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Are librarians to be made redundant?

S. Walter Stewart – Sharon’s library branch

I am a big fan of librarians. In all my years of using the library (since I was 12, back in the grey ages, the early 1960s), I have received all kinds of help from librarians from finding books to other research to daily living. Now, the Toronto Public Library Board is starting a pilot project in the cities two smallest library branches – Todmorden in the east and Swansea in the west.

The project would extend the hours the libraries are open. But there is a big catch. There will be no librarians present. If you need to contact a librarian, it will all be by video. And no security guards, so good luck if some crime is committed. Video cameras may catch it, but with no staff person present in the library, good luck.

A City TV news story describes the situation, including listing the crimes that have been committed in the last year or so in various branches. You will notice we are not talking about stealing books in this story here. The librarian union head, Maureen O’Reilly, is interviewed in the story. Ms. Reilly also emailed out petitions, copies to go to the city’s mayor and the signer’s local councillor. You bet I clicked on the email and went to the page with the petition letter. The letter also had space for alterations/additions to content and so I added a short summary of how l have always used libraries and how as a writer and reader the librarians have helped me.One example I gave was one of the librarians at the S. Walter Stewart Branch was instrumental in getting my East End Writers’ Group (a writing critique group, see my website for more info on EEWG) to meet there at no cost to us – we are now partners with the branch and part of their programs.

Interestingly, this branch is the first library branch I started going to as a child of 12 – when the new big branch first opened. Except for the 23 years I lived in Aurora, S. Walter Stewart has been and still is my library branch. And yes, when in Aurora I was a regular patron of the Aurora Library where one of the librarians (who became a friend) helped me with some health information when I was still a journalist – getting me set up on data bases to check out the information. This was in the early 1990s before a lot of this info was available on line.

But I still go to the librarians in person for info, to teach writing workshops and courses, for presentations with my Beyond mystery books – with or without other authors.

And on a more personal note – when my son was a toddler and driving me nuts in the  Aurora Public Library, the head librarian quietly called me over and spoke to me. Not to tell me to get my son to shut up. She was concerned with me, with my getting frazzled, etc. by being a young mother. The librarian suggested we take a break one day soon and go to lunch. And we did.

Meantime, the librarian at S.Walter Stewart helps me with PR for our EEWG meetings and also when we have guest speakers and do presentations. Perhaps one of the biggest clarification of that is a few years ago after EEWG celebrated its 13 anniversary with a presentation in the library auditorium, after the presentation a few of us went out to a nearby pub to chat and grab a drink and some food. This librarian and her husband came along, too.

I can’t even fathom doing workshops or courses at a library branch with no librarian present (although the two in the pilot project don’t have the room for this). I am constantly asking questions and asking for help in workshop setup. Sure, some is done by email and phone, but not all, especially when I show up. What would happen if problems occurred with a workshop? And if there are no librarians present, who sets up the room, including bringing in and setting up any AV and computer equipment?

This is all very short-sighted and stupid by the City of Toronto and the library board. If they are trying to save some bucks and increase library open hours, the flip side doesn’t work. Librarians will be out of work and we the librarian patrons will be worse off for it.

Here, the end doesn’t justify the means, especially as the end is questionable.

If you want to read more about this situation just Google “Toronto public library no staff at Todmorden” and you will get a long list.

I hear this situation is happening in a few other places too.

Is this the price of progress? If so, turn the time back to the 1990s. And if I sound like a curmudgeon, so be it.

What do you think of this situation?

Comments, please.

Cheers.

Sharon

And yes, copies of my Beyond books are in some of the public library branches Toronto and York Region (latter includes Aurora). For those outside these area, you can check out my Beyond books by clicking here.

The CWC gang up close at Gerrard/Ashdale library. Photo courtesy of Gail Ferguson – a librarian then

 

 

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In praise of public libraries

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series available in e-copies from Blue Denim Press

Way back in the late 1980s, an editor at one of the community newspapers I wrote for used to give me assignments connected to the local libraries. He said when he thought of libraries, he thought of me.

In the past few years I have traded my journalism hat for writing mystery fiction. But what this former editor said is still true. I suspect his thoughts would apply to most writers – journalists, fiction, whatever they write.

Libraries seem to be growing – Toronto, Ontario, Canada just opened its 100th branch in the city’s east end. Although the library landscape has changed, writers and readers (the two often overlapping in the same soul), cannot live without their public library. Even if we don’t get off our duff and go inside a library as often as we used to, we do online research in library databases, download e-books to “borrow,” put holds on books (print and e-books) online, and check library websites for their events. Reminders of books coming due or holds available also arrive in our Inbox from the library. And we can read and comment on library blog postings or join online book clubs (Note: there are still in-library book clubs).

Library events will get us into the library. So will picking up print books on hold. And if you are an avid reader like me, once you are in the library, it’s like a candy store. You can’t just leave with what you came there to get. How many times have you stepped into a library to pick up one book on hold and found two or three more you just have to read? Many people don’t want to have to deal with online movies, etc. and prefer to watch a DVD. Your local library to the rescue. You can also borrow old movies, documentaries and the like on DVDs.

Public libraries are also getting into the self-publishing business. The Toronto Reference Library has the Asquith Press service for patrons who want to self-publish a book. See http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/using-the-library/computer-services/book-printing-service/

Don’t forget those knowledgeable librarians who can help you find obscure information in books, non-circulating reference material, online. etc., etc.

And those library events – many are workshops to teach patrons everything from computer basics to finance to writing. The latter is one way I (and other writers) connect to the librarians and library branches. For the past four and a half years I have been teaching writing workshops (fiction and memoir writing) at various Toronto library branches and I love doing so. Besides the librarians, I get to meet a lot of interesting writers and help them with their writing. Some may “follow” me (for want of a better word) to my writing critique group – the East End Writers’ Group, also held in a library branch and may come to my crime readings and presentations (with or without other Crime Writers of Canada members) at …you guessed it – library branches.

And that is a good way for us writers to connect with readers. So is getting your published book into libraries.

That’s the way it should be. You know one of the rules of writing (Rule No. ? – as Gibbs would say on NCIS) – if you are going to write, read in the genre you want to write in.

That is more than an old journalistic research trick.

I would like your comments on libraries. How do you connect with your library branch?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

Sharon A. Crawford is the author of the Beyond book series. More info at www.samcraw.com and www.bluedenimpress.com – my publisher – you can also purchase e-books – both Kindle and Kobo from Blue Denim Press. Click on the Beyond Blood Book cover at the top of this post.

 

 

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