Showing posts with label becoming a librarian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label becoming a librarian. Show all posts

1.13.2019

my first island off the island: a brief stop in sointula

This week I drove down to Port McNeill -- about 30 minutes away, and the home of one of my libraries -- and took the ferry to Malcolm Island, to visit another of my libraries, in the town of Sointula. I traveled with a co-worker who does programming and support work in our zone's libraries and communities. She's a great person and an awesome library worker, and we're doing all my first site visits together.

We stepped off the ferry and into Coho Joe, a local haunt. No sooner did we walk through the door than C was greeted warmly by name. She introduced me to two women, one a local artist, and both heavy library users -- one of whom we would see later that day.

Coho Joe is my kind of place.

An adorable menu, great food, and amazing coffee.

The library!

The small library, walking distance from the ferry, is incredibly well-loved by its community -- voracious readers whose tastes run a full gamut from esoteric nonfiction to paperback westerns. Twice a month a local textile artist leads a craft. A group of teens are working on bullet journals. C and I are planning a seniors program.

Most Sointula kids commute by ferry to school in Port McNeill, but there are also many homeschoolers. Public libraries everywhere are vital resources for homeschooling parents, and perhaps even more important in a small island community.

How you know this is a stock photo: note the blue sky and sun.

While we were there, a mom stopped in with a toddler, and C and the little girl did some building with connector straws. One of the women we met in the cafe also came by, and I worked with her on using the library's new website to access digital resources. What fun! I love doing "e-help" with motivated users, especially when we have to figure out some of the answers together.

In the coming weeks I'll be visiting all my libraries, meeting in person the people who make them run, and learning how I can better support their work and strengthen library services to their communities. So much fun! Days like this, I feel like I won the lottery of great jobs.

Sointula

Ever since learning its library would be part of my portfolio, I have been extremely intrigued with the town of Sointula. It began life as a utopian community, founded by striking coal miners! The name itself means "place of harmony" in the miners' native Finnish.

I've always been fascinated by utopian communities. In the 19th and early 20th century, there were several in New York and New Jersey, but you really have to dig to find any of the history. The dissident roots of Sointula are much easier to find -- in fact, it feels as though they are on display. The town is proudly eccentric and almost defiantly independent.

View of Sointula from the Port McNeil ferry.
Sointula and Malcolm Island are high on my list of local places I want to explore. There's an annual winter festival that's supposed to be amazing. In August, from a viewing platform in Bere Point Park, you can see migrating Orca rub against a beach to scape off barnacles.

A brief west-coast geography lesson

Between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland, in the Strait of Georgia (or the Salish Sea) there are more than 200 islands, collectively known as the Gulf Islands. Gabriola and Salt Spring Islands are the largest of the Gulf Islands, and also the most convenient to the population centres of Vancouver and Nanaimo.

Southern Gulf Islands
North of the Gulf Islands is the Queen Charlotte Strait -- more water between Vancouver Island and mainland BC, and home to yet more islands. These are more remote, and also closer to where we live.
Here you can see where we live relative to the islands.
Note Nanaimo on both maps. Nanaimo is a 90-minute ferry ride from the city of Vancouver.

Still farther north is Haida Gwaii, an archipelago that is the heart of the territory of the Haida nation.

Note Port Hardy, our North Island town.
There are four VIRL libraries on Haida Gwaii.

For more perspective, note Haida Gwaii relative to Alaska.

You will occasionally hear people call Haida Gwaii the Queen Charlotte Islands, or just "the Queen Charlottes". The name Haida Gwaii -- which predates the anglo name by more than 10,000 years -- was returned to official status in 2010.

There is a movement to officially change the name of the province of BC as well. As this columnist wrote in 2016, the name itself is shameful, which may partly explain why one very rarely hears the full name spoken.

12.16.2018

home at last: three days between the end of training and the start of work

I am so happy to be home! I got home late Friday night and on Saturday gave myself a full day off from all devices.

My last few days of training were very interesting. I went back to Nanaimo for an all-day meeting for professional staff -- regular librarians, next-step-up librarians such as me, managers, and system executives. To my delight, this meeting was followed by an annual union meeting, the BCGEU local of which I am now a member. Both meetings were very interesting and positive.

The librarians' meeting was a look at goals and plans for 2019. It gave me great ideas on what committees I hope to join and specific work I'd like to accomplish in the new year.

The union meeting had nearly 100% attendance. Comparing turnouts to my former CUPE local's meetings isn't really fair, as the circumstances and access to the meetings are very different. Even so, there was excellent engagement and participation, and in general a strong understanding of why our union matters. Union leadership seems very smart, strong, and transparent.

Many people have asked if I plan to be active in my union. To me, there's no question. How can I not be? But not yet. I'm enjoying an intentional break from activism right now. More on that in my next post.

In general I'm very impressed with the quality of both my employer and my union. I fully understand that there will be some issues with both. Organizations of made of people, and people are not perfect, so there are no perfect organizations. But in general, I'm very pleased.

I spent the night in Nanaimo, then it was back up to Campbell River -- I'm getting a lot of experience and confidence in driving in the rain -- for another few days of training. I also had the opportunity to jump in and help some customers, which made me happy. The staff at Campbell River couldn't have been nicer, and were so generous with their time. Library people are the best.

I had been planning on driving home on Saturday morning, but I just couldn't take it anymore. People here are careful about driving in the dark, as there's a real danger of wildlife on the roads. But I would have left very early anyway, so it's either drive in the dark at night, or drive in the dark in the morning. More importantly, I checked weather and road reports: there was a window of clear weather in between rain and more rain, and I decided to go for it.

It was actually a lovely drive. There was a bright moon, I had music blasting, and I cruised right along. Now that I know what to expect, the stretch of rural road between Campbell River and the North Island is fun to drive. Some areas are perpetually shrouded in mist; in other areas snow appears out of nowhere -- but you know that will usually clear up in a few kilometres. As long as I stay at around 80 or 90 kms/hour (about 50-55 miles/hour), it's not scary or stressful.

Allan and I had arranged to meet at the airport, to return the rental car I was driving. Naturally he brought Diego, who went insane with joy when he saw me -- and I did the same! I am incredibly happy and relieved to be home.

My libraries are closed on Mondays, so I have three days to work on the house, and also read, take walks, and watch some shows. Allan did a huge grocery shopping and I plan to spend some time in the kitchen, to make big batches of soups and stews to freeze. On Monday I hope to scope out an appointment at a hair salon (scary!) and our new vet. I still don't feel like I live here, but this should help.

12.10.2018

week two of training and counting days to go home

It was wonderful to have Allan and Diego with me this weekend. The weather was "cold" -- cold for the island, between -2 and +3 C -- and wet, and I wasn't prepared for that, so we didn't do a lot. We went to Ideal Cafe twice, a famous local haunt with amazing breakfasts, now a must for all Campbell River outings. (I can also recommend SoCal Restaurant, in Willow Point.)

We drove down the coast, which was wild and windswept, and very beautiful. And we read, and watched a few episodes of a new series. I was so happy to see my guys! And sad to go to work, knowing they wouldn't be there when I got back.

I really want to go home and begin my new life and new position. But training continues apace. Last week was all the big-picture stuff/ This week is all the nuts and bolts, the how-to -- circulation, collection management, payroll, time-off requests, revenue reports, and so on.

In a bit of excellent timing, this week there is also an all-librarians meeting for the whole system. Unfortunately it means driving back and forth to Nanaimo, two hours each way, but I'm very happy to be going.

