By Karissa Young
On the topic of the Toronto Public Library budget cuts, City Councillor Doug Ford has said that he would close a branch in his ward “in a heartbeat”. Some City Councillors see the Toronto Public Libraries as financial burdens, while others see the educational value that they possess. Libraries have their own communities of people and they provide thousands with access to a number of different resources, including books, CDs, videos, computers, and much more.
Famous Canadian author Margaret Atwood has spoken out against these proposed cuts through the use of social media. Recently her tweets have been causing the website for an online petition against the privatization of Toronto Public Libraries (http://ourpubliclibrary.to) (TPL) to stop working due to a high volume of responses. In response to her opinions, City Councillor Doug Ford has stated that she should “pipe down” or “go get democratically elected” if she is so concerned about funding for libraries. That being said, Atwood does indeed have the right to speak out against these cuts, as does every citizen.
The budget cuts could result in the closure of a number of TPL branches and reduce the hours of service. Resources would be limited, with less variety of books. In addition, the number of programs and other activities that encourage reading for all ages may be decreased or even eliminated. It has been predicted that circulation will drop as a result of these changes.
I believe that these cuts are extremely counter-productive in the best interests of the city and members of its society. The libraries are vital public spaces for Torontonians. They provide important access to both educational and cultural information. Without these services, young people are losing their right to informative public information. By restricting access, cutting hours, and closing branches, it only makes it harder for people to attain the wealth of knowledge that only the libraries can provide.
The Toronto Public Libraries are many people’s sole connection to literacy, the internet, and many other technologies that would otherwise be unavailable to a large population of Torontonians. The people who don’t need libraries will not miss them, but for those who do, they are not a luxury, but also a necessity.
After speaking to some youth in the community, their response has been unanimously against the budget cuts for the library. Many said that the after school help and tutoring have helped them very much, some even citing it as the reason they passed their courses. The libraries are essential to many students that need help with homework. One person said that people go to the library for enjoyment, to lose themselves in a novel, to conduct research, or to just learn. It’s no new fact that libraries help people academically, but psychologically as well. Reading helps to improve one’s speaking and writing ability. As well, reading can be good for a person’s mind, by not only expanding their vocabulary but also broadening a person’s imagination.
Where do many people develop their love of reading? At libraries. In this modern age, they still play an important role in socializing our youth and remain an irreplaceable resource for those who love to read but do not have the resources to buy books – electronic or paper. The public libraries represent the best of Toronto’s services. Although cuts and privatization of some things are necessary to lower taxes, I believe that our libraries are not the place for them.