BCLTA Bulletin September 2017

President’s Message

Jerrilyn Schembri

This is my third time starting this message to all of you. The first two times I was attempting to be factual … give you data and stats. This time what I am writing will come from the heart … a slightly broken heart as on Saturday I lost someone I loved very much; he was young, vibrant and full of life and I’m not sure what life will look like with him gone. I don’t know about you, but when something happens that involves struggle or difficulty, I often separate myself and attempt to become an island. I don’t want others to see my vulnerability, my pain, my tears.

As I am sitting here, tears freely flowing, I realized that maybe it isn’t just me, maybe it is not limited to individual grief … perhaps it is also organizational. Maybe not wanting to show vulnerability or difficulties spills over into other areas.

Back at the BCLTA conference I did a presentation on sustainability. Where do we, as library boards, see the library of the future and how will we get there?  Two things I proposed are having to do long term planning (50–100 years) and  being willing to re-create ourselves.

Both long term planning and re-creation require us to dig deep, to see our vulnerabilities and weaknesses, and to recognize that we, without our broader community, are not viable. It is easy to look at our individual libraries and attempt to portray them as strong stewards of our communities, a rock solid organization surrounded by resources, but we have a symbiotic relationship with the communities we serve, and we need to be willing to share not just our strengths, but our weaknesses, vulnerabilities and needs with that community.

Libraries are changing, redefining themselves and I believe many communities are seeing the change but there are still people who perceive libraries as a mausoleum, a place of silence and staunch matronly librarians.

We, as trustees, must be advocates for our libraries, working to form partnerships and making it clear to government that a library is the social hub, learning centre, and the cheerleader for the community. Libraries meet community needs that would otherwise remain unmet; providing a safe place of learning for all walks of life regardless of sex, belief system, age or orientation. I personally believe that the idea of community and library are close relatives and that community engagement and advocacy are going to be what sees us into the future.

It feels a little strange allowing you all to be a part of my grief, but I am learning that I cannot be an island; I am part of a network consisting of my family, friends and acquaintances. In the same way, the library is not and cannot be an island … the library is part of a much larger community … a body of people and resources which will ensure our libraries flourish in the future.

RIP Oscar

Jerrilyn and Oscar

Your Libraries and Your Stories

Readers tell us that the “Your Libraries” section is important for making connections across the province and for inspiring or affirming their own board and library director work. A huge thank you to those who contributed to this issue either with submissions about their library or by pointing to stories, news items and resource links.

Send us stories about your board and your library to execdir@bclta.ca

Spotlight on David Alexander, Greater Victoria Public Library Board – Winner of the 2016 BCLTA Nancy Bennett Merit Award

David with GVPL Maureen Sawa at the 2017 BCLTA Conference Reception

David is a library trustee (in his 7th year!), the Head of Archives, Access, and Digital at the Royal BC Museum, and President of the BC Museums Association. This past spring, he was enthusiastically nominated for, and granted, the BCLTA Nancy Bennett Merit Award. The nomination letter (excerpts below) outlined the work that David has done to raise the profile of GVPL and the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) sector such as:

  • Being instrumental in the development of GVPL’s innovative Family Pass program which provides GVPL card holders with the ability to borrow free passes to visit local museums, galleries and other community attractions in the area.
  • Cultivating working relationships between GVPL staff and Royal BC Museum and Archives staff that have resulted in numerous programs and promotions.
  • Leveraging his experience and expertise to benefit libraries and their partners across the entire province of British Columbia.  In March 2017, a first-of-its-kind in Canada formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) was announced between the BC Library Association, the Archives Association of BC and the BC Museums Association. The MOU is a public commitment to share expertise, embark on collaborative research projects, explore public outreach opportunities and identify joint funding ventures to strengthen the sector.