I'm staying in a funny little place, an old-fashioned motel, very bare-bones, but also very clean and convenient, and it's really nice to have a kitchen. I picked up supplies for breakfast and some healthy snacks to bring to work. For dinner, I'm stopping at a supermarket every night after work to pick up some prepared food. Five more sleeps.

12.05.2018

the vancouver island report: two more days of training and on to campbell river

I've completed another two days of training and orientation. It's been pretty awesome. In the past three days, I've had a tour of the Nanaimo Harbourfront branch, which is something of a showpiece and central library, and a tour of the Nanaimo North branch, which is new and beautiful. I've met with managers of: library systems, payroll, scheduling, facilities, human resources, purchasing, health and safety, communications, finance, technical services, the Creativity Commons, and e-resources. Each one has given me an overview of their functions and talked about how I will interact with their departments. And each one has been warm, friendly, welcoming, genuine, and generous with their time. It was both overwhelming and wonderful.

I've also been watching videos for all kinds of regulatory requirements. This is pretty typical when you work with the public and/or are a supervisor -- health and safety, respectful workplace, violence prevention, emergency preparedness, among others. I don't know if all workplaces do this now. When I worked in law firms, support staff got exactly zero training on any of these. My current employer is taking the correct approach: giving a new employee time to complete all the training before starting the job. My previous employer, not so much.

I also have to learn a new "ILS," the software that links the catalog, customers, materials, circulation, and library staff. It stands for Integrated Library System. We all use it all the time, and if you don't understand it thoroughly, you end up frustrated, or screwing things up, or both.

I continue to be very impressed with the organization and efficiency of this library system, from both a customer and employee point of view.

Also today, I saw some photos of the interior of the Port Hardy library, where I'll be based. It looks like I won't have an office, just an alcove. This may prove very challenging. You can't really be visible to the public but not available to the public -- and if I'm always available to the public, I won't be able to attend to many other aspects of my job. On the other hand, there will be other staff, and the numbers of customers may be more manageable than what I'm used to. We shall see!

Early tomorrow morning I drive two hours north to Campbell River, where I'll meet my manager in person for the first time and begin more specific training and orientation with him.

I can't wait for Saturday, when Allan and Diego will join me for the weekend. I really miss them.

12.03.2018

first day of work braindump

I've just finished my first day of training and orientation at [my new library]. I have a lot to report on! Much of this may be of interest only to library workers, especially my union buddies.

I took notes all day, and I'm getting it all down here -- in no order, with no attempt to weave it together. All questions are FAQs I've been getting since announcing my move.

1. Who had this position before you and why did they leave?

It is a newly created position; I am the first person to hold the job. The position is part of a larger strategy to bring more robust library services to the North Island, to put them on par with the rest of the Island.

2. My position, the "Customer Services Librarian II", is the equivalent of the senior librarian position I recently left. However, there are only a handful of CSLIIs in the system.

3. Will the manager be in the branch with you?

I will mostly work on my own. I will report in to a manager, but he will work out of Campbell River, 2.5 hours away. The manager is also new to the North Island and has not yet been able to visit all five branches.

4. I have the opportunity to make this position what I want as I go along. Not only am I the first CSL II in this area, there has never been a CSL at all -- meaning no librarian.

5. What are you going to do for two full weeks of training?

Today I was given a schedule for my first three days, which are taking place in Nanaimo. I spent the day at the North Nanaimo branch, a beautiful facility that opened in 2015; it previously housed only the administration and back-office functions.

Today I met with senior staff representing HR, payroll, finances, health/safety, and IT. A full hour with each. This is so amazing. For almost my entire working life, I've been accustomed to being thrown in with no or minimal training. This system is also way more efficient. I can't begin to describe how much time is wasted trying to track down the appropriate person for an issue.

I also had a tour of this branch, and I met the union steward for my union. (There are two unions.)

Tomorrow I will be at the Nanaimo Harbourfront branch, right near the hotel.

6. I was given a laptop and a cell phone. There are eight hours of online training to complete, and I can do it in bits as I find time over the next two weeks.

7. As professional staff, I am allowed to modify my hours as needed. For example, one of my branches is on a different island. If I need to adjust my work different hours because of the ferry schedule, I can do that.

8. I will be responsible for approving payroll for my branch. Many of my responsibilities are managerial responsibilities in my former library system.

9. VIRL has 39 branches -- on the Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, the Queen Charlotte islands, and in two mainland locations. They have been building or renovating branches since 2010. By 2020 or thereabouts, all branches will either be renovated, rebuilt, or newly created.

10. With a few exceptions, the entire collection is floating! Customers must be adept at using the catalogue and placing holds to get what they want. There is a lot of staff instruction available for customers.

11. There is a YNF collection! I first saw a youth nonfiction collection in Vancouver Public Library and absolutely loved the idea. I developed a proposal and pitched it to the Mississauga Library. They rejected it, of course, but I love that VIRL has this.

The youth collection also includes "Playaways" -- digital audiobooks with a rechargeable battery. They are very popular.

12. How long does it take for a hold to come in? "It depends."

There are long distances between branches. Some branches get weekly deliveries, others twice weekly.

13. Books are sent by mail -- delivered by float plane -- to customers in remote locations. These are sent weekly. Loans are six weeks with no fines.

14. Next year children's materials will all be fine-free. !!!!

15. On December 12, there is an all-librarians meeting in Nanaimo -- CSLs, CSLIIs, and managers. It's perfect timing for me, as I'll still be in training.

16. Today I felt and appreciated how much I've learned in the last five and a half years as a working librarian. I was very comfortable with the information and asked a lot of good questions. I didn't feel like I was faking it. That is huge.

17. Yesterday I had a horrific getting-lost experience, and so was a bit anxious about driving to the branch and back to the hotel. Both drives went smoothly, and I even did the last bit by feel.

18. Their intranet is friggin amazing. This is a huge help for staff, and very different from what I'm accustomed to.

19. The provincial government here is often referred to as a "fragile coalition" of NDP and Green. One NDP MLA stepped down to become mayor of Nanaimo. This means a byelection could shift the balance of power. Scary!

20. There is a room in the admin offices called "hotel". Guests can park their stuff, login to a computer, and take breaks there.

21. For one of today's meetings, I was sitting next to someone who was walking me through some processes on her computer. The desk and monitor were too high for me, so my neck was straining the whole time. Her screen backgrounds were the default white, and the room had harsh flourescent lighting -- all of which give me headaches. I was becoming very uncomfortable. This made me think about accessibility for interviews and training. I repeatedly tried to adjust myself, but was unwilling to straight-up say I need help.

22. I will be coming in to my branches as the new senior supervisor -- the new boss. Typically in those situations, some people will like this and feel relieved and happy, and others will be threatened and see me as encroaching on their turf. I will enjoy the challenge.

11.17.2018

in which i say goodbye to cupe 1989 and mississauga library

Many friends and co-workers have said they'll check this blog for updates on our drive west, our new town, my new work. Welcome and a disclaimer: when I travel, wmtc becomes a travel journal, full of details that I want to remember but are probably super boring to anyone else. You've been warned.

For the past few weeks, every night that I wasn't working, I've been out with friends. Not exactly my usual schedule! But hey, I'll have more than enough time to do nothing on the road trip. It was wonderful to see people.

I've also found that, no longer being local president, I have so much more energy for socializing. I'm realizing -- not for the first time, of course -- that the union leadership position is a lot more than the hours you put in (although there's plenty of that). It's the responsibility, the mental weight, that takes the toll. It was an amazing experience, absolutely one of the most meaningful experiences of my life -- but I'm glad it's over.

