Skip to content

KLF Newsletters Blog

News & Ideas from your Federation Director Melanie!

You can use the Search the Website feature at the top of the page to find the blog post mention that you remember…

Libraries and a Living Wage (7/26/2023)

A living wage is a regional calculation that looks at the amount a family of four, two adults working full year, full time, need to earn to meet their expenses. The living wage allows working families to support the healthy development of their children and participate in the social, civic and cultural lives of their communities.

Reasons to consider becoming a living wage employer include to contribute to individual, family and community wellbeing, to aid with recruiting and retaining staff, to increase staff productivity and/or morale, and to help us as library Trustees live up to our organisation’s values.

Employers can apply for living wage certification. There is a certification process, and it does cost $200 a year for a for nonprofit organisation with less than 50 staff.

The Grand Forks Library has gone through the process and as they met the requirements of a living wage employer, it is posted on their website (scroll to the bottom).  For more information, visit Living Wage for Families Campaign

Library Value Calculator (7/26/2023)

This online tool can be used to estimate the value of using the library. It calculates how much a library patron saved by borrowing library items. It’s also an environmental and societal tool, as it serves to remind libraries and patrons the value of reusing and sharing.

Some libraries automatically calculate it on each checkout receipt, and others host it as an app on their website. It was created by the Massachusetts Library Association and more information can be found through the American Library Association. The technical coding instructions are here.

Under the Influence (7/26/2023)

For years, I have been a fan of Terry O’Reilly’s books, podcasts and, of course his great CBC radio programme, “Under the Influence”. A 40-year Canadian veteran of the advertising and marketing industry, he is also very clever, funny and full of wisdom about how companies (and libraries) can not only thrive but also delight their customers and build loyalty and powerful support.

He is especially passionate about customer service. Here are some quotes that I think will resonate with all of us in the public library world.

“People remember people, not products. Forget the old mantra about going the extra mile. Go for the extra inch”. It doesn’t have to be awesome but memorable and sometimes surprising.

“Going for the extra inch: you have to encourage a customer-centric culture at your company (or library) because a culture that celebrates customer service is untouchable. If your staff is encouraged to use creativity to build customer loyalty, your company will be utterly unique in your category”.

“Great companies (or libraries) know it’s not enough to have customers leave satisfied—the key is to have them leave happy. This is beyond service. Superb customer service creates intense loyalty and fuels referrals.”

“Build relationships that turn good marketing into great results: no matter how big or small your budget. Good marketing isn’t good email, Facebook, media releases, technology, services or products. Those are just actions. Good marketing is the focus on the customer.”

The secret is not necessarily to be great. “What matters is to be consistently good.” Surprisingly, “bland sells – be brilliantly bland.” “What does it take to delight a customer? The “wanted” but unexpected.”

“In business, persuading people to buy your ideas is a fundamental necessity. Good ideas are not enough. To communicate well, have a consistent theme to what you do. Keep it simple. Show, don’t tell. If people feel, they believe.”

“Social media has transformed both marketing and customer service. There has never been a more powerful medium than social media because it travels and moves with the customer.

But it is not just a matter of reaching out. The challenge remains in getting noticed amidst all the noise. Tell me the story of your business, tell me why you do it. I know you do—but I want to know what drives you, what your passions are and what makes your business different.”

“Know your audiences. Pain-points are often hard for proprietors and employees to spot. You need to check in with your customers frequently.”

Nurture creativity. Be different. “What do customers remember? Which of those OOOX00O stands out?”

Culture: “This is the operating system for an organization. It’s the attitude. Exceeding customers’ expectations can’t just be a marketing campaign. It has to be an operating platform.”

“Nothing – repeat, nothing—is more important than your company’s culture!”

I have only scratched the surface of Terry’s ideas. Interestingly, a number of public libraries have invited him as a speaker and one of his podcasts features creative library marketing. Find him at and on Facebook.

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

Canadians and their Libraries (7/26/2023)

BookNet Canada recently released a new study, “On Loan: Library Use in Canada 2021”, that explores “the browsing, borrowing and reading habits of Canadian library patrons”. It compares data from 2021 with previous years and reveals the impact of COVID on library usage.

Sadly, this kind of broad-based information in the Canadian public library world is uncommon. Somehow the now defunct Canadian Library Association never really got around to it and provincial statistics are just that: lacking interpretation, or analysis which can reveal commonality, unexpected realities and interesting trends. Many thanks to BookNet and the annual publications from who partnered on this project.

You can find the full report on the BookNet Canada website.  Meanwhile, here are some interesting findings:

  • 19% of all Canadians borrowed a book from a library in 2021 (surprisingly high considering COVID restrictions)
  • C had the highest number of library cardholders, making up approximately 43% of B.C. residents in 2020.
  • print books remained the most popular format for Canadian book borrowers. In 2021,97% of book borrowers read print books, 73% read ebooks and 57% listened to audiobooks. (A full breakdown of ebooks and audiobook trends is included)
  • 97% of ebook borrowers, 93% of audiobook borrowers and 77% of print book borrowers visited a public library at least once in 2021.
  • patrons borrowed on average 5.5 books a month in 2021, with print being the most popular format.
  • Canadian book borrowers were 7% more likely than the average Canadian to identify as a woman—60% were women and 40% were men. (I’m assuming future studies will broaden these gender identities)
  • in 2021 Canadian book borrowers were 10% more likely than all Canadians to read diversely and 4% more likely to read or listen to books every day than all Canadian readers in 2021.
  • here’s an interesting finding: “book borrowers who read print books and ebooks were more likely to be women, audiobook listeners were more likely to be men”
  • There’s lots more, so please take some time to read the complete BookNet study.

