LWB’s Unconference : Innovation from the Margins

18 Apr

A lot of the interest in my Biblioblond blog has been generated by my accounts of my participation in the McGill University’s Librarians Without Borders trip to Asturias Academy in Guatemala in May of 2010. This experience remains to be one of the most challenging and yet incredibly fulfilling few weeks of my life and I’m always happy when people take an interest in our trip and the work involved in creating a library at Asturias Academy.

I haven’t done much with Librarians Without Borders in the past few years since my trip and so I’m very excited to be helping out with LWB’s first “unconference” in Toronto on Friday May 11th. I’m always happy to hear an  interesting line-up of speakers and this event promises to be extremely stimulating for librarians who like to think and discuss big ideas surrounding global librarianship. Proceeds from the registration from this event will go towards future LWB projects.

I invite everyone in the Toronto area to come and participate in an interesting evening of “discussion, open debate, and exploration” all in support of a worthy cause!

To register online or for more information, visit the LWB website.

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You never forget your first time… on a CLA committee

9 Apr

Since I began my new position in a school library last fall, I have been excited to find any professional opportunities related to school librarianship. Last fall, I saw that the CLA made a call for volunteers interested in various advisory committees:

  • Copyright Advisory Committee
  • Information Policy Advisory Committee
  • Intellectual Freedom Advisory Committee
  • Library Services for People with Print‐Disabilities Advisory Committee
  • School Libraries Advisory Committee

Despite many Canadian librarians being rather jaded with the CLA of late, no one can deny that one of the CLA’s most important functions as a national association is its role in advocacy. People recognize the need for a strong national voice on issues essential to the values of librarianship such as intellectual freedom and copyright. If Canadian librarians cannot present a united front to policy makers to provide information and influence them on these important issues then who will? And if it is not the CLA influencing policy makers, then there is no guarantee that those who are share our librarianship values. As I’ve mentioned I think that it is essential that librarians get involved on a larger scale in issues that they are passionate about. Anyone who is passionate about the issues covered by the advisory committees should definitely look into joining these committees for the next term.

I was impressed that such a CLA advisory committee would exist for school libraries. I submitted an application to the CLA to volunteer my time on this committee and I was pleased when my application was accepted and I was named a member of the CLA School Libraries Advisory Committee for 2012-2013. After a bit of a slow start, we had our first teleconference last week. It’s extremely interesting to be put on a committee with people from across the country with different backgrounds and levels of experience. I have to admit that I felt a bit overwhelmed; certain names of people and acronyms of associations were mentioned as if we all already knew about them but were unfamiliar to me. I was sitting at my laptop simultaneously listening to the conversation and looking up groups/websites as they were mentioned. Although I am extremely passionate about school libraries and the policies that need to be put into place and the advocacy that needs to be done, I realized that my passion can only carry me so far. I really need to read up on a lot on the actions already being carried out by various organizations (provincially, nationally and internationally) and the evidence-based research that has been conducted in this field.

As a committee we are still discussing what our specific course of action will be. The instruction we’ve received from the CLA is basically our terms of reference :

Terms of Reference for CLA School Libraries Advisory Committee

  • To inform and support CLA responses to media coverage of school library issues.
  • To educate the Canadian public about the role of school libraries and their professional staffing.
  • To contribute to the continuous development of standards for school libraries and professional roles.

You can visit the CLA Committees webpage to find out more about the various CLA committees and opportunities to get involved. If you are interested in offering your help to these committees, the contact information of the committee members is listed on the sites.

Northern Exposure to Leadership- building library leaders

22 Feb

For the past 7 days, I have been immersed in a most thought-provoking, motivating and life-changing experience that has gone far beyond my great expectations. Though most Canadian librarians and information professionals have heard of the Northern Exposure to Leadership Institute (NEL or NELI), few apart from the former participants know the details of the program. The common phrase used is “What happens at NELI stays at NELI”. This secrecy surrounding NEL definitely contributes to the program’s mystique; however, it also helps enhance the learning experience for the participants. It was explained to me that if we knew going in what awaited us, the anticipation would cause our behaviour would be different and perhaps we would not be as receptive to the incredible moments of profound learning and self-discovery that occur. What I can say is that the librarians and information professionals whom I have spent the past week with are some of the most intelligent, motivated, caring, genuine, and funny people I have ever met. Knowing that I share my profession with such wonderful people makes me truly proud to be a librarian. We are the leaders of tomorrow and the future of libraries is in awesome hands!

Hiatus and comeback!