Two nights ago, we gathered at Failte, the pub near my (former) library, to celebrate and say farewell. Spectacular bad timing: it was also the first snow in our area, early for the GTA, and it hit just in time for the evening commute. A lot of people bailed on the party, and I was so disappointed that I nearly called it off, texting various people to see if they were still planning to attend. (Two years of apartment life without wmtc parties: I was out of practice! There are always a ton of last minute cancellations and "we'll try"s that turn into "no"s.)

Most of my union team was able to be there, and good friends and comrades from Toronto, and dearest friends drove down from London. Some 1989 members stopped by; I also invited a handful of managers who I respect and have enjoyed working with. The (new) (post-strike) Library Director and two senior managers came and stayed for quite a bit.

We were out late, plus the usual post-party hang out, so I was thoroughly exhausted and hung over for my last day of work. More goodbyes, a wonderful, frank, wide-ranging talk with my manager, and one last stint on-desk. Then I packed up my office, turned in my staff badge, and slipped out to the parking garage.

My most recent position in Mississauga Library has been great. I was a senior supervisor, part librarian and part administrator, responsible for keeping the department running smoothly. I loved it. I fully expected to stay in the position for at least another year, and experience it without the added time and responsibility of union leadership. Fortunately I'm moving into substantially the same position in VIRL.

For the last few weeks I've been receiving emails from members thanking me for my work with the union. The words I keep seeing are strength, dedication, and passion. That's been beautiful and incredibly gratifying. But I've also gotten thank yous from junior staff about a positive work environment -- and that is equally gratifying.

When I started my new position, the department was mired in negativity. Gossip, infighting, and backstabbing were the norm. Staff was treated completely inequitably, with a well-stroked in-group played against a dumping ground of overworked outsiders. People were burnt out and disgusted, and the ways they dealt with those feelings only created more negativity. Attitudes sucked, with good reason.

I knew that every one of my co-workers cared about the library and wanted us to succeed. I knew that potential was there, but it was buried under a huge pile of crap. My manager and I set out to turn it around. I worked hard to create a work environment where people felt supported and valued. Hearing my co-workers' reflections this week showed me I succeeded.

There was one person in particular who I was hoping to hear from. They had had a particularly rough time -- mountains of work dumped on them with no consultation -- hell, barely an acknowledgement -- and no time or space to develop the parts of their job they liked best. As a result, this person had withdrawn from the team.

I made it my mission to turn that around, gradually re-distributing workload, giving them more agency, and acknowledging their contributions -- which are considerable, both in quantity and quality. My manager and I both had a sense that this person was much happier at work now. But I did wonder. Was I interpreting this change accurately? When a person is private and doesn't disclose much, you never really know.

Before leaving for the day, this person stopped by my office. "You made a real difference here," they said. "You and [manager] made this a great place to work again."

Honestly, that meant as much to me as every union member who thanked me for my representation.

10.08.2018

wmtc moves west

We are moving to Vancouver Island! As soon as I find a good library job there -- which may be very soon -- we are giving notice, packing up, and driving across this beautiful country in a little car with a big dog in the back seat.

Why are we moving there? Short answer: because we want to.

The full answer is multifaceted.

I've always wanted to experience life in a small town. The question always was: what would we do for work? Our previous employment was conditional on living in or near a large city. One of the many reasons I chose a library degree for my new career was its portability. Every little town has a library. Maybe I could work in one.

Now I'm settled in Mississauga, which is neither big city nor small town, but a massive sprawling suburb. There are many nice things about living here, but this neither-nor is just not me. Mississauga is also physically ugly. A few years ago we visited our family on the US west coast, in an incredibly beautiful area. When we got home, I saw Mississauga with fresh eyes -- and it was depressing. The strip malls, the concrete high-rises, the massive blocks of townhouses squeezed into every available piece of land. Every few kilometres, everything repeats itself -- the same stores, the same restaurants, the same the same the same. I just found it ugly and depressing.

I have a great job here, and I'm very aware that if I do nothing, I will play out the rest of my library career in Mississauga. And I don't want that. This just doesn't feel like my final destination. I want something else. Something more beautiful, quieter, less commercial.

When we moved to Canada from New York City, most of my family lived in the NY-NJ area. Now most of them, including my 87-year-old mother, live on the west coast of the US. Vancouver Island is a lot closer!

When it comes to family, it's not a perfect move. We do still have family in New York, New Jersey, and Vermont. But there is a way to find that small town, and that natural beauty, and still live near family.

My strongest ties in Mississauga are to my union team, an incredible group of women who I love working with, and who I'm proud to call friends. But that is a moment in time. I had already decided not to stand for re-election for local president. I'm ready to have more time in my life. So the thing that I'll miss most would be ending anyway.

In April, we spent 10 days on the island
, visiting towns and libraries to get a feel for the possibilities. The more I saw, the more I liked. Since then, I've been looking at job postings... and this week I announced to my employer, management, and to our members that I'm stepping down. (Expect more frequent posts!)

There is a downside, and it's a tough one: rental laws in BC are not pet-friendly. Unlike in Ontario, landlords in BC are allowed to exclude pets. And they do. A good 90% of the rental ads I see say "no pets". This is very discoouraging, and a bit scary.

Other than that, all systems are go. I've already had one job interview and have another lined up. I don't want to say too much about that until we know more.

7.15.2018

things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #29

It's TIHATL, Summer Reading Club edition!

Summer Reading Club is in full swing in Canadian libraries. In more than 2,100 libraries around Canada, kids are earning prizes and recognition for reading. Thanks to Toronto Public Library and a certain sponsoring bank, we all have lots of free stuff to give away.

The most popular kids' series ever,
still going strong after almost 15 years.
Our motives are simple: kids who read during the summer do better in school in September. SRC also helps remind parents of pre-readers to read with their little ones daily.

Our children's library is very busy. The first day of SRC, we signed up 180 kids! After two weeks, we're well over 600 participants. When kids register, or when they come in to "report" and collect prizes, it's a great time for some one-on-one conversations with our young customers. Some won't say one word without their parents' prompting, but others are so forthright and articulate! It's really a pleasure chatting with them. What have I heard?

"My favourite books are the ones where things happen, and you know, you don't know what's going to happen, and you think things won't happen, and then they do happen!"

"I love reading about space, and planets, and the universe. I'm going to be an astronaut and go to Mars -- when I'm six!" This boy was amazing. At not yet six years old, he knew so much about astronomy! And he wasn't just regurgitating facts without engaging, as you sometimes see with kids who are on the autism spectrum. This boy was relaxed and social, and had clearly synthesized what he had read. We had a great conversation about his impending Mars visit. His mom and I looked at each other in amazement.

Two sisters wanted to read about... it sounded like churchills.

"Miss, can we bring our churchills to the library?"

"Your ... what?"

"Our churchills!"

"I'm not getting it. Can you say that again?"

"Our CHURCHILLS! Can we bring our CHURCHILLS to the library?!!"

Finally I am forced to admit, "I don't know what that is."

"They are little animals, they have a shell, and their little arms and legs and head sticks out of the shell, and when they're afraid, they can go inside it. We have two baby churchills and we want to bring them to the library!"

I try not to laugh. They are hearing the word from their parents, who are new English speakers.

"Do you mean turtles?"

"Yes, yes, tur-tills!" Without missing a beat, they now begin to pronounce the world tur-till with great enunciation.

