Federation of Ontario Public Libraries

FOPL Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 contemplates a more assertive and planned government relations strategy.  This is a good thing!

Historically this is part of the evolution of FOPL.  In my view, historically, FOPL was overly tied to the messaging on one primary issue – the PLOG.  We were successful in terms that this has not been cut.  Another view is that this is stagnant funding and hasn’t been raised to accommodate inflation or increased usage / expectations.  The government’s view is that they are moving away from funding models that don’t have ‘strings’ and accountability attached to them which is how they view the PLOG. They have ramped up the reporting requirements and deadlines/timing rules in recent years.  They have put forth trial balloon lately on using the PLOG to raise standards in public libraries potentially tied to accreditation systems.  Many libraries view the PLOG annual reporting (all three parts) as onerous already.  The provincial government also provides accountable funding to SOLS and OLS-North and through SOLS/OLS-North directly to libraries for research, innovation, and technology.  We are as concerned about the level of funding as the formula which is used in terms of equity and fairness to small/medium, growing communities and First Nations.

History

To date, FOPL has concentrated on a number of submissions:

We have been opportunistic in the past few years as government policy and funding initiatives have arisen.  We appear to be getting in front of the cart now rather than reactive.  We will continue to intensify our lobbying efforts with more ministries (sometimes opportunistically) as well as address funding issues and threats (PLOG, e-books, community hubs, culture, legislation, e-resources, AODA, First Nation libraries, etc.)

We have written and submitted a number of documents that have been received, read and quoted by the government.  We have been invited to the table on every initiative we asked to be invited to.

  • FOPL was consulted the development of the first CULTURE Strategy for Ontario. We provided advice and data on public libraries as culture hubs.  This is a cabinet level initiative and we t our research was quoted in the cabinet report.  We made a formal submission to the Task Force and shared this with members.  We created social media infographics and presentations emphasizing the cultural role of public libraries and distributed these to members and the broader community.
  • FOPL, at our initiative, was consulted on the development of the first COMMUNITY HUBS Strategy for Ontario. We provided a submission with detailed advice and recommendations on public libraries as community hubs.  This is a cabinet level initiative and our perspectives were quoted in the cabinet report.
  • FOPL submitted a letter to the review commission on the Municipal Act and other legislation supporting the independence of library boards and board members.
  • FOPL submitted a letter to OLG Inc. (Ontario Lotteries & Trillium funding) about funding for libraries and their major TV and media ad campaign highlighting their investments in libraries. We received a response that they cannot fund libraries and support the flow-through to municipalities.
  • FOPL submitted a detailed letter and recommendations to the Minister of Culture about the sunsetting of the e-resources funding. OLA submitted a parallel letter to the Minister of Education.  Many members submitted letters from their libraries and boards.
  • FOPL, with OLA, wrote a submission to the Minister of Finance to influence the 2016 provincial budget process. Public Libraries were mentioned in the budget in many contexts this time which is great. We ensured that libraries were present at nearly all of their consultations. We analyzed the 2016/17 budget and provided comments and advice to members.  We’ll continue to do this for 2017.

Going Forward

This is our short list of items that we track for consideration of lobbying effort given our limited time and resources:

  • Seniors Social Isolation
  • Anti-Poverty
  • Community Hubs
  • Culture Strategy
  • Legal Opinions
  • Municipal Act changes
  • CRTC
  • eBook pricing and licensing
  • e-Resource funding for schools and Public Libraries
  • First Nations and indigenous libraries
  • Strategic Partnerships
  • Budgets and PLOG and Grants
  • Federal government
  • AMO, FCM et al
  • Random policy work (CASL, Access Canada Copyright, etc.)

Our top priority in 2017 must be:

Priority One:

Leading the public library community’s response to the review of all public library funding in Ontario.

Related Priorities:

  • Connectivity Funding
  • Culture Funding
  • Community Hubs
  • e-Resources Funding for schools and Public Libraries
  • CELA Funding
  • Indigenous Libraries
  • SOLS-OLS-North Funding
  • EBook pricing and funding

Other priorities using our time, resources, and budget filters.