11 Feb

As my regular readers have noticed, I’ve taken a little hiatus from my blog. This essentially corresponded to the time I left my position as the director of the Tracadie-Sheila Public Library in New Brunswick last September. I was extremely proud of the work I did at the Tracadie-Sheila Public Library and my decision to leave my position was bitter-sweet. On the bitter side, I was leaving an incredible library full of wonderful people to whom I’d grown extremely attached (patrons, staff, volunteers, library board members). I was also sad to leave behind projects that I cared passionately about such as our new library building project and our continuous efforts to create new and rewarding community partnerships. However, on the bright side, my decision to leave was based on a very happy development in my personal life (my engagement) and so part of me was definitely excited to relocate to Toronto.

Since I needed to relocate to Toronto, I got back into the full-swing of applying for library positions. This was a difficult period because I am definitely a perfectionist when it comes to applications and every time that I spent hours toiling over an application only to never even get an interview, it was like I’d lost a small piece of myself. After a few months, people said that it was because I hadn’t yet found the “right job for me”. In the end, this turned out to be true as at the end of August once “the right job for me” was posted it took me only 2 weeks total to send in my application, be contacted for an interview, have an interview, and be offered the position.

I now work for a Francophone school board where I am in charge of the libraries in two schools (a K-6 school and a middle school). This is a fantastic job because I have always been passionate about children’s librarianship. Being in a school library allows me to do story-time, teach information literacy, provide reader advisory and research and order books that kids will get excited to read.

Each Canadian province has different standards for what qualifications are needed for working in school libraries. In Ontario, most school boards have teacher-librarians in their schools; this position requires a teaching degree paired with a few courses in librarianship. When I went for my interview, I was told that my school board has not had teacher-librarians for over a decade, now all of the school libraries are run by library technicians. A part of me has issues with calling myself a library technician even though it is officially my job title. Having obtained a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, I tend to say that I’m a professional librarian who works in a school library (I was told by a friend not to say that I am a School Librarian because technically I’m not). Rather than feel limited by my job title, I use my professional knowledge and skills everyday to strive to ensure that I am creating the most positive library experience possible for these kids. Most of the kids at my schools are from recent immigrant families to Canada. The parents are often struggling to make a life for their family in Toronto and do not have the money to buy books nor do they visit regularly the public library with their children. Consequently, the library experience that I provide for these kids becomes their only exposure to libraries. I am very motivated by my goal to help kids discover a passion for reading that will translate into a life-long pursuit of learning whether they attend post-secondary education or not.

Last week, I attended the Saturday sessions of the OLA (Ontario Library Association) Super Conference in Toronto. This experience was extremely positive and encouraged me to get back into blogging because I realized how much amazing knowledge librarians share when they get together. The biblioblogosphere is an incredible place and I want to get back into the swing of things! (That and my dad kept asking me when I was going to post something new).

I have always been grateful to everyone who comments on my blog posts. So what do you think of the importance of job titles? How would you feel about taking on a non-professional position as long as you got to do something you love?

CLA Election Time – let your voice be heard!

2 Oct

CLA logo
Voting has officially begun for the new Canadian Library Association Executive Council! There has been a lot of discussion in the past year regarding the future of the CLA and now is the time to let your voice be heard by casting a vote for the new Executive Council
This spring, when I attended the CLA conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the mood was one of optimism and change. However, my friends and I couldn’t help but notice the generational divide among the attendees and contemplate its effect on the overall organizational structure of the CLA. We observed that most of the attendees were either baby-boomers or relatively young librarians (from their mid-twenties to early thirties). We couldn’t help but wonder “Where are all the librarians in-between?” The leadership positions at the CLA were almost all occupied by veteran librarians (the baby-boomer bunch) and although it makes sense that us optimistic young librarians can make valuable contributions to the CLA, it’s possible that those librarians in-between have become jaded over time because of the quasi “old-boys’ club” atmosphere that seemed prevalent at times at the conference. My friends and I discussed our concern that over time we might also lose interest in our national association if we felt disconnected to those representing us on the Executive Council. Although Dr. Ken Haycock became president of the CLA when he was only 29, that was over thirty years ago in 1978 and I certainly cannot see the CLA voting for anyone in their twenties in the current climate.
It is no secret that with experience comes wisdom but in the workplace librarians are being called upon earlier and earlier in their careers to take on leadership positions. So then why not take on leadership positions within the Canadian Library Association? Under the current conditions of libraries being threatened left and right, being involved in our national association allows librarians to stand strong together, regardless of age, and advocate for libraries. It is both up to the veteran librarians to facilitate the transfer of leadership within the CLA and for the younger and in-between librarians to speak up.
There are lots of opportunities to become involved in the CLA; it’s simply a matter of getting your act together and applying when the occasion presents itself. In the past week, the CLA has sent out calls for proposals and posters for the next conference and a call for volunteers for committees. If you are feeling motivated, I encourage you to check out these opportunities. Even if it might be too late for you to become CLA president at 29 like Dr. Ken Haycock, everyone has to start somewhere and these are great ways to become involved and gain experience within the CLA. If you are still somewhat skeptical about getting involved in a professional association the very least you can do is go and vote! The candidates for all of the positions look like they would bring a creative and fresh perspective to the various Executive positions. So read their descriptions and get involved in the CLA by voting for a Executive Council that represents you!

