Sunday, May 30, 2010

Quiet in the Library

In an impressive attempt to placate the fearmongering and elitism that has surrounded the recent spate of negative coverage about the downtown Milner library, today's Edmonton Journal published a lengthy article on what some may refer to as "problem patrons" - people who have nowhere to go in a culture of increasingly eroded public spaces. It would have been nice to see a mention of the successful and innovative Canadian initiative, The Working Together Project, but it's still refreshing to see an attempt at understanding the root causes of the issues many inner city libraries face when serving patrons from a wide spectrum of backgrounds. Punitive policies against odors and bedrolls and large bags, for instance, work against the broader library ethos of inclusion and equity of access, and promote public libraries as exclusive enclaves of an elite middle class. The Working Together Project eloquently expresses the exclusionary effects of such policies:

"The reality is that to the majority of socially-excluded people, we are a club and they do not feel welcome. Our atmosphere is oppressive, our rules and codes are alienating, and, often, we ourselves are unapproachable and/or intimidating. We require identification and proof of address for membership; we charge fines for overdue materials; we have policies about smelly patrons and behaviour that we as staff find challenging to manage; we implement policies and architecture to “protect” staff from patrons; and we use complex jargon to discuss our services. Many socially-excluded people do not feel welcome and the reality is that they are not welcome. Most of our planning processes and many of our policies and practices make this very clear to them."

Some libraries - San Francisco Public Library for example - are much more progressive and innovative in their approach, hiring a social worker who can refer patrons to shelters and agencies. While most libraries don't have the budgetary luxury to hire social workers, staff training and referrals to social service agencies can go a long way in helping those patrons who have nowhere else to go find social services that can assist them. Promoting a welcoming atmosphere is also essential, as EPL CEO Linda Cook remarked: "We would never refuse entry to someone based on how they look or the fact they don't have a home."

We do have to take issue with the tone of the Journal article at times and the somewhat hyperbolic journalistic license employed - "Nearby, a man dropped a small plastic baggie into another man's hand. In the bathroom, the needle box continued to fill" and referring to these folks as "bad apples in public spaces." If anything, these issues have been useful in illuminating how many Edmontonians have fallen through the cracks caused by the erosion of social services. To complain that these people are "taking over our library" is to overlook the fact that it's EVERYONE'S library. In the unfortunate onslaught of negative coverage concerning our downtown library, there is the bittersweet benefit that perhaps our city officials might take a closer look at the perilous effects of budget cuts in areas that affect people's lives in such overwhelming ways, and to hopefully arrive at some sort of plan to fill these gaps.

Kudos to the Journal for an insightful article that will surely open some eyes.

Image courtesy of, licensed by Creative Commons.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

EIFW Booksale Shout Out!

Some very welcome publicity for the GELA Prison Project in yesterday's Edmonton Sun:

"A group of city librarians will spend their Mother’s Day selling stacks of books to make sure imprisoned moms are just a “play” button away for dozens of kids.

The sale — continuing on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 10706 84 Ave. — is the first time the Greater Edmonton Library Association has held a public fundraiser to support their varied projects in the Edmonton federal women’s prison.

Since 2007, the group has visited the prison regularly, offering book clubs, keeping the prison library properly stocked and running the ongoing Storybook Project.

The project offers inmates a chance to read a story to their children — some of whom they may not have seen since giving birth — while a volunteer records it.

The CD with the reading and a copy of the accompanying book is then mailed to the children."

Read more here.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Gossip Girl Books Illicit?

An act of censorship or exposing the neglect of libraries to protect children from age-inappropriate content? You know what WE think - what do you think? Read the full article here.

"Longwood parent Tina Harden was so disturbed by references to sex and drugs and foul language in the world of fictional teenager Jenny Humphrey that she is ignoring overdue notices and phone calls from her neighborhood library and its bill collector.

Harden refuses to return several books connected to the Gossip Girl series that detail Humphrey's life, even though she's had them since 2008."

"Harden said she doesn't want them banned, but she does want the library to put a warning label on the four titles...",0,7112288.story

Monday, May 03, 2010

Freedom to Read Memberships

What a deal!

Free memberships with the Freedom to Read Foundation for new graduates of ALA-accredited MLS and MLIS programs!

Fill out the PDF form and email or mail to:
Freedom to Read Foundation
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 280-4227 (fax)

A word document is available here.

Book Sale Fundraiser - May 8 and 9

Volunteer Call for Homeless Connect

It's been a while, but we're back to ask for your help!

On Sunday, May 9, 2010, Future Librarians for Intellectual Freedom (FLIF), the GELA Community Bookshelf Project, and the Edmonton Public Library will be distributing books to Edmonton's homeless community at Homeless Connect, held from 10:00 am until 3:00 p.m. at the Shaw Conference Centre. Last October's event was a great success - we gave heaps of books away, met lots of great people, and had a lot of fun. Plus, free snacks and drinks and a t-shirt for all volunteers!

There are two shifts available for 2-3 volunteers - the 9:30 am to 12:30 pm shift and the 12:30 until 3:30 shift. The duties are very basic - refill the boxes of books on the table, welcome visitors to the table, and help people find books they would like to read. Easy, rewarding, AND fun!

Contact us at flifblog @ to volunteer or for more information.

Visit the links below to find out more about this amazing event: