Monthly Archives: May 2017

Minimum wage and the public library

The Ontario Liberal government has introduced $15/hour minimum wage to be brought in by January 1st, 2019; by January 2018 it will be $14/hour. This is a great day for those who work for minimum wage. It has been a long time coming and I applaud it. Businesses are complaining about it being too much too fast….Hello….how do you think an employer who makes no sales/no money feels?

As the CEO of a small public library I see this as a problem. Come next summer I will be forced to pay a summer student (or two) $14/hour. I am wondering what plans the Ontario government has for funding libraries come next summer.

My budget as a small public library is fairly miniscule, and the governments funding is even more dismal. As a non-profit, public service I am not sure how I would fork out an additional almost $800 per student (for 10 weeks at 30hrs per week) if the government does not have a plan for helping libraries pay for it.

Now $800 may not sound like a lot of money, but if anything has been as stagnant as wages in Canada, it is the amount of money given to public libraries since the 1990’s.

Smaller municipalities such as mine won’t/can’t put forward any more additional money, and the provincial government has given out the same amount of money to libraries since 1995/1996, after cutting it in half the previous year.

I hear all the doom and gloom from employers about not being able to pay more, I for one am leaning more towards the employees right to a living wage, but as a public service employer I can’t just raise prices…I don’t have prices. Our only income raised by us is through fines/fees and fundraising (make up only 10% of my budget). There is only so much people will pay for fines and photo copy/fax fees; fundraising for a library is only for special purposes; I can fund-raise for a new shelf, but not just in general because we need money for the budget.

I think this increase should have happened at the start of this governments term and raised a dollar a year over four years, instead of $3.70 in 18 months. Businesses can raise prices, and make money..not-for profit services such as public libraries do not have that luxury.

What’s a librarian to do?

Ontario Government giveth and taketh away.

The Ontario government has obviously learned nothing from what happened in Saskatchewan the past few weeks. In a bid to win votes the Ontario government in 2016 opened voting to ideas on where to put funding for various projects. One such proposal was Infrastructure for Rural and Northern Libraries. This sounds great, but is it?

It has been reported by the Toronto star that to fund a 1 million dollar investment in Rural and Northern Libraries they are taking money from a big city library: the Toronto Public Library. (Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2017/05/02/ontario-cuts-funding-for-toronto-public-library.html)

As a rural librarian why should I care? This is not an investment in libraries; this is a re-allocation of money. One time $1 million for rural libraries, Toronto public libraries lose $1.4 million. That is a $400,000 deficit to Ontario libraries (barring any new announcements we don’t know about).

This is good news for rural libraries, but bad news for overall Ontario libraries. The Toronto Library system represents approximately 2.7 million people(Census: 2016). That accounts for about 20% of the population of Ontario. Rural libraries may be cheering for this, and some people may even say “well Toronto has got too much for too long.” Cuts will be coming, and I bet they are going to hit rural library programs as much as they hit metro Toronto.

The Toronto Libraries offer so much digital information and programing tools that are shared with other libraries, such as the Toronto Reference Library, Digital Archives, Genealogy and the sharing of maker tools. These programs are likely the first to be cut as they appeal to non-tax payers such as us rural folk.

The Ontario government has pulled a fast one on us. one hand giveth, the other taketh away. We as a community of libraries have lost almost half a million dollars in funding. This is nothing compared to what was happening in Saskatchewan and New Foundland, but people need to speak up and mobilize. In a year or two that $1 million dollar investment will be gone, and I bet the government will not return the 1.4 million to Toronto or any other library without action from its people.

Update:
After some outcry from the public and some literary muscle leading the way (Margaret Atwood) the Ontario government has recinded the removal of funding for the Toronto Library.