Librarians and library-lovers everywhere know that Nancy Pearl — famous Seattle librarian, advocate, activist, and Book Lust author (see my mug, this column) — is the ultimate library action figure. In fact, there is a Nancy Pearl action figure. Now, a Seattle company has introduced a Nancy Pearl ice cream, which is, as per her request, peanut butter fudge swirl.
I learned about this at last week’s BC Library Association conference in Richmond, where those warm breezes made the notion of a Nancy Pearl ice cream cone a thing to be desired — in fact, the perfect complement to all those sweetly inspirational workshops and cool ideas.
The conference brings together librarians from across BC to avail themselves of abounding professional development opportunities, and I was fortunate to be able to make the trek from Nelson with Heather Goldik (circulation services) and Melodie Rae Storey (teen services). Between session-hopping we caught frequent glimpses of chief librarian June Stockdale and trustee Donna Macdonald.
Some workshops I attended were of the vanilla variety — no fancy ingredients required — such as “Health and Safety for Library Workers.” Others offered new directions in readers’ advisories, for example “Reading for Social Change” (because the right book in the right hands at the right time can change everything — just ask Nancy Pearl). We learned about the Amnesty International Book Club, with its Canadian fiction titles and support materials.
Two workshops I attended were designed to make sure that folks of every flavour are honoured, supported, and served: “Why Accessible Libraries Matter” gave us better tools to assist people who live with a disability and offered a survey of the growing resources for people with print disabilities through the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS).
NNELS makes books available in a variety of platforms — from audio to Braille — for anyone for whom print is a barrier. What sorts of barriers? One special guest explained the complicated strategies he used to achieve his university degree, despite severe dyslexia (“what you see as print, I see as texture,” he told us). UBC’s Crane Library recordings of academic texts are now available through NNELS.
I found out that NNELS works to ensure that the collection includes the latest prize winners and the Summer Reading Club-recommended books, so no kid or adult will be without the book everyone is reading.
A workshop about inclusive library strategies for LGBTQ communities went beyond the all-over-the-news hot-button topic of gender-neutral washrooms, prompting us to reach out for feedback: what can we do better? The presenter’s slideshow, a historical snapshot of past discrimination, was a sobering and important reminder. Libraries, he told us, have a responsibility to be the standard-bearers for our communities’ social attitudes and acceptance. And so we shall.
Of particular and sobering interest to me was a panel discussion featuring professional marketers entitled “Perception is Reality.” What became clear was the disconnect in some segments of the population between old perceptions and the realities of libraries today. The “dusty warehouse of books” misperception remains pervasive in some quarters, and its endurance continues to surprise me.
Non-library-using taxpayers need to know that libraries, by being egalitarian, service-based information portals staffed by skilled navigators, play a role in improving life for everybody. From literacy to life skills to employability, and the lifelong love of learning that is passed down to our children, libraries reduce social burdens while serving up all that is good, enabling, and empowering.
Said those corporate, non-library-using marketing experts in a bit of sage wisdom, “the key to survival is stubborn persistence and reinvention,” two things libraries continue to do as sure as there will always be chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. And peanut butter fudge swirl.
Anne DeGrace is the adult services coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to nelsonlibrary.ca.