Numbers provided today show an increase in both circulation and visits.
Though details are still coming in, the Toronto Public Library already knows it’s surpassed one threshhold: 2011 will go down as its busiest year on record, as measured both by how often we’re going to the library and how much we’re making use of its resources. According to information provided to Torontoist today, circulation is up: in 2011 Torontonians borrowed more than 33 million items, up from 32 million in 2010. (E-book downloads, as you might expect, increased by more than 100%.) Visits are also higher, at more than 19 million (up from 18 million in 2010).
Anne Marie Aikins, manager of community relations for the Toronto Public Library, told us by email this means that “for three years in a row our circulation and visits have increased.”
Heartening for book-lovers across the city. Scary for those who are grappling with a request from City Hall that the library system roll back its budget: they’ve been told to spend 10% less in 2012 than they did in 2011. Some of those cuts can be met with policy changes that have already been passed, like using automatic check-out machines more heavily and relying less on paid staff. But some of those cuts—amounting to $7 million—have yet to be found. On Monday, chief librarian Jane Pyper told the budget committee there was no more room to cut without significantly impacting services, collections, and operating hours.
City council will have its final debate on the budget January 17–19, at which point the library will know definitively if it needs to cut the full 10% from its budget, or whether council is willing to reverse that decision by Ford and his allies. Given the public outcry we’ve already seen over potential library cuts, today’s numbers may give centrist councillors further pause when they contemplate the repercussions—political and otherwise—of pushing the library system that we very clearly love any further.