January 10, 2012
Dear Ms. Sarah Doucette,
I was alarmed to hear yesterday that Toronto's budget committee insists on a full 10% cut to the library budget, especially in light of recent news reports that the city has a $154 million surplus. I know that you were active in saving the Swansea library, and I hope that I can count on you to help fight the budget committee's decision, which I hear will force almost 20,000 hours to be cut at 59 branches, not to mention cutting literacy programs, or the collections budget. None of these options are acceptable.
I was astonished to hear the views of certain councillors that libraries are a redundancy because schools already promote literacy. Clearly, something is deeply wrong at council, and I count on your rational, intelligent voice to counter this tendency. As the library union head has mentioned, the city's budget woes (which look increasingly fictional) are not going to be fixed on the backs of the Toronto Public Library, the largest public library in Canada, and the world's busiest urban library system.
While the library has long been touted for promoting literacy, and providing programs to the disenfranchised (both of which are important), libraries should not just be viewed as glorified social programs. Libraries are community anchors that not only improve quality of life, but provide measurable benefit to surrounding businesses. A 1997 survey conducted by Fitch and Warner discovered that 75% of library patrons combined their trip to the library with purchases made at nearby retail stores and that, per year, this added up to $500-600 spent. This is in addition to the economic benefit that a library's presence provides in attracting home buyers, tourists, and businesses through perceived value, and any capital projects that the library might implement.
I am an avid library user and I am willing to help in any way possible to avoid further drastic cuts to Toronto's esteemed and essential library system. Please feel free to contact me. I sure that you are just as incensed by recent developments as I, and I am happy to lend support however I can.
All the very best,