John Tory is not a library supporter

The last mayor we had who actually supported the Toronto Public Library was David Miller, who, even while in office, borrowed books from Runnymede branch and read them on the subway, it was said at the time.

The shocking fact is that John Tory is not a library supporter. The letter I fax-o-grammed to his office this week explains why. (Links added.)

I am writing to ask a simple question. How is it possible that you, an ur-WASP and a child of libraries, ended up as the second mayor in a row who does not support the Toronto Public Library?

I think the facts back up what I’m saying.

  • Last year, you voted against a library budget increase. (Your side thankfully lost.) At issue was a tiny 200 grand earmarked for security guards.

  • In November, you harrumphed about the unremarkable and expected fact that the library does not block porn on its public-access computers. You told the Sun “These are publicly financed computers in publicly financed buildings” – but so are the library’s books, records, and videos, which I didn’t hear you complaining about. “I found it hard to believe… our policies… would allow people to in any way, shape or form look at pornography…. All I can say is I will look into it.”

    And, having surely done that, you came to your senses and understood that no public library can act as a censor of legally available material. (You were probably not told about the library’s real censorship scandal, in which it banned an author outright from its collections.)

Yet after voting to cut the library’s budget and after lambasting its opposition to censorship, you showed up at the opening of Fort York branch [though I don’t remember him there on that day] and appeared at a corporate sponsor’s reading events at the library.

The library is the only city service people actually love. (Why do I feel like I am the first person ever to make that clear to you?) It’s underfunded and stretched, but so is every city service that isn’t the cops. (Yet you voted against paying for library security guards.)

Now the library is asking for a chintzy 1.8% budget increase. Thus far, and to general bafflement, you have managed to position yourself as Not a Library Supporter. I say again that your stance is incomprehensible given your upbringing, which would have been unthinkable without libraries. Reducing public expenditures is all well and good as a principle… except when the sums involved are small and the victim of the budget reduction is the only city service your constituents love.

I submit you do not actually believe in reducing library budgets, nor would you gloss such reductions as a sad necessity. You did not run on a platform of library budget cuts. Nobody at all, even those who did not vote for you, expects you to cut money from the library. So don’t! Vote for the piddling budget increase the library is asking for.

Wait till Mo finds out I agree with her that the library is underfunded.

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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 “Hush-hush”

Oh, no, Mo

Maureen O’Reilly writes a thin, tendentious piece for an allegedly-peer-reviewed journal.

The few attempts the Ford administration has made to formulate public policy here in Toronto have been imitative of Chicago, where the Ford brothers… have a second, and very lucrative, division of their Toronto-based Deco Labels and Tags company. The only economic development trip that the mayor has taken was to Chicago. Chicago has 79 libraries, so Toronto should too. This seems to be the simplistic rationale for targeting the highly successful TPL for cuts.

Dude. You can’t be serious.

This mindset turnaround was aided by the appearance of a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, “The Great Equalizer: A Case for Reinvesting in TPL.” [L]ibrary workers will continue the campaign for the 2013–2014 budget cycle with this theme. We intend to launch a whole new phase this September.

That gives you two months to start answering my mail, Mo.

Saaay… here’s a crazy idea

Dinging everybody a buck for holds not picked up was a cash grab disguised as a way to pay for all that manual handling of what turn out to be pointless holds. The $1 fine for overdue DVDs is of course pure spite.

But with those fees, the pikers, seatfillers, pols, and lobbyists on the Board have managed to scare off library patrons. (Report [PDF]: “[T]he introduction of the fine had a significant impact on usage.”) People are now afraid to place holds and circulation is down for the first time in living memory. People are even thinking twice about signing up for library cards – also previously unthinkable, but at least consistent with the degree of philistinism of a Board that actually goads librarians to go on strike.

But here’s a krazy konspiracy theory for you.

TPL went from staff being flooded with holds to dick around with (checkins and elastics and hold slips and all that business) to having too few holds to take care of. Staff (this means PSAs and LAs) went from not being able to keep up to sitting there twiddling their thumbs. No, not at district branches (NYCL barely gets all its holds on the shelves by 17:00), but at the tofu ’n’ potatoes of the library, neighbourhood branches.

And here’s Mike “Not a Lobbyist” Foderick asking basically every branch (including Todmorden and Swansea?) to lose 0.2 of a full-time-equivalent job so there will barely be enough staff around to help grannies figure out the RFID systems at Fort York and Scarborough Centre once they finally open. (He might not get what he wants. And that’s second-hand information – I found no reference to anything like that in budget documents, though I could easily have missed it.)

So you the taxpayer aren’t paying for more staff or more books or more anything because the budget keeps getting cut, but you the library user are handing over loonies to the library which it then uses to squeeze branches dry so that new branches can basically function.

To paraphrase The Royal Tenenbaums, immediately after I publish this idea TPL might actually make it happen.

Kooky fun fact

I have a 60-hold limit (yours is 50) that I regularly max out and have actually gotten shit for.