rob ford's latest strategy in the war on toronto public library: slash, downsize, then try to privatize

From Maureen O'Reilly, library workers' union, Toronto Public Library (emphasis mine):

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It hasn’t taken Ford and company long before launching a new attack on our public library.

Frustrated that we stopped him last month from wreaking massive reductions to open hours and slashing programs and services, such as the children’s literacy program and the Bookmobile, Ford and his allies have a new strategy to achieve their goal of off-loading our public library to private interests.

Today, they are targeting the librarians and other people who serve you at your neighbourhood branch, and the attack is playing out at the bargaining table. They want the right to get rid of experienced, career librarians and replace them (if at all) with lower-paid part-timers who, through no fault of their own, will not be able to serve library users half as well.

For Ford, it’s simple. If he can’t close your neighbourhood branch, he wants to make sure there are fewer people to serve you and a smaller collection of books to choose from. It’s a strategy to hollow out our public library from within.

Even though we were able to stave off the worst of Ford’s plans for our public library when the city’s budget was set last month, Council still voted to cut 107 service positions from the ranks of our public library as well as slash the collections budget.

Once these service providers are cut from the system, library staff will be down 17% since amalgamation, while during the same period circulation is up more than 23%. After 107 full time library service jobs are cut, more than half of librarians and staff will be part-timers without benefits or pensions.

In short, there is not much Ford and company can save by attacking librarians and other staff.
So what is the point of this plan?

We believe the strategy is to lower the world class standards of the Toronto Public Library in order to set the stage for off-loading at least parts of the system to private interests. It is no coincidence that the U.S.-based library management corporation, LSSI, has retained as their lobbyist a former city politician with close ties to Ford and at least one of his appointees on the Library Board.

There is a plan at work here and diminishing the library from within is an essential part of that plan. Lowering the quality of public services and increasing public dissatisfaction is a tried and true strategy for privatization. It’s a formula that has worked in the U.S. and is now being imported to Canada.

We can’t let this happen to our cherished public library.

That is why we are getting ready to stand up once more to say no to Mayor Ford and his allies. In the days ahead, this may involve asking librarians and other staff for a mandate to resist the punitive bargaining demands that will diminish our public library and make it an attractive investment opportunity for private interests.

This is a fight to preserve our public library and everything it means to the city, to culture and learning, and to our democratic values.

Working together during the autumn and early winter tens of thousands of Torontonians like you and me showed everyone that a single action can make a huge difference. We stood up in defence of our public library then, and we were successful.

With your help, I am very hopeful that we can prevail again.

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The library workers' union is asking for ideas on how to win this campaign: go here.

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