Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Closing of Toronto Public Library Branches

Over the past couple of weeks, many of us here in Toronto have no doubt heard about Rob Ford's plan to make up the budget shortfall in Toronto by cutting services, including closing down branches of the Toronto Public Library. There was a big public meeting nearly a week ago, in which hundreds of people made submissions to Mayor Ford's executive team, many imploring him not to close library branches.

Interestingly, there was an article written in the Toronto Star on July 21st about whether privatizing the library service would be good for the city. For the most part, the article said that it would not help much. It wouldn't really improve cost savings. I think more importantly, the library would lose its community connection. Check out the article here

What does all this have to do with academic law libraries? Well, here in Canada academic law libraries are being asked to do more with less. It has been this way for a while now. There are no (and I hope never will be any) indications that law libraries will close their doors. They are too important to the lifeblood of the law school, and to the university as a whole. In fact, many academic law libraries are conducting renovations in order to make themselves more student-oriented, with more group study rooms, wireless internet connection, and more relaxed seating. The one big concern I have is that libraries are in many places forced to give up space in return for other things like more faculty offices.

I am not suggesting faculty offices are not important, but cutting space for libraries is very dangerous. For one thing, it leads to less space for collections. I realize that electronic sources are getting better, and many sources are being digitized, but not enough sources are digitized to risk cutting print. Just recently, I had to look for a government document that we did not have, only the main library. Fortunately, they have it in print, so we were lucky. If they didn't, I would have had to have done an interlibrary loan for it. Now, that would not have been so bad, but we can't keep relying on ILL forever for every single thing. If we can't digitize it, and there are many things we can't,than the need for library space becomes ever more important.

No, not more important, it is essential, just as the branches of the TPL are essential for the community, the same holds true for academic law libraries for our faculty, staff, students, and the general public.

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