Toronto literary types write open letter against library cuts


As the clock ticks down to the city council vote on the 2012 Toronto budget, a long list of local literary types, including well-known names like Margaret Atwood and Jack Rabinovitch, have written an open letter to the mayor and other members of city council asking that the some of the surplus from the 2011 budget be used to avoid cuts to the public library system.

Their argument is pretty straightforward, if decidedly un-Fordian. In the absence of a more thoroughgoing study of the economic value of the library, it's not really possible to know if the cuts on the table will actually save money in the grand scheme of things. "Will the cost of education rise as a result of the cuts?" ask the writers. "How about the cost of settling newcomers? Or the economic cost to the city's reputation?"

Read the full document below. For additional context and a list of signees, check out the Our Public Library website.

—

Dear Mayor Ford and City Councillors:

We are concerned that cuts to the Toronto Public Library will do grievous harm to one of the leading public libraries in the world and the people who use it. Please do not support budget proposals that would limit access to our public library or diminish it in any way.

The Toronto Public Library is so important for so many reasons that we are surprised and alarmed to know that there has been no evaluation of the potential costs of gutting library services and programs. Will the cost of education rise as a result of the cuts? How about the cost of settling newcomers? Or the economic cost to the city's reputation? Apparently, we just don't know because no one has produced a credible case that library cuts will actually save money.

With an expected 2011 surplus of more than $150 million, it is not necessary to make these cuts blindly.

Proposed library budget cuts represent only a small portion of the City's available surplus. We have the resources to maintain current library services throughout 2012 while we conduct a comprehensive, business-like study of the economic value of Toronto's library system to the city as a whole. The result will be that in the next budget cycle we can determine with confidence what, if any, cuts to library services make sense.

We urge you to support this rational approach to determining the future of one of the world's great library systems rather than supporting the current proposals that would blindly hack away at this cherished institution.


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