by David Herman
As of March 31, the Ontario government’s total debt was projected to be $348.79 billion. The Debt-to-GDP ratio for 2017-2018 is 37.1%, and interest on the debt is $11.97 billion, representing 8% of Ontario’s revenue and its fourth-largest spending area. Admittedly, or arguably, depending on your political persuasion, Ontario finances are in need of drastic action to avoid the spiral of ever increasing taxes. This being the case, decisions that must be made will not please everyone.
The government has just announced that the libraries that make up the Southern Ontario Interlibrary Loan delivery Service (SOLS) will permanently cease as of April 26, 2019. For those of you who use this service, it makes available to people using smaller libraries like ours the collections of approximately 153 main libraries in Southern Ontario. Last year, this amounted to approximately 4,500 books, moving both into and out of our library. As of March this year, the total collection of lending material in our library stood at 36,318 units. This number includes both the Main branch and the Burritts Rapids branch. As you can see, the Inter-Library Loan (ILL) contributes greatly to our overall collection, approximately 12%. Rounding down to correct for items that we are loaning out, I place the contribution to our library at 10%.
This is no longer available to us, or any library within the SOLS. In an era when information is so important, and the delivery of reliably High Speed internet is not available to all of southern Ontario, this is placing rural citizens at a disadvantage.
The government states that ever-increasing operating costs are a large factor in their inability to sustain the service, even with the previous budgetary allocation. Last year, the 24 drivers (full time, part time and occasional) drove almost 1 million kilometres. That is a lot of carbon tax. In driving those kilometres, they delivered 710,000 packages between the 153 main libraries. As part of their deliveries, they also cost-efficiently delivered newly purchased material from jobbers to over 100 libraries.
Rachel Brown, CEO of our library, is concerned, but says we have to wait to see how this rolls out. I find it hard to be as optimistic as that, but I hope she is right and things do not transpire to have this valuable service taken from rural Ontarians. I urge you all to support our library on this issue, in case we are needed to participate in writing our MLA, or as part of a petition.