Toronto Library Union: Don't close, privatize our libraries Special

Posted Jul 13, 2011 by Andrew Moran
As Toronto City Hall reviews its books and looks at various cost-cutting measures, the Public Library Workers Union is concerned over the possibility of privatization and branch shutdowns. The union’s President spoke at city hall Wednesday.
Toronto Public Library issues Mayor Rob Ford a  library card.
Toronto Public Library issues Mayor Rob Ford a "library card."
A new Forum Research telephone poll conducted Monday for the Toronto Public Library Workers Union (TPLWU) suggested that Toronto residents were not in favour of either closing down various branches or even privatizing the city’s public libraries.
The poll found that nearly three quarters of Toronto residents disagree with closing some local library branches in order to shave off the deficit. 55 percent of Torontonians disagree with privatizing the public library altogether.
Furthermore, 51 percent said the measure would affect their vote in the next municipal election “a great deal.”
The telephone Interactive Voice Response poll was conducted using a random sample of 1,061 Toronto adults. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.
Maureen O Reilly  President of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union (TPLWU)
Maureen O'Reilly, President of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union (TPLWU)
Privatization Concerns
There are more than 1.25 million library cardholders and last year there were more than 165,000 new registrations, which is an overall four percent increase from the previous year. 76 percent of Toronto households have library cards.
During a press conference Wednesday afternoon at city hall, Maureen O’Reilly, President of the TPLWU, who commissioned the study, had a clear message to city council: “Don’t close our libraries and don’t privatize them.”
The union president explained that the poll was commissioned because they were concerned over the future of the library system and fear that there will be closures due to the words and actions of Mayor Rob Ford and some members of council.
“We are concerned about the prospect of library privatization and we wanted to know what Torontonians think about that as well,” said O’Reilly. “The mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, has declared that they want to ‘outsource anything that isn’t nailed done.’ Since our books aren’t nailed down, you can perhaps understand our concern.”
There are numerous cities across the United States that have adopted the private library system and since Toronto maintains the “busiest urban library system in the world,” O’Reilly believes it wouldn’t be surprising at all if there were U.S. companies attempting to get their hands on the city’s library system.
Maureen O Reilly  President of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union (TPLWU)
Maureen O'Reilly, President of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union (TPLWU)
The union also announced that it has launched a campaign called “Project Rescue,” which encourages library users to sign a petition that would urge the mayor and city council not to sell or shutdown libraries.
The petition states:
“To: Mayor Ford & City of Toronto Executive Committees:
“I love my community library. It's essential to the children and adults in our neighbourhood.
“I fear privatization of some or all of the operations of the Toronto Public Library will result in less access to the information and other vital services our public libraries offer at little or no cost as branches are closed, hours of operation limited, staff cut, user fees increased and fewer books are purchased so that some corporation can make a profit.
“Privatization would also mean that our city which would lose a powerful educational and cultural force that opens books and opens minds, taking from Toronto a public service that all other great cities jealously guard.
“I urge you to keep our libraries open, fully publicly-operated and working for Toronto's citizens rather than corporate shareholders.”
At the end of the press conference, the union showcased an oversized Toronto Public Library card with the name Robert Bruce Ford on it, which is being mailed to the mayor.