April 20, 2018

Update: Toronto Library To Sell Ads

The Toronto Public Library (TPL) posted RFPs for advertising on the back of due-date slips as of July 6. RFPs must be requested by July 20. The board decided to sell advertising in the library at its February 27 meeting, according to the Torontoist. A motion to delay the decision for public comment was defeated.

Acting on the recommendations of City Librarian Jane Pyper, the board will hire a contractor to sell advertising on the backs of due-date slips, at no cost to the library, and a consultant for $10,000 to look for other in-library advertising opportunities. The library staff hopes to implement the ads before the end of 2012.

“The Library expects to cover the cost of the media consultant with revenues generated from an expanded advertising program for its What’s On publication, and with the introduction of a new advertising programming on our date due slips,” TPL Manager, Community Relations Anne Marie Aikins told LJ. “We don’t yet have revenue projections or revenue sharing models for the date due slip advertising program, as we are still investigating possible vendors and implementation models.”

Until now, TPL has sold some ads in its printed program guides, which brought in about $35,000 in 2011, but otherwise only allowed sponsorships, according to the Torontoist’s editorial opposing the plan.

The library presented a report on whether other libraries sell advertising at the board meeting, as well as other Toronto city departments. However, Dale Dyce, coordinator, marketing & communications, Kitchener Public Library, told LJ, “I think TPL misrepresented our current advertising sales somewhat. For the last few years, KPL has only offered one very limited avenue for advertising, and that is within our quarterly library magazine to help offset the printing costs,” something he said more area libraries do than were cited in Toronto’s report. “We still put in some funds for the printing,” he added. Other libraries TPL cited as allowing advertising included Calgary Public Library and the Mississauga Library System. At press time, neither had yet responded to LJ’s request for comment.

Though it wasn’t cited by the TPL, LJ did find one other library that allows a corporate presence on its due date slips: Queens Library in New York recognizes corporate sponsors through its foundation. However, Joanne King, the director of communications, told LJ, “We do not have ads on date due slips. We do occasionally have a match campaign going for buy a book and we name the entity that is matching the funds, which may be a philanthropic organization with no ‘sell’ motive per se.”

TPL’s unusual move comes at a time when the library is trying to stretch its pennies. The library board approved a 5.9 percent budget cut in December, LJ reported. That’s down from the 10 percent Mayor Rob Ford originally asked for, and the TPL managed to make the savings by reducing 100 positions through retirements and consolidated services, plus increased fines and room rental rates, without reducing programs, collections or branch closures. However, Maureen O’Reilly, president of TPLWU local 4948, which represents library staff, said city officials have implied that library closures and other cuts could be back on the table for the 2013 budget.

In the meantime, the library has more immediate worries: the library’s negotiations with the union have stalled. TPLWU has requested a “no board” report from the province’s Ministry of Labour. “We have been told that the no-board report will be issued today or tomorrow,” O’Reilly told LJ on February 29. “Once the report is issued, the 17-day countdown to a strike/lockout will commence.”

Though the union has not taken an official position on the advertising policy, O’Reilly told LJ, “Our view overall is that we would like to see public libraries preserved as public spaces free from corporate advertising. Libraries are a respite for so many people. The intrusion of advertising and corporate sponsorships, no matter how best intentioned and controlled, do bring into question the neutrality and efficacy of the service being offered.”


Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz (mschwartz@mediasourceinc.com) is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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  1. One can read TPL’s move as beneficial. First, it fulfills the need for cash on hand. Second, it serves as an opportunity to grow stakeholders in the library/library system, especially if the advertising priority is local and regional businesses and organizations. Advertising is a two way street and can help both parties involved; particularly when likely advertisers go through a solid vetting process. Lastly, it exemplifies to local governance a willingness to be innovative and entrepreneurial.

  2. I like it! The poor (2/3rds of the world) can’t\won’t afford music\books\other… Library’$ are needed world wide! Stop ACTA\ETC!

  3. George Simich says:

    My concern would be censorship. How much influence would private capital demand in terms of what texts the library buys for its collection.

  4. Gwen Welch says:

    Congratulations to the director and the Board for thinking outside the box for revenue sources.