Monday, June 22, 2009

Archived posts: CLA 2007

Building the Future: A Youth Development Model for Teen Services
This session focused on ways in which libraries are engaging youth, especially by reaching out and partnering with other community services to create youth-tailored programming. My favourite part was Halifax's Hear We Are Radio Project. Speaker Karen Dahl told us about how Hear We Are started out as a creative way to explore the Spryfield neighborhood of Halifax; the participating teens attended weekly workshops about radio and, during the March Break Radio camp, they went on a field trip to the King’s School of Journalism radio studio and the CKDU 88.1 FM radio station. Participants learned about interviewing and editing skills, and ended up producing audio pieces based on their personal stories and experiences growing up in Spryfield. Find out more about the Hear We Are Radio Project here.
Lita Barrie and Kirsten Andersen spoke about the changing nature of teen services. Some resources mentioned:
Building Better Communities: Community Development in Action
The complete text of this session is available here.
Some great ideas from Hamilton Public Library staff in this session, including:
  • Formalized partnership agreements (example)
  • Be creative when seeking out new partners – HPL went to the Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting, paid for the food and pitched the library databases to attendees!
  • Hamilton considers the city itself one of their partners, and tries to reach out to city staff in different departments by, for example, placing library databases on the city network computer desktops.
  • HPL staff also attend city department meetings and talk to staff about how the library can help them do their jobs better.
  • Training for staff to develop/sustain partnerships is crucial. In fact, she trains all new youth services staff about basic “meeting skills” when they are hired. Training includes a discussion of our role in meetings and a focus on how what was discussed at each meeting can fit with HPL’s goals and strategic plans.
Ken Roberts briefly discussed the Idea Store concept in Britain during this session! He proposed that while the “library” brand may indeed be lost in the UK, it is still exceptionally powerful in Canada.

The Big Adventure: Canadian Library Workers Go Abroad
  • Sue Adams, Librarian, Coady Institute, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, NS
  • Sybil Harrison, Hamilton Public Library, and recently returned from the United Arab Emirates, ON
  • Larry McCallum, recently returned from the United Arab Emirates
  • Bob McKee, CEO, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, United Kingdom
  • Janis Rapchuk, Librarian, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, Calgary, AB
Bob McKee opened the session by briefly outlining some competencies and skills required for international library work: the most important things are personal skills, he underlined, because technical skills are taken for granted. He drew on the IFLA governing board’s opinions (after a one-on-one conversation he had with 20 members) to outline the basic skills:
  • A sense of adventure!
  • Acceptance of others (what is called “cultural literacy”)
  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Consistency and authenticity (“being comfortable in one’s own skin”)
  • Awareness of the language issues – English itself may be different in different places!
He also outlined some criteria developed by a Danish library school about the issues around internationalism:
  • Only the minority of the population is interested in this type of work
  • Possibilities to develop leadership capabilities
  • Working with multi-ethnic staff
From looking at management texts about the global business world, McKee also noticed emphasis on skills such as:
  • An ability to cope with complexity/ambiguity/unfamiliarity
  • An ability and a desire to lead
  • An ability to cope with stress!
Finally, employability skills are the transferable, so experiences in foreign countries will be relevant to your career upon returning home.

Larry and Sybil then spoke about their recent experiences in the UAE. They were in the city of Abu Dhabi, at the Higher Colleges of Technology, a segregated group of 14 colleges with 16000 students. The UAE has a population if 1.5 million people, of whom only 20% are nationals. Sybil was manager of systems and technical services and later also dean of learning services. She mentioned the fact that there were definitely “different approaches to planning and executing” projects than she was used to. She mentioned the words “insh’allah” (God willing) and “wasta” (referring to influence – or sometimes favouritism - and the importance of forging relationships in business dealings) as being especially important to the culture – these concepts affected her interactions with others and her professional work in the UAE. She also found that some of her core ethical professional values as a librarian were “challenged” in her work: specifically, ideas about privacy and intellectual freedom were quite different in the UAE. She also listed some of the joys of working abroad:
  • The library community in Abu Dhabi
  • The diversity in her workplace
  • An overwhelming appreciation for her work and her efforts
  • Knowledge that what she does “makes a difference”
  • For her, specifically, one of the joys was working with the Emirati women. She talked about how this generation of women entering the workforce was the first to be educated and had a lot of enthusiasm. They were sponges for information and eager to learn all they could.
  • The expatriate community was also very valuable – Sybil helped organize a Terry Fox run in Abu Dhabi, which had 6000 participants and raised $ for local UAE cancer research.
  • She developed a broader worldview and feels she is a better manager and a better librarian because of her experience in the UAE.
Janis Rapchuk then spoke about her experiences working as a volunteer for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. Her trip to Kabul last year was co-funded by Canadian Women for Women and the University of Manitoba. In Kabul, she worked at the Kabul Medical Institute, checking on the progress of collections donated by the Canadian Medical Students Association. She was supposed to be checking the usage of the collection and training staff; however, on her first day, she quickly discovered that things don’t always run smoothly! For one thing, all the computers were covered with dust cloths because they were unused because of frequent power outages. When they finally were able to get online for training the fourth day she was there, she discovered that many of the staff needed basic computer training and so she ended up focusing on that rather than library training. She also encouraged some basic changes in the library: when she first arrived, the library had barred windows and you had to ask for your item and a staff member would fetch it from closed stacks. She observed that staff were creatures of habit and tended to give out the same textbooks for each subject, regardless of the other similar textbooks available on the shelves. She encouraged the staff to open the stacks to the users, and created a binder of available books for students to browse in the meantime.

