On Friday, November 29, panelists Ernie Ingles and Patricia Demers held ten separate meetings with librarians and archivists from Saskatchewan in the Regina Public Library. We were eager to discover what set services in Saskatchewan apart, especially since they had been cited in many of our earlier consultations as “models.” The RPL director and CEO, Jeff Barber, kindly accommodated our sessions in the Board Room, and we remain grateful for his generous hospitality. Collaboration and integration were the salient topics of our conversations.
Robert Thomas, Research Services Librarian at the University of Regina and President of the Saskatchewan Library Association, introduced the importance of the SLA, a voluntary association connecting librarians, through travelling across the province, contributing to the annual conference, encouraging partnerships about staff training and professional development, and providing small bursaries to Saskatchewan students to pursue masters degrees. The result of the cancellation of interlibrary loan services at LAC has meant the downloading of services to the Provincial Library.
Representatives of the Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists, including Cheryl Avery, University Archivist at the University of Saskatchewan, Mark Vajcner, University Archivist at the University of Regina, Cameron Hart, Archives Advisor for the SCAA, Donald Johnson, Archivist at the Saskatchewan Archives Board, and Jeremy Mohr, Manager of records processing at the SAB, stressed the contributions of Saskatchewan Culture, through its lotteries, as their primary source of funding. Such support accounts for their ability to continue to offer small sustenance to community archives in the wake of the abrupt cancellation of the NADP. Provincial Archivist Linda McIntyre and Curt Campbell, manager of digital records at SAB, outlined the mandate and challenges of engaging people with their documentary heritage through the acquisition and preservation of analogue, digital, and born-digital materials. With a funding base that would need to be expanded to $7.6 M to meet the demands of being a custodian of the province’s historical memory, they likened the position of the preservation archivist to a purser on the Titanic. There was general agreement that the development of a framework for a Trusted Digital Repository, possibly in conjunction with a pan-Canadian network of TDRs, was imperative.
Most of the remaining conversations were devoted to libraries, though not exclusively. The Friends of the Regina Public Library informed us that a history of the RPL’s first 100 years is nearing completion. They pointed to the model of the Albert branch as an outstanding example of community-based service to a largely Aboriginal population. RPL Director Jeff Barber and the Board Chair Darryl Lucke underscored the “booming” nature of the RPL, with high usage, circulation numbers in the millions, and thousands of Regina residents taking advantage of free programs and services. The new Albert branch, planned for 2016, will be a mixed-use, shared facility of public and school library partners and the city of Regina; its Aboriginal name will be decided by Elders themselves.
Our sessions moved next to models of governance. From the perspective of a retired librarian at the Provincial Library of Saskatchewan who was seconded to the Canadian Plains Research Centre to work on the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, Bob Ivanochko observed that five times more librarians are needed to meet demands in bilingual and multi-cultural services. John Murray, Director and CEO of the Wapiti Regional Library (116 municipal members, rural municipalities, towns, cities and villages, plus 17 First Nations) pointed to “chronic inadequate funding for professional staffing positions” and a lack of capacity to assess literacy challenges among young, adult, Aboriginal, and New Canadians. The Saskatchewan Multitype Library Board, represented by Chair Susan Baer, Provincial Librarian Brett Waytuck, and Barbara Bulat and Elgin Bunston from the Provincial Library and Literacy Office, explained the genesis of this co-operative forum of four library sectors plus the Saskatchewan Provincial Library as partners in public, school, special, and post-secondary libraries providing a unified vision of information services. The Multitype Library’s main programs involve the Multi Database Licensing Program and Digitization. Melissa Bennett, Legislative Librarian for the Saskatchewan Legislative Library, identified the primary client group she serves as legislators, but also, though less often, the public.
The rest of the discussions concerned the remarkable and unique Saskatchewan Information and Library Services. Jeff Barber, Brett Waytuck, and Julie McKenna, Deputy Library Director at RPL, relayed the importance of this single, harmonized, one-card system for the whole province. As President of SILS, Jeff explained that it “harnesses the power of co-operation,” “attracts talented people,” “improves user experience,” “reduces duplication of effort” with four people assigned to catalogue records for the entire system, and thus allows for “the re-allocation of other staff.” This standardization of policies and simplified operational structure are key elements of “providing better service by spending money together.”
Our instructive day in Regina proved that the praise of integration and collaboration we had heard in advance was richly deserved.