This is the day!
3 months ago, on March 17, 2020, Ontario’s Public Libraries were ordered to physically close. I know you’re counting, but today we approach the three-month anniversary of those physical closures. Also, last week marked my 7th anniversary as executive director of FOPL. Next month, my professional blog, Stephen’s Lighthouse, will turn 15 and I’ll have been working at Lighthouse Consulting, Inc. for 7 years full-time.
So, this is a big month of anniversaries for me, but none looms larger in the present than the past 90 days as I pivot my professional work with FOPL to try to make a difference, support libraries, share and live our values and, indeed, my values – personal and professional – as we progress through this challenging period.
As expected, Ontario’s Public Libraries were ready and rose to the emergency event engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic and marvellously pivoted to ensure their communities and residents were supported and engaged. They’ve delivered real value – socially, educationally, economically, and more to our communities. We are a digital dynamo and our ability to pivot from digital strength to digital strength is amazing. Then, we had short notice of curb-side pick-up authorization and, again, public libraries stood up and planned and executed. Our already superb digital skills grew enormously. And, now some libraries are authorized to partially re-open and the cycle begins anew. I am so proud to work in the library space and have a front row seat on the action and success. Clearly, part of our sector’s new normal is waves of change.
Sitting in the front row, I value the support and direction of the FOPL Board. The wisdom of creating a board with great diversity was prescient and it’s a treasure trove of ideas, advice and support for us on staff. We have done great work together as we work on through government relationships to keep the needs of public libraries on their radar. The Board’s leadership has been transformational as we set priorities and directions for our future efforts to ensure that public libraries in Ontario thrive. I also couldn’t do any of this without the support of the FOPL office manager, Helen Morrison, who is the rock who keeps everything running.
Our investments of your membership dollars have paid off and we’re at the table on most major decisions affecting our sector with advice and information. Our political folks and civil servants are to be thanked for their efforts to consult with us to ensure their success of their policy direction – especially during these dynamic changes.
I am also proud to work with my valued colleagues at, among others, OLA, OLBA, SOLS, OLS-North, CFLA, IFLA, SLA, and CULC. The collaborative and independent efforts of all have been amazing and each of us has, separately and collaboratively, built a mosaic of support resources, communications, training and webinars, and more. We are an amazing team that spreads the effort around and coordinates to support you as we all play our unique roles. The future picture that this mosaic will be is still unclear but we have a lot of the tiles in place!
So, with all these changes continuing to be wrought by the novel coronavirus, one would think that would be enough to keep us busy! Not true, what the novel coronavirus has done is shone a huge magnifying glass on the inequities in our society and challenged us to look to the important and impactful role that public libraries can play moving forward to a better ‘new’ normal.
As such, we look beyond the lockdowns and are working steadfastly on:
- fibre broadband funding and programs for rural, northern and small town Ontario.
- municipal funding issues and provincial library funding programs
- supporting home-learning
- a re-imagined ServiceOntario
- ensuring the success of First Nation Public Libraries
- funding of library infrastructure through development charges and community benefit charges
- funding for an Ontario Digital Public Library
- supporting anti-racism education and activities at FOPL
- And much more.
So, just in case no one has told you lately . . .
Thank you to the Board members, CEO’s, management teams, librarians and library workers.
Thank you to all the essential workers.
Thank you to our community’s residents and leaders.
We are stronger for your efforts in the service of public libraries making a difference – in person and digitally.
We look forward to re-imagining our libraries as we grow with you.
If you need to chat, brainstorm, or talk confidentially I’m here for you. Just call. My cel and home phone numbers are below as well as my e-mails. We only touch base with the FOPL office about once a week.
Be well. Be safe, And STAY AWESOME!
Executive Director, Federation of Ontario Public Libraries
FOPL OpenMediaDesk: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FederationofOntarioPublicLibraries/