Imagine a world without libraries...
it could happen

Just imagine ...

How could it happen ?

The World Trade Organization (WTO) will radically restructure the role and powers of governments worldwide. The potential threat to public services, like education, health care, social services, and library services, is enormous. The WTO talks may have appeared to stall in Seattle, but the negotiations go on.

What is the WTO?

What is the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)?

The Threat of Top-down versus Bottom-up

Good-bye to the Public Sector

The GATS is explicit in its goal of privatizing the last remaining vestiges of the public sector. Our publicly-supported services, including libraries, face the same threat of extinction under GATS that was predicted with the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) which was defeated by a ground swell of public opposition around the world. The difference is that the GATS already exists and is relatively unknown to the public, making it an easier target for WTO negotiators.

A Threatening Scenario for Libraries

The following is a scenario that could easily happen under national treatment guidelines of GATS:

An "information services" company could enter Canada, offering services similar to those offered by Canadian libraries. Under the national treatment clause, this company could claim the same government subsidies that libraries receive (because they are the same kind of operation), and the government would be forced to comply. In such a case, the subsidies would probably be discontinued by the government so that similar claims could be avoided in the future. Discontinuing funding to libraries would be the surest way for governments to protect themselves, and libraries could be forced to generate income or close. If public libraries are forced to close, or to operate on a break-even basis, the public would have to buy their information from the "information companies" or from fee-charging libraries. If a free flow of information is fundamental in a democratic society, the very basis of our democratic system would be threatened by this scenario.

What can you do?

For more information, contact:

The British Columbia Library Association (BCLA)
Suite 150, 900 Howe Street
Vancouver, B.C. V6Z 2M4

Back to Globalization, GATS and the WTO