"I don't think your turtles would be very happy at the library."

"We would help them! We would show them all the books!"

"But you know what, all the kids would want to see the turtles and pet them, there would be a huge crowd, and I think the turtles might be afraid."

They nod with great seriousness.

I ask, "Would you like to read some books about turtles?"

"Yes yes yes yes yes!!!"

"Do you want to read stories with characters who are turtles, like Franklin, or information about turtles?"

"Information! Information about tur-tills! Tur-till information!"

The book on having a turtle as a pet is nowhere to be found, but we find lots of books about turtles in the wild. I try to shield them from books about endangered sea turtles, but they are too fast for me. Fortunately, they are only looking at the pictures, so they're not bothered by the sad stuff.

"Tur-tills! Tur-tills! Mommy Mommy we have books about tur-tills!!"

Currently the hottest ticket, by the
creator of Captain Underpants
* * * * *

[What should we set for your first reading goal? How many books will you read before you come in for your first prize?]

"100! No, 500! No, one thousand! No, three. Three books."

[What kind of books do you like to read?]

The most common answers are Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries (Wimpy Kid for girls), Harry Potter (still and apparently forever), Percy Jackson (hero of the Rick Riordan series), Narnia, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For the younger readers, the most popular answers include Disney Princesses, Ninjago, Pokemon, LEGO, Barbie, various superheroes, and Transformers. (Notice anything?)

For graphic fiction (which kids call comic books), girls are still looking for anything by Raina Telgemeier, especially her new adaptation of The Baby-Sitters Club. Everyone is still reading Amulet. This year's kids have not heard of Bone, but I can talk them into trying it. This is especially great because, being slightly out of fashion, Bone is easy to find.

The graphic hybrids are hugely popular: Geronimo Stilton and related spinoffs, Big Nate, Captain Underpants, Dog Man (this year's runaway hit), and the seemingly eternal Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I often steer girls to Marissa Moss' Amelia's Notebook series, which predates Dork Diaries and is way better.

If you phrase the question, "Do you like funny books, scary books, adventures, mysteries...?" the number one answer, by a huge margin, is funny. Scholastic has the results of a survey about what kids and parents look for in books.

The best answer I heard in a long time was: "I like books with words and pictures! I'm very particular about what I read."

4.01.2018

things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #28

With apologies to my man C. Dickens, it was the worst of customers, it was the best of customers.

Our Children's Department is short-staffed right now, and although that is stressful in many ways, there is a silver lining for me: I am needed more on the information desk, and that's my favourite place to be in the library. One day this week, I experienced a real study in contrasts.

From the desk, I looked over at the "activity centre" -- an educational-play area for parents and children -- and saw something sail through the air! It was a plastic play-thing of some sort and its arc was unmistakably thrown. As I started walking over, a parent intercepted me. He was holding the base of a small puzzle -- a square piece of wood -- and said, "This child is throwing things. He hit my child with this. I spoke to the father, and he said, 'They are children. That's what children do!'". I thanked him for letting me know and said I would take care of it.

I could easily spot the problem -- one stressed father and two children going wild. The boys -- ages roughly 5 and 3 -- took off out of the play area, running in different directions, both shrieking loudly, knocking things over, randomly grabbing books or whatever they could get their hands on and throwing them. The father took off after them, yelling. (He wasn't speaking English but I assume it was some version of "Get back here!".)

The older boy started running up the stairs -- i.e. out of the department to the rest of the library. At that point it got scary. The kids seemed completely out of control. The father was in pursuit of the younger boy, yelling at the older one.

I stood to the side and assessed the situation, trying to decide when it was time to call security, or alert staff upstairs that the child was on his way. After a lot of running and a lot of yelling, the man secured the younger child, and holding him sideways under his arm, like a football, and was able to run down the older child and get him them both into a large stroller.

I expected them to leave the library, so I was surprised when the father -- with both boys locked down -- headed in my direction. He was furious, sputtering. "This is a place for children! Children need to play! They need to run! What kind of a place is this where you do not let children be children!"

I tried to say that children can be children in the library, but it is not a place for running or for rough play. They cannot throw things, and they cannot strike other children.

"You exaggerate! I saw you talking to the man there! He is exaggerating!"

I tried a few times to interject, but he was too upset to listen. He ranted for a while about what a horrible library we have, and then left.

I think these were the wildest children I've ever seen in our library. I felt sorry for them and for their dad.

* * * *

About an hour later, another father and son approached the desk. The boy was holding a library card in his outstretched arm, our universal symbol for either a puzzle or a train to take in the activity area. I like to try to get the shy kids to talk to me, or at least smile, so I said, "You are giving me this card? What it is for?"

The boy seemed to say tr. So I said, "Trrr...?" thinking he was trying to say train.

The father said, "He is saying ahtr. It means train in Arabic." I completed the card-for-train transaction* with the boy, and said, "Ah yes, that is one of the Arabic words I know," and managed to say what I remembered for train station. "I was in Egypt last year, and before I went, I tried to learn a little Arabic."

The man's eyes lit up. "We are from Egypt! Where did you go? What did you see?" He wanted to know everywhere we went, and what we thought, and what we experienced. He loved that I learned some Arabic -- although he was a bit disappointed that I wasn't actually learning to read Arabic script.

We talked about the pyramids, and the tombs, and in general raved about the ancient civilization. He told me we must go to Sharm El Sheikh, and how uniquely beautiful the Red Sea is, and how wonderful his hometown of Alexandria is.

In response to my questions, he said his family has been in Mississauga since last July. They were previously in the US -- in New York City, doing a residency at Mt. Sinai Hospital -- but are doing much better here. "Here, there is everyone," he said. "Everyone is accepting. No one looks at you funny if a woman is wearing a hijab. People are accepting, are open, people want to live peacefully with their neighbours from all over the world."

My mind immediately flashed to some of the horror stories I've heard, the Islamophobic attacks that have made the news. I said, "I'm glad you're finding that. We love our diverse Mississauga."

He said, "I have seen a woman wearing a hijab, at a front desk, at a reception. My heart was so joyous. Not because I want women to wear hijabs, but because it means, it is OK here, you do not need to hide, no one will hurt you. It means, you can be yourself."

I said something about all of us being from somewhere else, if not us, our parents or grandparents. He immediately said, "Unless you are an indigenous person, we are all immigrants." I thought, did he get that from nine months in Canada? Impressive! (His English, by the way, was perfect.)

Another thing he loves about Mississauga is the large Arabic-speaking community. That has made it very easy for their family to settle in. The only thing they don't like is the "Middle Eastern food", which he said with quotes. He said they have tried all kinds of food -- Thai, Indian, Italian, Polish -- but the food that is supposed to be their own is always disappointing. "The tiniest little shop in Cairo has food so many times better!"

And this brings me to the punchline.

I told him we loved the food in Egypt, especially the dishes that are supposed to be fast-food. I couldn't remember the names of the two foods, but a quick google was all it took: koshary and hawashi. The conversation goes on and on, and then I need to help another customer.

A short time later, a woman comes to the desk, and says, "Hello, my name is Noor. You were speaking with my husband Tarek." We shake hands and greet each other warmly. "My husband said that you and your husband were in Egypt, and that you enjoyed the koshary. I will make some for you."

She will make some for me.

This woman, a stranger, my neighbour. She wants to cook something for me.

Naturally, I said, "Oh no, no, no, that is so kind of you, but no, I could not accept it. You are very nice to offer."