  • Seniors Social Isolation
  • Anti-Poverty
  • Legal Opinions
  • Municipal Act changes
  • CRTC
  • FOPL/FCLA/OLA Strategic Partnership with FCM/AMO
  • Federal government (with CFLA)

Scenarios to Discuss:

  • What would be our position on major changes to the funding formula and strategy?  Are we ready to propose changes to the formula?  Are we ready to think through a cafeteria style plan?
  • What is our position on Large Urban, Small/Medium, Rural or First Nations funding priorities and differences?
  • No decision has been made on the internet connectivity funding for April 1 2017.
  • OLCF funding expires in 2017.
  • Ministry staff asserted that there would be NO new funding but he didn’t expect us to come in with that position.  They were aware that it had been two decades since the 50% cut and no increase in 20 years.

We are in much better shape now that we have our current data analyses and polls so we can speak from data and build our stories.

Lastly, we need to consider our positioning on federal and national issues and the emergence of the new  Canadian Federation of Library Associations.

Library Day at Queen’s Park

On the partnerships front we are working closely with OLA. We expect that we will participate with OLA on provincial government lobbying issues.

  • “Host a day at Queen’s Park annually, ideally with sector partners. Identify up to three key messages, schedule meetings with MPP’s and members, provide member training/orientation.”

OLA and FOPL have held two (2014 and 2015) ‘Library Day at Queen’s Park’ in partnership.  Most of the logistics (meeting schedules) are coordinated by Impact Public Affairs – an external consulting firm who specialize in federal and provincial government lobbying.

 

The OLA Advocacy Committee defined the purpose of this day and the broader government relations plan as:

“OLA will collaborate with government to support Ontarians by strengthening government understanding of the opportunities libraries can offer. A government relations plan to build and strengthen government support of libraries can result in:

  • effective public policy that strengthens libraries
  • participating with and supporting government initiatives where libraries have a role or opportunity
  • increased support from government
  • increased awareness and value of libraries to government”

The outcomes of Library Day at Queen’s Park have been:

  • strengthening relationships between Ontario library organizations (OLA divisions and FOPL)
  • Definition and development of key ‘asks’, strategies, information briefs, and a training module for the OLA and FOPL members. (see community forum: http://www.accessola3.com/index.php?showforum=301 )
  • awareness by MPP’s and policy advisors of how libraries contribute to the province and provincial priorities across multiple ministries and government departments (approx. 26 meetings at each library day)
  • MPP letters supporting libraries to the three key ministries following each Library Day at Queen’s Park.
  • libraries on the record in the legislative assembly (Hansard)
  • advocacy and government relations training and education for library leaders: OLA and FOPL board members and representatives (approximately 26 delegates annually)
  • broader engagement with the library sector during the day via social media.
  • strengthening cross-library sector collaboration and understanding (i.e. school, academic, public library sectors)
  • while difficult to document a clear connection, OLA and FOPL have experienced an increase in invitations to be part of government consultations including: Ontario Library Capacity Fund consultations, Cultural Strategy Consultations; Ministry Tourism Culture and Sport, Community Hubs Consultations; Office of the Premier, and the Education, Literacy, Employment and Training Working Group to Support Syrian Newcomers; Ministry of Education and Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities. OSLA continues to be asked to sit on the Ministry of Education Student Achievement Working Group.

There are many positive outcomes from Library Day at Queen’s Park and there are also some challenges that need to be considered (these were identified in the post event surveys of the delegation):

  • Competition for attention: there will always be other organizations championing their cause on the same day (both years we have been there on the same day as the firefighters) and during an MPP’s day they will have multiple meetings with a range of delegations pleading their cause.
  • It is not possible to get confirmation of MPP meetings with ample notice. We try to confirm the meeting schedule a week in advance but this can change right up to the last minute. The delegation has only a few days to research who they will be meeting with.
  • Follow-up has been somewhat challenging for the OLA and FOPL offices. While November was deemed a good time to have a Library Day, the impending Super Conference makes it challenging to have follow-up between December and February.

 

Library Day at Queen’s Park helps us reach the broadest possible audience to ensure ongoing awareness.  Impact Public Affairs commented that some organizations do this annually, and some alternate years by having a lobby day one year and then a year with strategic meetings with core ministries.  FOPL will also need to confer with the OLA on any strategy moving forward.

For comparison purposes here is CLA’s list:

The Canadian Library Association/Association canadienne des bibliothèques is the national voice for Canada’s library communities.  The following has been adopted by FCLA now.

