Toronto Public Library staffers raise safety concerns

Board moves to cut security budget by 40 per cent
||Last Updated: 12/02/2014

On the heels of a decision to cut its security budget, Toronto Public Library staffers are challenging the board.

On Nov. 28, the Toronto Public Library Workers’ Union, which represents 2,200 librarians and library employees, denounced the library board’s move to slash its security budget by 40 per cent, calling it “remarkably uninformed.”

“Libraries are staffed mainly by women and many of our workers are young adults. Can there be any doubt that virtually all Torontonians want our public libraries to be safe havens for children, seniors and everyone in between?” said Maureen O’Reilly, president of the library union. “We need the security support to keep our libraries welcoming and open to all and the library workers need the support so that we can concentrate on what we do best, which is delivering the library service.”

As Toronto ushers in its new mayor, John Tory, the union is calling for new appointments to the library board and the ousting of its current chair, Michael Foderick. In a meeting on Nov. 17, the board moved to reduce the library’s security budget by 40 per cent (or $663,000), which will be tabled by city council for the 2015 budget.

According to the board’s budget committee proposal, on-site guard services would be discontinued at approximately half of the current 31 libraries. Back-up for any incidents at these branches would be provided by the one remaining mobile guard. There would also be an overall reduction in guard service at other locations.

“The Toronto Public Library has continuously improved services and responded to increasing and changing service demands, while controlling costs and reducing staff through the implementation of efficiencies, innovation and new technology,” the report notes. “The (library) has experienced a significant increase in use, improved services and expanded open hours, including the opening of three branches by 2015, while reducing staff by 14 per cent.”

But the union said violent behaviour is on the rise — up 49 per cent from 2012 to 2013.

“In the last few weeks we have had a stabbing in a west-end library, a bomb threat that closed a central downtown branch, and a staff member assaulted at another branch,” O’Reilly said. “One east-end district branch has filed 47 incident reports since the beginning of 2014, with more incidents than ever falling into the disturbing categories of violence, harassing behaviour, threats, disruption, vandalism and trespass.”

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