For those of you who live in Toronto or the surrounding areas, you'll probably already know about this. For those of you who don't live near Toronto but love books, you'll want to hear about this.
Our new mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, rode into office on a thrilling platform that promised to "cut the gravy" at City Hall without cutting services. Here we are only a few months after the election and up on the chopping block are our public libraries. Apparently Rob Ford sees them as more of a financial burden than an essential community service.
His brother, Councillor Doug Ford, also seems to think public libraries aren't very important. He stated that in his area of the city, there are more public libraries than Tim Hortons. Anyone who lives in Toronto can point you to an area in the city where there is a Tim Hortons across the street from a Tim Hortons and knows this statement is obviously false.
Some options at City Hall right now are to either privatize the library system or to close branches. For however many dollars this saves the City, there will be many more people who suffer.
Let me tell you about my local branch. It is situated in a planned community built to house 12,500 people but currently houses more than 30,000 in 2.2 sq kilometres of space. The local public school is the largest in North America with 1900 students between Junior Kindergarten and grade 5 as a quarter of the population is under the age of 14.
Our neighbourhood has one park, one community centre, one set of soccer fields, one outdoor pool and one library situated among high-rise buildings. It is crowded, it is stressed, and kids play in parking lots because that is the only space available for them. The library is one of the few safe places kids can go.
In my neighbourhood, over half of the population speaks a language other than English at home. Seven percent of the population cannot speak English at all. 68 percent of the population are immigrants. Do I need to point out how useful the library is for these people? Our library plays a central role in our community where families can borrow books, learn English, receive settlement services, look for jobs, use computers, watch movies, and more. Can you imagine what this neighbourhood would be like if we lost our library, or if it became privatized? I don't want to think about.
What can you do?
Go to http://ourpubliclibrary.to/ and sign the petition if you live in Toronto. Spread the word. Let city council know that we love our libraries and won't stand for them being cut. Tell Rob Ford to go find the gravy elsewhere.
If you don't live in Toronto, aren't Canadian, you can still show your support by spreading the word and making sure that this doesn't happen in your own city. Support your local libraries.