Margaret Atwood took to Twitter on Thursday to mobilize her 225,302 followers against the potential privatization and service cuts to the Toronto Public Library. The traffic resulting after @MargaretAtwood retweeted “Toronto’s libraries are under threat of privatization. Tell council to keep them public. ourpubliclibrary.to” crashed the website hosting a petition against a consultant’s report suggesting the closure of TPL branches and a reduction of service hours. The petition, dubbed “Project Rescue,” was launched by the Library Workers Union Local 4948 shortly before the audit’s findings were announced. From the Globe and Mail:
The report recommended Toronto, rationalize the footprint of libraries to reduce service levels, closing some branches in order to save $13.3-million. The consultants also suggested trimming library outreach and programming. …While the report didn’t suggest outsourcing as a way to cut costs, [library workers’ union president Maureen] O’Reilly insists it’s still in play.
As part of the campaign, the union set up a website and a petition last week responding to councillor Doug Ford’s comments in February that the city is going to be outsourcing everything that is not nailed down. Mr. Ford fuelled the campaign by carping on CFRB radio recently that his neighbourhood has more libraries than Tim Hortons “ Etobicoke has 13 libraries and 39 Tim Hortons.
The story goes on to report that TPL has already outsourced the selection of its paperback collections, as well as its custodial and maintenance positions.
The report, written by external consultant KPMG, is the result of the group’s audit of approximately 105 of Toronto’s public works services to sniff out possible savings, in response to a $774-million deficit in the city’s 2012 budget. The report released Thursday was the final of eight parts released over the past few weeks and, according to the Toronto Star, it also suggested eliminating public health programs for low-income children, AIDS prevention, drug diversion, and dental hygiene.
Once the petition website was brought back online Friday, Atwood tweeted “The site’s back up!! 🙂 M: TX Help protect most-used library system per cap. in N. America: http://t.co/JIiwfeA.”