The Changing of the Act
During this century major revisions have been made to the Public Libraries Act on four previous occasions: 1909, 1920, 1966, and 1984. Now, in 1997, the most recent proposals are the culmination of a series of changes that began about four years ago when authority for public library legislation was transferred to a new ministry in February 1993, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation, and then, toward the end of 1995, to the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. Since early 1993, a number of significant reports have appeared and fundamental organizational changes have occurred:
Bill 109, the Local Control of Public Libraries Act, introduced in Ontario legislature for first reading on 20 January, originally was displayed at the Cultural Partnerships Branch's home site. The statement made in the Ontario Legislative Assembly by the Minister, Marilyn Mushinski, a compendium of proposed legal changes, news releases, and other pertinent information also was provided by this office. The Minister's speech at the February OLA Super Conference also dealt with this legislation. Later, in the autumn, the Ontario Library Service prepared more detail on the bill's impact. After a cabinet shuffle on 10 October, Isabel Basset became the new minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.
record for the introductory statement regarding Bill 109 on 15 January
is provided by the Ontario legislature. As well, questions and
statements took place in the house
February with subsequent remarks; and additional comments on 20 February. A two and-a-half hour debate took
second reading on
25 February, followed by a recorded vote on 5
and direction to send the bill to the general government committee for
public hearings in early April. On 21
April (the start of Information Rights Week) a member's statement was
made. A statement by the Minister on
23 about northern libraries and citizens on boards was followed by a
response on April
24. Further comments, questions, and statements appeared on
May 1st, August
26th, and Sept.
8th, the day before third reading.
Many petitions to the legislature have been presented from St. Mary's; Arnprior; Grey County; two from Kingston and the islands; Alfred; two from Prescott & Russell; Rockland; Vankleet Hill; three from Kingston and the islands (latest on 26 May); Bourget; the Book and Periodical Council; and another on Sept. 25th.
A number of library replies to the forthcoming legislation were made by library boards and organizations. The Ontario Public Library Association has requested specific changes. Toronto's Citizens for Local Democracy has provided a web site with information on Bill 109 and links to groups, such as CUPE, that are opposed to its passage as it stands at second reading. The Libraries Today response was also sent to the Legislative hearings in early April.
The Standing Committee on General Government held public hearings on Bill 109 commencing Monday, April 7th. Hearings were in Toronto (7th) [see Toronto Star, 8 April], London (8th) [see London Free Press, 9 April], Ottawa (9th), and Thunder Bay (10th). Few changes were made when the general government committee reviewed the bill on 15 May and reported to the legislature on 26 May. In September, Bill 109 was designated to be read under a time allocation motion limiting debate and was scheduled to come into law on 1 December or when it received royal assent (whichever came first). However, it was withdrawn on 7 November.
The text of the existing act, passed by the legislature in December 1984 after extensive discussion and review, is also available.
HOW DOES ONTARIO COMPARE? Recently, in 1994, British Columbia also revised its library legislation and improved provisions for free access to non-print formats, the composition of boards, etc. In Alberta library planning is moving toward an "Alberta Library," a provincial multi-type library system which shares resources among public, university, college, and school libraries. In February, New Brunswick's Bill 89 revised the 1973 provincial library act by including cd-roms, videos, and electronic resources as materials to be provided by a public library (defined as offering services "available without charge to residents of the Province.")
Some background reading on the evolution of representative and responsible features of Ontario's library boards between 1945-1985.
"Ontario to pave way for fees at libraries," Toronto Star
19 October 1996, A3 [editorial].