Toronto Library Workers Strike, but Technological Change Too Abundant When it Comes to Books

Toronto’s 2,300-member library union is striking this week as their collective agreement expired on December 31. The agreement stated that no permanent library worker could be laid off in the event of outsourcing or technological changes, according to the Toronto Star.

With the publishing industry being one of the most disrupted industries due to the Internet, Amazon, and mobile devices, it will only make sense in the coming years that library workers will lose their jobs with less people going to the library. More people will read eBooks, read online, use Wikipedia, and read with their mobile devices which decrease library branch traffic.

As evidence, the Encyclopedia Britannica isn’t being published this year after a 244-year run. Why go to the library when Wikipedia has been proven to be more accurate anyhow?

You can even borrow a limited selection of eBooks using the Toronto Public Library System online. And that digital component of the library is always expanding.

The CBC reports that the Canadian publishing industry has shown incredible resilience and faces an uncertain future much like library workers  Even Transcontinental Media reported losses in the millions citing one of the reasons why was because they were publishing less books and magazines. 

CBC further reports that Chapters Indigo is asking for higher commissions from publishing companies in order to stay alive. And Amazon has practically destroyed the bookstore industry by undercutting them online for over a decade. Furthermore, co-working spaces are already beginning to replace libraries as a place to inexpensively work—you can find some of Toronto co-working spaces here.

I’m sorry. But if Mayor Rob Ford may want to lay off 1,300 library workers and shut down branches, it makes perfect economic sense—unless library workers can prove additional worth.

Instead of striking and trying to preserve the library’s traditionalism from an inevitable digital future, why not figure out ways how the library can better serve the public in the future so that you can keep your jobs and branches open?

One idea is to turn them all into big public computer labs for those who can’t currently afford a computer. That’s a significant investment, but if you only lay off half of the proposed 1,000-plus workers, then the library budget could probably afford that, for example.

That would go with all the great existing programs that libraries currently run for communities. They simply need to do more in order to continue to serve as an evolved staple of Toronto communities to justify Toronto employing 2,300 library workers.

All books will eventually be turned into digital data. And a network of all the books in the world is far more useful for someone’s education than a small selection of books at various library branches.

After all, who wants to wait weeks for a book that’s at another branch? Not me. And probably not my generation, either, which is used to instant gratification.