Tag Archives: Public Libraries

Library responds to a community’s natural crisis

11 Jun

In a time when so many libraries are trying to redefine themselves or rebrand their services, stories like the one of the Arlington Public Library in Texas, which is helping tornado victims find lost family photos, goes a long way to show how the request of one person can act as a catalyst for new service projects that have strong community appeal. I know unfortunately too many librarians who would react to this situation with “It’s not my job” instead of seeing the amazing opportunity to help preserve the community’s heritage and bring new people into the library.

I strongly salute the staff at the Arlington branch libraries who looked beyond the obvious hard work involved and are now viewed as community heroes to the people who are rediscovering their lost photos! Based on the comment on their Arlington Public Library website, people are extremely excited about the service the library is offering.

Visit the Eagle to read the whole article: Library helps tornado victims find lost photos.

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?

Canada Reads inspires the reader in all of us

7 Feb

Canada Reads is an annual competition where celebrities debate on the “best Canadian novel”. The goal of the Canada Reads debate is to put a spotlight on Canadian literature and, perhaps more importantly, it also ambitiously attempts to get Canadians to read more. It seems of course like a natural reaction for anyone who listens to an hour-long discussion/debate on the merits of a few specific books to then be enticed to go out and read them. The proof that Canada Reads truly does increase the readership of the selected titles is demonstrated by a noticeable increase in their book sales. Bookstores will usually jump on the promotional bandwagon and market these books as contestants on Canada Reads (in the bookstore where I used to work we would use special stickers to identify the Canada Reads titles). Equally from a public library perspective, the exposure creates a rush on these titles and consequently all of the copies in our provincial system are currently checked out and the reservation list grows longer as the debate intensifies.

Today was the first round of the three days of debates hosted by the amazing representative of culture in Canada Jian Ghomeshi. The five books voted to be included in this year’s competition and whose winner is supposed to represent the essential Canadian novel of the past 10 years are Essex County by Jeff Lemire, The Birth House by Ami McKay, The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou, Unless by Carol Shields, and The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis. Now here I must shamefully admit that I have not yet read any of these five books. In fact prior to Canada Reads, I had never even heard of Essex County or The Best Laid Plans. This is particularly embarrassing considering that I’m a public librarian and that prior to my MLIS I worked in the book industry and have always had a keen interest in promoting Canadian literature.

I perhaps should not be too embarrassed though considering that the whole point of Canada Reads is to say to all Canadians “Wake up! Canadian authors produce amazing literature and you should read their books!”. Apparently librarians are not to be exempted from this wake-up call. As librarians we should not pretend that we know everything about popular books and authors or what people should be reading. We are often too guilty of reading only the genres that interest us or we simply regurgitate the recommendations that we’ve heard from others. What I love about Canada Reads is that it entices people to explore books outside of their regular reading habits (this year for the first time a graphic novel was included in the competition).

Tanya Abramovitch, director of the Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc library gave the assignment last year to her students in McGill’s School of Information Studies Public Libraries’ course to read three books from a genre that they would not normally chose. I think that this assignment is a brilliant idea and that more librarians should be encouraged to read outside of their comfort zone. Canada Reads provides a cultural spotlight for Canadians to discover amazing titles and authors that they might not have otherwise read but that are worthy of our attention. Librarians need to be actively promoting Canada Reads as a way of tapping into the media attention surrounding these titles to increase readership. However, we cannot simply rely on Canada Reads; we need to be at the forefront exploring publishing catalogues, literary magazines like the Quill and Quire, websites like Goodreads, and our own library’s book stacks searching for the next great book to recommend.

I encourage everyone, even those not in Canada, to follow Canada Reads on the CBC Canada Reads website.

I also would really love if people posted below their own recommendation of a book they feel is worthy of a national literary competition.

Happy reading!

Going to be a librarian? Don’t forget your screwdriver!

9 Jan

During library school students were told that librarians must wear many different hats and that we should be prepared for whatever diverse responsibilities might come our way. Since becoming a library director at a small public library I am confronted with this reality every day.


Before the 2010 budget year came to a close, I had the pleasure of making a few new furniture purchases for the library. I spent a lot of time taking measurements of available space, looking through library supplier catalogues and websites, and considering both the usability and esthetical requirements for a new DVD display case as well as tables and chairs for our kids’ activity room.


This week my staff and I enjoyed a second Christmas as we excitedly opened the large delivery boxes sent to us from Brodart Canada Library Supplies. I was happy to see that the chairs had been sent well wrapped and with no assembly required. Likewise the DVD display spinner was easily assembled in a few quick steps. The two tables however were another story…


Now I am not one to back away from furniture assembly. I have bought my fair share of IKEA furniture and am therefore used to the challenge of trying to coincide strange pictograms with basic design common sense. My infamous leaning tower of Pisa wardrobe that I put together during my first year at SIS became somewhat of a joke; though to my credit, despite its wobbling, it never fell in the two years that I used it while living in Montreal.


One of the reasons why I chose this particular model of activity tables was because of its adjustable height. I thought it was an extremely clever idea to adjust the legs of the table so that younger kids could have a table closer to the ground and the older kids wouldn’t feel like they were sitting at a little kid’s table. Well after I spent the better part of a morning with a manual screwdriver and multiple screws per leg per table, I can tell you that the height of those legs is not going to be readjusted any time soon. Admittedly things did go faster once a male user pointed out that I was not using the most efficient head for my screwdriver. Now I ask you, why did I never learn during my MLIS the value of using a Phillips screwdriver head?  Well all is well that ends well. The tables look awesome and I can’t wait for our regular programming to start this week so that the kids will be able to use the new tables. I just wish that I’d had the insight to include an electric screwdriver in my 2011 budget. I guess that’s what you call learning on the job!

