As you know, the staff of the Toronto Public Library is on strike.
Rob Ford is using the financial crisis as an excuse to "privatize everything that isn't nailed down" (his words), including the library. Branch closures are still an issue. Service cuts loom. In times of austerity, working people need the library more than ever - and the library should be free, public, and open to all.
A quality library means quality staff. More than two-thirds of TPL staff is part-time, working without benefits and often without adequate hours to make ends meet. Today at noon, library workers and their supporters will rally at Toronto City Hall to demand a fair contract. If you work downtown, please join us.
On the internet, I've already seen that (a) librarians sit around all day while pages do all the work, (b) librarians can be replaced by retirees and volunteers, and (c) libraries are unnecessary, because "it's all on the internet now and the internet is free".
Does any of that need a response? Just in case:
(A) Pages shelve books. It's an important job, but if there were no librarians, there'd be no books to shelve. Librarians decide what goes in the library: the books and DVDs, the website so you can access the catalog at home, the programs that serve the community. Librarians help patrons find what they need - but they also make sure that what patrons need is actually part of the library. People who plan, organize, and implement programs often do so sitting down. It doesn't mean they're not working.
(B) Volunteers are an important part of any library. But does anyone seriously believe that a 98-branch library system plus a world-famous reference library can be run by volunteers? Toronto Public Library is not a book club in someone's living room. Should we use volunteer firefighters, EMS, and police officers, too? Volunteer transit workers and janitorial staff? Volunteer day care workers and lifeguards? Providing quality public services means hiring, training and maintaining quality staff. Staff who deserve to be paid well and treated fairly. Isn't that what our taxes are for? Or should we pay taxes to enrich private companies who want libraries to profit their shareholders?
(C) Things the library has that the internet does not: ESL programs, resume help, job-search help, computer lessons, storytimes, teen book clubs, homework clubs, nutrition classes, author talks. That is a tiny sample of the programs that are offered through TPL. What else doesn't the internet have? Books! Magazines. DVDs for loan for free. And is the internet free? I don't know about you, but I pay a service provider every month for access. Not everyone can afford that. So where do they use the internet? You know the answer: at the library.
The people who live, work, and go to school in Toronto deserve a world-class library. The people who make that library world-class deserve a fair deal.
Join us today at noon at City Hall to say: I support my public library!