19 March 2008

I miss my public library.

It's been more than a month since the brain trust at the Greater Victoria Library Board locked the doors on its staff due to an ongoing labour dispute (and it's a stupid dispute too -- the Board agreed to pay equity in 1992 but has never paid it!) through the Greater Victoria Labour Relations Association (GVLRA) -- I phoned Chris Graham this morning and got a recording -- he sounded besieged (good!) and promised he was working on it, but I don't believe that for a minute. This lockout is not saving them much but it's going to earn them all a big black eye, come municipal elections this fall.

Worse, it's costing families --especially those who can't afford to buy books or find other access to research databases or the internet in general. CUPE 410 (the local representing members who are locked out) has this estimate on their website:

The loss of Library service is a direct cost to every Library user. In 2007, the Library loaned 4,069,026 unique items.

If users, instead of being able to borrow these items, had to pay for them at only $10.00 each (less than the cost of many paperbacks!), they would have had to come up with $40,690,260.00 instead of the less than twelve million dollars they actually spent to run the Library system.

The Library system, far from being a drain on the economy, is actually a powerful generator of real wealth - wealth that the Library Board has taken away.

A little arithmetic shows that every day of this lockout is costing Victorians at least $111,480.16, for a total loss of service value so far of $3,455,885.00 as a conservative estimate.

I've personally felt it, because Kiddo is a rampant reader. Luckily, I have access to the books at the UVic Libraries, which include a lot of kids' books (both in the McPherson and Curric libraries) -- but Kiddo just mows through them! I brought home 6 books last night and she read 5 of them before bedtime. I also felt it when we were working through the renos and I wanted to check the most recent building codes -- free at the library, but $95 if I wanted to view them online. Pshaw.

It sucks that the people feeling the most of the impact are the low-income families, the unemployed, and anyone on a fixed-income in the region -- it's not their dispute, but they have lost a critical connection within their community.

I can assure you that anyone who is currently sitting as a municipal politician and also on the GVLRA or the GVLB will not be getting my vote in November -- and that includes all current mayors.


Please, give your heads a collective shake and get back to bargaining. Figure this out and give us back our library!


Z├ęzette said...

How unbelievably crap. I think I'd be on the verge of riot by now. I suppose it does teach us not to take these things for granted, which I know I sometimes do. Here's to hoping they get their proverbial together sooner rather than later.

pastilla said...

And there seems to be no widespread shame and fury about poor school and library funding . . . anywhere . . . it's the same here in California . . .some people grumble louder than others, but the complacency with which the general population accepts the current situation is so frightening.

Madness, just madness.