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.
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.