Battle of the Books (3)

Lots being said about this Marcus Gee column in The Globe from Friday. This is a long quote, but it covers the gist of the argument others are making:

So the staff recommended closing the Urban Affairs Library at Metro Hall on King Street, for an average saving of $729,000 a year. Now, nobody likes closing a library, least of all the library’s own staff. But there is logic to the proposal. The library was created when Metro Hall was the seat of Toronto’s regional government. It isn’t any more. Toronto’s government is headquartered at City Hall.

The closing would not mean the end of the library’s important urban affairs collection. It would be moved to the Toronto Reference Library at Yonge and Bloor, which has longer hours than the Metro Hall branch and is right on the subway line. Locating it there could be a positive advantage for urban affairs researchers, who could delve into the reference library’s other resources at the same time as visiting the collection.

Ms. Davis and her supporters note than many people who live or work downtown visit the Metro Hall branch to pick up books they have ordered from other parts of the library system. True, but City Hall library is only a kilometre away and a new library is going in near Fort York to serve the growing downtown condominium community.

via Finer points of cost-cutting eluding anti-Fordists – The Globe and Mail.

I don’t think anyone is against reallocating library resources in a more efficient way, but to pretend that all this is about moving a library and not closing a library is to be willfully obtuse.

The Urban Affairs branch is located at Front Street West and Wellington. With the CityPlace and Waterfront developments in recent years, it’s the only branch in walking distance for thousands of city residents. Gee notes that there’s another branch (City Hall) only a kilometre away but that’s disingenuous when you’re talking about the densities of downtown. There’s only two kilometres separating Yonge Street and Bathrust Street, but no one downtown would argue that it’s a quick trip between the two.

Yes, there is a branch planned for Bathurst & Fort York, which is great news for all involved. It’s not set to open until 2014. At that time, surely no one would have much of a issue with moving the Urban Affairs collection. But between then and now you’d be depriving an entire neighbourhood of people a community resource they use and depend upon.

That’s the very definition of a cut.

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