We would never agree to the installation of turnstiles on our places of worship.
Likewise for the installation of meters in our public schools.
Credit cards are not required to access our hospitals.
Given all of the above, I say we should never permit politicians, not even Mayor Ken Sim, to turn our library system into a profit-centre.
I say this not in a vacuum but because the Mayor ruminated about libraries charging for core services during the November 29th, 2022 City Council 2023 Special Budget Meeting.
Full disclosure – I am biased. Some might say, very biased. Biased in favour of our libraries.
My mother was a librarian. I served as Chair of the Vancouver Public Library (VPL) Board of Directors from 1982 to 1986. Many years later, from 2002-2005 during my second term as an elected Vancouver City Councillor, I was Council’s liaison to the VPL Board of Directors.
- A physical and electronic collection of books, music, newspapers, magazines, and films available for the public to borrow or reference — including materials in a variety of languages, reading levels, and formats such as large print, braille, and audio.
- Public access to computers, internet, and other digital resources.
- Community programs that promote literacy, learning, and programs for children and youth.
- Rental space for meetings, events, and exhibits.
The availability of free, accessible libraries is crucial not only for our country’s newcomers but also for individuals and families facing economic challenges. As has been documented in articles and studies over many years, libraries are vital to escaping poverty. For example, a 2018 United Nations report on poverty in the United Kingdom stressed the role played by public libraries on the frontline of helping those without digital access or with limited digital literacy.
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has made a strong case for the crucial part played by libraries in reducing the impacts of inequalities on children.
A 2020 study by Oxford Economics documented how libraries and museums contribute billions to the Canadian economy and to the well-being of society. Significantly, the study concluded that Canada gains nearly $8.6 billion a year in economic benefits, in addition to a myriad of social advantages, from the existence of non-profit galleries, libraries, archives and museums.
In releasing this study, Prof. Jack Lohman, then President of the Canadian Museums Association, noted that, “For every dollar invested in these non-profit institutions, society gets nearly four dollars in benefits — a return that is on par with government investments in transportation infrastructure projects.”
It was noted by the Globe and Mail in 2018, early in the pandemic, that public libraries play a vital role in restoring the economy.
The Vancouver Public Library is also paving the way for libraries to support Reconciliation. Working with local Indigenous residents and Archives Canada, VPL pioneered the Kith & Kin initiative which supports Indigenous people to trace their ancestors and family roots through available but often hard to access records. This is a crucial resource for many who lost their histories and family connections when placed in residential schools or taken from their families during the Sixties Scoop.
In 2021, the 21 branches of the Vancouver Public Library had nearly 6.5 million visits, with patrons borrowing nearly 9.5 million physical and digital items.
Libraries are an oasis of knowledge. They are a meeting place for the exchange of ideas.
They contribute greatly to community development and cohesion.
We must never permit payment terminals to be placed between library patrons and knowledge.
If you feel the same way as I feel on this topic, email Mayor Sim right now at Ken.Sim@vancouver.ca.
Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]
Latest daily total (Nov 28, 2022): 417.31ppm
One year ago (Dec 9, 2021): 416.09ppm
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