Province to cut $1.4M from Toronto Public Library funding

The provincial government is cutting $1.4 million in funding to the Toronto Public Library, a move the chief librarian says will have an impact on services.

Culture minister says fewer people were using library's historical material online

The annual funding from the province helped provide online access to historic materials kept at the Toronto Reference Library. (Toronto Public Library)

The provincial government is cutting $1.4 million in funding to the Toronto Public Library, a move the chief librarian says will have an impact on services. 

The funding had been dedicated for each of the past 20 years to the library's digitization program, helping to provide online access to historic materials from the 19th century onward. 

The cut to the Toronto Public Library (TPL) comes shortly after the Wynne government announced in last week's budget an extra $1 million for digitization at rural, remote and Indigenous libraries.  

"This corresponding reduction in funding at TPL cannot be absorbed and there will be service impacts," chief librarian Vickery Bowles wrote Monday to City Manager Peter Wallace in an email obtained by CBC News. 

"This provincial funding is a major source of revenue for TPL's digitization program including content development, web development and online services for all Ontarians." 

The funding is being reduced by $700,000 this year, and by $1.4 million in 2018, equalling 20 per cent of the province's annual grant to the library. TPL operates on a total annual budget of $198 million, the bulk of the money coming from the city.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath challenged the Liberals about the issue in Question Period on Tuesday. 

"Why, if they are so proud of their support of libraries, are they on the other hand cutting funding to the Toronto Public Library?" Horwath said. 

Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Eleanor McMahon said some of the funding the province provided to the digitization project was unspent.  

"Fewer and fewer and fewer people were going to the site," McMahon told reporters at the Legislature. "Since it was being under-utilized, we talked to (TPL) about scaling it back and our need to take that funding and leverage it elsewhere in the province."

The cut is to the government's funding for the Virtual Reference Library, a provincewide program administered by the Toronto Public Library.

Government officials say usage for the program has declined by 68 per cent since 2002-2003


Mike Crawley

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Mike Crawley is provincial affairs reporter in Ontario for CBC News. He has won awards for his reporting on the eHealth spending scandal and flaws in Ontario's welfare-payment computer system. Before joining the CBC in 2005, Mike filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist and worked as a newspaper reporter in B.C.