Developing a New Poverty Reduction Strategy for Ontario

Ontario Library Association (OLA) and Federation of Ontario Public Libraries (FOPL) Submission

2020 – Poverty Reduction Strategy – Submission

The Ontario Library Association and the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries welcome the
opportunity to participate in the Ontario Government’s consultation to develop a new five-year
poverty reduction strategy. Our frontline experience supports the province’s principle that finding
new and innovative ways to serve people during challenging times is instrumental to creating the
conditions to help them build a better life.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the stark impact of poverty on communities across
Ontario and the urgent need to support vulnerable populations. Public libraries have always been
at the forefront of the poverty reduction efforts in Ontario. Reaching 98% of Ontarians in hundreds
of communities of all sizes, public libraries are local, close to home, and adapt to the priorities of
the people and communities they serve. Now more than ever, public libraries are helping to keep
the public informed, educated, entertained and connected during this period of physical distancing.
With their branches closed to the public, libraries continue to serve their communities, offering
programming online, increasing e-collections available to individuals and families, and coordinating
the delivery of food hampers and local community helplines. Once this pandemic is over, families,
workers, businesses and vulnerable population will need more assistance than ever. It is essential
that Ontario invest in community infrastructure, like public libraries, to help communities recover
and reconnect.

Our submission provides information and context about the strategies and programs public libraries
currently offer to reduce poverty in communities across Ontario as well as our recommendations for
a provincial strategy. In particular, public libraries are experienced at delivering programming and
services in each of the priority areas identified by the province:

• Encouraging job creation and connecting people to employment.
• Providing people with the right supports and services.
• Lowering the cost of living and making life more affordable.

OLA and FOPL have engaged with our members across Ontario’s public libraries to provide our best
insight from the frontlines about the critical role they perform in reducing the impacts of poverty
and how we can work together to take further positive steps. Based on our professional expertise,
we are sharing the following recommendations from the public library sector:

  • Clearly identify the importance of local public libraries as a crucial part of Ontario’s Poverty
    Reduction Strategy.
  • Ensure that public libraries are eligible recipients for provincially-funded job skills and
    employment programs.
  • Incentivize cross-sector collaboration to develop locally-focused supports and strategies to help
    reduce the impact of poverty at the community level.
  • Increase and support broadband and Wi-Fi for public libraries to help fulfill the essential need
    from local residents for increased digital access.
  • Support a provincially funded Ontario Digital Public Library to ensure that all Ontarians
    have access to a common suite of digital learning, employment and information resources,
    regardless of where they live or how they are able to access the public library.
  • Support coordination across public libraries to build capacity and share best practices to
    improve local poverty reduction initiatives.

Read the full submission here: 2020 – Poverty Reduction Strategy – Submission