Archive for May, 2011

Rotary Club of Slave Lake Public Library on fire

On May 15th the town of Slave Lake, Alberta was hit by a devastating wildfire that forced the evacuation of the town’s 7,000 people.  Over 400 homes were completely destroyed.  Residents were not allowed to return until May 28th.

Amongst the casualties was the Rotary Club of Slave Lake Public Library, a building that had been open only a year and a half, and occupied a complex that also housed the Town of Slave Lake municipal offices and government of Alberta services.  The photo above, of the building on fire, was posted on the library’s website.   I’ve talked to Deborah Kendze, the library’s Regional Manager.  In addition to losing the library, she was one of the unlucky residents who also lost her home.

Everything in the 6300 square foot building was destroyed, leaving the residents without a local library until it’s rebuilt.  The library board hasn’t yet had a chance to meet to discuss the loss and develop a plan to rebuild.  Deborah hopes that can happen fairly soon.  While both the donation of books and funds are offered as options on the library’s website, there is an emerging sense that financial donations are preferable over books and materials.

Efforts have begun across Canada and elsewhere to contribute to the library’s rebuilding.  For information about how to contribute funds, visit the website: http://www.slavelakelibrary.ab.ca/

Read Full Post »

Recent media reports from Ontario and California reflect a trend that, while not new, seems to be picking up steam; namely the elimination of school librarians.  In the last week The Globe and Mail ran an opinion piece and an article that describe cuts to school library staff by districts in Windsor and Peterborough, near Toronto.

Meanwhile education cuts in California have lead to protests in Los Angeles and the overnight arrest of the California Teachers Association president in Sacramento after he refused to leave a legislator’s office.  The L.A. Times published a description of what was seen as a disgraceful interrogation of school librarians by attorneys for the Los Angeles Unified School District.  The attorneys were determining if the librarians are qualified for transfer to classroom jobs.

Dr. Ken Haycock, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia has spent years following trends in school libraries.  He says he’s sympathetic to the plight of school trustees when government funding is being reduced and the cost of their contracts is increasing. He says it leaves little around the edges for programs that may be essential and necessary but yet are not “contractual”.  This includes not just libraries but other important components too, like all aspects of the arts.  But he is not sympathetic with decisions made on old stereotypes rather than evidence.  “There is too little money to ignore those areas that have a positive impact on student achievement, such as teacher-librarians”, says Haycock.  He and others don’t understand the disconnect in the minds of school board officials who say that teaching must focus on 21st century literacy yet don’t see school libraries as important.  “Of course there are newer literacies and of course libraries and librarians support them, and even lead their teaching and learning, but let’s be concerned about all media and technologies and what is best for kids, before we cut based on outdated nonsense”, says Haycock.

The debate and the battle will no doubt continue.  One popular Canadian broadcaster and writer, Jian Ghomeshi, gave some articulate support for school librarians on his radio program called Q, last week.  Here’s a link to his remarks on May 18th asking who will speak for the librarian?

Read Full Post »

This is the launch of a new blog that I hope will be a forum about libraries for the public. I’ve worked in the library field for years and know that librarians share a lot of information with each other. The goal of this blog is to share some of that  info with you (adding my perspective, of course) and then see what unfolds in the coming weeks and months.

Earlier this month Laura Miller published an article on Salon.com saying why libraries still matter. She touched on some threats to public libraries including cuts to funding, Google and e-readers. Then she went on to plug value the “library as place” which is a phrase often used by librarians to describe one of numerous elements that continue to make the institution relevant.

Even before the Internet came on the scene librarians and their supporters were using the concept of “library as place” in a fluid way. Librarians have tossed around the idea of “library without walls” at least since the 1970s. But the Internet and the accompanying rise in digital content along with the expanding use of devices to access and that content has created a strong imperative for libraries to offer their services beyond their walls.

While the library buildings have retained importance for those who visit and use them, the “place” to learn and discover is now online. That tipping point occurred years ago. Yet libraries have been slow to adapt. Whether they’ve done so at their peril still remains to be seen. Part of the purpose of this blog is to get feedback over time that will take your temperature about a variety of trends, innovations and challenges that face libraries. I look forward to the conversation.

Read Full Post »