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Toronto library cuts add up to next to no savings

The National Post is reporting that a settlement between the Toronto Public Library and its labour union is essentially reversing the savings from the Sunday closure of 16 of the city’s libraries, announced earlier this year.

The deal was reached after an arbitrator ruled in October that the closures were contrary to the collective agreement and constituted an illegal layoff.

The settlement provides a total of $150,651 in retroactive pay to 286 library employees denied Sunday hours between Sept. 9 and Oct. 21, according to Ana-Maria Critchley, a spokeswoman for the library.

Sunday hours recommenced on Oct. 28.

The library board expected to save $400,000 had the 16 branches stayed shut on Sundays until the end of the year.

That breaks down to a savings of $23,529.41 per Sunday or $164,705.87 for the seven Sundays the libraries were locked before an arbitrator’s ruling reversed the board’s decision.

All told, that means the closures saved the city roughly $14,000 or about $125 per library per Sunday.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a well-known thorn in the side of Mayor David Miller, was quick to scold city council for failing to cut costs effectively.

This is really disappointing, said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, an opponent of the Mayor. So many families and kids were hurt by these cuts for absolutely no need. There was no benefit.

But the Post piece fails to mention that Minnan-Wong was one of the most vocal opponents of last summer’s proposed tax increase, which would have obviated the need for the library closures in the first place.

Still, Toronto’s problems appear to be pretty minor beside the funding crisis faced by the Windsor Public Library. The Windsor Star reports:

Taxpayers, library staff and management have reacted with dismay to news that city council has ordered the Windsor Public Library Board to make $800,000 more in budget cuts next year, without reducing hours or eliminating any of 10 local branches.

Brian Bell, chief executive officer of the library, said management is at a loss on how to achieve the goal, stating that the directive gives the cash-strapped institution next to no room to maneuver. He noted that a half million dollar cut had to be absorbed in 2005 even as the system grew from nine to 10 branches.

According to the Star, Windsor libraries are already woefully understaffed, and cuts are likely to be made to the library’s acquisitions budget.

[Bell] noted that the system averages about $1.3 million in purchases each year. Cutting back, he said may mean that rather than 100 copies of the latest Harry Potter novel, they may purchase only 28. He predicted that such resource cuts would double the number of orders on hold from 6,000 a month to 12,000. and further job-cuts would be impossible. The only viable cuts would be for acquisitions.