What Is Toronto Public Library Thinking About Cutting Now?
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What Is Toronto Public Library Thinking About Cutting Now?

The TPL board doesn't want to cut hours, but it looks like the alternatives are equally unappealing.

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Last month, the Toronto Public Library board rejected, in principle, the idea of reducing hours at branches in order to meet a 10 per cent budget-reduction target. And yet the same amount of money that would have been saved by that move—about $5.4 million—may still have to be cut before budget season is over. The city librarian’s office has released a list [PDF] of alternative suggestions for savings. Bookmobile lovers and people who forget to pick up holds may want to sit down.

Here are the big ones:

Start charging people when they don’t pick up holds.

TPL’s hold system enables users to reserve materials in any branch, systemwide, and have them shipped to any other branch for pickup. Right now, the service is completely free to the public. To raise revenue, the city librarian is suggesting that people who don’t pick up their holds be charged a dollar per item.

Stop printing library events guides.

TPL prints guides to the different events and programming that happen at its branches. By publishing that information exclusively online, they could save an estimated $231,000 by 2013.

Eliminate outreach to high school students and kindergartners.

Sending librarians into classrooms is how TPL introduces Toronto youth to the resources available at public libraries. They could stop doing this in high schools and kindergartens for savings of about $243,000 by 2013.

Axe “Keep Toronto Reading” and “One Book.”

Keep Toronto Reading and One Book Community Reads are TPL’s annual flagship literacy campaigns. Anyone who lives in Toronto is almost certainly aware of the two programs, because they’re heavily advertised. By cutting both, TPL could save about $177,000 by 2013.

Cut the Bookmobiles.

Bookmobiles go to people who can’t go to libraries, but TPL could save $317,000 by 2013 if they completely eliminate the service.

Eliminate literacy programs.

TPL provides in-branch literacy programs for young children, adolescents, and adults who have difficulty reading. Getting rid of these programs would save about $1.6 million by 2013.

Oh, and top of all of this, TPL’s collections budget would have to be reduced by $3.8 million over the next two years in order to bring overall spending close to the 10 per cent reduction target. According to TPL staff, this would mean foregoing the purchase of about 168,000 new materials. That’s books, movies—everything.

The TPL board will be meeting Monday evening to discuss these and other savings suggestions. They could approve them, defer them, or declare outright opposition to them, but in the end they may not have much say. City council sets the library’s budget, and if they want cuts, they’ll get them.

The TPL board has already approved about $9.7 million in budget cuts, which will require the library to shed the equivalent of 100 full-time jobs in 2012.