summertime and the readin’ is easy…

As children return to school this week, we can look back on another great summer of reading.

Summer is always one of my favourite times in a public library – the place is hopping with happy summer readers of all ages! Every week, thousands of children come in for stickers, stamps, encouragement – and more books.

Don’t get me wrong. Children frequent the library throughout the school year, when they are attending story times and other programs, visiting with their classes, seeking help with homework, meeting friends, using the computers, and picking up books to read or videos to watch. Families and children account for about one third of our use, and we consider children’s services, programs and collections a vital and exciting aspect of our work. Continue reading

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Under the Hood

On Thursday, May 12, North Vancouver District Public Library was proud to deliver a panel presentation, Under the Hood: Honest Stories of Disruptive Change in a Public Library, at the BC Libraries Conference held in Richmond, BC.

In alignment with the conference theme of Disrupt and Transform, this presentation describes the transformative process that started when I became chief librarian for North Vancouver District Public Library in 2013, and illustrates it with personal stories of change from seven staff members and one super-engaged patron.

I cannot describe just how proud I am of the NVDPL staff and how they have flourished in the delivery of their professional library services. The North Van community is incredibly fortunate to have such dedicated, talented and caring professionals to serve their access to knowledge that will enhance and improve their lives and support community connectedness. I am humbled to work with such committed and compassionate human beings.

All of our presentation notes are posted here, starting with my portion of the presentation, which set the stage for the personal stories that follow.  Staff spoke honestly and passionately about their experiences during this time of organizational change, from many different areas of the library: circulation, collections, adult programming, community connections, and systems. Their speaking notes are linked below.

We were also delighted to include in our panel one of our super engaged patrons!

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indie authors, indie libraries

One of the great joys in life is to celebrate the launch of a new book. Particularly when one knows something of the effort, struggle and personal investment of the author – the story behind the story makes it that much more special.

A few weeks ago, I was delighted to share in the joy of the birth of a new book written by my dear friend, Jo Manning. Jo’s memoir, Etched in Time, covers nine decades of the remarkable life of a highly intelligent and talented woman who, against the odds, became an accomplished artist. Jo’s story is a powerful personal memoir, but it also is a really important look at Canada’s social history, the role of artists and the challenges for women over almost a century. Continue reading

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shadow informs light

Recently, I read and summarized the book, Bad Leadership, by Barbara Kellerman, for the Actionable Book Club. It’s certainly not a pleasant experience to dwell on the dark side of life; in most situations, we tend to think it’s better to talk about the positive examples. Kellerman’s book gives clear examples of what bad leadership looks like and where it can take an organization. At best, bad leadership results in inertia. At worst, complete disaster for an organization, with ripple effects of destroyed lives and careers.


Michael Shoop, management consultant and a former government colleague, has a strong interest in understanding toxic work environments. He and I have had a few occasions over the years to discuss the damaging effects of bad leadership, and the pain and destruction a toxic personality can cause within an organization. Recently, I mentioned to him that I was reading Kellerman’s Bad Leadership book. After some discussion, Shoop and I agreed that while Kellerman’s book was useful, it leaves one wondering about what to do about it. As Shoop so colourfully puts it “It’s good, but it doesn’t help you find a way out of the swamp!”.

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simply managing

We hear so much about leadership lately. Lots of books, courses, programs, articles, speakers, conferences, consultants and many other resources are available to inspire leaders to be their best. I’m a big supporter of leadership development at all levels in an organization – any organization. In many cases, the underlying message is about self-reflective practice; the more one is aware of oneself and others, the more effective one’s leadership can be.

That said, not every leader is in a management position. Leadership as a topic has become fashionable. One hears so little of management training any more; it’s just not sexy. But the reality is that we need managers who can lead, and leaders who can manage. Sexy or not, both mindsets and skillsets are needed. Jim March of the Stanford Business School put it: “Leadership involves plumbing as well as poetry”. Continue reading

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