The Toronto Public Library established its film library in 1947 — 32 years after it had started making recorded music available to its members.
“We’ve been in these businesses for a long time,” says chief librarian Jane Pyper. “They are rooted in long historical principles.”
Two principles, chiefly. One is that the library is a cultural repository of more than just books. The other is that not everything in its archive need be educational or instructional.
Today, DVDs account for nine per cent of the library’s $17 million acquisition budget, with roughly half of those purchases falling into the “popular” or “recreational” category.
Citizen board member Ken Stewart, by contrast, shares [Mike] Del Grande’s concern with “program creep” and is prepared to go along with the budget chief, but only half way.
“The library should be focused on materials the public can’t normally source,” he says, adding that the focus of acquisitions on the film side should be along the lines of National Film Board documentaries and other Canadian content. “As for Moneyball and Twilight, I don’t think the library should be buying those.”
“It’s the content, not the container,” Pyper says. “Information, art and recreation come in different containers. It’s important for a public library — if it is going to remain relevant and serve its customers, particularly in a city as diverse as this — to keep the container secondary to the content.”
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