FCLA Key 2017 Priorities are:

  1. Truth and Reconciliation

    CFLA-FCAB is promoting initiatives in all types of libraries to advance reconciliation by supporting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and to promote collaboration in these issues across the Canadian library communities.

  2. Copyright

    CFLA-FCAB develops and promotes its library community’s positions on copyright; oversees the development of appropriate positions and supporting documentation and strategies; and fosters the optimal degree of collaboration and alignment on copyright advocacy across the Canadian library communities.

  3. Guidelines and Position Statements

    CFLA-FCAB is reviewing existing Canadian Library Association guidelines and position papers to determine their relevance to the challenges facing our library communities today, and will be updating them as required and releasing them for the community on an ongoing basis.

The following pages contains links, documents and resources on the advocacy work the Canadian Library Association has performed to date.

 

FOPL objectives:

  • attract key voices as influencers to grow community advocacy networks
  • design and implement sustainable social media engagement
  • innovate a new kind of high-relevancy library brand communications
  • target audiences: library patrons, stakeholders and strategic partners

Rationale: Design and implementation of OMD’s custom FOPL story engine will enhance FOPL’s brand strengths.

OMD is the conduit to share stories from individuals in the community back to the community, mediated by high-relevancy FOPL member social media user experience (UX).

** Credibility/trust/influence/awareness: emerging, intrinsic values generated through provocative, high-relevancy stories, images, captions and social media postings

 

FOPL Talking Points

FOPL’s talking points are to increase the awareness, engagement and conversation about the impact and value of public libraries to their communities and our province.

From the beginning public libraries grappled with the concept of free, unfettered access and their value and impact for their communities.  Public Libraries started as Mechanics Institutes in Ontario aimed at increasing the literacy and skills of the working population.  They evolved into the multi-dimensional and impactful institutions of today where Ontario public library services have evolved to be much more than books and buildings.  Today’s libraries have a measurable and valuable impact on the quality of life and the success of our communities – economically, socially, educationally, and culturally.  The Public Library value proposition is strong and includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Return on Investment: many studies show that public investment in libraries delivers a measurable, positive return on investment economically, socially and for the capacity of communities to attract businesses and residents.
  • Economic Development: supporting small business and entrepreneurs who will drive local economic recovery, growth, and job creation by providing them with resources such as databases on market trends and information on regulatory obligations;
  • Employment Support: providing services and resources for career planning, job search, education, and upgrading skills;
  • Welcoming New Canadians: helping newcomers to Canada succeed through settlement support; language acquisition including ESL programs, accreditation and employment support and maintaining cultural connections;
  • Early Literacy Development: supporting success in life and reading and school readiness through a vast array of pre-school and children’s literacy programs;
  • Support for Formal Education and Homework Help:professional help and collections to support learners of all ages to develop advanced information fluency competencies, do research and complete projects.  Open longer hours than school libraries, public libraries are also critical support systems for adult distance education and home schooling.  Across the province, libraries are busier than ever with students at all ages and stages;
  • Serving the whole community:public libraries ensure that the whole community of Ontarians – including those with visual or physical limitations, from any cultural or language community, natives, and more – receive equitable access to the resources of our society for success.
  • Equitable access to community resources:public libraries are often the only place where all residents can access free computing resources, the internet, peripherals, training, and assistance to accomplish their goals as citizens, workers, and more.
  • Access to Government Services:providing professional support services, accessible locations, and technology infrastructure to serve as a major access point for e-government. Public Libraries provide cost-effective opportunities to reach Ontarians to deliver government services for everything from forms and information to advice;
  • Questions Deserve Quality Answers: Ontarians have important information needs and deserve quality answers regardless of their economic status or location. On issues of health, parenting, finance, life choices, and more, libraries go beyond Google to improve the quality of questions and answers.
  • Cultural Vitality: a critical piece of a community’s cultural framework, public libraries are essential to a healthy and sustainable society as social equity, environmental responsibility and economic viability; and local history heritage.
  • Affordable Leisure Activities:offering free borrowing of books, music and movies and exciting library programs for children, families, seniors, and people of all ages and tied directly to community needs and demand.

Libraries evolved not just as a reflection of society but as leaders. Libraries have been challenged by never-ending changes in society, law, technology, demography, and education. These changes have been about so much more than e-books or the web but represent a fundamental challenge to the underpinning of library value and professional values and the basic business model of libraries.