Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Books, not donuts

Since moving to Newfoundland, I have looked back at Toronto, my city of origin, with increasing dismay. Every time I am home and happen to wander downtown, it feels like the city has eroded … and while I’m perfectly willing to entertain the idea that part of that stems from nostalgia for the days I lived in the Annex, it’s not entirely my imagination. I find it hard to believe that for decades, literally decades, Jane Jacobs made TO her home and the city so consistently ignored her suggestions and arguments for how to improve urban life.

Well, maybe not THAT hard to believe.

Lately of course, the election of Rob Ford as mayor has me more worried about my old home than usual, mainly because he and his brother Doug have promised to outsource and privatize everything that isn’t nailed down. And most recently I encountered this petition protesting plans to privatize community libraries.

Big sigh. This more than anything I have lately encountered is emblematic of the failure of conservative imagination. I understand the arguments behind privatization and cost-cutting; I don’t agree with many of them, but I understand them. I also understand the conservative fantasy of the self-made man or woman, who pulls him/herself up by the bootstraps. It’s a lovely idea and extremely commendable when it does happen, but it doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Community libraries are already impoverished, but even in their most rudimentary form they provide invaluable services in terms of simply providing for those who can’t otherwise afford internet access or books or any of the other dozens of information resources they make available. Community libraries have, in many cases, become employment centers, clearing-houses for job advertisements and providing assistance with creating resumes.

Privatizing libraries would essentially eliminate this resource—first by levying user fees, but more significantly by closing down when it becomes obvious that libraries are, quite simply, not profitable enterprises.

And I really need to ask Doug Ford: if in fact there are more libraries in your neighbourhood than Tim Hortons, why is that a bad thing? If anything, it reflects well on your neighbourhood. And, to perhaps put it in terms you understand, do you not think that reversing that would adversely affect your property values?

1 comment:

Lisa Marie said...

I don't know if Canada has the same obesity epidemic that the US has, but one would think a dearth of TimBits alone would be worth the staggering loss of available coffee. Then again, I'm from the greater Seattle area, where I believe it's illegal to go more than so many feet without hitting an espresso stand, so perhaps I am wrong.