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Staffless Libraries

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Staffless Libraries: A Bad Idea

The ​Toronto Public Library Workers Union (TPLWU) opposes Staffless Libraries. They mean fewer jobs for our members, fewer programs for the public, reduced access for vulnerable communities and increased risks to patron safety.

Above: Compilation of our award-winning videos against Staffless Libraries. Find these and more on our YouTube page!

What are Staffless Libraries?

Staffless Libraries are a technology developed and sold by private Swiss Corporation, Bibliotheca.  Bibliotheca is the same company that introduced self-service checkout kiosks to the Toronto Public Library (TPL) in 2004.

Self-service kiosks were sold to the public as an innovative technology to “free-up” library workers’ time. This was supposed to enable us to help more patrons and work on high-priority tasks.

Instead, despite promises that no jobs would be lost, a 2014 staff report to the Toronto Library Board revealed that more than eighty-one (81) full-time jobs had been lost as a direct result of this technology.

Today, TPL is upping the ante on self-service by allowing patrons to enter library branches without any staff on site.

TPL first planned to introduce Staffless Libraries in 2017. But strong public opposition and a lack of political support forced them to retreat.

…Or so we thought.

By early 2019, Vickery Bowles (CEO of TPL) had retrofitted the Todmorden Room and Swansea Memorial branches and opened them as Toronto’s first Staffless Libraries.

Ms. Bowles claimed this was just a pilot project; that no jobs would be lost from Staffless Libraries and that they would not be spread to other branches.

We don’t believe her.

If you’re not planning to spread Staffless Libraries, why risk doing them at all?

So we hit the streets and searched online for supporters.

At public events, information pickets and while out canvassing affected neighbourhoods, we spoke to thousands of patrons who overwhelmingly agreed that Staffless Libraries are a bad idea.

On social media and on our public advocacy website, OurPublicLibrary.To the public echoed our disbelief and concern.

Throughout 2019, close to 10,000 emails were sent to Mayor Tory, TPL and the Library Board opposing Staffless Libraries.

They were ignored.

On February 24th, 2020, Ms. Bowles announced TPL will continue to offer Staffless Libraries in Toronto.


Down, but not out.

We are committed to continuing the fight against Staffless Libraries. Seriously, they’re a bad idea. Torontonians love their Public Library. So do we. Staffless Libraries are a step in the wrong direction.

For more information about Staffless Libraries, our continuing fight or to take action, please visit our public advocacy website: OurPublicLibrary.To




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In rare move, school librarian fights back in court against conservative activists https://t.co/VZpbi5kwab
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@ontarionurses: If the Ford Government is looking for ideas from the sector on how to solve the current nursing crisis, here's one: Increase compensation. https://t.co/RdzEtdJed7
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What a great team! And a beautiful day for a canvass 😎 We're out in York South-Weston canvassing with Chiara Padovani @chipadovani , City Councillor candidate! It's time for progressive change in #YSW Lets get Chiara to City Hall 👊🏽 #TOpoli https://t.co/d2zfdZ8VjD
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@JILLSLASTWORD: It was pretty incredible @Local4948 ! Thank YOU for sharing your time! We cannot afford to lose any of our libraries and in order for them to operate we need sufficient funding AND staff! Libraries and library workers are essential to our social safety net! #onpoli #tostpauls https://t.co/2SzcChETh7 https://t.co/dW6lltc7Gc
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Loved catching up over lunch with you @JILLSLASTWORD 😊 Recently re-elected to QP, MPP Dr. Jill Andrew is NDP Critic for Culture, Heritage, and Women's Issues. We discussed mounting pressure on library workers to act as social triage in their communities #ONpoli #onlab #ondp https://t.co/ikBGst8YUf