To the Editor:
We the Board of Trustees of the current Ottawa Public Library, are taking the extraordinary step of writing this letter to express publicly our concerns regarding the reduced budget that will be available to the new amalgamated Ottawa Public Library in 2001.
The new OPL system, Canada's largest bilingual public library, will encompass the present eleven municipal library systems and their 33 branches. It will serve more than 766,000 citizens in a 2,760 square kilometer area. In 2001, it will be required to provide service with 10% less funding than the systems have collectively to provide service this year. It is the view of the current OPL Board that, following five years of continuous budget restraint and reduction, our own library has reached the point of chronic under-funding. Yet the new OPL will have to meet greater demands, with more thinly spread resources and distribution costs, to cover a much larger area with a 10% reduction to its operating budget.
The major challenges will be the new library system's ability to purchase new material, to respond to the ever-expanding demand for electronic resources and to enhance service to areas that have been spending below the area average on library services. We are eager to work with our colleagues as one new library system but we must have the resources to provide services to our citizens.
The current Ottawa Public Library's present annual operating budget is $42.92 per capita; the Nepean Public Library spends $37.46 per capita. The proposed 2001 budget for the new Ottawa Public Library will provide only $32.50 per capita. This figure compares with post-amalgamation operating budgets for the new Hamilton Public Library of $42.62 per capita and $46.30 per capita for the Toronto Public Library. Neither of these libraries provide bilingual services or collections, nor do they serve such an enormously spread-out area as the new Ottawa.
In a recent presentation to the Transition Board, representatives of all the library systems of Ottawa-Carleton strongly recommended that $500,000 of the administrative savings achieved through library amalgamation be used to increase the budget for collection purchases. If this were done, the collections operating budget would be about average or slightly below average by national standards by 2003. We believe that the Transition Board should consider seriously this proposal, because a strong collection is the basis for providing the service that citizens are demanding.
Our Board believes strongly that the education and information needs of a community like the new Ottawa, where the economy is increasingly knowledge-based, require a dynamic and up-to-date public library system. We must not let our new library system be eroded.
Since, in the end, it is the new City Council that will be determining the new OPL's budget over the years, we are asking citizens and voters to carry this message to the candidates for mayor and the new City Council, as well as to the Ottawa Transition Board. We should all be working with the new Council and the new library board, when it is appointed, to improve our public library system and ensure the strengthening of a service that consistently reaches more people than virtually any other municipal service.
The Ottawa Public Library Board:.
Tannis Yankewicz, Chair.
Kathy Ablett, Vice-Chair.
Acting Mayor Allan Higdon.