GVPL, like other B.C. libraries, demonstrates a unified board and staff culture that is committed to connecting with the community and advocating for public libraries. David along with GVPL trustee Greg Bunyan and CEO Maureen Sawa, even took time out their busy schedules to come talk public libraries with the delegates at the 2016 UBCM Trade Show.


GVPL Trustee Greg Bunyan at the 2016 UBCM Trade Show
This past August, as President of the BC Museums Association and Head of Archives, Access and Digital at the Royal BC Museum David had the honour of paddling in Tribal Journeys 2017

Key Messages

Many of you have been developing important relationships in your communities and across all levels of government and it makes a difference that we share consistent messaging about the value and needs of libraries while we build a network of influence and supporters.

The 2017 provincial election has provided an opportunity for reaching out to your MLA and the new ministers to talk about the value and needs of B.C. public libraries. The 2018 municipal elections are a year away and with over 700 trustees across the province, the networks and the opportunities abound for engaging, influencing, and advocating on behalf of public libraries.

For the Bulletin, we have kept the key messages brief so that you can use them as they are or adapt them for a variety of communication needs such as for asking questions at community and local government meetings, writing op-eds or letters to the editor of your newspaper, or for social media.

Where appropriate referencing the Libraries Branch Inspiring Libraries, Connecting Communities: A vision for public library service in British Columbia, the July 18, 2017 Mandate Letter to Minister Fleming, the Ministry of Education Service Plan and the Office of the Premier Service Plan will strengthen the message.

Key message points are:

  • The need for annual increases, which are adjusted for inflation, to provincial funding for public libraries and the reinstatement of the Budget Line Item for B.C. public libraries.
  • The establishment of provincial policy for the delivery of public library services in First Nation communities, by First Nation communities.
  • Government commitment to connectivity is needed. Connectivity is critical in the digital age, yet adequate broadband is always in short supply and/or cost-prohibitive for many libraries, particularly those in rural or remote locations.

From You on Advocacy and Community Engagement

Susan Koch, Chair, Richmond Public Library Board 

Advocacy looks a lot like Community Engagement. Apparently Woody Allen said “Eighty percent of life is showing up”. So, members of the board take turns showing up!  Sharing the libraries stories with people. Asking questions and listening.

Community Engagement looks like … Everyone on the board taking turns to show up at library and community events. Each board member contributing their time beyond attending meetings. Being present in our community. 


Melanie Wilke, Chair, Terrace Public Library Association and BCLTA Board Director



For our board at Terrace Public Library, community engagement looks like reaching out to unconventional partners to challenge the stereotype of the traditional library. To celebrate October’s Library Month, we have chosen to partner with both a local brewery and a local coffee roaster to create products bearing our library name and logo. We will be raising a glass (of beer or coffee) and celebrating libraries with our community.


Barry Avis, Chair, Vancouver Island Regional Library Board

For our board advocacy looks like …
Whether it’s UBCM, the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) or talking to an MLA, we remove our elected official hat and work as a united library board focused on what is best for the organization. Our goal is to ensure that library services are accessible to everyone, from our smallest branches to our largest centres.

For our board community engagement looks like …
Actively encouraging the public to provide input into our projects and initiatives. From new branch public consultations, to handing out Summer Reading Club medals, to the robust community discussions that informed our Strategic Plan, our communities are at the core of everything we do, and we seek public input at every opportunity.     


Kyla Epstein, Chair, Vancouver Public Library Board and BCLTA Board Director

Kyla Epstein and Premier Horgan checking out a very well used GVPL library card!


Judith Walton, Chair, Pemberton and District Public Library Board 

For our board advocacy looks like ….
On September 6th a number of trustees will be giving a presentation to the Lions Club to explain how we have outgrown the current Library space and our only solution is to have movable stacks and reconfigure the space. With this in mind, we want them to assist us in fundraising by cooking food at our 2018 Octoberfest and giving us all the proceeds. We already have the food donated by the local grocery store.

