Will freshly proposed library cuts spark the triumphant return of Margaret Atwood?

Will freshly proposed library cuts spark the triumphant return of Margaret Atwood?

At the end of last week, Toronto Public Library staff proposed a host of cuts as part of an effort to meet Rob Ford’s demands for slashed budgets (we’re not even going to bother making efficiency jokes anymore). Ford backed away from outright library closures amidst widespread public outcry last month, but it’s likely that the new proposed cuts could generate just as much opposition.

The Globe and Mail has the details:

The money-saving measures are in a report by Toronto’s head librarian in response to a demand for a 10 per cent reduction in all city operations for next year. The report will be considered next week at the first meeting of the library board since the appointment of eight new members. It stops short of recommending all the cuts, instead proposing the board back $9.7 million in savings, or about 5.7 per cent of the amount requested.

To meet the 10 per cent target, the chief librarian says in the report that the board would have to consider an additional $7.3 million in added belt-tightening, which would include eliminating Sunday service at eight branches, and summer closings at the remaining 19. Also among the options not recommended to the board were reducing weekday and Saturday hours seven per cent, with some morning and evening closings at lesser used branches. It added that the collection budget could be chopped by nearly $1.9 million or about 11 per cent, resulting in longer waits for high demand material.

The fight against library cuts subsided somewhat after it was announced that no branches would be closed. Margaret Atwood was delighted (we think), and she and Doug Ford sowed the seeds of what we hope will blossom into a beautiful friendship. But the usual suspects on council are already railing against these new proposed cuts—the Star has councillors Paula Fletcher and Kristyn Wong-Tam on record as opposing the reductions.

Service reductions may not make for the same explosive rhetorical ammo as outright branch closures, but it should still be fairly easy for Ford’s opposition to mobilize against them. (Look, Janet Davis has already started.) Ford also told the National Post that closing a single library branch on a Sunday amounted to a significant service cut, so he can expect to be nailed for flip-flopping if he endorses the cuts. Add in a recently reconfigured library board, which includes one member who has worked for KPMG (who recommended library closures in the first place), and it appears another protracted fight could be in the offing.

Toronto library services face cutbacks [Toronto Star]
Report proposes $17-million in cuts for libraries [Globe and Mail]
City’s head librarian pitches $9.7M in ‘efficiencies’ [National Post]

(Images: scissors, Ivy Dawned; books, Abdulla Al Muhairi; Margaret Atwood, Marco Secchi/ Getty Images Entertainment/ Getty Images)