Toronto Public Library Facing Significant Service Cuts in the New Year
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Toronto Public Library Facing Significant Service Cuts in the New Year

Despite Rob Ford’s promise that in 2011 his administration will balance the budget without any service cuts, today Torontoist learned that the Toronto Public Library may be facing what can only be called non-trivial cuts in the coming year. The agenda for the library board’s January 6, 2011 meeting has just been released; though it is not online at the moment (we’ll update with a link when it is) we have been shown a hard copy. [UPDATE, January 3, 11:44 AM: The library board agenda meeting is now available here.] Item 9 of the agenda consists of updated proposals for the 2011 budget that include several cuts to service that will affect library patrons across the city. Among the key items up for consideration:

  • The Urban Affairs library branch at Metro Hall is up for total closure, the collection to be relocated to the Toronto Reference Library. This would have the effect of leaving that neighbourhood, and its tens of thousands of condo residents, without a local branch. Though the library does not have a general interest collection, it is used by the local community for picking up materials—28,000 holds were filled at this branch in 2009—and by area students as a quiet study space. The next closest branch for most of those residents is at City Hall. TPL staff is making this recommendation on the basis of requests for efficiencies from the City.
  • The acquisitions budget—which is what pays for new book, periodical, and other item purchases each year—will not see an “economic” (i.e. inflationary) increase, meaning that the library will be able to purchase eighteen thousand fewer items this year than last, since books will cost more this year than last due to annual increases. An additional reduction has been requested by City staff, which would further reduce book purchases by another twenty-three thousand volumes. TPL staff is recommending that the library board accept the inflationary freeze but not the additional cut; their report to the library board states that “[t]his would result in longer wait times for popular materials, lower customer satisfaction, and may result in 305,000 fewer books borrowed.”

The library board will be considering these recommendations at its aforementioned January 6 meeting; it will also be considered as part of the Budget Committee meetings for Toronto as a whole, which begin January 10, 2011. While the library staff report which includes these proposed cuts is clearly a response to Ford’s overall request for “efficiencies,” it is not clear that Ford’s office or his budget chief has requested these cuts in particular. Since the mayor’s budget directives include “no service cuts” alongside the “efficiencies,” it is also not yet clear whether his budget committee will endorse these proposals or pursue other options in balancing the budget while retaining all the existing library services.