Tag Archives: Tanya Abramovitch

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!

Libraries as Learning Places: Reflections from ABQLA’s 78th Annual Conference

11 May

Less than a week had gone by since returning home to Montreal from the LWB Guatemala Trip and I already was already back into the swing of Montreal libraryland. This past weekend was the 78th annual ABQLA Conference on the theme of “Libraries as Learning Places”. I was especially excited about this conference because many of the presentations related to issues of great importance to library directors such as marketing and communications that I felt were not covered in library school classes.

The first keynote speaker was Lori Reed, a librarian trainer from North Carolina. She addressed the hard financial situation faced by many libraries and encouraged participants to promote their libraries as educational institutions in order to highlight to users and policy-makers the importance of libraries within a community. Unfortunately I had to miss the talk of another keynote speaker Mitch Joel’s. However from what I heard, it sounded like it was very similar to talks I’ve heard at Web 2.You, where Web 2.0 technologies are promoted as promotional tools to strengthen the users’ experience with their library.

I did enjoy the talk by Pam MacKellar, the Accidental Librarian, who emphasized the importance of perspective when facing difficult situations. I felt that her talk was extremely relevant to me as a soon-to-be library director. She spoke about the damage caused when people only focus on obstacles instead of seeing potential opportunities. Although a lot of what she said was common sense (negativity breeds negativity), it was nonetheless important to hear this reiterated especially since I will soon be responsible for tough situations that will require that I maintain my most positive attitude.

The last keynote speaker and without a doubt the most entertaining of the conference was Paul Huschilt. Anyone who has not seen Paul Huschilt at a conference does not know what it is like to laugh non-stop for an hour. Tying in perfectly with Pam’s presentation on the importance of positive thinking, Paul Huschilt demonstrated the “Seven Humour Habits for Workplace Wellness” and had everyone laughing out loud. Yours truly even got to participate as a volunteer during his talk which was a lot of fun. Although Paul Huschilt really had nothing to do with libraries, I applaud the conference organizers for inviting such an entertaining speaker who reminded us all how therapeutic laughter can be.

The most interesting regular session that I attended was by Tanya Abramovitch, the Library Director of the Cote-St-Luc Public Library, who discussed “Library University” an initiative that offers courses on a variety of topics including Readers’ Advisory 101, Delivering Sweetheart Service, Searching for Movies workshop, etc. These courses mostly taught by staff are offered during work hours for other staff to develop their expertise in various subject areas. Allowing staff to take classes on subjects outside of their departmental responsibilities encourages the understanding of the library’s “big picture” which helps to better motivate them in their work. It was extremely obvious by Tanya Abramovitch’s enthusiasm the positive impact of this staff development initiative on the Cote-St-Luc library. Her enthusiasm was extremely contagious and everyone left this session motivated to better develop their own knowledge and skill sets in order to provide the best possible service to users.

My absolute favourite moment of the conference was during lunch on the Saturday when the convenor was attempting to get the attention of the crowd. In order to quiet down the half of the conference-goers who were still chatting away, the other half of the group spontaneously shushed them. It was the most delightfully hilarious sight to see such a large group of librarians shushing in unison. I could not help laughing out loud and this was even before Paul Huschilt took the stage!

This was a truly a wonderful conference. Thank you again to all the organizers and the speakers.