For our board community engagement looks like …
Trustees spent a day outside the grocery stores, liquor store and at the Library asking people what they wanted from the Library and did they know what programs and services the Library offered. From their answers, and an online survey, we developed our strategic plan.


Jeanette Fairbairn, Chair, Elkford Public Library Board 

For our board community engagement looks like a Photo Contest giving residents the opportunity to show off their creative side. Our monthly community newspaper, The Focus, (another Library project) recognizes the winners and the businesses who sponsor cash prizes. Even the Board gets involved when we put out a call for tacky toque selfies.

Elkford Public Library Board wearing their tacky toques and community spirit! 


Gord Annand, Chair, Whistler Public Library Board

Advocacy has never been about pushing library cards or giving people a hard time for not using the library, we are all about relationships and being present to show our support for what the library offers our community. Fund raising has been one of the better ways that we can get the library on the radar of people who might not otherwise frequent the facility. The goal is not necessarily to create library users, but people who can articulate the value of the library in the community whether they use it or not.

The library staff is outstanding at community engagement from the customer service interaction to formally collecting input. One great example of this is the library’s community-driven collection. The feedback loop is also an integral part of how the library is programmed and what events are planned. We are currently going through a strategic planning process that was initiated by using community feedback as the foundation of the plan, this is key to the success of the process. As a board, we work collaboratively with our library director, RMOW (Resort Municipality of Whistler) senior leaders (elected and staff) to ensure the library has the resources and support to be able to carry out engagement and meet the vision. 


Cynthia Nicolson, Chair, Bowen Island Public Library Board 

For the Board of the Bowen Island Public Library, community engagement looks like the buzz around our second annual “Adult Spelling Bee” on September 30, 2017. This fun-filled event will raise additional funds for the Cove Commons, a joint project of the Library and the Bowen Island Arts Council. Our new addition will provide spaces for Library programs, a gallery and office for the Arts Council, a venue for special events, and an outdoor space for community gatherings. Construction is well underway and we hope to open the new addition in early 2018. Once the Cove Commons is complete, the library will engage with community members to explore ideas for the use of the building and what the public would like to see happen in that new space.

The new addition to the Bowen Island Public Library will provide space for enhanced community programming.
Fierce competition, mixed with lots of laughs, made Bowen’s first annual Adult Spelling Bee
a huge success in 2016.
The Killer Bees were thrilled to take first prize at Bowen’s 2016 Adult Spelling Bee.
Carol Cram (left), Chair of the Bowen Island Arts Council, and Cynthia Nicolson (right), Chair of the Bowen Island Public Library, gratefully accept a $5000 donation presented by Kevin Manning, manager of the local First Credit Union.


As highlighted in past Bulletins at the 2016 BCLTA conference Cheryl Strenstrom shared her research about influence, meaningful connections and advocacy. We continued that discussion at the 2017 Conference, particularly during the Trustee Roundtables Influencing Today, Shaping Tomorrow notes can be found here and advocacy will be a significant focus for the 2018 conference.

Media Attention!

Some examples for thinking about the why what, who, and how of not just sharing, but spreading your message.

Today’s Libraries Are About More Than Just Books

Librarians Support Wildfire Evacuees

Hanna’s Highlight: Libraries are the Future

CBC’s On the Coast with Fraser Valley Regional Library CEO Scott Hargrove

  • July 20, 2017
  • http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/on-the-coast/episode/13426911
  • Scott Hargrove interview begins at 01:01:22


Worried That ‘Truth is Under Siege’, Couple Donates $1M to Calgary Public Library

Douglas Student Union


There are many advocacy and community engagement resources. The following is just a start as we work on updating the advocacy section of the BCLTA website.