(From the archives, written in September 2022 by your Boundary representative, Mary)

Censorship of Library Materials (7/26/2023)

Historically, public libraries have faced ongoing issues of censorship and  challenges to library materials, however during the past 2 years, the number of incidents in North America has increased expediently. In 2021, the American Library Association reported that 1,597 formal challenges or removals of books took place, most of whom were written by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ people and targeted teenage audiences. And it goes further than that. In Llano Texas, for example, books including Maurice Sendak’s “In The Night Kitchen” were removed  from public library shelves and the head of the town’s governing body, Ron Cunningham, questioned whether the town should even have libraries. One state legislator has proposed a law charging librarians who purchase such materials with criminal sanctions.

Many American institutions and individuals are fighting back. The Brooklyn Public Library has just counteracted the bans on certain books by inviting anyone in the U.S., aged 13 to 21 years, to apply for a digital  library card. This gives teens and young adults, regardless of their location in the U.S., access to the library’s entire ebook collection, including these banned items. Called “Books Unbanned”, this initiative confronts “an increasingly coordinated and effective effort to remove books tackling a wide range of topics from library shelves”.

Oh well, we say: This is Canada, we are different (meaning ‘better’) than the U.S., we are less rabidly political, less divided, less angry, more open to social change, less racist and so on. Or we may think: this kind of action happens more in school libraries. Public libraries face less scrutiny. Won’t happen here.

Don’t bet on it. This April, the Durham District School Board (Ontario) pulled The Great Bear by Cree author David A. Robinson, who incidentally has won  2 Governor General Awards, from school library shelves. This decision was a response to concerns raised by Indigenous families in the district.  Sadly, I think the Board and senior HR staff thought they were doing the  right thing to avoid Indigenous children being triggered by the book.

Because of the swift reaction to the news, the school board is reviewing the decision but the issue is still in limbo there.

The Director of the Haliburton Public Library recently removed Mein Kampf from the open shelves to keep it in his office—because of a challenge to the book. He seemed to think that was a reasonable compromise. Is it?

This might be a good time to look at your library’s policies and procedures to see if they need updating or improving. If you refer to national organizations’ statements re freedom to read or intellectual freedom, remember the Canadian Library Association no longer exists. The Canadian Federation of Library Associations has position papers and briefs on Intellectual Freedom. The B.C. Library Association’s Statement   of Intellectual Freedom is also important. There are others I have missed.

Issues are much more nuanced these days—with challenges coming from surprising sources. We need to talk about this stuff and to look at  what we do when the local paper’s headline reads: “Pornography in our library” combined with a letter or interview with an outraged local  resident. Oddly enough, rather than fear these controversies, they can be great opportunities for us to declare our values and responsibilities.

And finally, librarians and library staff sometimes quietly censor materials that might cause problems. We need to talk about that. Board members need to be part of this conversation, understand the issues, know the policies and be prepared to withstand the pressures and indignation from those who would ban books. It’s not always easy.

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

2021 – Libraries, COVID and other realities (7/26/2023)

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)

The External Gaze (7/26/2023)

As library people, we spend a lot of time thinking about the role of public libraries, both in our local communities and in society today. We also strive to advocate strongly for awareness, recognition, and, of course, funding.

Some of our strongest advocates, however, are external individuals, organizations  and media. I hope you will find some of these quotes and sources I found both interesting and compelling. Some are general comments, others are specifically about the role of rural and small libraries. So, what do they think about us?

Deborah James Fallows wrote in the Atlantic December 23, 2019: “A Portrait of Public Libraries” which looks at a number of libraries, big and small – emphasizing the vital importance of children’s collections, services and programs in her interviews and observations. She sees this as our key role.

Norah Lenstra is a contributor to an organization called (not a library site). Their focus is “powered solutions for the common good”. Her March 4, 2021 article, “Rules of the Road: partnering with public libraries for collective impact” focuses on the flexibility of public libraries and their innovative approaches. I love one quote she gives, from Aimee James, Director of the Wilkes  County Public Library in the Appalachian Mountains: “As long as it benefits our patrons and it is not illegal, I’m willing to try anything once.”

Wired Magazine’s March 25, 2020 article “COVID 19’s Impact on Libraries Goes Beyond Books” describes the impact public libraries have in both “normal” and pandemic times.

Here is an older example, but still worth re-reading. “A Library Where Everybody Knows Your Name” by Steve Barker in the Washington Post April 15, 2016. It champions the idea of small libraries in our society. Indeed, that we are the future. Read it, and you’ll feel better about everything!

So, as we struggle with fundraising, budgets and day-to-day concerns, remember how much we matter, and I happen to agree: we small and rural libraries are the future!

(From the archives: written September 2021 by your Boundary representative, Mary)