Again: she offered. She assured me. She wanted to. I must let her.

I thanked her profusely and steadfastly refused.

This went on for a bit.

Finally, she said, "I must insist. I will make it and I will be sad if you do not accept it. Right now, give me your number so I can call you when I have it. I will bring it in a container to you." She got out her phone to enter my number.

I gave in, and gave her my name and my cell number.

I'll let you know what happens.




* We used to keep trains out on the train table. They were a constant source of intense conflict, and they constantly disappeared. The card-for-train method works beautifully.

We do the same with puzzles and "book and play kits". This is common practice in all our libraries -- although the train table is unique in the system, because we have so much more space.

3.25.2018

from the 2018 cupe ontario library workers conference: libraries and the opioid crisis

I recently attended the CUPE Ontario Library Workers Conference, which has become a highlight of my year since I first attended (and was elected to the organizing committee) in 2015. It has eclipsed and replaced the OLA Superconference as the most relevant and enjoyable must-attend conference in my schedule.

When I first got my librarian degree, I was very excited about attending my first "OLA" (as it's always called). But I quickly learned that the sessions are a crap-shoot, sometimes relevant but often obvious and dull. There's also a great deal of boosterism by OLA and the member libraries. For the difference between the two conferences, for OLA, think employers and libraries, for CUPE Ontario, think labour and library workers.

In recent years, our Library Workers Conference has focused on precarious work and health and safety issues, two themes that are inextricably linked. This year's conference was called "Sex, Drugs & Bed Bugs," a light take on very serious health and safety issues. My full report is here on the CUPE 1989 website. (No bed bugs are pictured there.)

* * * * *

The most moving part of the conference -- by far -- was a talk by outreach worker Zoe Dodd. Zoe has worked with marginalized people with HIV and Hepatitis C, and now her work has shifted to the opioid overdose crisis. She and her co-workers -- who are mostly volunteers -- had been telling the government that this crisis was looming for the past decade, but their alarm fell on ears that refused to hear.

Now the deaths from fentanyl overdoses eclipse those from HIV at the height of the AIDS crisis. Last year there was a 52% increase of fentanyl deaths over the previous year. Yet Ontario has refused to call this a public health crisis. British Columbia is the only Canadian province to declare opioid overdoses a public health emergency -- and this has saved thousands of lives.

Zoe Dodd (middle) and co-workers in Moss Park, Toronto
Death by overdose, Zoe told us, is preventable. The majority of those affected are already marginalized people living in poverty. (Indigenous people are 400 times more likely to die of an overdose than the general population.) Thousands who survive end up in comas, on life support.

There were coordinated emergency health efforts for both H1N1 and SARS outbreaks; lives were saved by those decisions. But when it comes to drug use, governments spend almost exclusively on enforcement, rather than harm reduction. That is, they treat drug addiction as a criminal issue rather than a health issue. This is a moralistic decision -- and a lethal one.

Frustrated and angry over both Ontario's and the City of Toronto's inaction, Zoe and her comrades acted on their own. They brought 10,000 vials of naloxone -- the drug that reverses fentanyl overdoses -- into Canada before it was legal. They raised $95,000 online. They pitched a tent and opened a site, staffed entirely by volunteers. At the conference, we were so proud to learn that CUPE Ontario bought the group a trailer, so they could safely serve more people! They did this while it was still illegal, a fact that makes me feel really good about my union.

This intrepid band of volunteers forced Ontario and Canada to change their policies. Now harm reduction sites are opening across the province -- including in Mississauga.

What does this have to do with library workers? Only everything. Libraries, as public spaces, are often places of drug use and of overdose. Library workers across North America are being trained in the use of naloxone, and they are saving lives.


Zoe addressed some myths about naloxone use, demystifying the process for all in the room. Many people -- including 1989 officers -- thought there was a danger of a person coming out of an overdose becoming aggressive and violent. Turns out this is simply untrue. Typically a person coming out of a drug overdose is groggy and confused. Their brain has shut down from lack of oxygen, and naloxone is beginning to restore the flow of oxygen to their brain. Far from being violent, they are only gradually waking up.

Many people believe that administering naloxone is dangerous, as we can be exposed to fentanyl or naloxone. This is also untrue. Fentanyl must be ingested to be harmful. Naloxone, Zoe said, is virtually "idiot proof". If a person is not overdosing, the drug has no effect. But if they are overdosing, it will save their life. (Note that more than one dose of naloxone may be needed.)

The most moving and disturbing part of Zoe's talk was hearing how she and her co-workers have suffered. Outreach workers and the people they serve are often one community. The pain they witness and endure is staggering. In one year, Zoe lost 30 clients and six friends. Outreach workers have committed suicide, overwhelmed by grief. There is a secondary crisis of trauma among the workers who have witnessed so much death. Now these workers are using their grief and anger to drive change. It was incredibly moving and inspiring.

The CUPE 1989 executive wants to get involved. For starters, we've decided on a three-part course of action. One, we'll get trained in the use of naloxone. Two, we will share this education with our members and our employer. And three, we will advocate for a greater role of social services in our libraries. We hope to host Zoe Dodd in our own libraries.

There have been some good stories about Zoe and her co-workers.

Meet the harm reduction worker who called out Trudeau on the opioid crisis in Vice

Front-line workers struggle to cope with opioid crisis in an issue of Now magazine with a great cover, and

'Drowning in all this death': outreach workers want help to fight drug overdose 'emergency' on CBC.ca.

This is the video of Zoe Dodd addressing Justin Trudeau during one of his extended photo-ops.


* * * * *

This year's group exercise at the conference was listing the "Top 10 Crimes" we've witnessed or heard about in our libraries.

Toronto Public Library tops the list with a murder -- by cross-bow. Naturally, theft is big. Sex in the stacks and study rooms. Public masturbation, urination, defecation. Attempted kidnapping. Illegal drug use and drug dealing, of course. Harassment. Sexual assault.

The crimes that appeared on the most lists were crimes against children: abuse, neglect, abandonment.

* * * * *

And since this is, after all, my personal blog, I'll share that I have been elected chairperson of the CUPE Ontario Library Committee. It's not like I need anything else to do! But our long-time chair has stepped down (more on that later), and I felt like I had to step up.

3.03.2018

things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #27

This is a scene played out every day in public libraries all across North America.

I'm at the information desk, and I see a boy, by himself, a chubby little toddler, toddle fast in one direction, then back in the other direction. He can't be much over 12 months old. When I see him cross the floor for the third time, I get up and go to chat with him. "Who are you here with, sweetie? Is your mom here? Where's your mom?"

As I talk, his face starts to pucker, his eyes well up with tears.

"Come with me, let's look for Mommy. I know she's here, let's go find her."

He won't hold my hand, but he walks unsteadily beside me. We go around to different moms, dads, and kids. I'm hoping he'll soon recognize his family and run straight to them. By this time he is full-on crying.

A woman reading with school-age kids asks them to wait and joins me.  He wouldn't take my hand, but she lifts him confidently onto her hip. Maybe she looks more like his mom than I do -- younger, brown, hijab -- or maybe it's a motion he's familiar with. She says, "Come on kiddo, let's go find your mum."

We walk together into a busy activity area, and I announce, "Is everyone's child accounted for? Do you have all your children?" Twice. A woman waves and points to someone else -- a woman sitting by herself, texting. I am standing six inches away from her. I say loudly, "Excuse me." She looks up, uncomprehendingly, then sees her sobbing child, and jumps up, takes him from the other woman.

