News / Toronto

Security cuts part of broader plan for Toronto's libraries

Proposed security cuts are just the latest stage of an efficiency drive that’s making Toronto’s library system one to be envied, the man in charge has said.

But Michael Foderick, chair of the Toronto Public Library Board, said the drive hasn’t involved cuts to services — it’s the opposite.

The library board is cutting spending that doesn’t need to happen, and they have been for years, he said. While they control the spending, he explained, the service is growing — through the likes of everything from automated self-checkouts to new branches.

Despite new services, the total increase in the public library board budget over four years has been just one per cent, which is 86 per cent below the rate of inflation, according to a staff report.

Sitting at 99 libraries, the system’s 100th branch, with an expected operating budget of $700,000, will open in Scarborough next year.

“The public is not interested, neither does the board support, the idea of cutting services,” Foderick said. “Library service is sacred. It’s something that people want to see improved and increased.

“The idea of cutting expenses is, on the other hand, something that the public is happy to see.

“It’s the mark of a good budget.”

The library budget is at the forefront of Foderick’s mind right now after the board approved its 2015 submission to city hall on Nov. 17.

It asks for a two per cent funding increase, taking its total city funding to about $170 million, but includes the latest efficiency savings identified by Foderick and fellow board members. There was controversy at the Nov. 17 meeting over a proposed 40 per cent cut in security guard services.

The cut — approved and part of the budget submission sent to city hall — was led by Foderick. It would save $663,000, leaving a total cost for 2015 after the reduction of $1 million.

Foderick led the charge, in part, because incident reports for some of the branches with security cover showed that those guards had little or nothing to do. For example, at Centennial Library on Finch Avenue West, there was only one recorded incident, which was not violent or disruptive.

“There still need to be security guards in places,” Foderick said. “If you look at the figures, some libraries have more incidents.

“Those are the sort of places where some permanent on-site security presence is justified.

“When you go through the other branches, 68 of them don’t have any on-site security and never have.”

Among the other recent changes at the library is a new fine put in place for “holds” that aren’t picked up. That’s the system where people can ask that specific books be sent to their local branch.

About 15 per cent weren’t being collected by the people who requested them, and bringing in a $1 fine cut that statistic in half, Foderick said.

That makes the most popular books more readily available, while cutting costs for labour and reducing the need to buy more copies of the best-read books.

Foderick said he’s proud of what’s being achieved.

“It’s being innovative,” he said.

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