Alberta Library Trustees Association

Saskatchewan Library Trustees Association

Ontario Library Association


Canadian Federation of Library Associations / Fédération canadienne des associations de bibliothèques 

We are the national voice of Canada’s library associations. Our purpose is to:

  • advance library excellence in Canada;
  • champion library values and the value of libraries; and
  • influence national and international public policy impacting libraries and their communities.
  • http://cfla-fcab.ca/en/home-page/

Library Advocacy Unshushed 

Become a powerful advocate for the values and future of libraries and librarianship. Be informed, strategic, passionate, and unshushed.


American Library Association


United for Libraries

Jennifer Pierce, Chetwynd Public Library Board Trustee
Board Source
  • Advocacy and Ambassadorship
  • https://boardsource.org/fundamental-topics-of-nonprofit-board-service/advocacy-ambassadorship/

Tamarack Institute

CivicInfo BC

Community Engagement Toolkit

Call to Action 

Submitted by Catherine Lord, Chair, Okanagan Regional Library Board


With a new government now on stream, we, as public libraries, again need to sell our services to the Provincial elected representatives. There are local elected officials as well as members of the general public who, with the advent of electronic books, see little purpose in having physical libraries.

E-books are on the rise. Many see this as the demise of the public library. This is an extremely short-sighted view. Our society is in a process of upheaval and change. This has created fear in the general populace; primarily because there are existing jobs and professions that will be affected by automation. People see their jobs disappearing, and it’s very scary.

An atmosphere of change, however, also creates many opportunities; particularly opportunities that libraries can take advantage of. Societal change creates voids – and libraries are in the perfect position to fill those voids. People are looking for support in job-related skills and support in their non-formal learning. Of course these supports are already available in society, but they come with a hefty price. Libraries can provide some of these services at a much lower cost, and thus assist those who cannot afford the pricey alternatives. In this respect, libraries can act as a bridge between the lower and middle classes. Libraries can also provide spaces for community organizations to make presentations, offer courses, and provide information for the public.

The Okanagan Regional Library is in the process of adapting to change. We are investing significantly more in staff training; freeing up spaces for programming; condensing print collections, investing in community rooms; engaging with youth; and actively seeking partnerships with community organizations.

There are a number of areas where the BCLTA can be very effective in their support of libraries. The primary area is in the field of advocacy. The Advocacy Toolkit provided by BCLTA is directed primarily at Local Elected Officials and Community Leaders; this is advocacy at the local level. This year, we need strong support at the Provincial level to bring our new elected officials up to speed on the changing face of public libraries. We also need to ensure that the level of funding to public libraries is fair and equitable across the board – so that all public libraries are able to access the same pools of funding.

What is needed is a dedicated advocacy panel, made up of a number of library directors (covering all types of libraries), who can put an Advocacy White Paper together. The White Paper would include a brief history of British Columbia libraries, including the funding formulas and the services that were provided. It would also include a discussion on the changing face of our society; the new needs that have been identified; the libraries role in meeting those new needs; and how libraries can interface with school libraries and new technology hubs. Once that is done, the White Paper needs to be signed by all the BC library board members and then presented to the new government.

Trustees are committed to and passionate about their libraries and communities. Trustees Carolynne Burkholder-James (Chair), Mike Gagel (Vice Chair), and Myta Blacklaws, Prince
George Public Library Board



We will be at the UBCM 2017 Trade Show and Reception talking libraries and communities! The Association of B.C. Public Library Directors will be joining us in Booth #308 where will be meeting with convention delegates, elected officials, and hopefully some of you. Please stop by and say “hello” if you are attending the convention.


There will be a BCLTA & ABCPLD social on September 28th. The UBCM Convention gives us a lovely excuse to get-together (in person!) and celebrate the public library leadership of trustees and library directors. Details are:

  • Thursday, September 28th
  • 5-6:30pm (to accommodate that evening’s UBCM reception and banquet)
  • Rogue in Gastown at the Waterfront Skytrain Station
  • http://www.roguewetbar.com/gastown
  • Please reply to me (Babs) by September 24th for confirming reservations.
  • BCLTA will host with some appetizers.
  • Your drinks and any other menu items will require your individual payment.

