Dear Catherine and all,

Catherine, just a short note to say that your reading into my letter an acceptance of corruption, mindless collection development, and the status quo is inappropriate. If you knew my longstanding record of social activism and my career as a poet and literary reviewer, I think you would feel silly responding to my letter in this manner. Sure, corporations who provide sponsorship need to be kept in line. But Darlene's example of the wonderful festival sponsored by a major cigarette company is a good example -- we need to advocate much better for our public libraries but we don't want to kill good things with our political correctness, either. In St. John's I have been involved in lobbying government for funding for public libraries, and an extra infusion of one million dollars for books that government provided resulted in an abundance of the highest quality Newfoundland, Canadian, and international poetry books, short story collections, novels, and plays flooding Newfoundland libraries. Again, I do have to apologize and say that I don't work in the public library system and I do have to plead ignorance about some of the challenges you and other public librarians are facing. But in my twenty-two years of librarianship I have seen too many librarians with a territorial approach to "their" libraries and collections, too many librarians with a rigid, perfectionist attitude to their well-rounded and unused collections, too many librarians with a snobby "I know what's right for you" attitude to their patrons. I think that high circulation rates can be a good thing in themselves -- after all public libraries serve the public. Successfully serving the public does not necessarily have to be a sell-out to the corporate agenda.

Janet Fraser

-----Original Message-----
From: [log in to unmask] [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Saturday, November 02, 2002 1:11 PM
To: Fraser, Janet
Cc: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Funding opportunity

I'm back and am enjoying reading the response to my question about the ABC Literacy Funds although Janet's referring to my "snobbish" attitude of "green tea" really threw me.  I hadn't said anything about green tea so I went back to the original message.  My apologies to the group.  I thought I had edited out all the personal parts from the message that had been sent to me.  Sorry for the confusion.

I must admit I'm saddened but not surprised by our attitude of "we need money where-ever we can find it". I wonder about the selling out of the public library, and here I will get a bit personal.  The public library I work at *does* have advertising (although they don't call it that) in our building.  It's called "sponsorship", but funds donated for the "Tim Horton Parent Lounge", the "Schickendanz Fireside Lounge", and  the "Stouffville Vet" shelves, really amount to advertising.  Nobody asked any questions about how long these signs should remain promoting those businesses.  Billboards have their time limit.

There is a fine line between acknowledging an individual person, whose only benefit is the continuation of all those warm and fuzzys that Janet Fraser mentions.  There was an interesting Adbusters issue a year or so ago which discussed the issue of how corporations have gained the rights of individuals.  Quite some scary reading.

But my real concern is that we don't question; we excuse our behaviour or justify it because it's a bad situation.  I can hear my mother whenever I tried to get my way by saying "So-and-so does it".  Her reply was always something to the effect of "Yeah, well that doesn't mean they're right".

How about an example?  Do those in the Atlantic Provinces select from the ALA list of roles for their own libraries?   It's agreed that we cannot be all things to all people so we must choose our roles carefully, only two or three at most.  So years ago  we discussed at our library what our roles should be and it was determined that we need only two - Children's Doorway to Learning, and Popular Materials.  I, and another librarian spoke pretty strongly on the necessity of a third role, something to include research or personal development.  That was dismissed as not being necessary because that's not what this community wants.

Public Librarians need to keep focused on a bigger picture.  We are not a business responding to the popular demands in the hopes for the big profit of high circulation.  This is important but we should also not avoid our responsibility to our citizens to provide what they may need someday, but just don't know it yet.  How the adoption of only these two roles have affected our collection and as a result, the service we give to the taxpaying citizen, is that the core collection never gets caught up.  I am expected to buy enough multiple copies of bestsellers, such as Grisham, Roberts, etc. so that no patron (oh wait, we're supposed to call them customers, now), has to wait more than a regular three week loan period.  I'm sure you can imagine the dollars that eats up.  Meanwhile, our medical section is an embarressment and our local high school students visit a library in a nearby municipality.
Way to grab those teens!

So the underlying questions I'm struggling with are even more personal than expressing my preference for vanilla hazelnut coffee.  I'm wondering how much I need to comprise my own principles to continue working as a public librarian?  Can I live with the consequences?  Can society?

Probably too much food for thought but I really enjoyed all the feedback.  It does help me.



Fraser, Janet wrote:

> Hi All,
> Although I do not work in the public library, I would like to support Darlene's position. Throughout my childhood and adulthood, I have spent countless stimulating, vibrant, soothing, and comfortable hours in the beautiful 'Carnegie' public libraries one can find throughout North America. Can you imagine if people in the midst of the Depression worried about the Carnegie "blood money" being spent on dozens and dozens of gorgeous libraries constructed in some of the poorest areas of our big cities? People who care about the survival of public libraries do not have the luxury of rejecting corporate sponsorship. While I agree with Catherine that cola stickers in each book is a bit much, I do not like Catherine's snobbishness about cider and green tea (personally I would like to see milk and cookies served to inner city children in the public libraries -- much better for them than green tea!).
> Sincerely,
> Janet Fraser
> College Librarian
> College of the North Atlantic
> St. John's, Newfoundland
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Darlene Nickerson [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Monday, October 28, 2002 9:35 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Funding opportunity
> Catherine:
> I work for a Family Literacy Committee and it is hard to get money. The
> Learning Exchange her in NB applied for money through them and didn't get
> any. As for the obesity problem, sure it is out there, but do I think my 10
> year is going to become obese because he is reading a book sponsored by coca
> cola, I find it hard to believe and if I have a choice between him reading a
> book and seeing a symbol once when he opens it or watching TV  and seeing it
> 3 times in 15 minutes. I would choose the book hands down. Also, many public
> libraries are having their summer programs sponsored by Mc Donalds so it is
> everywhere. If you library is fortunate enough to not have to seek donation
> from large "food/drink" corporations great, but many do not have that luxury
> and I think patrons would rather have new books than to say no to coca-cola.
> I use to manage a professional theatre company and we had duMaurier as a
> sponsor. I don't smoke, hate it, but $15,000 for a production was great when
> there the competition for the $ is so great. These were adult production
> employing adults and for adults. It worked well. I can think of companies
> that break environmental laws, drug companies, most companies have down
> falls, but we have to keep an open mind.
> Darlene
> -----Original Message-----
> From: APLA-List List [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Catherine
> Sword
> Sent: Thursday, October 24, 2002 4:06 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Funding opportunity
> Hi All,
> > My jobber here in Ontario recently sent me this information about the ABC
> > Literacy Foundation.  Personally the concept of commerical promotion
> through
> > the public library offends me.  It's blatant advertising and in this case,
> for
> > an unhealthy product.  Hasn't everyone heard about the obesity problem
> with
> > North Americans.
> > What do others feel?
> Catherine
> > > Are you two aware of the Coca-Cola money that the ABC Literacy
> Foundation
> > > is distributing? Here's a link:
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > I just spoke to a very small library (they serve a population of approx
> > > 1400) that just received a grant of $1500 through this program to
> purchase
> > > children's books with and was told that the application process was an
> > easy
> > > one, with approval and a cheque coming in a month's time. The catch is
> > > having to slap a Coke sticker inside each book.
> > >
> > > Could one of you let me know if you'd been aware of this program? I'm
> > > trying to get a feel for how many libraries know about it.
> > >
> > > Myself, I drink cider and green tea. Just for the taste of it!
> > >
> > > cheers,
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >