For the Love of Libraries
Submitted by Wayne Gates
It’s coming up on a year since I sat in the Niagara-on-the-Lake Library for one of our many local debates in advance of the election. As we sat in the library we took questions from the crowd and one of the questions was on the future of our local libraries. When I heard this question I paused. I didn’t know what the reaction would be, but I knew what libraries meant to me growing up.
As a child growing up in poverty, libraries were a way for me to get my hands on education my parents simply couldn’t afford. It allowed me to read about the community I grew up in and is where I fostered my life long love of reading about sports.
Libraries are also the vibrant heart of our communities. They’re where seniors go to socialize, where clubs can find meeting spaces and where we host some of our most memorable community events – I’ve been roasted at the community centre’s comedy fundraisers more than once. It’s why my office is in the local library, because we know that’s where we would find residents. The facilities there are top-notch and the staff are some of the brightest and most welcoming staff you can find anywhere. I am always thankful for the work they do.
This is why Ford’s latest cuts to library services are so concerning to me. Cutting the services to libraries means less of these sorts of activities. It means less educational opportunities for young people and fewer chances for them to get their hands on materials that they can’t find anywhere else. In our Town, these cuts meant an immediate suspension of the interlibrary loan service which areas with large rural areas or smaller collections rely on. If Ford’s time on Toronto city council is any indicator, I fear more cuts could come if we don’t speak up.
I answered the question we received honestly – I love our local libraries, I don’t think they’re things of the past and I would always support them. Judging by the response from the crowd it was obvious to me that the residents felt the same way. We should be treating libraries like the cultural treasures that they are, not making cuts to these vital community assets.