The OLA Should Oppose Staffless Libraries
March 23, 2017
Ontario Library Association
Dear Ms. Paterson:
We, the undersigned, are public librarians in the province of Ontario and members of the Ontario Library Association (OLA). We are concerned and disturbed by the OLA’s apparent support for current trends in library staffing that are grossly detrimental to our profession and to the public we serve.
The Toronto Public Library has announced plans to open staffless libraries. This is antithetical to the core values of our profession and to our shared vision of what libraries are and should be.
In a Toronto Star article about this development, you are quoted as saying, “we’re very lucky here in Ontario that we have a library culture that is willing to try new things . . . and I would say that sometimes what drives that is budget cuts.”
We are deeply disturbed that, rather than advocating for adequate library funding, the OLA would re-define budget cuts as a driver of innovation.
The Star article also quotes you as saying, “I think you may not actually see the librarian in your visit to the library, but there is a librarian behind the scenes putting it all together and delivering a really excellent service.”
A staffless library can never be “a really excellent service.” Librarians and library staff “behind the scenes” of a building devoid of people are not enough. A truly excellent library service is one in which educated, trained professionals offer a wide range of services that support literacy, lifelong learning, and social engagement, and enable communities to thrive.
The OLA’s mission statement states that the organization enables members to “deliver exemplary library and information services throughout Ontario.” A library without librarians – indeed, a library without library staff of any kind – is not an exemplary library, and is indeed not a service of any kind.
Further, the OLA’s vision of an Ontario where everyone is “free to imagine, learn and discover, and recognize and celebrate library and information services as an essential resource for realizing individual aspirations and developing communities” is exactly the opposite of the current trend towards minimal – and now, nonexistent – staffing. A staffless library privileges members of our community who are affluent, information-rich, and technologically literate, and increases social inequality.
We believe the OLA should unequivocally oppose the staffless library.
We believe the OLA should actively advocate for well funded, fully staffed libraries, and should actively promote the value to the community of librarians and other educated, trained library staff.
The Undersigned Ontario Librarians
- April 11
- One excellent comment I'm seeing on the petition: "A library is not merely a collection of books. It is the heart of the community and professional librarians keep the spirit of the community alive. They not only provide technical information and reference services; they design and run programs to meet the various needs of the people. The librarians also provide a friendly face and a smile to many people who have no where else to socialize. KEEP LIBRARIES STAFFED." show more
- April 11
- We've reached approximately 350 signatures and I think it's time to deliver this to the OLA. show more
- April 2
- We're now over 200 signatures! Let's keep this going! show more
- March 31
- Please note that this petition is now open to all library workers, whether or not they are OLA members. show more
- March 31
- There's been a big jump in signers, thanks to the CUPE Ontario Library Workers Conference! We moved from 77 signatures to 165 in two days! Let's keep circulating this! show more
- March 30
- Petition has reached 100 signatures! show more
- March 25
- We've reached 50 signatures. Are there even 500 librarians left in Ontario?? show more
- March 24
- Comment from more than one librarian: "We are the library!" show more
- March 24
- A comment by Alan Wylie: "As a public librarian in the U.K. I'm alarmed at the proposal to introduce staffless library opening in Toronto. In the U.K. and Ireland serious concerns have been raised by users, staff & unions about health & safety, job losses and the detrimental impact on the quality of service provision. See https://www.google.co.uk/amp/www.thejournal.ie/readme/staffless-libraries-ireland-2993352-Sep2016/%3Famp%3D1 and http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2016/09/12/health-warning-staff-less-libraries-coming-to-a-library-near-you/ Please reconsider and scrap these damaging proposals." show more
- March 24
- We are now live! show more
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