She says, "They were playing on the computer. His sister and brother were supposed to watch him."

I give her The Talk. You must stay close to your children. Your other children are too young to have that responsibility. You are responsible for all your children while you're here. He was very frightened. You must pay attention. I'm saying these things because I have to, but it feels useless. Maybe the sight of her son's face will make a difference.

We see it every day. We all have stories. The child who crawled out of the library into the mall. The child who was found on the public square outside City Hall. The children who are dropped off in the morning and instructed to say their mom is in the washroom. Not just moms, of course. Dads, too, and all manner of caregivers. Neglect, sometimes to the point of abandonment.

For me, it's the worst part of the job.

12.15.2017

in which i achieve a career milestone

I am a Senior Librarian!

It's a position I have aspired to for quite a while. Although I love my current job as a youth librarian, I've been ready to move on for a while. I had several near-misses, but couldn't get over the top. Just as my colleagues and I were all convinced I was being discriminated against because of union activism, I placed first in a big competition, and ended up with my choice of several locations.

I chose the Children's Department of Central Library -- where I started as a Library Page and where I had my first Librarian job. During the past year, when I sometimes covered the information desk in that department, I remembered how much I enjoyed being there. I loved introducing all our newcomer families to the many resources we offer, loved finding tweens their next great read, loved being around children who are excited about books -- and the challenge of enticing children who aren't. It has its moments of insanity and frustration, of course, but what work doesn't. The great majority of the time, it's such a happy, positive place, a place that gives me energy.

All this and I get to keep my seven-minute commute.

Senior Librarian means being in charge of the day-to-day operations of a branch or department, being everyone's supervisor except the manager. My work with our union has really prepared me for the challenge.

I'm also happy to create an opening for one of our many talented members, hopefully someone who has a librarian degree but is not yet working as a librarian, someone who wants to work with youth. I've made no secret of the fact that I'm trying to get out of the way!







11.15.2017

things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #26

In library school, you learn that the most important part of the reference transaction, or reference interview, is asking questions. Customers, it seems, rarely know how to describe what they are actually looking for. Most people ask for something entirely different than what they want. Tonight was a classic example.

Woman: Where would I find paperback nonfiction?

This is a bit of a strange question, because normally people don't specify hardcover or paperback when it comes to nonfiction.

Me: Nonfiction is in a few different places, depending on the subject. Do you have a title, or a call number? Or the topics you're looking for?

Woman: I want to read about kings and queens from a certain time period. You know, how they lived, what they did.

Me: That would be on the third floor--

Woman: But the stories aren't necessarily what really happened. It's real kings and queens but in made up stories.

Me: Ah, so you're looking for historical fiction.

Woman: Oh is that it?

Me: What have you read that you like? An author you like?

Woman: I can never remember...

Me: No problem. Give me a few seconds...

Usually in this genre, people read by author. I gathered the top names, and we went to the shelves.

Working backwards in alphabetical order, we stopped first at Alison Weir. We pulled a few books and looked them over, but she seemed hesitant.

Me: If this doesn't work for you, it's not a problem. Have you read much Philipa Gregory?

Woman: Who?

Now this is a clue. Philipa Gregory is the top name in historical fiction featuring royalty. If the customer doesn't know her, something is off.

We walk over to dear Philipa, but I'm losing the customer. She's starting to mutter to herself. Never a good sign!

Me: Here's a paperback of a popular Philipa Gregory book.

Woman: The books are usually much smaller than this. And in the title there's, you know, duke or rogue, or maybe a rake... (A bell goes off in my head.) ...and there'll be a man on the cover, you know... (She gestures as if she's ripping a shirt open.)

Me: I know exactly what you're looking for.

We laugh and easily find some books. She walks out with any of the gazillion titles of historical romance novels, covers graced with dukes, rogues, rakes, scoundrels, pirates, and "highlanders," their bare chests gleaming, their lusty conquests dressed in long gowns, off the shoulder, with plenty of cleavage.

To think I almost sent her to the third floor for history!

All the men are barechested, all the
women in gowns.

Sometimes the encounter has advanced
a bit further.

These books come in many flavours,
but the readership is almost entirely female.

9.28.2017

things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #25

A customer approaches the information desk, hopping mad. "You must kick this man out of the library! You must make him leave!"

I immediately get up and come around the desk, immediately on high alert, thinking, call security, call 911. "What's going on?"

She leads me to the offending man: "He is sleeping! In the library!"

I relax. Me: "That's all right. That's not against our code of conduct."

We reach the man. He is asleep. That is all.

Mean customer: "You allow this? You allow a homeless person to sleep in the library? That's disgusting!"

Me: "As long as he's not bothering anyone or breaking any rules..."

MC: "Libraries are for studying! Or relaxing with a book! Not for sleeping!"

Me: "Libraries are for many things. Different people use the library for different reasons."

MC: "No! No! That's disgusting! In Canada! A man sleeping in the library! I never thought I would see such a thing!" 

She holds up her tablet, pushes it at me. I take a step back. 

MC: "Show me! Show me where it says it is allowed to sleep in a library!"

Me: "We don't have a list of things you are allowed to do in the library. We have a list of things you're not allowed to do. And sleeping isn't on the list. As long as he's not bothering anyone--"

MC: "He's bothering me! It's disgusting!"

Me: "This is a big library. Perhaps you can find somewhere to sit where you won't see him. Would you like me to help you find a good spot?"

She continues to rant: place for relaxing, disgusting, in Canada, and finally asks for the name of the manager. 

I get business cards and write down names and extensions. 

MC: "So if I come to the library and I fall asleep, this is perfectly all right with you?"

Me: "Yes, of course."

MC: "So this is a shelter? People sleep here all night?" 

Me: "No. We close at 9:00 pm and we ask everyone to leave at that time." That's it for me. This has gone on long enough. "Is there anything else I can help you with?" 

She stomps off.

What a compassionate soul.

I email the various managers, knowing they will all have the same reaction that I did. I thought, I made a good career choice. The day a person who may have nowhere else to go can't sleep in the public library would be the beginning of the end of librarianship for me.

7.25.2017

things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #24

I have a TIHATL double-header today, plus a bonus round.

A customer asked for something by Omar Tyree. We had only one copy of one title, and that was in a different branch. I asked if I could get her something with a similar vibe, and she was up for it. Turns out she has read all of Tyree's work -- she loves it and wanted to re-read. So yes, more authors like that would be good.

I had never heard of Tyree, but Google told me he is considered an urban griot. (I see by the author's website that he is much more than that, but I was specifically looking at his fiction.) "Urban griot" made me think of Junot Diaz, and with a bit more searching I also found Akhil Sharma. She took one book by each author -- so I've already struck gold -- and then I thought of Walter Mosley.

I asked, "Do you like mysteries?" She said, sure, why not, I'm always looking for good things to read. "Have you read Walter Mosely?" Nope, she doesn't know him.

As we're walking over to the mystery section, I'm talking up Mosley, and at the same time I'm thinking, I hope she doesn't think I'm giving her these books because she's black. So now I'm having two conversations. Speaking to the customer, I'm all chipper and bright -- "...great characters, a real "street" vibe..." -- and speaking to myself I'm second-guessing. Oh shit, I hope this isn't offensive... Should I say, I'm not recommending this because you're black? No, that would be even worse...

The customer was very friendly and appreciative. She left with three books by three authors that were new to her, so that is a very successful readers' advisory interaction. Plus, I told my inner voice, Diaz and Sharma are not African American. Inner voice pointed out that all three authors are people of colour...

