ever do I hear library defenders talking about DVDs, magazines (Sue-Ann Levy: many are “trash”), compact discs, audiobooks, or any other category of library collection whatsoever. I never see the union or other supporters recruiting filmmakers and musicians to support the library.

    I don’t understand how TPL is cool enough to hold rock concerts in its stacks but nobody can figure out how to get Dallas Green or Owen Pallett or Austra or anybody to support the library as a place to hear music.

    Make this discussion revolve around books, books, and more books and you’re preaching to the converted. The nice upper-middle-class over-40 converted.

  • My other complaint is going to be counterintuitive. (And I believe I have articulated this before.) Library defenders are well-educated people who talk a lot about the necessity of library services for new immigrants and the poor – i.e., ill-educated people. (Or people educated in a language other than English.) I don’t hear from those actual people ever.

    Nor do I hear from people with advanced educations attesting to the library’s value in giving them esoteric or academic material to read and watch and listen to. People like me, in other words.

    What I encounter, time and time again, is the upper middle class speaking for the poor, ignorant, illiterate, and downtrodden. Somebody’s got to – but must it always be these people?

  • I’d like the union to stop claiming (as in its promotional video) that we need more than a single-vote margin at Council to ensure the library’s future. A win is a win and anything above a tie vote is a win. We don’t need a supermajority.

  • I’ll spare you the jeremiad I feel like going on about how these videos are uncaptioned but are presented as a way to reach “everybody.” I will spare you the allied jeremiad about deaf people’s insistence that a lifetime of boycotting libraries amounts to expressing their extremely superdistinct and terribly threatened culture.

So then. The budget is coming up, and we’re preaching to the converted. This is why I like the New Collection campaign.

“I saw you take that picture”

I showed up late (as usual) to the Gladstone centenary celebration. Within two minutes I had a security guard up my nose telling me “I saw you take that picture.” Yes, as is typical of library visits, I took a picture. I have about 1,130 others and no power on earth is gonna stop me from adding to that number. I am not TPL’s pet blogger Cathy Raine and I’m not signing a waiver. (I already did.)

Here is that picture.

Overhead view of first floor of Bloor-Gladstone, with blue-and-white balloons affixed to displays

Here’s the one I took immediately after I got rid of the security guard. (She could do nothing. It’s my camera and my picture.)

Green-tinted view into the Reading Garden, with a bare tree and a stone wall

I then wanted to say hi to the branch head, whom I had seen gladhanding when I walked in. But she was now surrounded by a few officious queens and their hags and they were obviously discussing some fundraising event that was to be held there. (In very gay voices.) This turned out to be the Hush Hush after-hours party of November 16.

What I learned about this party from the Twitters is you can hire a pretty girl and dress her in a push-up bra and stand her on a pedestal and she’s just a go-go dancer, but hand her a pair of horn-rimmed glasses and suddenly she’s a sexy librarian. I’m a fan of go-go dancers of all kinds, despite never having been to Remington’s. But don’t you find it odd?

And I don’t really think the typical attendee was under 35. But the point is they’re promoting the library to the next generation of susceptible users. They aren’t trying to promote the library to everyone, haranguing semiliterate slobs about why they aren’t Lisa Simpson. They’re preaching to the half-converted.

I wished the Gladstone branch head a happy anniversary. She said a gracious thanks.

Did you know I’ve been quite discouraged recently?

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