The Last Post

“In the relentless storm of information that bombards us every day, libraries are lighthouses.” Winnipeg Free Press, May 31 2018.

We’re almost through 2018, gang. You could say we survived it more than lived it. Or at least that’s how I feel about this past year. Don’t get me wrong: there were a lot of great things that happened this year, I just can’t think of any right now.

Okay, I’ve got one: the library podcast. It’s been really amazing how it has taken off over the last 12 months, and every time the five of us gather to record it, I feel like pinching myself. “Am I really getting to do this as part of my job?” Reader, I am.

It means that I’ve been using the hours of my work days differently, and I haven’t figured out a way to give myself more hours in the day, because I am not a sorcerer OR a dark lord (although I’ve been known to DABBLE) *he mumbled knowingly.

So with every new thing you (and by you I mean me) make room for, you have to give something else up. So for me to give the podcast more of my attention, I’ve asked to be taken out of the rotation for the library blog. Taken myself out of the line up! Like Lou Gehrig after 2130 games. In terms of years, his streak was stretched out over 14 years. Now, mind you, of course the streak was not a continuous one in the sense that it only counted between April and October of each year, and from November to March he could eat snacks and take naps and do whatever baseball players do in the off-season. So, considering that I’ve been part of a regular blog rotation since we started up the library blog in 2011, I’d say 8 years year round beats out 14 “half years”, wouldn’t you say? Take THAT, Lou Gehrig!

Ah well, fans of the library blog, do not despair quite yet. I don’t know exactly when the rotation will be switched up, so even though it feels like my last post was published this week, I could very well have one or two more in me, which makes this post look like it’s written by a REAL BOOB. Whether it’s now or in a few weeks, I’ve had a good run and am looking forward to the break. Who knows? The ol’ champ here might even write the odd guest post. I can’t see myself completely turning my back on the library blog. Besides, if it wasn’t for the library blog, I don’t think Mountains Beyond Mountains would ever have moved into that lighthouse, and JUST THINK OF THE LOSS IF YOU NEVER HAD A CHANCE TO READ SOME OF THESE GEMS OVER THE PAST 8 YEARS???

But it’s common to take stock of things when we get to the end of a calendar year, and I’ve been catching up on some library reading recently. For example, the ALA is struggling with how to word their policies for room rentals and “special interest groups” aka NAZIS and KKK people and the like. What would you do? Would you provide a meeting space for the community without regards to the content of the meeting to be fair to all? Or is there a moral obligation to spot the spread of hate in the community. That old “Freedom of Expression vs. Civil Rights” argument. My rights versus yours. Isn’t there a song about that?

So, that’s one debate in the library world I’ve been following, as it applies directly to public libraries, but the other thing I want to share is this editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press back in June about libraries. I think it’s really well written and captures what it means to be a library in this crazy world. And also a reminder that I consider myself so fortunate to live in a society and a city that sees the value of libraries and is investing in them. That’s all I’ve got for 2018, gang! Let’s see if we survive 2019…

From the May 31st edition of the Winnipeg Free Press:

When you stop to think about what a public library is and the function it serves within a community, it almost seems like a mythical place.

No, really — think about it. A public library is a place in which hundreds upon hundreds of books — containing a universe of ideas, thoughts, stories and characters — are available for anyone to borrow and read, free of charge. It’s a place in which information is made accessible to anyone, also free. It’s a place where one can read newspapers, rent movies and use the internet, as well as access innovative community programming aimed at making us a more compassionate and less ignorant society. Again, all for free.

Public libraries are incredible things. They are the bedrock of literacy and democracy, which is why it’s encouraging that the City of Winnipeg is continuing to invest in ours. This week, the St. Vital Library reopened after undergoing a $2.4-million facelift that included the addition of an elevator, more washrooms and a new roof — all improvements that will boost usage.

The renovations provide, quite literally, a new lease on life for the St. Vital Library. Five years ago, it was slated for demolition. And later, it was slated for amalgamation with Windsor Park.

St. Vital is one of the 10 libraries included in Winnipeg’s 2013 library redevelopment strategy, which acknowledged, quite correctly, that libraries can’t truly be accessible places for all if the spaces themselves are not accessible. The decision to improve rather than shutter these brick-and-mortar community hubs was forward-thinking then and it’s forward-thinking now; in an era of fake news and misinformation, it seems we need libraries more than ever. In the relentless storm of information that bombards us every day, libraries are lighthouses. Their existence ensures that information and knowledge are not just for those who can afford to buy books or pay for a Wi-Fi connection.

Libraries offer more than just access to books. Those who haven’t set foot inside a Winnipeg Public Library location since they got their first library card in elementary school might be surprised at all that’s on offer. Word processing and research courses, book clubs, guest lectures, documentary screenings and even a story time led by drag queens are just some of the programming you’ll find at our libraries. It’s programming such as this that fosters community, connection and learning.

The forthcoming Idea Mill at the Millennium Library, a space that will include 3D printers, sound-recording booths, a crafting area and photography and video equipment, is another example of how our city’s libraries are innovating to fulfil their role in modern society.

And with libraries come librarians, who are resources themselves. They aren’t bespectacled, cardigan-wearing shushers; they are there to educate and empower, whether it’s sourcing research materials or helping someone figure out how to get ebooks on their iPad.

But perhaps most crucially, libraries and librarians help nurture generations of young readers. They remain a critical link between children and reading for pleasure, which is no small thing considering how much our lives are populated by screens. Research has shown that children who read for pleasure perform better in other areas of their lives and are more likely to grow up into adults who read.

To invest in libraries is to invest in the future.



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