Pokemon GO and your library

So, the poke-ocalypse is upon us. People everywhere are playing pokemon go. It has united and divided people, it gets people moving and it is more additive the some illegal street drugs.

This game is taking the world by the bull horns and going off into left field. Aside from the stories about people playing pokemon go at a funeral, walking off a cliff, and being shot at (just check a news feed and you will see these among other nasty faults) the game is a pretty positive thing. It has also started bringing people back to community centers such as public libraries.

I am no Poke-nerd, but my understanding is many public places act as centers in the game known as poke stops and poke gyms. Some people at libraries have figured out that with so many people coming to the library now to catch pokemon why not use it to their advantage.

The Children’s Services Librarian at Fort Francis Public Library has started a pokemon scavenger hunt for kids. Another library I heard was having a Pokemon go tour and taking people on poketours of their area so people could get help finding the electronic little monsters in game.

My branch Librarian at the Laurentian Hills Library has been hosting pokemon card trading days for months, and now with pokemon becoming the big thing again I expect numbers to increase even more. She is also doing her own pokemon card give away by having kids take out books to win a chance at some cards.

Libraries can take advantage of these tech crazes. Not only are we well positioned in the public eye to do so, but we have a wealth of technical knowledge. Take advantage of these fads and phone based games. They can be used to facilitate library use, walk in traffic, and even some boosted circulation numbers.

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The Future of Reference Material in Public Libraries

In recent weeks I have heard rumblings on various boards about the Reference sections. Reference material in many area’s of the world are becoming extinct. It would seem that though the book has survived the E-book and Audio book trends, Reference material may not, particularly in the public library setting.

Many libraries are culling their reference section and turning to digital offerings from vendors such as Ebsco, Webster, and Encyclopedia Britannica. With Reference being what it is can it survive in the same way the book has survived?

I do not believe so. I think that reference being general knowledge, most of this is available online. When someone has a question about a generic topic the first resource they seek are not the library, but the internet. Online, general knowledge is freely available from one of the many search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.) or from Wikipedia. Why would anyone go to a library to pick up a huge tome to look up general information? When was the last time you looked up something in a dictionary instead of googling it/checking Dictionary.com?

People may argue, what about specialize generalist information, like Medical dictionary or special interest books suc as the encyclopedia of Middle Earth, Bird Watchers encyclopedia or the Guide to Neo-Paganism.? Well these may be still sought out as special interest sources, but in a public library? Let us look at the Medical Dictionary.

With the medical dictionary we may consider that a great tool and guide to have. This may be true for some, but with the cost of updating medical information every 3-5 years it can get costly. The budgets of public libraries are not keeping up with the cost of reference material. Also that information is generally available online through Pubmed or Webmd, one would need to be purchased digitally, but is updated without much effort from the library, while the other is freely available online.

So now what about the special interests such as Encyclopedia of Middle – Earth or Guide to Neo-Paganism. Both these types of special interest books are not going to change much in 5,10, or 15 years, so they may be able to stay on the shelf a bit longer, without them being replaced. The problem is that spending money in a public library on stuff that is readily available through a simple google search just might not pass mustard with your library board.

At my library I am struggling with that question of keeping it, updating it or tossing it. Some people may think this is a no brainer, but in a small library do I keep the encyclopedia on Canada from 1989 or the Wordsworth dictionary? Do I ditch the books on general history that have not gone out in 15 years or do I minimize the collection to special interest/specific generalities like the Encyclopedia of Home Remedies. Whats a budget strapped public librarian to do?

 

Attawapiskat..how can libraries/books help?

In Northern Ontario there is currently a suicide crisis going on. In the small first nations community of Attawapiskat there are young adults taking their own live or making pacts to do so in groups. I am of the opinion that libraries and people with used books could save lives and would love to see more libraries come together and help these troubled teens.

I had a bit of a troubled teen life myself, but nothing compared to what these kids are going through. I got through it with good family, friends, and books. I spent much of my time in high school reading. I found it to be a way to escape whatever was bothering me at the time and believe it could be helpful to others in a situation like what is going on up north.

I propose anyone reading this please contact your library about sending a book (or five) to Attawapiskat. If a lot of people and libraries did this we could build a sort of library/book exchange up there and give these kids something to keep them occupied, encourage them to read, and possibly find hope in the pages of a novel.

Libraries can save lives…books can be the answer…or inspiration for children to continue to fight the sense of hopelessness and lonelyness that many people suffer through. I urge people to reach out to these kids and pay that old book forward…it brought joy and hope to you once, let it continue to work its magic on others.

Love for the small library

I have always loved the idea of working for a small public/special library. Don’t get me wrong if Toronto, London, or other bigger library system came calling I would not just shew them away. I have always just imagined myself in a smaller library.

