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2021 – Libraries, COVID and other realities

Looking back over the last year, I think public libraries were featured in the press, online, in social media and other platforms in a whole new way. I’m not sure why: maybe the rediscovery of their social, cultural and educational roles was prompted by the COVID restrictions and how libraries suddenly became important, intellectual freedom debates, library initiatives re: Truth and Reconciliation, or many other factors. In any case, libraries were talked about a great deal, and I’d like to share a few comments with you.

– CBC’s Under the Influence (Terry O’Reilly) did a Sept. 2021 program on innovative library marketing and its impact: “The Creative Boom of Library Marketing” (He also did a workshop with Edmonton Public library: “Customer Service is Marketing”)

– Freedom to Read Week had a big impact this month, especially in the U.S. with increased pressures to remove books from libraries. The American Library Association reported there was a 60% increase in challenges to books received in 2021 compared to 2020. (Also “Mein Kampf” recently in Haliburton Ontario, reported in Feb. 2022)

– The International Federation of Library Associations updated its 2021 Trend Report, January 12, 2022 highlighting the trends and forces predicted to impact libraries. Here are a few:

– Tough Times ahead – slow recovery from COVID will put pressure on all forms of public spending requiring libraries to intensify advocacy efforts.

– Lifelong learners – no such thing as a job for life – needs for retraining and learning – role of public libraries

– Privatization of Knowledge – control and restriction of information and inequalities in access

– Comeback of Physical spaces – libraries roles as hubs of the community

– Public libraries across Canada are eliminating fines/late fees (Oliver Moore article in the Globe and Mail February 22, 2021) – a trend we see in B.C.

Some of us are quite smug, having done this years ago! Lots of media coverage.

As COVID dragged on, libraries responded quickly and nimbly with lots of innovative customer service initiatives  and services—from curbside pick-up to on-line programming and hopefully this attention to new services and approaches will continue and grow.

So we may be underfunded (and we know that) but in a strange way COVID has shone a spotlight on public libraries and our value for the well-being of our communities. Maybe we can run with it.

(From the archives: written February 2022 by your Boundary representative, Mary)