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Ford tries to cut libraries through the back door

JY Hodge

November 20, 2011

After a summer mobilizing campaign that saw Margaret Atwood and Giller-winner Vincent Lam, among other writers, come to the library’s defence, as well as nearly 50,000 Torontonians state their public support for the largest public library system in the world, it appeared that we had won against the Mayor’s planned attacks.

Alas, such appearances have turned out to be illusions.

What the mayor couldn’t achieve with a public broadside, he is now attempting to do through the back door, by slicing and dicing the budget the library uses to function day to day.

The first order of business was filling the citizen board that oversees the institution with lobbyists and Tory party apparatchiks, who then dutifully approved the winnowing of over 150 full-time equivalent positions, and the permanent reduction of the collections budget by 11 per cent.

Other “creative” solutions proposed to “save” money included closing 38 neighborhood branches, selling corporate naming rights to collections and buildings, and boosting fines for children by 150 per cent.

Within 24 hours of such creativity being made public, over 5,000 e-mails flooded the new board chair’s office, decrying the cuts and denouncing the new administration.

The board’s budget committee immediately and unanimously backed off from closures and hours reductions for the time being. That decision could be overturned by the full board at their meeting on November 21.

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