In a smaller library I feel that I get to know people better. I went into library sciences to help people, in a direct manner, not from afar in a cubicle, cataloguing room or 6th floor office. I currently work for the Laurentian Hills Public Library. We have 2 small rural branches that I manage. The Point Alexander Branch I manage directly, and the Chalk River Branch is managed by myself from afar (I have a branch librarian there).

In a larger library system, I figure that I would not get the opportunity to work the circulation desk, weed books, read stories to kids or do special programming. These jobs would be handled by other more specialized library staff. Even though I have volunteers that could handle most of those jobs, I love the opportunity to put on the different hats on a regular basis.

In a larger library I doubt I would know anybody. I would not get to know the patrons, or all the employees and volunteers as the manager of a larger system. People would have names, but not faces. I see my volunteers daily, and Candice (my branch librarian) at least once a week. I went into librarianship to work with people and help people in a direct manner, and that is where I am now.

I think a lot of library graduates could fit into a role like this quite easily and may even learn to love it, if they already don’t have a passion for it. It is a great position to be in, though the pay of a smaller library may not appeal as much as say the bigger management positions…it offers special “benefits” that the bigger systems could never match.

The CLA is gone….

As of yesterday, Jan 27th, 2016 the Canadian Library Association (CLA) is no more. This comes at a time when many people in the Canadian Library landscape had been repeatedly questioning the relevance of the organization. I am not completely unaffected by it’s passing. I served in a student group that was an extension of the organization and it will be missed. Today is not a time for mourning; it is a time for renewal.

For many years the CLA has served as the voice of libraries across the country. It was imagined to be the Canadian equivalent to the American Library Association. This was never truly realized. The Canadian Library association faced many criticisms over the years, some warranted and some unwarranted, these criticisms and many shortcomings were what lead to its demise.

The CLA as a National voice

The CLA was envisioned to be a National voice for libraries and its core members: Library workers. It never was a national voice for its members and faltered in meeting up to those expectations. It routinely sided with libraries in dispute with their workers and never became the Canadian vision of National voice of Canada that it could have been.

The CLA represented Libraries but not Librarians

The CLA was accused repeatedly of representing the interests of libraries, but not those who worked in libraries. This was disheartening to many, as the organization alienated itself from the core of its membership. The people that were most likely to join a national library association were those who worked in the libraries. With the CLA clearly not representing the work force, their numbers dwindled as their core supporters found other more regional organizations that would support them.

The CLA could not compete with Provincial Library associations

Many people who worked in libraries were already part of smaller organizations that were provincial or regionally centralized. These organizations were more accepting of representing the needs of their library workforce. By doing this they overshadowed the CLA and practically made it obsolete.

The Future – Federation of Library Associations in Canada (CLA, web)

A new proposal is in the works, and it has promise. the Regional and Provincial organizations have gained strength; it has been proposed that a Federation of Library Associations replace the ailing CLA. Instead of having a separate organization oversee the nations information needs, a union of the regional and provincial organizations will help to ensure Canadian interests in Library and information field are met. This will work only if all regions of Canada are represented. The proposal suggests regional members that join will have a voice. This is a great idea, but what happens if one group decides to strike it on their own? They will not have a national voice, and neither will Canada, as the Nation as a whole has to be fully represented….or this new Federation may falter before it gets off the starting line.

I suggest that all members of the Canadian Library landscape petition your local associations to join the federation and help build a strong National Library Federation that we can be proud of and that is representative of all of Canada. This is not the end, but the beginning of a new and exciting future.

Sources

CLA – http://cla.ca/wp-content/uploads/Proposal_Cdn_federation_library_associations_Final_2015_12_18_EN.pdf

The Wage gap? – Library edition

There are many people who still believe in the wage gap. That women make less money than men doing the same work. While this may be true on a general level, I would like to look at it in libraries and on a more specific level.

In libraries the wage gap or low income of library workers/librarians is not because you are a woman or I am a man. It is caused by past ideas on male and female roles. It has nothing to do with you or me. A library job was once considered clerical work, which included librarianship. Library jobs were paid out as clerical work to women who were thought to be better suited to the job. Unfortunately in the 21st century the increase in pay for library workers has not gone up exponentially to make up for the short sightedness and shortcomings of past judgements.

So the wage gap has nothing to do with your sex, it has to do with what the wage for our job was 50 years ago. Because Librarianship, like secretaries and other professions, were considered lady like the wage did not go up for men either. I as a man make the same starting wage as the previous female librarian who came before me. If the wage gap were true, I would be making significantly more because I am a man, but this isn’t true.

The wage gap is a generality and there are many factors that go into creating that stat: Longer hours, jobs that women are likely to take or are still considered feminine: like librarianship. “Career choice is another factor. Research in 2013 by Anthony Carnevale, a Georgetown University economist, shows that women flock to college majors that lead to lower-paying careers.[Wallstreet Journal, 2015].

