Does the Leaside library add value to your life?

Part 2 continued from July Issue (https://leasidelife.com/does-the-leaside-library-add-value-to-your-life/)

Seven “areas of challenge and opportunity to explore” were identified:

What unique value can the library add in these seven focus areas?

1. Decline in affordability and increase in the cost of living in Toronto

2. Increase in vulnerable populations (e.g. newcomers, seniors, low-income families and youth) and their needs

3. Lack of access to public and community spaces

4. Changing demographics and increasing population density

5. Rapid pace of technological change and the related disruption

6. Responsive programming that better addresses the changing needs of Torontonians

7. Leveraging partnerships to deliver public service more effectively and efficiently

Which ones resonate most with you and how do you see this affecting decision about Leaside’s library? As it relates to Leaside, I have reservations about whether or not there is any appetite at the TPL board to “do something different” in neighbourhoods that are well organized and prepared.

The increasing population density must be factored into any future strategic planning. It means that these plans should be scrutinized “from a local perspective” to be sure they are the right fit for our community as a whole. It means that we need to acknowledge that the priorities of the City may not be aligned with the priorities of Leaside. As I have written about previously (April 2019 column), the perceived relative strength of the Leaside community can be viewed as a negative when it comes to rallying City support for initiatives that may differ from the development work tuned to the needs of other neighbourhoods across the city. To that end, every neighbourhood is unique and should be working on its individual plans to create value.

Surely, they realize that many local economies across the globe today are in rapid transition, moving from bases of manufacturing and service industries to information, technology and creative idea-driven industries. As this transformation unfolds, progressive communities are taking the time to assess and reimagine their assets and corresponding development strategies to position themselves for what is needed to succeed in the economies of the future. Even dating back to 2008, a report by Wendy Newman for the former Ministry of Culture suggests that public libraries have the potential to contribute to economic development and that Ontario has major opportunities to leverage that potential beyond the traditional roles in literacy, learning, and community. The report made the point that libraries should also be viewed as an “engine of economic development,” providing access to information and communication technology while contributing to sustained prosperity in a knowledge-based economy that values innovation to drive growth. Will our library be up to the task?

We should begin planning for Leaside’s future needs now

Perhaps public-private partnerships could be explored in Leaside that might be able to unlock additional value from the current set of assets we enjoy today. This approach is not new. Leaside Gardens would not have become a reality without the community coming together to rally behind the dream, then work together with the City to make something happen using a non-cookie cutter approach to funding. As a lesson, we should not be deterred from seeking the support of stakeholders that share our beliefs and begin the plan to co-create value together in anticipation of Leaside’s future needs.

According to the TPL’s website, the next step in their strategic planning process is to dive deeper into these areas through targeted consultations to translate these needs into strategic areas of focus for the next five years. They are asking: “What unique value can the Library add in these seven focus areas?” I believe we need to be at the table for those “targeted consultations” if many of us did not already voice an opinion last year. Maybe it really is time for the Leaside Town Council idea (Aug. 2019 column) to resurrect itself and begin work to ensure Leaside’s assets are well-positioned to “pitch” our ideas to the decision-makers at the City before it’s too late?

Do you use the public library and for what? What do you wish gets included in the forthcoming TPL 2020-2024 strategic plan? If you were to reimagine the library, what do you see as its role in Leaside’s future? Let us know at leasidelife@gmail.com.

About Glenn Asano 29 Articles
Leasider Glenn Asano is a partner and principal consultant for the strategy and business development practice at Centred Performance. He is also an Instructor with the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.