Madeleine Lefebvre, Chair of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library Board
On behalf of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library Board, I would like to thank the provincial election candidates for responding to the library funding question at the May 16 all-candidates meeting. I would also like to thank the audience for their strong show of support for your local public library.
Public libraries are Ontario’s farthest-reaching, most cost-effective resource for creating positive change in education, poverty reduction and economic development.
Today’s public libraries are treasure troves of print and digital information and are equipped with technology citizens can use to empower themselves and reach personal goals, often from home on a 24/7 basis. Survey after survey ranks public libraries in the top three public services, along with fire and ambulance.
The numbers tell the story; 12 million more people visited Ontario public libraries than attended all NHL, NFL and NBA games in North America combined. That’s 1.4 million visits per week, 198,000 per day, 8,276 per hour and 137 per minute. Here in Niagara-on-the-Lake, we had 299,099 in-person and online visits last year and 82,699 items borrowed.
Niagara-on-the-Lake Municipal Council recognizes the importance of library services and their impressive return on investment and has consistently funded local library operations. The same cannot be said for the Province of Ontario. Provincial funding for Ontario’s public libraries has been frozen for the past 20 years and was only recently increased in the pre-election budget.
Twenty years of provincial underfunding have left public libraries with a considerable need for infrastructure renewal, especially for electronic information systems to keep pace with a new generation of users with fundamentally different information needs. Municipalities do not have the resources to address library requirements for periodic and ongoing facility, technology and accessibility updating.
The next government of the Province of Ontario must commit to adequate, sustained funding of public, First Nations and school libraries.
As community hubs, public libraries provide safe, inclusive spaces where everyone is welcome to learn, work, connect, create and collaborate. Public libraries deliver collections, programs and services that support provincial initiatives such as poverty reduction, lifelong learning, skill development, economic development, health literacy, equitable access to provincial government online services and reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
We ask Ontario’s citizens to support candidates who are committed to supporting our libraries.