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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Knowing who your Friends are

Why does the library always need new books? What do they do with the old ones?

Update: I left the meeting at at about 6:30 p.m. It appears The London Free Press arrived after I left. I may have missed some fireworks! For more information on this see BREAKING NEWS: Cynthia Etheridge sticks it to Ward 4 Councillor Steve Orser and Private? Not anymore

Having missed the Community and Neighbourhoods Committee on Tuesday evening, I decided to do penance and attend both public meetings at City Hall today, the Finance and Administration Committee (FAC) and the Committee of the Whole (CW). Interesting issues and discussion at both, enough to keep me blogging for the rest of the week, I think.

The Committee of the Whole was hearing delegations from the public on the budget. Without the Board of Control to intercept, members of the public were able to make their pitches directly to all members of Council who were in attendance. That included everyone except Councillors Joe Swan and Paul VanMeerbergen, who were absent.

Also absent were representatives of the mainstream media, the London Free Press and A-channel. Perhaps they had had their fill of City Hall with the Mayor’s State of the City Breakfast and the Finance and Administration Committee meeting earlier in the day.

This is the first time in five years that I haven’t attended the Mayor’s Breakfast which is organized by the London Chamber of Commerce. I guess my invitation was lost in the mail. I understand it was an exciting one, with holograms, off the cuff remarks, no announcement of new jobs, and a reiteration of the Mayor’s position on sheep (see previous blog). There were also buttons distributed which proclaimed the wearer to be on Team London. All in all, heady stuff.

Interestingly, this is also the first time that I can recall that the Chamber of Commerce did not send a delegation to the budget meeting. Nor did the London Development Institute or the Keep London Growing Coalition, both regular fixtures before Board of Control the last few years. Hmmm.

There were, however, some fine presentations from the non-profit sector. I arrived midway through the presentation by Friends of the London Public Library making an appeal for the library’s original budget request which met the previous Council’s target but which is now expected to scale back so that Council can deliver its budget freeze (See my earlier blog on Balancing the books). In the questioning following the presentation, we learned that the Friends (on whose executive I served for four years as the Library Board representative) raise about $120,000 per year for special programs and resources for the library.

Ward 9 Councillor Dale Henderson wanted to know what the library did with the books that were being retired from the shelves as the collection was being updated. When informed that these books, along with books provided by the public, are donated to the used Bookstore run by the Friends year round and the annual Friends Book Sale at the Western Fairgrounds, the proceeds of which go to the library,
Henderson wanted to know how much was charged for the books. When told that they were marked for fast sale, he suggested that if these books were marked as about to be removed while still on the shelves, the public might be willing to pay a bit more for them.

I’m surprised that Henderson did not know more about the Book Sale which claims hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of volunteer time and occurs every fall just next door to his business. The costs of transferring this activity to library staff in hope of recovering an extra 25 cents on a few of the books would be exorbitant. As it is, many books are sold by the bag in order to ensure that they don’t end up in our landfill.

In spite of these efforts, each year several bins of books and tapes are discarded due to lack of interest. Just how many outdated textbooks can you flog? How much demand is there for used audio or VHS or even BETA cassettes?

Still, the Friends provide a valuable service both in raising funds for the library and in ensuring that books and audiovisual materials are reused rather than discarded. You can visit them at the used bookstore across from the Central Library at 251 Dundas Street or contact them here for more information.

You too can be a Friend of the London Public Library.


Anonymous said...

Love to hear more about Councillor Orser spending tax payer's money for part of his child support by using his trinkets and trash account to sent his kid stuff.

Rita Verhulst said...

Just a point to clarify the location of the Friends of the London Public Library: The Library Store is in the Central Library in the Hudson's Bay Passageway, not across Dundas Street. The Hudson's Bay Passageway is part of the Central Library.

Rita Verhulst, Communications Officer said...

Just to add to my earlier comment clarifying the location of The Library Store, thank you for highlighting the wonderful work that Friends of the London Public Library do for our library system. As you mentioned, they donate generously to London Public Library for enhanced services and programs, and donate hundreds of hours of volunteer time to us. We appreciate them very much.

Gina Barber said...

Thanks for the clarification with respect to the location of the Library Store run by the Friends. It always helps to have a second pair of eyes and my description could have directed people to another store entirely!

John McCullagh said...

It's disheartening that someone like Dale Henderson is making budget decisions when he knows so little of what goes on. Has he ever been in a London library? He really needs to get out in the community and better understand the ward he is supposed to represent.

Anonymous said...

At least Dale drives through his ward from his home in Komoka to his office at city hall. Maybe he should get out of the car once and a while.