Libraries are Under Attack
Canadian libraries are the cornerstone of communities in Canada. The truth is Canadians could lose this important public good which has intellectual freedom as its centrepiece. CUPE 960 members and the public must be vigilant and aware of the populist and unfounded attacks against our profession. Pay close attention to this very important issue which demands your attention, we need to keep the public informed as to the value added services that we perform everyday. Your advocacy and activism is required to ensure voters and government leaders be informed and educated on the very important issues facing our democracy...including the importance of library services. The threat of austerity is very real in all areas of public service, let's do our part to protect all of them, including libraries.
Here are a few latest posts on Facebook:
The first is by our former mayor, John Gray.
Dear Mayor and Council
Congratulations on beginning the budget process, which hopefully involves input from a wide range of interests .The budget is about setting priorities which must be adaptable over time. In this letter I hope to make the case for establishing economic development as one of your top priorities due to changing community conditions.
General Motors was established in Oshawa in 1907 and over the ensuing years it caused our City to transform from a sleepy little town to a mighty industrial centre. Plant expansion and contraction has been a fact of life but never did we ever speculate as to GM not being in Oshawa. In fact if one ever uttered the thought that there could be a time without GM, they were quickly dismissed as malcontents. In the past, if there was a setback at GM, the community would endure and shortly afterwards, more investment and jobs would soon follow; helping to write more Oshawa success stories.
Our first serious prospect of losing GM occurred during the financial collapse of Fall 2008 which necessitated the Federal Government, partnered with the Ontario Government to provide bailouts to GM in order that corporation remain solvent. We all remain grateful that the bailout occurred and saved General Motors of Canada. It allowed residents to put this issue behind them and focus on living well in Oshawa.
Fast forward to today, we now find ourselves in a state of limbo because we do not know the fate of the plant post- 2016. Should there be no allocation for the 2017 model year there will be a huge drop in taxation revenue and therefore enormous pressure on the residential tax base both locally and regionally. Be assured, GM will not delay having its property assessment changed to vacant industrial to receive a more favorable rate.
As leaders in our Community, it is imperative that action begins immediately. First Mayor Henry, with the full support of Council must organize a meeting with senior GM executives, Federal and Provincial officials (acting as shareholders) to press for the allocation of product for 2017 and beyond. Secondly, through the budget process, provide additional resources to make diversification and economic development a priority with tangible, attainable goals.
Do you want the next term of Council to be the one that loses GM and passes an inevitable double digit tax increase or makes draconian cuts to services to mitigate the hardship? That is not a legacy this term of Council should aspire to.
Third, through this budget process, Council may wish to consider some tough but perhaps necessary measures depending on outcome of GM. For example, you need to initiate community based discussions on some contentious matters such as outsourcing garbage collection (likely savings in excess of 1 million dollars), restricting weekday use at recreation facilities or even perhaps the elimination of a library branch. Difficult choices which require discussion today as a contingency should we face GM closure. Public consultations, while extending the budget timetable will provide Council with valuable input and direction. The public might well instruct Council that certain cuts are off limits or they might come up with other innovative ideas. But any capital expenditures presently allocated in the budget for the depot project should be put on hold.
I truly hope that Members of Council will rally around the issue of making economic development and diversification a top priority for Oshawa. Your actions through this budget process will reverberate for years to come. Your leadership is required.
The second is by a member of the community running for Oshawa City Council, Debbie Grills:
"So in looking at the budget and looking at costs I am having a huge concern over spending $8.3 mil of taxpayers money for this waste if a cash cow. The total proposed budget for the library is $9,007,700. Total personnel costs for 4 branches are $6,810,000. Security costs at 2 facilities is $35,000 south end and Legends do not have security. North view is $7,500 pet year $27,500 is the Central branch. Revenues for all four branches total $216,900 and the province contributes $215,400. Does anyone else see a problem with this?"...what are your thoughts on this??"
The library is a place for lifelong learning, community, and collaboration and truly changes the lives of those that walk through the doors. It is a public service that pays a living wage for the employees which works towards supporting the continuation of a middle class in today's day and age. These workers shop at businesses, participate in community events, and are advocates for partnership, learning, and libraries. The common argument is that library workers can be replaced by volunteers and computers. Some comments on Facebook include:
I support libraries and the role they play in our communities. But I am slightly aghast at the wage and benefit amounts for 4 facilities. I have to wonder if there are not some efficiencies to be found somewhere in there. "The Oshawa Public Libraries has a staff complement of 83 Full-Time, 17 Part-Time." That's an awful lot of bodies....
Unfortunately, the report backs up my assertion that some degree of staff efficiencies might be found. It also points out that OPL salaries are 'at or near the top' of the libraries studied. But it also points out that city staff could be providing more services, including hr, accounting rather than duplicating those roles in the OPL. and if one were to extend that thinking outside the box, is there a potential savings to merge library services and Oshawa Heritage services?? there is some degree of overlap and in my personal opinion, both are 'culture'. Many of us use the library for genealogical research and from the 2014 Library Business Plan - "A Link to the Past: the library is committed to preserving access to Oshawa's past", so, are there services and professional expertise that can be shared?
Efficiency does not have to come at the expense of providing quality services, nor does it have to gut the system and board up the windows. There is a level that we can bear, but everyone needs to be look at the big picture.
Why would Oshawa Heritage not be part of the Library? Might I suggest that until the city can balance its book all increases in salary be tied to inflation for the next 4 years and those at the top of the wage scale get a freeze. The public may get ticked off but is it time the city stood up against the unions?
I believe in blending city services where ever possible and all I see is the city/region spreading them out.
I think that we need to modernize our libraries technologies, consolidate locations and improve the consolidated space. We need to continue our move to ebooks and look at digitizing our entire collection. There may be a large up front cost but the saving to follow would be well worth it. Digitizing everything alone would save incredible amounts of floor space. In addition to free access at physical libraries, citizens could also access the full collections from their home computers. Physical locations could have staff and student volunteers to help those less tech comfortable locate information on the computers or ebooks. Additional revenue could be generated with advertisements online or on borrowed ebook readers. 'm not saying this is the only solutions, but I am saying that a lot of money could be saved by taking a page out of googles play book, digitizing everything, and moving into the 21st century. I would love to work on such a project too! Something else to keep in mind: UOIT maintains their own extensive library too.
Libraries are under attack and we have to advocate every day for the services we provide! Support libraries!
To quote Neil Gaiman:
Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before – books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not haveinternet connections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online. Librarians can help these people navigate that world.
I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them. They belong in libraries, just as libraries have already become places you can go to get access to ebooks, and audiobooks and DVDs and web content.
A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. It's a community space. It's a place of safety, a haven from the world. It's a place with librarians in it. What the libraries of the future will be like is something we should be imagining now.
Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.
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