Animal welfare, Libraries

Libraries’ role in helping to reduce cruelty to animals.

The British Columbia SPCA discusses how public libraries can be used to expose children to feeling empathy for animals which can, in turn, result in reduced incidences of animal abuse and cruelty. The Vancouver Public Library (VPL) has created an excellent list of children’s resources that features works about animals and their care. The BC SPCA has a list of resources that it is happy to share with public libraries. The society asks people to contact their local library with this message:

A sincere thank you for the work you do to promote literacy and child development. I am disturbed in learning about the link between domestic violence and animal abuse (learn more from I believe we can make a difference in people’s attitudes towards each other and animals if we help them develop empathy from a young age. I am writing to ask: will you order the books on this list and promote them in our library? By doing so, I am confident that your actions will help make a difference in an at risk child’s life.

This is such a wonderful initiative, and kudos to VPL. I think this would be a splendid course of action across public libraries in Canada.


Education, Libraries

Digital skills students need for the future

According to the Pew Report The impact of digital tools on student writing and how writing is taught in schools, teachers believe that judging the quality of information (91%), behaving responsibly online (85%), and understanding privacy issues pertaining to online and digital content (78%), are essential to students’ success later in life. It’s good to see that information literacy skills are ranked so highly by teachers, which is ironic, when you consider how school librarian positions are being eliminated in so many provinces in Canada.

digital skills graph


The 35 Most Amazing Libraries In The World

Many of these libraries are going on my bucket list; I’ve been fortunate to have visited some of them already, and the remainder are certainly worth a visit.  It’s good to see two Canadian libraries listed.  It’s possible that the new Central Library for the Halifax Public Library will make such a list in future; it’s certainly an impressive architectural design, and I can’t wait to visit it once it’s open:


Social media and libraries

I had a wonderful discussion today with an academic librarian whose primary responsibility is to communicate and promote the library system’s services. My interest is in the use of social media to accomplish this goal. We talked about using social media to help break out library services beyond the confines of time and space (sounding very Star Trek here). What impressed me was my colleague’s enthusiasm for the possibilities in expanding the scope and perception of library services. This was so much more than a simple jumping on board the Library 2.0 bandwagon, but a genuine reflection on how social media can impact these services. I look forward to a continuing dialogue.


Digital readers are changing the traditional library system

Digital readers are changing the traditional library system – The Globe and Mail.

This article discusses the increased popularity of e-book downloads at the Vancouver Public Library.  One of the challenging aspects, I imagine,when it comes to public perception, is why it’s necessary to place a hold on a digital copy of a book, since it does not occupy any physical space.  There has been much press lately about the high cost of e-books to libraries; it’s doubtful that the average library client realizes that in many cases, libraries can allow only one person to borrow an e-book at a time, and the fact that libraries have to keep paying publishers to make these items available, since they don’t permanently own them.  It will be interesting to see the changes in the proportion of library holdings with respect to print versus digital collections over the next 2-3 years.

Education, Libraries, Research

What Students Don’t Know

This article discusses the ERIAL (Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries) project, a series of ethnographic studies conducted by five U.S. universities, to examine how students view and use their campus libraries.  The study suggests that “students rarely ask librarians for help, even when they need it. The idea of a librarian as an academic expert who is available to talk about assignments and hold their hands through the research process is, in fact, foreign to most students. Those who even have the word “librarian” in their vocabularies often think library staff are only good for pointing to different sections of the stacks.”

The study suggests that librarians and faculty may contribute to this perception: “librarians tend to overestimate the research skills of some of their students, which can result in interactions that leave students feeling intimidated and alienated …Some professors make similar assumptions, and fail to require that their students visit with a librarian before embarking on research projects. And both professors and librarians are liable to project an idealistic view of the research process onto students who often are not willing or able to fulfill it.” The article discusses how students tend to turn to their professors for help with searching and evaluating resources; the problem is that professors themselves are “necessarily any more knowledgeable about library resources than their students are.”

The study makes an interesting argument about the need to practice “librarian idealism” with “librarian pragmatism” when it comes to having a clear understanding of the knowledge and skill sets of students (and, perhaps, faculty). Faculty members also have an obligation to be more realistic in their expectations, such as not assuming that students understand what is meant by “scholarly resource” in the creation of their assignments.

The study is based on a small sample, so its general applicability is limited.  The academic librarians I speak to appear to have a very clear and realistic understanding of the research skills of undergraduate (at least) students, so I’m not sure I agree entirely with the notion of “librarian idealism” in this regard.  I can certainly see where professors’ perceptions of students’ research skills may not reflect reality; how well do the professors’  personal search skills stack up in comparison? I frequently encounter cases where professors search only a very limited set of resources for their research and are unaware of other possibilities and new resources available to them.  It’s unfortunate that this post does not provide more tangible recommendations for what librarians and faculty can do to address this situation; I hope that the final report, when released, will provide more specific guidelines.






Back Learning from the Future Libraries Programme: Phase one

Given the recent closures of public libraries in the UK, this study is particularly timely.  The highlights of the report are:

  • Running libraries in partnership with the private sector, charities and other councils.
  • Extending the reach and range of library services by integrating them with other community facilities like churches, shops and village halls and providing public services such as health centres and the police surgeries in existing libraries.
  • Sharing services like back offices and mobile libraries with neighbouring local authorities to make stretched resources go further.
  • Giving library users the ability to play a more active role in running library services themselves.

Publications | Local Government Group.

Continuing with the theme of public library closures,  this article serves as an interesting paradox to Toronto Councellor Doug Ford’s assertion that Toronto has too many library branches.  Apparently, a condominium developer did not get Ford’s memo, since the company plans to design a 29-storey condo tower with a library that sits at its base. The developer will build the library as well, which the company calls critical to the success of the company’s condominium project.   The fact that TO has more public library branches than New York (87 branches) Chicago (78 branches) or Los Angeles (71 branches) is perhaps an indication of the city’s high rate of library use, rather than a drain on tax payers.






Education, Libraries

Librarians fight for a role in a digital world

A poignant piece in the Globe and Mail today about the continuing decline in the numbers of school librarians and teacher librarians (the article does not distinguish between the two, unfortunately).  Although the focus is on Ontario, it is reflective of a trend throughout Canada.  As a former  high school teacher, I can attest to the importance of school librarians in the development of students’ information literacy; as the article points out, this need is increased by the growth of technology, not decreased. We often see the result of this lack of information literacy in the students who go to university; even by the time they get to us in graduate programmes, many students still lack adequate skills, not to mention an understanding of the principles of academic integrity.

Librarians fight for a role in a digital world – The Globe and Mail.