08:38:58 pm on
Sunday 16 Jun 2019

A Fait Not Complete
David Simmonds

It was a dark day for public libraries, the Thursday before Easter Weekend, last. As business was closing, the Southern Ontario Library Service announced that, due to funding cuts from the Ontario government, it was immediately discontinuing its inter-library loan programme. A good source of information was gone.

► There’s no alternative library system.

There is no corresponding budget increase for library systems having to rely on their own inventory to keep patrons satisfied. A book I can’t get in the Prince Edward County (PEC) library system, say The Wit and Wisdom of Sigmund Freud, but that is carried in a larger collection in another library, will no longer be couriered to Wellington. Instead, I will have to rely on the PEC library to supply me with something from its own inventory that comes close to the mark, such as The Wit and Wisdom of Jordan Peterson, or I have to visit a library that does carry Freud and try to convince it that I am a low risk borrower. In the worst-case scenario, I buy the book.

The cuts will affect some 153 participating libraries in southern Ontario. Twenty-four drivers will lose their jobs. Last year, they drove almost one million kilometres to deliver over 710,000 items.

The constituency manager of our local MPP, Todd Smith, has defended the cuts. He says, “[although] the concept is admirable, couriering books on demand by vans between different library boards across Southern and Northern Ontario is actually slow, inefficient, environmentally unfriendly and expensive, now that digital resources are available.”

 The fait seems as if it is accompli. The government made up its mind (sic) and has its defence primed. The service discontinued; there’s no sense in crying in our beer about it. The search for a creative next best alternative must begin. Could the libraries farm-out deliveries to a for-profit company, such as UPS, I think not.

Perhaps we could find another distribution system for inter-library loans. Might inter-library loans piggyback on Foodland delivery trucks, for example, or Home Hardware Trucks? Couldn’t they just offload my Sigmund Freud when they are drop off a pallet of kale or a bag of hammers; after all, the library is just down the street?

Maybe there’s a sector in need of a distribution system. Perhaps that sector could team up with the inter-library loans people and use the newly abandoned system of the libraries. Wait a second. Did I just mention beer?

► Ontario Craft Brewers may help.

That’s it! The industry association known as the Ontario Craft Brewers tells us that there are over 270 operating breweries and brewpubs located in over 110 communities across the province, with another 75 or so in the planning stages. I’ll bet you there is considerable overlap between the 110 communities with craft breweries and the 153 communities with libraries that participated in the inter-library loans program.

Many of these small breweries would love to have their beer enjoyed beyond their local markets. The president of the craft beer association says “the current retail environment has simply made (craft beer) too hard to find.” What they need is a distribution system.

Why doesn’t the Ford government do something to help both craft-brewers and far-flung libraries and resurrect those twenty-four jobs in a new guise as the “Ontario Craft Beer Distribution Network, with Added Inter-Library Loan Capacity?” The government could promote the new network as a service to the consumer, of both beer and of library books. Who knows; you may get bookworms addicted to Pilsner and drinkers hooked on biographies. The more books you borrow on inter-library loan, the more you’ll be exposing County craft breweries to the rest of the province.

It helps that the Ford government speaks the language of beer. Any time bad news needs greasing to gain any acceptance with a sop to the masses, Ford finds some beer hook, whether it be a buck a beer or beer for breakfast, beer at tailgate parties, beer in parks or beer in corner stores. As for the overall amount saved by cutting out the inter-library loan service in the first place; well, that’s just beer money in comparison to most provincial expenditures.

I admit there are some details that could be a challenged. Should the purchase of a craft beer be mandatory in conjunction with an inter-library loan? Should a reader be able to select a craft brew from anywhere the service operates or just from the community where the book originates? How will libraries manage and display their beer stock? Will the system take empties back when a book has to go back to its home library? These are details, resolvable in short order, not challenges to the basic idea.

► The fait isn’t quite complete.

Maybe I will be able to get my Sigmund Freud, after all, without having to settle for Jordan Peterson and get to enjoy a beer to read him by. Maybe the fait isn’t quite accompli yet. There are creative ways to complete the fait, though.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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