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Oshawa libraries appalled by recent budget cuts

Shanna Giguere, a library law technician at Durham Region Law Association and Laura McEwan, a librarian for Oshawa Public Library, participated in a peaceful “read in” demonstration outside of the Oshawa Public Library McLaughlin branch. This was part of a wide spread demonstration throughout southern Ontario led by an organization called Save Our Libraries Ontario. (Photo by Stefany Harris)

Stefany Harris/The Oshawa Express

Recent budget cuts to the Southern Ontario Library Services (SOLS) have left library lovers in Oshawa shocked and outraged.

In April, the SOLS was notified its operating grant would be cut in half, falling from $3.1 million to $1.5 million, as part of an overall funding decrease to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport in Ontario.

So far, this has affected the interlibrary loan and delivery services in all southern Ontario libraries, including Oshawa Public Libraries, permanently ceasing on April 26.

The end of the service has meant that 24 full-time and part-time delivery drivers across Southern Ontario will lose their jobs.

“Last year, they drove almost 1 million km to deliver over 710,000 packages to 153 main library branches across southern Ontario,” Barbara Franchetto, SOLS chief executive officer said.

It is unclear whether or not more job losses will occur, or if more services in SOLS will be slashed by the budget cuts.

Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Tibollo defended the province’s decision to cut funds to the SOLS.

“Our government is maintaining base funding for our libraries across the province. Ontario Library Service – North and Southern Ontario Library Service are arm’s length agencies that have no involvement in the day-to-day operations of Ontario’s public libraries,” said Tibollo in released statement.

Local library lovers all across Ontario have signed petitions to be sent to Queen’s Park early next week to try to get the government to reconsider the financial cuts made to SOLS.

Petitions were started by members of a grassroots organization called Save Our Libraries Ontario at “read-in” demonstrations outside local libraries all over southern Ontario on May 1. In Oshawa, demonstrations were held at the McLaughlin Branch on Bagot Street  and the Northview Branch on Beatrice Street.

Demonstrators were shivering as sharp winds cut through their spring jackets, but they still held high their posters and buttons that said, “Save Our Libraries,” “Cuts to funding mean cuts to information,” and “equal access for all Ontarians.”

Lead organizer for Save Our Libraries Ontario and CUPE Local 960 President, Teresa Gawman didn’t care about the weather because she was outside to make her voice heard for local library lovers and supporters.

“Libraries are all about equitable access for all, so it’s upsetting for me based on the platform that the Provincial Government Doug Ford ran on- being for the little guy, and in fact, the cuts that he’s implementing all over the place is hurting the people that he said he wouldn’t hurt,” said Gawman.

Tiffany Balducci, president of Durham Region Labour Council, condemns Tibollo’s attempt to defend the budget decreases and is supportive towards all library workers.

Balducci worked as an Oshawa librarian for more than eight years before her current job. She remembers that throughout the course of her work there, the municipal funding they received each year remained stagnant, even though the cost of books, resources, and services would increase with inflation.

The fact that SOLS funding is now being cut by 50 per cent is now appalling to her.

“The library requested an increase to match the increasing costs of everything, and they did not receive it from the city, so it stayed the same from previous years. That on top of the provincial cuts is going to affect municipalities directly,” Balducci said.