Commentary

A Library Patron Explains its Relevance

Without computers at the library and access to knowledge, I would never have made it to university.

By Joey Coleman
Published January 25, 2017

I'm proud of all of Hamilton's social media communities for defending our Hamilton Public Library after recent comments by Ward 7 Councillor Donna Skelly. (You can listen to an audio recording or read a transcript.)

Without computers at the library and access to knowledge, I would never have made it to university.

I grew up in Hamilton Housing (and some non-City Housing rat holes, including having no hydro for most of my Grade 3 year), then in foster care as a Crown Ward. I lived on my own at age 17.

CAS only paid my rent. I went to go to high school full-time, worked part-time 24 hours a week to put food on my table, clothes on my back, my bus pass to get to school, and all my other living expenses.

On top of this, I volunteered three nights a week, was involved on public school board committees, and a few other community groups.

I am thankful to the library for helping me to be educated, helping me to get to university, and being a place where even today I go to get nonfiction books to improve my knowledge. (During the time I was full-time military and posted elsewhere, I used the library's online services to stay connected to Hamilton as well.)

I'm one of Canada's few working-class journalists, and Canada's only independent crowdfunded local journalist.

If it were not for the library and other government "hand-up" services, I would be trapped in the social assistance system, in jail, or in a minimum wage job where the government would have to subsidize my employer by funding access to discounted bus passes, subsidized housing, food banks, and all the other things the working poor need to survive. (I've never heard Skelly speak out at Council about this corporate welfare.)

Today, I'm involved with the start-up of a new program at the library to help Crown Wards to get to university.

Councillor Donna Skelly says the library shouldn't be involved in helping Crown Wards to access higher education because the provincial Ministry of Education should be funding that.

We have a Ministry of Culture. Maybe she should call on them to fund the digitization of the CHCH archive by the Hamilton Library - a program paid for from the library budget, a program Skelly praised.

Donna Skelly claims to be a Conservative, claims to value hard work, claims that she wants to help people to better themselves and "pull up their boot straps".

Skelly claims she wants to save taxpayers money - and I support her! Start by cutting the 33 percent increase Council gave themselves to their pensions this term.

Cut Council's free lunches, start showing up to work on time, start reading your reports (which included the library stats she was asking about), start doing your research, and stop wasting taxpayers money with uninformed questions.

If Skelly wants to help make our society better, I know many people outside of her bubble who can help her to learn what's happening across the City.

Donna, you know how to reach me, I'm happy to explain to you the importance of libraries and the new digital programs you are maligning to getting Crown Wards into university.

Joey Coleman covers Hamilton Civic Affairs.

Read more of his work at The Public Record, or follow him on Twitter @JoeyColeman.

3 Comments

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted January 25, 2017 at 11:51:46

It was generous of you to share your story, Joe. Hopefully there will be a response from the Councillor.

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted January 25, 2017 at 19:36:31

"If it were not for the library and other government "hand-up" services, I would be trapped in the social assistance system, in jail, or in a minimum wage job where the government would have to subsidize my employer by funding access to discounted bus passes, subsidized housing, food banks, and all the other things the working poor need to survive. (I've never heard Skelly speak out at Council about this corporate welfare.)"

"Skelly claims she wants to save taxpayers money - and I support her! Start by cutting the 33 percent increase Council gave themselves to their pensions this term."

These are both important points. Subsidized housing and transit are all ultimately distortions to the labour market that allow employers to reduce wages at cost to the public. That's not at all true of resources to help people access education and skills development to better their situation- we should be supporting these things.

And: The increase to the library budget is more-or-less inflationary, and a third of the rate of increase which will be given to police services (which is considered "less than expected" and rarely given any scrutiny).

In dollar terms, the increase to the library budget is about the added cost associated with councillors' compensation a couple of years ago. It's not the place to focus attention. To the extent that Hamilton has fiscal challenges either now or on the horizon, it is police and fire and unfunded maintenance liabilities on overbuilt infrastructure, and not the library budget, that is causing them.

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted January 26, 2017 at 17:32:32

Keep up the good work, Joey.

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