She also spoke about her visit to the Nazo Anah Library in Afghanistan, where they have a 22-year-old librarian (no library degree) working in a public library setting. She runs the usual children’s programs and also teaches human rights, maternal health and sewing in the library. The Afghan Women’s Centre, which she also visited, has an 18-year-old librarian and has Internet and Microsoft Office access for users. The library is packed with users on the computers! Finally, she visited one of three Fatima Tul Zahra schools in Afghanistan. These schools are one of her pet projects: they accept orphans into mixed classes, with lessons 6 days of the week and one meal provided (this is often the only meal of the day for many students). They have over 1000 students at the moment.

Lastly, Sue Adams spoke about her work with the Cody Institute, where development professionals get together and learn before heading back to their respective NGOs. Students come to the Institute from all over the world; countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean have a partnership with the Institute and the relationship continues after the students return to their home country. She talked about more important things to keep in mind when considering working abroad:
  • Skills: Adaptability, flexibility and a sense of personal autonomy
  • People skills: take time to really listen to and know people, interact with them, be personal and be involved with the local people. Interact in an “authentic” way.
  • Be sensitive to power differentials: if a librarian from Mali came into your library to lend his/her expertise, how might you feel? What if that person spoke another language? This is the type of situation you might find yourself in….
  • Build solidarity: get to know and relate to people; hang out with them outside of work!
Shawn Whatley, the president of the World Libraries Interest Group of CLA, closed by discussing the possibility of developing a Canadian website bringing together the various places that have openings for international library work. He noted that currently, the Foothills Library Association has an international section on their jobs page. There was a brief discussion about qualifications – North American, ALA-accredited library school degrees are the most portable, and further reciprocity/harmonization of various MLIS degrees in the English-speaking world will be discussed at Durban this year. Shawn and others noted that the bulk of applications for international library work come from new librarians – hiring a new librarian often has both benefits and risks...! It is apparently hardest to find people to fill systems/cataloguing positions abroad.

Mildly Delirious Libraries: Recreating your Library from the Top to Bottom
(This was the session that inspired bringing GASP to Ottawa! It featured Peter Robinson, the Managing Director of Mildly Delirious Design, along with the staff of West Palm Beach Public Library, Florida).

The GASP process of developing a brand identity was developed by Peter Robinson and used by West Palm Beach Public Library to complete its extensive library renovations in the mid 1990s.
G = Graphics – the image projected (e.g. bold, eye-catching…)
A = Ambiance – the feeling in the air (e.g. nurturing, warm, frantic…)
S = Style – service approach (e.g. formal or friendly? Hip/urban…)
P = Presentation – personality and programs (e.g. definition of place: distinctive and also refers to how you bring the concept to patrons)

According to the GASP workbook provided to attendees of the session, “once the identity is defined, this identity is translated into a cohesive concept. […] This concept is then used to guide all decision making in creating spaces, selecting colors, lighting, materials, integrating interior furnishings, graphics, style of services, and programs.” The plan at WPBPL was to create an ID or “brand”, establish a “look”, create a cultural shift with staff and create that “aha” factor in the library’s look and services.

Some interesting things from the WPBPL experience:
  • People behave better in a pleasant environment (dude! Totally!!!)
  • Like the Google logo, the WPBPL logo has different “costumes” for different seasons or themes!
  • Special attention was paid to the children’s area: they wanted to reach kids on their level (literally!), they wanted them to be part of the family and to feel that this was “their space”.
  • A short brochure for staff was developed. On the front were the “Four steps of service” (welcome your guest – use their name when possible; be your best self; make the transaction possible; say goodbye with warmth), “Who we are” and “What we do”.
The Role and Responsibility of the Public Library to Promote the Reading Culture as a Key to Sustainability
  • Dr. DeNel Rehberg Sedo, Professor, Mount Saint-Vincent University, North American Director, The Beyond the Book Project, Hubbards, NS
  • Janice Douglas, Director, Community Relations and Programming, Vancouver Public Library, BC
The session opened with a brief overview of some demographic and cultural trends:
  • The technological revolution is only just beginning and it is HUGE
  • Most of the planet (60%) now live in cities
  • The middle class is a thin line: the third world is still a big portion of the world’s population
  • 42% of the public is identified as being in the lowest 2 levels of literacy (out of 5 levels)
  • Refer to All Our Future: Creativity, Culture and Education (summary here) for more information about the importance of creativity, the arts, and reading in the economy of the future.
What does this mean for the library of the future? The library will be the cultural (not informational) hub of the community. There will not be one source of all information – rather libraries will support lifelong learning and life cycle librarianship.

The Beyond the Book Project
is an examination/explanation and comparison of the complexity and the uses of shared reading in different locations. Shared reading refers to projects such as One book, one city, CBC Canada Reads, Oprah’s Book Club or the Richard and Judy phenomenon in the UK. Specifically, some of the questions examined are: who participates in these shared reading projects? Who is excluded and on what terms? What is needed for the project to be successful?

Some ideas: the location of the meeting place is important (example of positive space given was Vancouver Public Library!) – it should be welcoming, supportive and comfortable. The setting of the book is also important – the topic or the themes should be regionally significant. The programs that have “community buy-in” are not run exclusively by the library: most are initiated by the library but with support from other partners in the community.

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