Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Checking out the libraries debate

It's still in full swing...the debate about whether or not to close libraries. The gauntlet was taken up again on The Current this a.m. on CBC Radio One, with the chief librarian from Hamilton Public Library and a Toronto Councillor carrying the 'Pro' banner. If only all those on the Toronto Council were so wise. Especially, those ridiculous Ford brothers.

By the way, there are NOT more library branches than Tim Hortons in Toronto -- we all knew that. The number is 3 Tim Hortons to 1 library. I actually thought it would be more like 30 to 1.

Everyone can understand the need for a city to raise money and cut spending these days. And, since libraries are not allowed to charge fees (only overdue fines), they can be seen as dead weight -- by all those wearing blinders. Those fines and some monies earned from space rentals are admittedly, not large amounts. But there's no way to attach a price tag to the services offered by a library.

Even in these days of the Internet, e-books, and everything that goes with the new media...libraries are right in there providing citizens with free access to these items. There will always be a need for paper books, especially for those who cannot afford to keep buying books in any format. The library has the books, the Internet, the programming, the classes, the gathering space that keep a community vibrant and alive.

I'm always amazed that no matter what time of day or evening I visit my local branch, it's always busy. And it's populated by people of all ages and ethnicities. And, everyone is friendly.

There's often an economy of space that forward-thinking municipalities incorporate when deciding on multi-purpose buildings, such as my local community centre/library branch. Shared structure, shared heat and cooling systems, shared clientele. We could also add a community health centre to that plan and/or a community police centre. The main ingredient being 'community'.

There has always been a library in my memory. Although I can't remember at what age
I started visiting it, I do know it was in a regal, old Carnegie building. When the ultra-modern main branch was built (many, many decades ago), I was a user from day one. During high school, it was close to the bus I'd take home, so often I'd stop in and do my homework, or at least the research aspect, before catching the bus. My first paying job was as a 'Page' at that locale; my future husband asked me out on our first date between those stacks.

Everyone has a library memory, I'm certain. As readers, it's the keeper of our written legacy; as writers, it's a place that connects readers to our books. In this day and age of diminishing numbers of bookstores, we need to keep our libraries alive and flourishing.

That just makes good sense...and cents!

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase
A Killer Read coming April, 2012
from Berkley Prime Crime

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