(I wasn't seriously worried. Just some thoughts.)

(I haven't read Junot Diaz since his debut "Drown," a very long time ago. I put The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao on my list.)

* * * * *

A customer took a chair that staff use and brought it over to a table, where she was helping supervising her husband on the computer. The chair she took is not quite behind the information desk, but nearby. Pages use it while they sort books on carts.

My colleague told the customer that the chair was for staff, and pointed out which chairs she could use -- and there were many of them.

Ridiculous customer: No one's using it now!

Library worker: Not right at this moment, but the staff who needs that chair will be back in a few minutes. You can use any of those chairs over by the window. Would you like me to help you get one?

RC, pointing to the staff chairs behind the information desk: I want one of those chairs!

LW: I'm sorry, those are not for customer use. They are for staff use. You can use any of the chairs over th--

RC: I have a back problem! I cannot carry chairs! You are being so rude and unhelpful!

LW: I'm sorry you feel that way. Would you like me to--

RC: I want to speak to the supervisor!

LW: That would be me. I think you'll find that anyone you speak to will tell you the same thing. I can give you the manager's name and--

RC:  Give me that! I want to speak to the manager!

LW: Here is her card. She will be in--

RC: Where is she! I want to speak to the manager!

LW: The manager is not here in the evening. She will be in tomorr--

RC: Where is she! I want to speak to the manager!

LW gives RC our manager's card, RC stomps off to where she's sitting -- about 2 metres away -- and calls. The call, of course, goes straight to LW at the info desk. LW acts like she doesn't know who the caller is, and puts RC through to the manager's voicemail.

RC leaves an angry message about how library staff prevented her from using her preferred chair and will be responsible if she experiences back pain. Later that evening, we see her leaning all the way over with her elbows on the table. Not a position usually associated with back pain. Dozens of empty chairs are nearby.

* * * * *

The best thing about summer at the library: teens looking for summer reading! There are more adults looking for reading material for the summer, too, but the teens are on a mission. The youth area is full of teens combing the shelves on their own, but my favourites are the ones who approach the desk: "Do you know any good books I can read?" The hot titles and top authors are all out, so it requires skilled and enthusiastic library staff to put books in their eager hands. And this, my friends, is the absolute best part of my job.

4.18.2017

things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #23

Girl: Do you have this book, something like, "keeping a secret about you"?

Me: Let's take a look in the catalogue. [Stalling for time while scrolling through titles in my mind.] Hmm, do you mean Keeping You a Secret?

Girl: Yes! I took a bus all the way from the South Common branch to here to get this book so I hope you have it.

I recognize it as a good title by Julie Peters, excellent writer of LGBT-themed girl books.

Me: Let's go over to the youth section to look for it.

Girl: Do you know any other good books? Anything LGBT! I want to read lots of LGBT stuff.

Me: You've come to the right place, we have a lot of it. I'm making a list now for our upcoming Pride display. [Technically speaking this is not true -- but I will be updating our list in about a month or so.]

Girl, pumping fist: Yes!

We get to the shelf... and it's there! Yay! We're both happy.

Girl: Is there any place I can charge my phone?

I point out some places she can hang out, she thanks me and leaves -- and I'm immediately sorry I didn't find another title for her.

I remember another good LGBT book, but my mind goes blank when I try to remember the title or the author's name. But I know around where it is on the shelf, so I walk quickly through the youth collection and spot it: The Vast Fields of Ordinary.

I grab it off the shelf and quickly walk around looking for the girl, hoping she is charging her phone. I spot her from across the floor and double-time it over to her.

Me: So glad you're still here! I have another book for you.

She takes it from me.

Girl: Great, I'll take this one, too. Thanks!

I'm totally casual on the outside, but inside I am almost crying from joy. This happens now. Easily, daily, in a perfectly no-big-deal way. Perhaps it should be unremarkable to me -- after all, I do live in Canada in the 21st Century. But this is a sea change I have seen in my lifetime and it fills me with such pride and joy.

I know it isn't like this everywhere, but because it is like this somewhere, it means it can be like this, one day, everywhere.

4.08.2017

disrupt and transform: 2017 cupe ontario library workers conference

The 2017 CUPE Ontario Library Workers Conference was a very special event for the Mississauga Library Workers Union. Over the course of two days, our 2016 strike and the great gains we made for our members were celebrated from the podium again and again. In the same way, the tremendous perseverance and solidarity shown by the Essex County Library Workers -- on strike for a stunning eight months -- were noted, applauded, cheered, and celebrated, again and again. For the 1989 executive board, it was a joyous event.

The theme of this year's conference was Disrupt and Transform -- which is exactly what our strikes did. They transformed our union, our relationship with our employer, and ourselves.



Library Warriors!

We were welcomed by CUPE Ontario Library Chair Maureen O'Reilly, who is president of Local 4948, Toronto Public Library Workers, and by Chad Goebel, Vice President of Windsor District CUPE Council. Amanda Meloche, President of the Windsor Public Library Workers Union, noted: “It's not just Essex and Mississauga that have Library Warriors. We're all Library Warriors!” Very true!

Keynote speaker Desmond Cole began by talking about his love for libraries, and how, when he was growing up, the local library was his second home. He remembers carrying a book bag, and his mother's rule that he could borrow as many books as fit in the bag; every week the bag would be overflowing. For many conference participants, this was the first time they had heard Desmond speak, and most were entranced. He's a truly engaging speaker with a powerful message.

Desmond has been instrumental in shining a light on racism in Canada, especially racist policing practices. He said he was touched and very proud that his article in Toronto Life magazine -- The Skin I'm In -- was featured in our conference book.

Desmond talked about how collective action can have a direct impact -- how it changes our lives and our society. Recently Desmond called a ministry office to urge them to stop a deportation. A family was being broken up, and a woman, eight months pregnant, was being forced to risk her health by flying. The ministry representative said to Desmond, "What makes you think you speak for Canadians?" Within minutes, Desmond was on Twitter, reaching out to the community, asking supporters -- for whom he does speak -- to call the ministry. Result: the woman was not deported. The family remained intact. When we are organized and mobilized, we can disrupt the status quo, and transform the world.

Lori Wightman, head of the Essex County Library Workers, and I, as president of CUPE 1989, each made presentations about our locals' strikes.
Members of Locals 1989 and 2974 were
honoured onstage.

Lori talked about the huge community support their union built, how they faced down the Essex Council, and how the devious, union-busting tactics of the Council will be remembered at election time. It was no surprise, later in the conference, when Lori was elected to the CUPE Ontario Library Workers Committee. I look forward to working with her!

I talked about how we built member engagement, strengthened our labour-management meetings, and took a new approach at the bargaining table. These factors, working together synergistically, paved the way for our successful strike.

I also listed the great gains we made. There are the tangible gains, like bringing our pages from slightly more than minimum wage to $15/hour in one leap and preventing our part-timers from being forced to work every Saturday. And there are many intangible gains, such as the strength and solidarity we built, and the confidence and courage our members gained when they found their voices, stood up, and fought back.

We also screened our awesome strike video! If you've never seen it -- or if you haven't seen it in a while -- why not watch it now?


Chris Taylor, President of Unifor Local 200, talked about the historic Windsor Ford Strike of 1945, which led directly to the Rand Formula. Chris emphasized -- he warned us -- about the so-called "Right to Work" legislation that has spread through the United States, leaving depressed wages and increased poverty in its wake.

If Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservative Party had won the last provincial election, our ability to run our unions could have been destroyed. Hudak was defeated through the mobilization of the Canadian labour movement. Chris' talk was an excellent reminder that we must always be vigilant. Our rights don't protect themselves.

A little library humour -- and a great honour.
Local reports are always a highlight of the conference. Hearing about the struggles and successes of other library unions renews our commitment and bolsters our strength. We are all dealing with the same issues, but our contracts vary widely. By sharing information, we all grow stronger at the bargaining table.

It was my great honour to introduce Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. I recalled Fred's tireless support during our strike, and how he helped bring the City of Mississauga back to the bargaining table, while still respecting our local's autonomy and supporting our demands. Fred, I said, is the embodiment of why we call each other brother and sister.


Fred's talk was typically moving. He talked about libraries as collectives -- people working together to bring our shared, public resources to people who need them. He reminded us of the silver linings of a strike -- the bonds it creates, and yes, the fun we had! And he noted that the record number of strikes throughout Ontario in the past year made him proud. That's how you know Fred is a true unionist.

Fred reminded us that there’s nothing wrong with being aggressive when defending the rights of our members: when you're on the right side of the question, you are right to keep fighting!

Both Fred and Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario, emphasized the need for solidarity with other striking locals. Right now, workers from a Children's Aid Society are locked out by their employer, and the members of the Canadian Hearing Society workers' union are fighting harsh concessions, after being without a contract for four long years. I join Fred and Candace in urging you to support these locals however you can: there's information here.

At one point during the Conference, members from the Mississauga and Essex County libraries were called on stage to be honoured. In a bit of library humour, Lori Wightman and I were given some gifts, including a Wonder Woman action figure and a play crown. It was very funny -- and very touching.

The CUPE 1989 Executive Board thanks our members for giving us the opportunity to attend this excellent conference. We know our union will benefit from it in many ways.

3.24.2017

ontario librarians: should the ola support staffless libraries?

This week, the Toronto Public Library announced plans to open libraries with no staff. Not just no librarians -- we've seen that in many places -- but no staff whatsoever.

This was bad enough, but we were further horrified to see that the Ontario Library Association, a membership-based organization that is supposed to further the interests of libraries and librarians, seems to support this idea. OLA Executive Director had the chutzpah to re-frame this as "innovative".

If you are a librarian in Ontario, I hope you will provide feedback to the OLA through this petition: The OLA Should Oppose Staffless Libraries. Please consider sharing with your own library network.

* * * *


* * * *

March 23, 2017

Shelagh Paterson
Executive Director
Ontario Library Association
Toronto, Ontario

Dear Ms. Paterson:

We, the undersigned, are public librarians in the province of Ontario and members of the Ontario Library Association (OLA). We are concerned and disturbed by the OLA’s apparent support for current trends in library staffing that are grossly detrimental to our profession and to the public we serve.

The Toronto Public Library has announced plans to open staffless libraries. This is antithetical to the core values of our profession and to our shared vision of what libraries are and should be.

In a Toronto Star article about this development, you are quoted as saying, “we’re very lucky here in Ontario that we have a library culture that is willing to try new things . . . and I would say that sometimes what drives that is budget cuts.”

We are deeply disturbed that, rather than advocating for adequate library funding, the OLA would re-define budget cuts as a driver of innovation.

The Star article also quotes you as saying, “I think you may not actually see the librarian in your visit to the library, but there is a librarian behind the scenes putting it all together and delivering a really excellent service.”

A staffless library can never be “a really excellent service.” Librarians and library staff “behind the scenes” of a building devoid of people are not enough. A truly excellent library service is one in which educated, trained professionals offer a wide range of services that support literacy, lifelong learning, and social engagement, and enable communities to thrive.

The OLA’s mission statement states that the organization enables members to “deliver exemplary library and information services throughout Ontario.” A library without librarians – indeed, a library without library staff of any kind – is not an exemplary library, and is indeed not a service of any kind.

Further, the OLA’s vision of an Ontario where everyone is “free to imagine, learn and discover, and recognize and celebrate library and information services as an essential resource for realizing individual aspirations and developing communities” is exactly the opposite of the current trend towards minimal – and now, nonexistent – staffing. A staffless library privileges members of our community who are affluent, information-rich, and technologically literate, and increases social inequality.

We believe the OLA should unequivocally oppose the staffless library.

We believe the OLA should actively advocate for well funded, fully staffed libraries, and should actively promote the value to the community of librarians and other educated, trained library staff.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned Ontario Librarians

Sign here: The OLA Should Oppose Staffless Libraries.

12.08.2016

librarians: celebrate human rights at your library #Write4Rights

December 10 is International Human Rights Day. The date commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the first global human rights document.

Every year on December 10, Amnesty International Canada holds Write For Rights. All over the country, Canadians use our own human rights to support people who don’t have them. We write letters in support of prisoners of conscience, and letters to prisoners to let them know they have not been forgotten. It’s a powerful experience, and very easy to do.

This year I will be writing letters, and I've invited our library system to join me. Library staff are always looking for display ideas. I compiled a list of materials, sent it out to all staff, and suggested a human rights themed display. Several people were interested, and I sent them each a poster template and Write For Rights bookmarks that I got from Amnesty.

If you create library displays, I invite you to try this! You can share photos of your displays on social media with the hashtag #Write4Rights. Here's my display, and my list.






Nonfiction
Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacob
A Woman Among Warlords, Malala Joya
Chasing the Flame, Samantha Power
Dead Man Walking, Helen Prejean
Infamy, Richard Reeves
Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
I Shall Not Hate, Izzeldin Abuelaish
A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah
Shake Hands with the Devil, Romeo Dallaire
Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown
An Inconvenient Indian, Thomas King
The Dark Side, Jane Mayer

Fiction
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
Three Day Road, Joseph Boyden
Farenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Little Bee, Chris Cleave
A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali, Gil Courtemanche
Room, Emma Donoghue
Half-Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Ford, Jamie Ford
Secret Daughter, Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson
The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill
The Illegal, Lawrence Hill
A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
The Known World, Edward Jones
The Cellist of Sarajevo, Annette Keen
The Afterlife of Stars, Joseph Kertes
The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd
Prairie Ostrich, Tamai Kobayashi
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Fall on Your Knees, Ann-Marie MacDonald
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
Fugitive Pieces, Anne Michaels
A Mercy, Toni Morrison
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Lives of Girls and Women, Alice Munroe
Anil's Ghost, Michael Ondaatje
The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Ru, Kim Thúy
The Help, Kathryn Stockett
Mosquito, Roma Terme
Dogs at the Perimeter, Madeleine Thien
Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese
Native Son, Richard Wright
The Book Thief, Marcus Zusack
The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card

Youth Fiction
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
The Giver, Lois Lowry

Documentary films
Devil's Knot
The Central Park Five
Waltz with Bashir

Movies
Amistad
The Book Thief
The Giver
Hotel Rwanda
Made In Dagenham
Pride
Selma
12 Years a Slave

Graphic Nonfiction
War Is Boring, David Axe
Martin Luther King, Michael Teitelbaum
Army of God, David Axe
Snowden, Ted Rall
Woman Rebel, Peter Bagge
The Imitation Game, Jim Ottaviani
Anne Frank, Sidney Jacobson
Maus, Art Spiegelman
Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me, Harvey Pekar
Louis Riel, Chester Brown

I'm sure everyone reading this can think of more titles. My list was limited to what can be found in our library system. I hope it inspires you to add some of your own. And to Write For Rights on December 10.