The low paying jobs in librarianship are more to do with economics than gender. If people want to complain about the pay they receive as a library worker they should really consider the situation they and their employer are in, instead of crying wolf to the overall statistic slated under “wage gap”. Be proactive instead of complaining about a large number you can’t control. Change starts at the local level…so maybe start with what is right in front of you. I know I will.

 

Sources

Chow, Lisa. “Why Women (Like Me) Choose Lower-Paying Jobs”http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2013/09/11/220748057/why-women-like-me-choose-lower-paying-jobs, Sept 11, 201

Wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-wage-gap-myth-that-wont-die-1443654408, Sept 30, 2015

 

 

 

Why we need the Long form Census

On November 4th, 2015 the newly sworn in Liberal government reinstated the Long form Census that had been axed by the previous conservative government. This is a great day for Canada, as it has been hailed by Scientists and the new Canadian government as a great step forward in Canada’s ability to find reliable and accurate information. “So what?” “Who cares?” These are some of the responses I hear from some people in my library, around town, and online. I am going to try to explain why the long form census matters and why it is a necessity in our society.

Online is probably the worst culprit for misinformation on the planet. There are so many people with opinions (I am one of them), and many of them are uninformed, misinformed or just ignorant. There are those who believe that the long-form census is antiquated and such a horrible way to find information. I saw one response online that asked why we needed it when so many companies and government agencies have most this information in databases already? My reply went something like this: He was correct in assuming there are many other databases out there with this kind of information. His assumption that this information is available to all, as the long form census is, was misinformed.

Information is a commodity these days. It is a commodity that is closely guarded by those who have it be they government agencies or public corporations. Corporations might be willing to sell the information for quite the profit, but will not give it freely. As for his assumption about information being already in the hands of government agencies, that is once again true, but they can not just hand over all the information between agencies. Information sharing between government departments is carried out on a case-by-case and/or ad-hoc basis, which is antiquated and inefficient. Meaning only certain information is shared when warranted while other information may not be shared. This is just one example of how information sharing through existing public and government agencies is not feasible. This is also an example of why collecting populace data from people directly is needed.

Another reason this is important to Canada is for the purpose of research. Researchers need accurate data that is relatively easily accessible to do legitimate research. Businesses rely on accurate data as well. For instance, when a developer is looking to put a new sky scraper in downtown Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver it may be wise to look at the population density, average income, and trends in population to determine if he can profit from a 20 storey building or 50 storey building. How is he going to find that information if it is spread between 6 different agencies and 50 companies? Also he may use old census data for this, but what use is the information if it is 5, 10, 20 years old?

Another reason for the census is to make sure everyone is included in the data. A corporation that collects data about the workforce, may omit information on those who are more than 200km from their operation, or people who are unable to work. What about the native population in rural Canada? to a corporation does that matter? will it be kept or even recorded?  When the mandatory long-form census was stopped in 2010/2011 it was replaced by a voluntary household survey. Now people could do it if they wanted, but data becomes less prevalent. A town of 50 people may disappear from information records simply because it is too small of a community to exist in a voluntary record or it may exist, but because only 3 people from the community filled it out its new estimated population is next to nothing and therefore a corporation may have passed on a start up in the town.

Native people of Canada are scattered primarily away from population centers and may not even have access to online resources to participate in a digital and optional census. The long form census being mandatory meant everyone was included, everyone’s voice was counted. Minorities of all types become almost invisible in one of the most diverse nations in the world.

One last point of why the long form census is important. The long form census being mandatory meant people actually filled it out. It has been shown that when something is optional many people opt out. How many times have you received a phone call and it is telemarketer offering a survey? Many people opt out of it not only because they are annoying and sometimes trying to sell you something, but also because you don’t have to listen so you choose not to. The National Household Survey is quite similar. People begin to tune out and so less information is gathered. If less information is gathered it can skew results (such as the fictitious town above) or total alienate parts of our population. The household survey also costs more tax dollars than the census, because it was sent to more households than the long form census 1 of 3 instead of 1 of 5 (note the other 4 houses who did not receive the long form census received a short form instead).The Household survey was then summarily tossed by many because they were not required to do it, so why bother. The long form census had consequences if not filled out (Fines and possible jail time). So even though it was sent to less houses, it was more cost effective than the household survey.

The Household survey cost more to distribute, was less effective and tossed by many. Another argument I hear from people is the census is a waste of money. Maybe, but when the government replaces it with another waste of money that is tossed in the trash most the time, I would prefer more accurate data, that reflects the diversity of Canada, and was easily accessible to all. Other countries are moving away from the census, but Canada being a nation with a population of over 33 million people (2011 Census) spread over 9.9million kilometers , having two official languages and over 9 recognized regional languages, it is a necessity to maintain information in such a vast and diverse culture. Though I admit….the data above is getting a bit old.