Go Library Book Rate !

3 Oct

My public library system is largely dependent on the sharing of library materials through Canada Post. Our individual collection budgets are extremely small and it is thanks to Canada’s Library Book Rate that we can easily transfer materials from one library to another at the request of patrons. There is absolutely no way that our system could afford the amount of mail that we send if it were not for the Library Book Rate. Due to its importance, in the spring my Library Board members conducted a letter writing campaign to raise awareness of the fragility of this program and requested that individuals, community organizations and businesses write to the federal government to show their support for the continuation of the government subsidies provided through this program.

So, it has been with great interest that I have been following the developments in Canadian government for a commitment to the continuation of the Library Book rate program. I am therefore extremely thrilled to see that the federal government has announced its support of Bill C-509 in which the Library Book Rate will be integrated into the Canada Post’s Corporation Act as well as expand the current program to cover audio-visual material (not currently covered by the book rate program).

I encourage you to watch the video of the press conference below. I am especially impressed by the importance that the politicians give to the CLA. It makes me very proud to be a CLA member when I see the influence that their lobbying ! Go CLA and go Library Book Rate!

Librarianship Values

10 Apr

"Helping hands of group of people"
I have been thinking a lot the past week about librarianship values. A conversation around drinks on Tuesday evening following a talk by Stephen Abram lead to a discussion on this subject. There was mention of the lack of leadership from LAC BAC at promoting librarianship values like fair copyright laws at a federal level. It was hinted that this could be a consequence of the fact that the present Librarian of Canada at this institution is, in fact, not a librarian with a MLIS degree but rather a bureaucrat. We also discussed the issue of web programmers not understanding why librarians are opposed to the idea of including for-profit advertisement on their public library websites. This was the first time that I had participated in a conversation on this topic and it was stimulating to think about belonging to a group of professionals who share a common set of values.

So it is understandable that later this week I was thrilled to notice the theme of librarianship values surfacing as I analyzed the data of my research project. Although, I am still analyzing the data from the fifty surveys I received from staff at public libraries of the province of Quebec, one interesting relationship that I have succeeded in statistically proving (with a p value of .03) is that library staff with a MLIS degree are significantly more likely to have a positive attitude towards serving users with visually impairments than library staff without a MLIS. I do not wish to generalize that library staff without a MLIS cannot be helpful and willing to serve users with disabilities; however, this statistical significance emphasizes the strong commitment to service of all user-groups that is an essential value shared by professional librarians.

In order to explore more the theme of librarianship values, I have started reading the book Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library by Ed D’Angelo. This book emphasizes the historical importance of public libraries to educate, promote democracy and defend the public good. Although, book reviews on GoodReads.com point out certain flaws in this book, I am still learning many interesting facts about the historical importance of public libraries and the set of values that librarians have promoted over the past century.

This leads me to more questions about where and when professional librarians acquire this set of values. Is it part of our two year Master degree? Are people who already have these values drawn to complete a Master in Library and Information studies? I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Free Internet Access at Public Libraries

17 Mar

People on computers in library

Two things today have provoked my reflection on the importance of the service of free computer and internet access through public libraries. Today in my Information Services and Users class, a group of students presented the topic of serving special populations in libraries. Their presentation highlighted the specialized informational needs of aboriginal persons, prison inmates and the urban poor and how libraries can best serve these user groups. During the presentation, one girl brought to our attention the case of Kevin Barbieux, a homeless man who has been using his public library’s computer to blog at The Homeless Guy since 2007. I knew that the service of library internet access met the various needs of a diverse population, but the thought that this service provides Kevin Barbieux with a forum by which to voice his opinion on issues from public housing to best way to deal with pan handlers completely blows my mind. Public libraries are SO awesome. What better a way to address societal misconceptions and stereotypes than by facilitating a forum for people in the margins of society to communicate issues that matter to them?  Isn’t one of the noblest goals of public librarianship to provide equal opportunities to all? What a fantastic example of this goal in action in the heart of a Nashville library. Hearing about this case and then reading the Homeless Guy’s blog cause my passion and enthusiasm for public libraries to swell.

This enthusiasm that stayed with me all day until I read the article “Industry Minister announces reprieve of library Internet access program” from the Globe and Mail on the recent confusion in Canadian Parliament on whether the Conservative party government would revoke the Internet Service funding provided to public libraries and community centers. In the article, the government seemed ambivalent on the importance of continuing to fund such as program despite its obvious benefits to Canadians nation-wide. I’m not sure how much I believe Industry Minister Tony Clement’s comment that the cessation of the program was all just a misunderstanding. The most irksome quote from the article is “Mr. Clement said the money for libraries and community centres will be ramped down when more Canadians have the opportunity to pay for high-speed Internet at home.” Please tell me Mr. Clement when do you anticipate this miraculous day will come? Although the defenders of Net Neutrality are fighting for equal internet access across the board, it is pretentious to assume that one day high-speed internet at home will be a reality for all citizens. I wonder if Mr Clement is aware of the case of Kevin Barbieux’s Homeless Guy blog. I sincerely doubt that he is aware of this blog or the reality of the many citizens who depend on the free internet service of public libraries and community centers.  How can the Mr. Clement think he can justify the abolition of a program that provides an essential service to people below poverty line who might not even have a home let alone high speed internet access? I am glad to see in the article so much opposition by defenders of community rights. I admit that I only heard of this situation today, but librarians need to be proactive fighting irrational government decisions in order to protect the rights of our users! If we don’t, who will?

Lots of things to think about. I would love to hear your opinions on the matter.</p