Thursday, October 27, 2011


Dead Horses

I know I've blogged about the importance of libraries before in this space but at the risk of seeming to flog a dead horse, I'm going to say more. Doug Ford, councillor for Etobicoke, may have given up for the moment his quest to close Toronto libraries but in my experience, dead horses have a bad habit of raising their scabrous heads and coming back to life. Governments and corporations have more money than the rest of us and a lot more staying power. They can outwait the best of us so that just when we slough off our boxing gloves and sink into our rocking chairs they joyfully dig the idea up and present it as something brand new to a now younger population.

In Ottawa we thought we'd scotched a bad plan for the rejuvenation of Lansdowne Park, the largest public park in the downtown core. But money and power won in the end and we now have a plan that includes umpteen acres of big box and other stores as well as condos, a football field and a bit of playground and green space nestled into the concrete.

Libraries are simply too tempting a target for politicians looking for spending cuts. They've tried before and they'll try again. When Ottawa City Council threatened to close the Sunnyside Branch of the OPL several years ago, my neighbours and I gathered for the protest not sure what to expect but I have rarely heard such impassioned and moving speeches. Ed Broadbent talked of the huge impact his local library had on him, a kid from an Oshawa auto worker's family for whom books and education held little importance. Jeffrey Simpson, of the Globe and Mail, told how his own youthful attention was caught by the books suggested by his local librarian.

We're just back from a two-week trip around Newfoundland where we visited The Rooms, St. John's spectacular museum, art gallery and archives. An exhibit called Logotopia: The Library in Art, Architecture and the Imagination, inspired me to scribble down these words from the exhibit:

"The need for collective experience and social interaction will never go away. Furthermore, the unique role of the library as the human institutional bridge between analogue and digital cultures provides the library patron with more opportunities and points of access than ever before. This is why new libraries continue to be built and why existing libraries expand to meet the ever growing demand. Besides, the sensorial experience of reading a book holds too great an allure."

Fine words indeed. But watch out for dead horses. They can rise to kick again.

Sue Pike has published a couple of dozen stories and won several awards including an Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Crime Story. Her latest, Where the Snow Lay Dinted appeared in the January issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Sue and her husband and an opinionated Australian Shepherd named Cooper spend the winter months in Ottawa and the rest of the time at a mysterious cottage on the Rideau Lakes.

1 comment:

  1. The point being made in the statement from the St. John's exhibit, that libraries are evolving to embrace the changing way in which people receive and interact with their written information and entertainment, is key.

    The people who pay the bills to keep our libraries open, i.e. taxpayers, need to constantly remind the people who work for them, i.e. civil servants and elected officials, that this is happening and this is what we all want.

    So many of us found the world in our libraries when we were young and trying to figure it all out. We need to make sure they stay open, and stay relevant, for our children and grandchildren.

    Very good post, Sue.

    The Overnight Bestseller