My mother used to quote a Dutch saying: “There is a time to begin and a time to end, and now the time to end has begun.”
With mixed emotions, I am leaving my role as Director, Libraries and Literacy after seven years. I am excited to be taking on the role of Library Director for the District of North Vancouver, effective September 30. North Vancouver District Public Library is an outstanding library with a strong tradition of providing excellent service, and I look forward to working with the board and staff.
I thank all of you who supported me and the work of the branch — as well as everyone who worked in the branch — over the past seven years. Together, we have made an enormous difference in the sustainability of all libraries, helping to build a strong future. I’m proud of what we have accomplished as the ground shifted below our sensible-shoed, catalogue-carded feet!
I thank all of the staff, trustees and supporters of libraries, whose advocacy and constant support are so essential to the visibility and success of libraries and the vital role they play in communities.
While this is an ending of a sort, it is also a beginning. We all share new beginnings and new hopes for the future.
Below are highlights from a talk I delivered on September 20 to the Association of BC Public Library Directors, outlining my reflections on the past seven years as provincial librarian for BC.
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Libraries worldwide have been in a period of dramatic transition in recent years. I suspect that librarians who retired even two or three years ago wouldn’t recognize the environment in which we operate now – the terrain has changed that rapidly.
I’ve learned a lot during these years as Provincial Library Director – I have gained new perspective and found new horizons. I am honoured to have had that opportunity, and to have worked with each of you in that capacity.
I’d like to talk about what I’ve learned, what I’m proud of – and the themes that, with or without me, continue to guide the work of the Province.
Nothing great is ever accomplished by one person, and there are some truly great things we’ve done in the last few years. I’m grateful to have been involved in each of these. And grateful for the many partners I had.
From the inside, it’s been a blur. And I’m sure that sometimes the provincial direction looks blurry to many of you on the outside too! But guiding principles anchor what we do and how we do it – principles that continue to guide the work at the provincial level.
I like to think of them as: “Coming Together”; “Becoming Stronger”; and “Reaching Out” – all aimed at making the library community of BC strong, vibrant and supportive.
This is the work we do to create a strong shared library infrastructure and a strong sense of community. This is about the relationships that we nurture to work together for collective benefit.
Coming Together includes:
- BC OneCard
- BC Summer Reading Club
- Consortial purchasing of online Databases and Resources
- SITKA open source shared integrated library system
- Gateway vision: the BiblioCommons social catalogue
- The Library Book
About working to make all BC’s Libraries as strong as they can, financially, professionally, and structurally. About making sure all British Columbians have access to high quality library service.
Becoming Stronger includes:
- Broadband and Internet Infrastructure support
- Websites for all BC Libraries (“PLOT”; currently transitioning to “LibPress“)
- Community Librarian Training Program
- Literacy Grants – for literacy supports and programming that builds on the existing infrastructure of libraries
About supporting strong connections between libraries and communities. To quote my colleague Tim Lowan, “Great libraries don’t just serve their community, they are woven into them”. The province has worked to make that weave stronger with library community-focused programming and connection-building.
Reaching Out includes:
- Books for Babies
- Immigrant settlement Lower Mainland pilot project (“New-to-BC”)
- School/Public Library Connections
- Linking libraries to the provincial “Changing Results for Young Readers” initiative
Some initiatives didn’t just land within one of these three themes, they touch on two or three:
- Open Data participation helps us to both come together to share our data, and bring that knowledge and transparency out to the wider community.
- Library federations bring us together, and work to help us to be better together than on our own.
- Building stronger ties between libraries and governments of all levels improves our capacity and creates stronger networks locally and provincially.
My favourites have touched on all three themes. They include:
- AskAway collaborative virtual reference service
- The Commons, a platform for library community connection and communication
- BC Libraries Cooperative
- Changing Times, Inspiring Libraries Summit
- National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS)
These initiatives were exciting, powerful, and important. While some of these programs are no longer running, many of them live on. Together, we have made some extraordinary things happen. I have been honoured by the work and the company I’ve had in the doing.
For those who want to know what’s next, I can only tell you I won’t be leading it. And that, like everything we’ve done, it’s likely to be connected with these three themes.
And, while I won’t be leading, I will be taking part. Because the greatest part of the job has been the sense of being part of a huge team, a network, working to make life better for all the people of this province. There’s a lot of power in that network. And even if I’m just a small player in the larger game, I will value the huge library community more than I can say.
Thank you all.