Where does your public library fit in your community?

19 Jul

Tracadie public library
Everyone has agreed; our public library needs to move. Our library is currently located adjacent to the town hall and for a few years, the plan was to expand the building on the current property. However, it has now been decided that even an expanded library would not meet the demands of the population we serve. So now comes the hard part…where do you move a public library? For the past year, I have attended numerous meetings to discuss possibilities for the new location of the library. Everyone has their own opinion of where the library should be built and essentially I have found that people’s ideas for the physical location of the public library reveals their psychologically view of where a public library fits in the community.

One popular idea is the construction of a cultural center that would group the public library together with an art gallery, historical museum, and café. This option demonstrates the cultural importance that people attribute to public libraries. I find this interesting, yet I wonder if these same people would be able to justify the cultural significance of our high circulation statistics of Harlequin and other romance novels.

Others think that the library should be built as an extension to the local high school which demonstrates that people consider the significant role of public library’s to be that of education. Opponents of this idea argue that a high school is not an inviting environment for library users who might have bad memories of their high school days and that some could be intimidated by the presence of groups of teenagers.

Others still believe that it is a question of pride and that a bustling town should have a stand-alone public library building directly on the main street of town surrounded by other services.

Where is the public library currently situated in your town/city? Do you believe that if your public library would move or be grouped together with other services that it would increase to decrease its circulation? If you had a clean slate and you could put your public library anywhere in your community where would it be built? What do you think this says about your vision of the role of a public library?

Are library conferences worth it? CLA 2011 proved totally affirmative!

30 May

In the past few years, Canadian librarians have been made aware of the financial troubles of the Canadian Library Association. Membership has been on the decline and the very future of the association’s existence has been questioned. When I was a MLIS student at McGill’s School of Information Studies, student memberships were inexpensive and I was consequently the member of three different library associations including the CLA. However, when one becomes a professional the membership fees jump in price and they can be rather expensive especially when I am paying them out of my own pocket (as opposed to the fees being covered by my library institution which is the case for many lucky librarians). I have consequently had to be more selective of what associations I join. I kept my membership with CLA because I believe strongly in the benefits of a national library association. However, since I was dishing out my own money to become a member of CLA and to attend the conferences it was very important that the annual conference last week in Halifax be “worth it”.

As for my experience at CLA 2011, I can only vouch for the specific sessions that I attended and the awesome people that I hung out with. My conference experience might have greatly differed from someone else’s but I personally feel that the past week was totally worth it!

Since I started as a library director, there have been so many things that I have found challenging. Everyone has moments when they say to themselves “they never taught me that in library school” and I feel that this is probably even more the case for managers and directors.
Luckily for me, there seemed to be an abundance of sessions that spoke directly to the information needs of managers and directors. One of the most useful sessions that I attended was Performance Metrics: Helping Boards Understand Library Statistics presented by John Shepherd, a university accounting instructor, and Allan Wilson, the Chief Librarian of the Prince George Public Library and the 2011 recipient of the CLA/Ken Haycock Award for Promoting Librarianship. I loved this session because the information it offered was so practical. John Shepherd got into the nitty gritty of how to better design statistical charts and Allan Wilson provided great ideas on establishing meaningful metrics that will communicate more effectively the value of the public library to the community, the library board, and the municipality. This session actually succeeded in transforming my perception of statistics and performance metrics and made statistics seem almost fun.
This conference was also fantastic in terms of catching up with friends and meeting new people.  At first I was intimidated by what appeared to be an older demographic of librarians who all seemed to know each other.  Then I realized that this “old boys club” (there seemed to be a surprising number of baby boomer men at this conference) was the result of decades of the same people attending conferences together. In many cases, the older librarians had probably even attended library school together “back in the day”. This thought inspired me to think that my friends and I will one day also rule the CLA conferences. There are so many dynamic young librarians who have only just begun their professional careers in the past few years. We are still testing the waters of what it means to be professional librarians and attending the CLA conference definitely helped to establish a foundation for our new professional identities. We all seemed to value the importance of coming together to share stories and advice on being librarians. We had a lot of fun together and it reinforced my opinion that librarianship is full of interesting and dynamic people.

CLA 2011 in Halifax was totally worth it and I am looking forward to continuing to be active in the CLA throughout my career.
Are you a member of a library association? Do you think that it is worth it?