Statement on behalf of Northern Ontario Public Libraries:

The undersigned libraries issued the following statement on May 9, 2019 regarding cuts to the operating budget of Ontario Library Service-North. Today our libraries were informed that half of the unionized staff positions (5 FTE positions) at Ontario Library Service-North have been eliminated, and a sixth reduced to part time, due to recent cuts to the operating budget announced in the 2019-2020 Provincial budget. Additionally, 1 FTE non-union position will be eliminated at the end of this fiscal year, and another non-union position has been reduced to part-time.

While much of the focus on these cuts has been on the Interlibrary Loan Delivery system, which operated exclusively in Southern Ontario and which the Government has characterized as “slow, inefficient, environmentally unfriendly and expensive,” none of the individuals who lost their positions at Ontario Library Service – North were involved in the administration of the Interlibrary Loan program.

The positions that were lost at OLS-North provided direct support to Northern Libraries for staff and board training initiatives, services to First Nations Libraries, technology consulting, policy and strategic planning consulting, website development for small libraries, the administration of joint purchasing agreements and support for the Joint Automation Server Initiative (JASI) program, which provides essential library software to 133 rural and Northern library systems across Ontario.

It is now clear that provincial cuts to the Ontario Library Service will impact programs and services beyond Interlibrary Loan. The diminished capacity of OLS-North to deliver those programs will negatively impact our public libraries, and we believe that even programs and services that are maintained will operate at a reduced capacity due to extensive personnel cuts.

We believe these cuts have disproportionately and unfairly impacted libraries in Northern Ontario and jeopardize our ability to provide equitable library service in the North. We are also dismayed that the Government chose to make these cuts without undertaking any consultation with Northern libraries about what the impacts could be on our organizations and our patrons. We are calling on the Government of Ontario to halt these cuts, restore valuable jobs in Northern Ontario, and undertake consultation to understand the impact of these cuts to Northern libraries.

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