Monday, May 30, 2011

Three Librarians in Mexico: A Report from the Field

A girl celebrating her quienceaƱera
This summer I had the pleasure of traveling to Mexico to study Spanish with two of my colleagues. We traveled as participants in Mount Royal University’s Guanajuato Faculty and Staff Exchange. This program takes Mount Royal employees to Guanajuato to study Spanish and brings employees of that university back to Calgary. Along with a lot of time spent studying, exploring bustling streets, relaxing in picturesque plazas, discovering magnificent archeological ruins and seeing the delights of Mexico City we had the opportunity to explore a few of Mexico’s libraries – although it took some determination to do so.

We never actually got to enter the first library on our list as the language-learning library at the school was closed for the summer. We left a set of nose prints on the door as we each gazed in at the shelves of resources off limits to us. It took two weeks to successfully find and enter the main university library, which also serves as the local public library. Without signs to indicate regular library hours or holiday closures it took a diligent series of visits by my colleague at different times of the day to determine that yes, the library was definitely closed for vacation. A few weeks into our visit the summer vacation ended and we were finally able to explore this library. It was a nice space and the librarian was welcoming and took the time to chat with us about it. A good chance to practice using our developing Spanish skills.

Guanajuato cityscape
From two libraries that we stalked with consuming interest to a third that we stumbled on by accident in Mexico City’s inner city. Although the streets just outside the library were very busy on the Saturday morning of our visit we were the only patrons in the library. The library staff were happy to welcome us and told us about the programs offered by the library. We explored the space and noticed that the collection, as with the university library in Guanajuato, did not have many new additions and the tables were covered with books drying after a recent leak. Just outside we admired the ceilings in the archways which were covered in murals painted by one of Diego Rivera’s students while trying not to get in the way of a pair of young men using the space to learn to walk on stilts.

Beyond libraries, my experiences in Mexico gave me some small windows into the interesting history and culture of this society. For example, the impressive archeological remains attest to the amazing achievements of the people living in Mexico 2000 years ago. Even today there are over 60 different indigenous languages that continue to be spoken. The elaborate parties associated with the quienceaƱera celebrations (these are parties that celebrate girls when they turn 15) are an interesting tradition and a pleasure to observe if you stumble across these groups pausing for photos on the steps of churches.  Libraries may not play a big part in Mexican culture but that doesn’t mean that books don’t. In Guanajuato there were bookstores in almost every shopping plaza we visited. One month in Mexico was long enough to let me know that I need to spend a lot more time exploring this fascinating country.

~ Francine May

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rebuilding the Slave Lake Library – one Donation at a Time

The public library in the Town of Slave Lake was completely destroyed on Sunday, May 15, as a result of a huge forest fire.   The beautiful new Rotary Club of Slave Lake Public Library had just opened in 2010. 

About forty per cent of the Town is gone and support for those who lost their homes and possessions is pouring in via the Red Cross and other organizations.  Support for the library is also pouring in.  Libraries, bookstores, publishers and other library-related organizations have been in touch with Peace Library System to see how they can help the library rebuild.  Here’s what you can do:

Donations of new or nearly new books (no more than two years old) can be shipped to Peace Library System headquarters where they will be catalogued, processed and stored until a temporary library opens in Slave Lake.  Please ship prepaid to:

Peace Library System
8301 – 110 Street
Grande Prairie, AB  T8W 6T2

ATTN: Books for Slave Lake Library

Cash donations can be made by going to the library’s web page at and clicking on the “Make a Donation” link.

The Slave Lake Library and Peace Library System thank all who make a contribution to rebuilding the library.

For additional information, please contact Carol Downing, Assistant Director, at

Friday, May 6, 2011

Practicing Librarianship

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I do. I mean, I know what I do during the day, but how do I make decisions about what I do? How do I know that what I am doing is the best way to do things? Or even what I should be doing at all?

Typically my practice comes from my education (which vaguely exists in the back of my mind), previous experience, talking to my colleagues and the institutional culture. Sometimes I feel this is enough for my practice – I know that teaching information literacy instruction sessions too far before an assignment is due is less effective because students are not yet ready to learn what I have to teach them. However, sometimes I wish that my practice came from more systematic reading or study on the subject. What is the best way to analyze my collection? Well, it depends on a whole lot of factors about what function the collection serves. Then it depends what information would be most useful to examine. Then it depends on what tools and information are available to me.

I have become interested in evidence-based librarianship (EBL) – the use of research to inform practice. Librarianship is not theoretical, it is a discipline tied to real work practice. One of the kinds of professional development I need to do is exploring topics like collections using EBL literature. I can also contribute to the field by systematically examining my practice. This is not research done to create theoretical models or new theories (although that research can be useful) but this is research about what I do on a day-to-day basis.

I am not yet sure how I will fit this type of reading and professional development into what I do, I just know this is the direction in which I want to go.

~Becky Willson

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

CHLA/ABSC 2011: CE Session in Banff Early-Bird Rates Extended!

CHLA/ABSC 2011 is extending its early-bird rates for the CE session in Banff and spots are available until May 13. We encourage you to register.

Why is this leadership session special? From a former attendee and current librarian: "The Banff Centre provides an all-encompassing experience that doesn't teach one the latest trends on how to be a better manager or leader; the center creates an environment that allows participants to recognize and build on the many strengths we bring to our work, and our lives in general."

Powerful Expression for Leaders: The Leader's Voice Workshop

Leaders can't just walk the walk, they also have to talk the talk! Great leaders need to be great communicators to inspire and lead others into action. This workshop will use artistic processes to help you to develop a "leader's voice." But great leaders are also great listeners, so we'll also be spending time on the critical connections between voice and good listening. This session employs unconventional, arts-based learning methods to develop your creative leadership voice. Instructor Colin Funk is the Artistic Director of Precipice Theatre in Banff and the Creative Program Director of The Banff Centre's Leadership Learning Lab. He has done extensive work in leadership development.

Register here Transportation to Banff from Calgary is included.
If you have already sent in your registration and would like to add this workshop, you can still do so by contacting the CHLA/ABSC office at 416.646.1600 or

See you in less than a month!!
Jennifer Lee.
Publicity Committee member