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Library committee says no to closing branches

Toronto Public Library staff Shinta Martina places books on the shelves of the St. James Town branch on Sherbourne Street.

Fernando Morales/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Toronto's library budget committee unanimously voted on Tuesday against closing branches.

The committee considered a string of suggestions from individual members of the newly appointed Toronto Public Library Board, including shuttering 38 of Toronto's 98 branches, selling the historic Yorkville branch and reducing opening hours. The board also considered other recommendations, such as eliminating computers at libraries, and charging for library cards. The library budget committee followed staff recommendation and rejected the suggestions.

"There was a clear endorsement of keeping our libraries open and functioning, and continuing to offer the services that are valued by Torontonians," said Councillor Janet Davis after the meeting. "It's good news … I think some of the new members were casting around for measures that just weren't realistic."

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Board members had submitted the proposals to the city's chief librarian, ahead of a library budget committee meeting. They were intended to help the agency find $7-million in savings it needs to meet Mayor Rob Ford's demand of a 10-per-cent budget cut. Now, the board will look at a soon-to-come efficiency report from DPRA Consultants.

Toronto Public Library spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins said the agency is also conducting public consultations, with surveys available both online and at library locations, on the impact of reduced opening hours.

The recommendations and the survey results will be presented at the full board meeting on Nov. 21.

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