The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs has released its report on its COVID-19 impact hearings for the Culture & Heritage sector.
Libraries receive a section in the report, and FOPL/OLA recommendations are accurately reflected.
In terms of the report itself, library support (whether for operating funds or broadband) is not included on the list of the 7 recommendations from the committee itself – all of which are specifically related to MHSTCI actions or Federal funding so MOI infrastructure funding seems to be beyond the scope of what they were looking to recommend.
However, both the Ontario Liberal and Green Party express their support for the creation of an Ontario Digital Library, and the Green Party includes support for broadband funding as well.
Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs
Third Interim Report: Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Culture and Heritage
The PDF is attached.
- This document presents the Committee’s findings and recommendations following its study of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown on Ontario’s culture and heritage sector.
- It reflects the testimony received during public hearings held online on June 25, 26, 29, and 30, 2020, as well as written submissions received by the Committee Clerk as of 6:00 p.m. on July 6, 2020.
- Includes many umbrella organizations for dance, theatre, visual arts, publishing, and more; artists and arts and culture organizations, arts councils and galleries, magazine and book publishers, libraries, tourism organizations, sports organizations, municipalities, venues; animation, film and television companies; museums, heritage sites and organizations; film, theatre, music, dance and other festivals, and many more.
- The Committee also heard from Ontario’s “Big 8” culture and heritage powerhouses.
- PROBLEM: While Ontario’s culture and heritage sector quickly pivoted to online programming with the creativity and innovation that is its hallmark, the COVID-19 shutdown was still devastating to this sector, causing an abrupt loss of revenue streams and employment.
- Recommendations given towards the end of the document
Ontario’s public libraries have continued to serve as vital community hubs and have seen a surge in public demand for their services despite being physically closed to the public during the shutdown.
On average, public libraries obtain 96% of their funding from municipalities. The Committee heard that the shutdown led to municipal revenue shortfalls which resulted in 46% of public libraries implementing staffing cuts. The Federation of Public Libraries (FOPL) estimates that 40-50% of 15,000 library staff across the province have been furloughed or laid off.
During the shutdown, libraries have offered free WiFi access for community members to connect to online government services. Libraries are also providing online versions of services previously offered in-person such as training programs, book clubs and other initiatives to assist with mental health issues and social isolation. Libraries noted the need for updated fibre optic broadband connectivity at branches across the province (at an estimated cost of $10,000 to $15,000 per branch).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries have provided additional community engagement services such as making care calls to seniors and delivering reading materials to seniors’ homes and essential worker daycares, producing personal protective equipment with the libraries’ stock of 3D printers, and converting library branches into food banks.
The loss of access to community services normally offered by local library branches is acutely felt in rural and northern Ontario as well as First Nation communities where “the public library is a vital and often the only cost-free, stigma-free community hub for residents and families.”
· Funding—provide municipalities with the necessary funding to protect libraries’ continued operations.
· Internet and digital resources—leverage Ontario’s broadband action plan to ensure that speedy fibre optic broadband connectivity is available at all library branches across Ontario; create an Ontario digital public library to provide critical e-learning support to all Ontarians.”