Facing demands from Mayor Rob Ford to slash a further 4.3 per cent from her budget, Toronto’s chief librarian is proposing new fines and a slate of service cuts that would terminate literacy and school outreach programs.
Jane Pyper’s new recommendations would carve $7.3-million from the library budget and avoid a heavy reduction in branch hours currently being debated at city hall.
The Toronto Library Board has already made it clear that it wants to avoid branch closures and reductions in hours at all costs as it navigates the mayor’s cutback requests and public demand to maintain service levels.
At a meeting in November, the board approved a 5.7-per-cent budget cut, well short of the 10-per-cent trim Mr. Ford has imposed, and asked Ms. Pyper to come back with suggestions for cutting the remainder without branch closings.
Even before the board meets to discuss Ms. Pyper’s new cuts next week, some members are vowing to vote them down.
“The city librarian has put on the table another menu of very objectionable program cuts,” Councillor Janet Davis said. “They make sure that the library doors will be open, but very little will be happening inside.”
The bulk of the savings from Ms. Pyper’s recommendations come from $2.8-million in program cuts, a $3-million shaving of the collections budget and $500,000 over two years by replacing staff members with automated sorters in some branches. She is also recommending branches impose $1 fines for holds not picked up. Taken together, the suggestions would terminate 37 jobs.
The program cuts would also eliminate the following:
- high school and kindergarten outreach activities;
- library publications, such as What’s On and What’s More
- Keep Toronto Reading festival
- adult literacy programs
- preschool Ready For Reading program
- childhood Leading to Reading program
- bookmobile service
The $3-million collections reduction would be followed by another $785,000 cut in 2013, bringing the total budget cut for new materials to 22 per cent.
“That means you’ll never get a new bestseller,” Ms. Davis said. “You’ll wait forever.”
Other board members were more receptive to Ms. Pyper’s list. Vice-chair Michael Foderick said that the automated sorters alone would be enough to save Sunday service at all branches. But he’s not so sure about other suggestions.
“It’s a pretty significant cut to collections being contemplated,” he said. “It’s a deep cut. I would be uncomfortable with that unless I saw more information on it.”
Ms. Davis is urging fellow board members to hold the line at 5.7 per cent and force city hall to live with it.
“If there will be cuts to service, let this council do it, not the board,” she said. “This board was appointed to uphold the interests of the library. I think the library board has already done its job. We’ve gone as far as we can without cutting services.”