It’s a government that is apparently obsessed with finding efficiencies. Yet Premier Doug Ford’s PC government just axed one of the most effective and efficient services in the Ontario library system – a broad-based sharing program between the province’s libraries.
Funding for two key library services – the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) and the Northern Ontario Library Service (NOLS) has been cut in half. SOLS – of which Kawartha Lakes library system is a member of — supplies courier service that moves material between different library systems. Given the deep cuts, it has now been suspended until May 31 while they clear the backlog of books and items in transit.
According to Director and CEO Jamie Anderson of the Kawartha Lakes Library system, the decision was “short sighted.”
About 200-250 items per month for their patrons are moved about through other libraries, showing the popularity of the system.
“We also supply books for other library systems. We are about an equal lender and borrower, moving abut 5,000 items in 2018,” says Anderson.
College or university students may use it to acquire a book or resource for free to complete their work. Families may use it if, say, a book is missing in a series in the Kawartha Lakes system but yet another library has it.
“It efficiently fills the gaps in all of our systems,” says Anderson.
“A lot of people who are doing family history, too, may request church records from say, the eastern townships,” he says for another example.
Libraries that want to find a way to acquire a book from another system will now have to pay a premium through Canada Post’s book rates, but that is money that could be better spent elsewhere – such as in acquisitions for the library.
Anderson says the $3.1 million budget now being cut in half to $1.5 million means about 28 drivers for SOLS will be laid off.
It’s not clear yet if this funding gap will also affect the supply and administration of the library’s e-book collection.
“I think it was short sighted,” Anderson says of the funding cut.
“SOLS was a great example of efficiencies at work that affects 300-plus library systems across the province,” he tells the Advocate.
While Kawartha Lakes, as a medium-sized system, will continue to find ways to make some level of service happen, it will cost money. “The smaller the system, the more rural the system, then they will be affected more.”
Anderson points out the inter-library loan method “spoke to fiscal responsibility,” given all the libraries were sharing resources.
But this was an efficiency the Ford government seems not to have grasped.