This is a casual event for library trustees and library directors to connect with each other without meeting agendas, but with lots of library and community talk!

Let me (Babs, execdir@bclta.ca) know if you have any questions.

GVPL CEO Maureen Sawa with BCLTA ED Babs Kelly and guest at the 2016 UBCM Trade Show


The Trustee Orientation Program isn’t just for new trustees! It is for the whole board, including library directors and experienced trustees. Find out more about TOP in the Trustee’s Education section of the website at bclta.ca and please ask us questions!

Upcoming TOP session:

  • October 14th
  • Prince Rupert
  • Facilitated by Joanne Richards

Register and keep up to date on TOP sessions here

If you would like a TOP session in your area, click on the “Request a Training Session” link and Jan, BCLTA’s Administrative Assistant, will respond to your questions and ensure that everything is in place for a successful session. A minimum of 10 participants is required for the session to proceed.

We also provide easy access to the TOP workbook and webinars in the Member section of the website.

TOP webinar part 1 covers areas such as trustee responsibilities and governance versus management. Part 2 then continues the orientation with core board responsibilities such as external relations, oversight of the library, and establishing practices for board development.  

BCLTA TOP Advisory Committee

The BCLTA Trustee Orientation Program (TOP) has made a difference for trustees and boards across the province. We have heard back from many of you that orientation needs to be improved in regards to access, flexibility, and meeting the needs of trustees in the context of their everyday lives, the communities they serve, and the similarities and uniqueness among the libraries and boards.

We are now working with an advisory committee (BCLTA board, library directors, trustees, board chairs, a federation manager, and the Libraries Branch) to imagine and make happen the next phase of a province-wide approach to trustee orientation.

Most importantly, we are hearing from you – thank you! We have had an extraordinary amount of responses to the TOP Rethink / Refresh You Tell Us! survey which closed on September 13th.

What we receive will directly inform the committee’s recommendations. All responses will be compiled, anonymized and shared back out. This will give all of us a unique province-wide view on trustee orientation. Timeline:

  • Survey closed September 13th.
  • Committee –  based on survey responses, research, and synthesizing of ideas – presents recommendations to BCLTA board at the November Board meeting (revised from previous timeline of October 5th).
  • BCLTA board reports back out (including the survey responses) to the membership in December.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions about this survey or the work of the committee. Babs (execdir@bclta.ca)

Final Words and Thank you 

The over 700 trustees across this province represent their communities in the governance and ongoing development of public libraries, and it is the role and responsibility of BCLTA to represent and amplify their impact and priorities provincially. This past year the BCLTA has had strong involvement and direction from the membership and appreciates the call for BCLTA to deliver value through increased advocacy. At the end of this month the BCLTA board will be getting together to work on advocacy messages, tools, and actions.

We know that there is more that has been happening, or is in the planning with B.C.’s public library boards, and we look forward to hearing from you about your boards, libraries, and communities. Please keep sharing your ideas and stories!

If you have any favourite advocacy and community engagement resources, tools and tips, please send them to me (execdir@bclta.ca) and I will share them on the website and through upcoming Bulletins.

Everyone is welcome to subscribe to the Bulletin, and all trustees and library directors are encouraged to join our mailing list for updates and other information from BCLTA. As per Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation there is an “unsubscribe” button and we only send to those who have given us their contact information. To update your contact information or to subscribe to the Bulletin, email Jan at office@bclta.ca

As always, if you have any questions about what your association is doing, or feedback on what we could be doing for trustees and boards, please let me know.

Huy tseep q’u, miigwetch, thank you,

Babs Kelly

If you have feedback about this Bulletin or would like to contribute an item to an upcoming Bulletin, please contact us at execdir@bclta.ca.

If you wish to unsubscribe to the Bulletin please click here.

Posted in BCLTA Bulletin.