I am a Cote St. Luc resident and a patron of its library. This week I was shocked and dismayed to discover that, not only will hours during the upcoming holidays be truncated, but also, beginning January 5, evening hours for half the week will be permanently axed, and several services are being eliminated. When I inquired further, I learned that staff members have been “terminated” without warning—a week before Christmas. Their duties will be divided among library employees who have survived the purge, and will now have to work harder, while receiving less.
For many years this borough was blessed with a great mayor. His ambitions reached beyond this neighbourhood so, unselfishly, his constituents gave him what he wanted, and voted him into Parliament. That was two months ago. A good deed never goes unpunished. It appears we are now being led by a rudderless bunch of bean counters whose first official independent act has been to attack our library.
The Eleanor London Library is a 50-year-old institution that began life in an upstairs corner of the Cote St. Luc shopping center. It was called The Cote St. Luc Library, then. It was the visionary librarian Eleanor London who nurtured and steered a tiny establishment into a treasure chest of literature, film, music, and cultural programming. The Eleanor London Library developed into the envy of every other borough. It was open 12 hours a day, seven days of the week, for every single day of the year. To its patrons it was, and is, far more than a library. It is an oasis and a sanctuary from the madness of the streets. For those with nowhere to go and no family to be with, especially at holiday time, the library is a lifeline.
Ten years ago, when Montreal’s City Hall forced its boroughs to merge while simultaneously axing a $300,000 dollar grant to the Eleanor London, library patrons were offered a choice; accept truncated hours and lose programs, or accept new fees. Without hesitation nor resentment, patrons opted to pay out of pocket in order to keep the library open and running fully and full-time.
In the past five years, while library patrons continued to pay for what had once been subsidized, and library hours were cut on legal holidays anyway, a $22 million dollar state-of-the-art community and aquatic center was built, opened, and has been maintained.
Cote St. Luc is a financially comfortable neighbourhood. While the rest of this province descended into Comic Opera Land, there were still signs of intelligent life in this neighbourhood. They seem to be disappearing. Firing employees a week before Christmas is the act of a ruthless and brutal factory owner, not the action of a civilized suburban administration. Gouging the guts out of a cultural institution that has proven itself a beacon of light in the darkness is the act of philistines. A cultured community is a civilized community.
I ask Cote St. Luc residents who care about culture and the civility it represents to contact City Hall and make their voices heard. If fighting for our values cannot reverse this cynical decision, then I urge the community to purge City Hall in the same manner as City Hall has purged our library, and vote the current administration out of office.