By this time, most Canadians have likely heard that Councillor Ford (Toronto) is advocating to close one of the three libraries in his ward:
Why do we need another little library in the middle of nowhere that no one uses? My constituents, it wouldn’t bother them because you have another library two miles one way and two miles the other way.
It’s a hot topic in Canada these days, especially in the library field, but it is also of great concern to people living in the Greater Toronto Area. A friend of mine from undergrad, someone who is only vaguely aware I then went on to get my MLIS, messaged me the other day to find out what my reaction was. While she lives in Toronto, I can barely even claim to have visited (unless 3 hour train layovers count. No? Didn’t think so). The common denominator between us was the fact we both use libraries. Now, my thoughts on Councillor Doug Ford’s now infamous remark on how he would close libraries in his ward “in a heartbeat” and subsequent response to Margaret Atwood is varied. Of course I don’t want to see libraries closed. Of course the mere idea fills me with the rage of a thousand wildebeests. I’m a librarian, those responses are more or less expected of me. However, on the internet we would call this kind of ignorance Trolling. That’s right, I said it. For those of you who don’t know, trolling is when someone says something (usually ignorant or against popular consent) just to get the attention of the outpouring of indignant responses.
The joke is on him. I believe (hope) that this has had a far more positive implication on libraries than is obvious at first glance. The outpouring of response against closing libraries has been nation-wide. Canadians, not just those from Toronto, are worried about the future of their local libraries. They want to know if their own libraries are potentially on the cutting-block and are seeking assurances from their local MP’s that they won’t follow suit. As for GTA, they’re taking a stance, writing letters to government ‘appealing their case’ and being vocal about how the library benefits them on a daily basis. An open discourse about the importance of public libraries has been created, the public advocating for their right to free access of information. Now is the time for libraries to speak for themselves. The Toronto Public Library is doing an excellent job advocating for the continued access rights of the public, but it is up to library users to continue supporting TPL and making library closure an unpopular topic for local government to support.
Now I’m not naive enough to think that a vocal outcry from constituents will solve the dilemma libraries have been placed under when it comes time for those in power to put it to a vote. The good news is that many city councillors are becoming vocal against library closures as well. Unfortunately, closures aren’t the only issue; in Toronto, the privatization of public libraries is also a growing concern, one I hope to speak about in detail in the future as it seems to be the greater issue here. One thing is for sure: we should thank Ford for being such a myopic ignoramus and poking Canadian literary giant Margaret Atwood with a stick. Otherwise, the issue at hand may have never reached the public on such a large scale until it was too late and Toronto faced more than just a threat of library closures and privatization, but the reality of it.
For added fun, and to highlight one of the many uses of Tumblr as a medium for information purposes: Fact Checking the Fords.