On October 24th through 26th Expert Panel representatives were in Calgary, and met with individuals representing organizations coincidental with the Netspeed Conference. It is our pleasure to thank, profoundly, Clive Maishment, the Chief Executive Officer of The Alberta Library, and Stacey Bissell his associate for their most kind cooperation, generosity and support of the Panel and its activities.
In Calgary there were private conversations with a number of individuals representing various library institutions. These included:
- First Nation Colleges as represented by and through the First Nations Information Connections (FNIC)
- Province of Alberta, Municipal Affairs, Public Library Services Branch
- Library Association of Alberta (LAA)
- Alberta Library Trustees Association (ALTA)
- The Alberta Library (TAL)
- Calgary Public Library (CPL)
The Panel appreciates the candid and forthright views of those interviewed. Many of the topics discussed will not be chronicled in this blog post as the intentions of the commentators was to make candid comment with expectations of a privacy privilege in terms of public postings. We will honour that perspective.
A myriad of topics was discussed nonetheless, and there were some common threads among commentators. Not surprisingly given the nature of many of the organizations above, discussion turned to the issues and options relating to library cooperation and collaboration. Jurisdiction was introduced as both an enabler and a detriment to cooperation. Rationalization and integration of services were discussed, looking at options municipally (School Boards and Public Library Boards), within the provinces, the regions, nationally and indeed internationally. Several of the representatives, independently, lamented the financial resourcing silos, making multi-institutional decisions difficult if not impossible. There was a distinct feeling of despair as to this latter issue—how do you manage the different imperatives of different ministries provincially, to say nothing of the myriad of funding agencies nationally? As one individual stated, “libraries have great ideas but they never realize them.”
Despite the difficulties, petitioners provided numerous examples of collaborative activity within the Province of Alberta—collaborative activity that would harmonize the disparity of the larger institutions and the smaller. Commentators looked with fondness at the activities in other provinces, most particularly the ‘Scholar’s Portal’ in Ontario. There was discussion as to the possibilities of making the ‘Scholar’s Portal’ a national platform. At the national level, it was suggested that Library and Archives Canada abandon AMICUS and look to other solutions, such as OCLC ‘Worldcat’ as a union catalogue solution for ILL and other collaborative activities, including collection rationalization. There was other commentary with regard to LAC, including the possibility of creating a new advisory body that would include a diverse pan-Canadian membership including libraries/archives, representative associations, and library/archival leaders.
Another issue common to all groups represented was, and yet again (this issue is appeared at several of our previous consultations) that of effective communication and advocacy. It was suggested that some library organizations and institutions were more effective than others in having successful communication strategies and advocacy campaigns. The suggestion was raised that these organizations might be more generous in helping less effective institutions or organizations in their efforts. Sharing strategies, coaching and mentoring as well as workshops or seminars were suggested as best means to a common end.
Also, two other issues similar to other consultations were identified. There was support for more “value” or “return” on investment studies. Some jurisdictions were applauded for their efforts in this regard—the Toronto Public Library was mentioned specifically. Also, there was commentary on the LIS and Technician programs and their apparent inability to provide needed “skill sets.” Employers, however, were not without criticism. Several practitioners pointed out that their employers were not providing investment in their professional staff cohorts. Ongoing periodic credentialing was discussed as a strategy.
Finally, the Calgary consultation provided a particularly fertile interchange on the provision of library services to aboriginal populations—whether urban or rural. We heard stories of discrimination and racism—all relating to library service. We heard stories of young people being passed through grades, without demonstrated competencies including reading. Similarly we heard about the successes and the aspirations of the aboriginal communities—first nation communities coming together to talk about library services– and the hopes of various jurisdictions in making their aspirations achievable.
We thank those who took the time to come and speak with us in Calgary.