Recently there has been a spate of negative publicity for the Ford Government over their severe cuts to Ontario Library Services and other necessary public services.
Individual librarians and libraries across the province have protested these cuts publicly.
As well, many municipalities—including our own—have passed resolutions calling on their local MPPs to become involved and have these cuts reversed.
I would like to add our voice to the above chorus.
The Ford government with the approval of our own MPP Greg Rickford has cut the funding to Ontario Library Services by 50 percent.
Ontario Library Services North has had to cut their staff in half. This flies in the face of Ford's assurances to the people of Ontario that, “Under our government, I'm going to reinforce this, not one single person will lose their job.”
The government's talking points will point out that the base grant for libraries has not changed. Do not be misled by this.
It is true that this small portion of funding for public libraries provided by the Ontario government has not been cut this year. However, this grant has nothing to do with the funding of Ontario Library Services North.
This drastic cut to OLS-N has reduced its capacity to serve its Northern Client Libraries significantly. In particular, smaller libraries and First Nations libraries will be affected disproportionately.
These cuts jeopardize the ability of OLS-N to provide equitable library services in the North. They were imposed by the Ford government without any consultation with northern libraries regarding the impact on libraries or their patrons.
We are already feeling the effect of these cuts in Fort Frances.
OLS-N provides our library with software that is used: to check books in and out; to host our catalog; for placing holds on books; and allowing people to renew books.
Technical support is no longer available for this software program in the evenings or on weekends. These are hours during which we are open and busy.
Another talking point of the Ontario government is that the interlibrary loan program has been reinstated. This program had to be discontinued due to the government's lack of funding for it.
While it has been reinstated in a much less robust form, the government is once again trying to distract the public with this talking point. The government is willfully ignoring all the other benefits and services that OLS-N provides to northern libraries that will be and are presently affected by their cuts.
Services to First Nations Libraries, technical consulting, policy and strategic plan consulting, website development, JASI (which provides essential library software to 133 rural and Northern Library systems), professional development, direct support for administration of joint purchasing agreements are just some of the essential services that OLS-N provides to Northern Libraries.
Public libraries provide much needed assistance to every demographic in our community but in particular the most vulnerable: children, seniors, recent immigrants, unemployed residents, the homeless and lower income citizens.
Our library is already extremely efficient in extracting the most benefit out of every taxpayer dollar it receives. We count on the services of OLS-N to ensure that we can fulfill our mandate to serve everyone in our community and to provide relevant programming and services.
We call on Minister Rickford and the Ford government to reverse this attack on public libraries.
If you are a public library supporter, please contact your local MPP and demand that the government, at the very least, restore funding to OLS-N at a minimum to the previous 2018 funding level in order for this agency to continue its day-to-day support of Northern Ontario public libraries and to continue to maintain the base funding for Ontario public libraries.
Public Library Board