For Immediate Release

Date: Nov. 12, 2013

Subject: Public Libraries Capital Needs

Despite growth in usage and traffic, public libraries in Ontario still struggling to renovate, build and meet AODA requirements

Toronto, ON: Public Libraries Construction and Renovation Spurred on by Usage Growth

The Federation of Ontario Public Libraries (FOPL) recently polled their members to determine where things stood with respect to keeping up with the increased demand on library facilities. In October 2013, FOPL surveyed their membership about their plans and current initiatives for new branches, branch replacements, and renovations. We also surveyed the status of compliance with AODA (Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) requirements.

Ontario public library in-branch usage has been growing for many years. As such, pressure has been building on this critical community infrastructure that supports recreation, programs, reading, homework support, job searching, and research databases, and internet and computer access for everyone in the community to participate in our province’s daily life for work, learning and play.

Ontario’s public libraries were counted in 2010 and comprise 1089 service points organized into 424 Boards serving 444 municipalities. There are over 5.1 million library cardholders in Ontario.

Public libraries are a critical piece of municipal infrastructure with proven economic, cultural, learning, and social benefit impacts. Public libraries are a benchmark of quality of life in Ontario communities.

We had 117 responses from our membership which represents 56% of the member library systems at FOPL – a good response rate.

This sample included all types of libraries – community, county, small town, city/urban and rural libraries. Native reserve libraries also participated. We had participation from single branch and multi-branch systems from all parts of Ontario from the far north through southern Ontario.

Of those surveyed, we discovered that:

  • 23 Boards were currently renovating 33 branches. (28%)
  • 67 Boards had renovation needs for 116 branches. (57%)
  • 36 Boards had needs to replace 40 branches. (31%)
  • 15 Boards were currently building 18 new branches. (13%)
  • 20 Boards had plans to add 31 new branches. (17%)

Some of the renovations were tied to the needs of AODA:

Although 94 (80%) library systems reported that they had some compliance with AODA:

  • 20% of library systems reported that they needed to upgrade accessible entrances for compliance.
  • 15% reported that they needed to upgrade washroom facilities for compliance.
  • 26% reported that they needed to upgrade for accommodation in multi-level buildings.
  • Overall, 20% reported low compliance with AODA requirements.

Renovations are driven by the age of the building infrastructure, increasing use, population growth, safety issues (such as asbestos) and AODA issues.

Given the representative nature of the respondent libraries we believe that these data are representative of Ontario’s libraries and branches. People love their public libraries.

Ontario public libraries have more cardholders than VISA, handle more items than FedEx, and have more outlets than McDonald’s. Each year, 72.3 million visits are made in person to Ontario public libraries, which is 3 times the annual attendance at all North American NHL hockey games.

This latest pool of members builds on a major study that was performed in 2011 by Monteith Brown Planning Consultants, The JF Group, and MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects developed the study methodology, administered the survey, and reported in its analysis. Our latest poll takes the temperature to see the pace of progress in recent years. Safe, accessible, and vibrant public libraries are at the heart of strong communities and the original study discovered:

  • Public libraries provide critical services and support to individuals, families, businesses, and communities.
  • Ontario’s public library infrastructure is in crisis and needs immediate attention. Half of all libraries across the province were built prior to 1976 and many are deteriorating, unable to keep pace with changing consumer needs, technological advances, and accessibility requirements.
  • The estimated public library capital infrastructure obligation in Ontario is $1.4 billion at present, which, if not properly addressed, this obligation will grow to $2.1 billion by 2021.

Below are some of the primary findings from the online survey (see Appendix for more results):

  • The median age of owned library facilities is 36 years (built in 1975). 64% of facilities are over 25 years old.
  • The 832 library facilities provide a total gross floor area of 7.59 million square feet.
  • The province‐wide per capita provision ratio is 0.58 square feet per capita (estimated for 2011).
  • 108 libraries (13%) are leased from a (non‐municipal) third party.
  • 372 libraries (53% of owned libraries) were identified as having undergone a major renovation in the past (65% of known renovations have occurred in since 2000 and 83% since 1990). This was one of several factors that were used to determine current repair and replacement costs.
  • 145 library facilities (17%) do not have accessible public entrance for persons with physical disabilities, 219 library facilities (26%) do not have accessible public washroom for persons with physical disabilities, and 74 library facilities (9%) do not provide public access between levels for persons with physical disabilities.
  • 24 library systems (10%) have an inadequate distribution of service outlets (i.e., residents are required to travel more than 30 minutes to reach the nearest public library).
  • 85 library systems (36%) were able to quantify their library space needs to the year 2021 (totaling an additional 1,548,683 square feet).


What Is FOPL?

Simply put: Ontario’s Public Libraries. Now more than ever before, they play a critical role in the social, educational, cultural and economic success of the communities in our province. Public Libraries are an essential investment in the future of our communities and are essential drivers of success in school preparedness, reading readiness, economic and employment success, and social equity. As the development of the knowledge economy progresses, public libraries are a vital link for every resident and every community to ensure success of all Ontarians, regardless of location or background.

The Federation of Ontario Public Libraries represents Ontario’s over 400 public library systems exceeding 1,000 branches in virtually every Ontario community. Over 5 million Ontario residents make hundreds of millions of visits to the library, in person and virtually, every year. Libraries are trusted, accessible community hubs providing freely accessible professional service, technology, programs, and resources to a more diverse range of residents than any other cultural institution. Ontarians have voted with their library cards and passionate support for public libraries continues to grow in the digital age.


For more information:

Stephen Abram, MLS

Executive Director, Federation of Ontario Public Libraries

Cel: 416-669-4855
FOPL: 416-395-0746

The Federation of Ontario Public Libraries is a non-profit with a mandate to benefit Ontario public libraries through advocacy, research, and marketing.

La Fédération des bibliothèques publiques de l’Ontario est un organisme à but non-lucratif. Elle a comme mandat, de répondre aux besoins de toutes les bibliothèques, en concentrant leurs efforts dans la recherche, en marketing et en agissant comme plaidoyeur.