Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Take A Look, It's In a Book

The library has always figured prominently in my life. When I was a kid, the Milton Public Library ran a book-reading competition of sorts that encouraged youngsters to read. When I rode my bike straight into a rusty Ontario Hydro mailbox, it was because I was on my way to the Barrie Public Library and my usual route was closed due to construction. When I needed to get my high school essay just so, I'd head to the Toronto Reference Library to get that source I just couldn't find up north. One of the first things I did after signing my lease here in BC was to get a New Westminster Public Library card.

I was originally planning to write something about the forty-second anniversary of Apollo 11's lunar landing and the thirty-fifth anniversary of Viking 1's landing on Mars, but no matter how important space exploration is to me, this is something even dearer to my heart. But there's still a tie there anyway - libraries are the foundation of curiosity and exploration, those attitudes that led us to go to the moon and to Mars. Libraries are the foundation of a literate, knowledgeable, inquisitive, intellectual society. Libraries are gateways to other worlds, other modes of thinking - and especially in times like this, when the economy is approximately as stable as a matchstick skyscraper, they're vital to the poor - whether you're a kid or an adult, even if all your money is going toward food and rent and the necessities of life, the library will always let you in.

Now, though, it seems that Toronto's mayor Rob Ford and its other mayor Doug Ford have confused the smell of books with that of gravy, and they are paddling their gravy boat straight toward the Toronto Public Library system.

The Toronto Reference Library circa October 2009 - there are 1.6 million items in the catalog here.

Over the past few weeks, Hizzoner Rob has been gnashing his teeth so loudly at his inexplicable inability to find the oceans of gravy he knew flooded the basement of Toronto City Hall that I've been hearing it here in New Westminster. I mean, it's got to be there, doesn't it? After all, he promised the taxpayers that it was there, and he would get rid of it, because obviously their taxes were being wasted! However, I guess the last thing David Miller did in office was engage the emergency override that crash-dumped the city's gravy reserves into enormous bunkers fifty kilometers below the surface, so he and his brother Doug have had to look extra-hard for this gravy, lest the people of Toronto start dismissing it as a myth.

As I doubt that the Fords had the same experience with libraries as I did growing up - hell, I'd be honestly shocked if either of them had even been inside a library of their own free will in the last ten years - I didn't react with surprise to this look into their policy toward the TPL. It was more of an anger thing. This is an excerpt from CFRB 1010 that gives a disturbingly clear look into the situation: audio, and more details, are available here.

CFRB 1010: Doug also has a problem with the number of libraries we have in the city of Toronto.

DOUG FORD: We have more libraries per person than any other city in the world. I’ve got more libraries in my area than I have Tim Horton’s.

Notice: Ford pronounces "library" as "li-bary," and presumably pronounces "tomorrow" as "tomorrey," much like Homer Simpson - except I think I'd much rather have Homer Simpson as Mayor of Toronto.

It's an insightful look into Doug's psyche, and his priorities. The implication here is clear - there are more libraries in his area than Tim Horton's outlets, and that's a bad thing; that the availability of cheap-ass, bitter coffee is more important than the combined intellectual history and development of thousands of years of civilization. Toronto operates the largest and busiest city public library system in the entire world, so OBVIOUSLY the solution is not to take pride in the fact that Toronto is able and willing to serve its citizens in such a comprehensive way - no! It means there's GRAVY. Because god knows that the role of a city is to do the bare minimum possible in every respect.

I'm pretty sure I know what the Fords would really like to do to Toronto's public library system; they'd like to privatize them. Too bad we already have those - they're called bookstores. The ENTIRE PURPOSE of a public library system is to be PUBLIC; to be OPEN and AVAILABLE to the PEOPLE. Through actions like this, through their denigration of city services intended for the COMMON WEALTH, meant to ENRICH the lives of the people, they show their true colors to me - the colors of toadying ideologicals who don't care what kind of damage they do, so long as the Exalted Taxpayer has more money in their wallet.

Sometimes you have to be blunt. In that respect...



  1. Well said and thank you, I have posted this to my page I know you can't protest with us, but it helps to know you are there in spirit!

  2. Thanks - and it's hard watching this all happen from the other side of the country. Sometimes I wonder if I'll come back to T.O. in a few years and barely recognize the place.

  3. What's more, Dougie's wrong on just about all counts in his statement about Toronto's libraries. See here for an excellent "fact check":

  4. A handy guide to distinguishing Doug Ford from Homer Simpson.

    Doug Ford: There are more libraries in my area than there are Tim Hortons'. Clearly we need fewer libraries in this city.

    Homer Simpson: There are more libraries in my area than there are Tim Hortons'. Clearly we need more Tim Hortons' in this city! THINK OF ALL THE DONUTS, PEOPLE!