Law Library by Padraic
Toronto mayor Rob Ford has set himself a rather difficult goal: he wants to trim the city expenditures by ten per cent ($774 million) to shave off the mounting deficit as soon as possible. While some of the proposed cuts (single police patrols, cancelling student nutrition programs, and selling off the zoos) leave the general public more or less emotionless, others stir considerable controversy, with potential library closures leading the chart.
The mayor’s brother, Etobicoke Councillor Doug Ford, came up with the idea as one of the possible measures to fill in the holes in the city budget. His reasoning can be supported by a variety of arguments. Toronto has 99 public libraries, and some of them are located within ten-minute walking distance of one another. There is probably no need to support all of them, especially as the book digitization, widespread usage of the Internet, and the rising popularity of e-books simply make multiple libraries obsolete. In addition, some of libraries show very small circulation and their cancellation may not do too much harm to the communities. The money saved by library closures doesn’t necessarily need to disappear in the budget, but can be transferred and used to fund different forms of education.
However, critics of the proposal, led by the famous author Margaret Atwood, point out that libraries are not only brick buildings designed to obtain information. They stress that public libraries play an important role as a meeting place for the local communities as well as safe places for students to work or families to spend time in. They are an integral part of a happy and well-functioning city and a symbol of a knowledge-based society. In some neighbourhoods, they act as the only cultural centre that can be reached by anyone. Paradoxically, these are usually the ones with the lowest circulations and therefore at greatest risk of being closed by the Ford administration. Others add that it is ridiculous to target libraries, which certainly do not use up a substantial part of the budget, while there are other considerably larger black holes in the city finances. One Internet commenter, nicknamed Ms.Gope, presented her opinion clearly: “Reading = Thinking = Dangerous for Politicians.”
Nothing has been decided yet, and both sides of the argument have passionate followers. However, recent polls have shown that nearly three quarters of Toronto residents disagree with closing local libraries, and more city councillors, persuaded by the public, have decided not to vote in favour of the measure. Let’s wait, together with library workers and local communities, to see how this nerve-wrecking discussion comes to an end.