GALS Book Club: Councillor Maurice Brenner meets with Association of Pickering Book Clubs

Snow on the roof doesn’t mean no fire below.

Councillor Brenner continues his municipal duties while stumping the election hustings.

The Association of Pickering Book Clubs meets
Recently, the new Association of Pickering Book Clubs assembled to deal with new policies launched by the Pickering Public Library. Representatives of the five major book clubs founded by the Pickering Public Library, along with Councillor and library board member, Maurice Brenner, met to consider the book clubs responses to the new policy direction undertaken by the Pickering Public Library. The book club representatives voiced their sense of abandonment that they feel with the new direction the library has taken. Free meeting space will become a thing of the past in June 2019; people on current library book club waiting lists will continue to wait for action by the library.

Book Clubs around for years
The book clubs have been operating for years, the youngest over seven years, the oldest just celebrated its silver anniversary. The membership of these clubs consists mostly of the older adults, 55+, a group seemingly not in the sights of PPL. The library insists that it is not abandoning its currently designated ‘independent book clubs,’ as asserted by the maintenance of its waiting list of applicants looking to join one of these clubs. “Hollow words” according to an unnamed book club member. The library does not act on these waiting lists at all leaving vacant memberships in current clubs unfilled for months if not years.

Pickering Public Library, a best seller
The Pickering Public Library is renowned for its professionalism, its service and its dedication to the members of the community. It has a multiple award-winning a reputation for innovation and service, and justifiably so, as attested to by many library users. The PPL is at the forefront of integrating the digital world into assisting its patrons. Electronic technology is used throughout the library to enhance the patron experience from book searching to borrower checkout. The PPL has justifiably earned its accolade of being ‘one of the best library systems in Ontario.’ Credit for this outstanding development, innovation and growth are to be given to CEO Cathy Grant, library board chair, John Sabean and the City of Pickering councillors, Maurice Brenner and Ian Cumming. However, the changes undertaken by the new direction of the PPL has been at the expense of its literary backbone, its books clubs. The days of their current existence may be may be numbered.

Books clubs unhappy with PPL policy
The discussion at the association meeting began with a broad range of commentaries opposed to the new PPL policy, from the poor way the policy was launched to the negative impacts it will have on established book clubs. However, the gathered representatives narrowed their focus to three areas of serious concern: restricted use of library facilities by these existing book clubs, the inertia of movement of people on wait lists when vacant member seats exist in each club, and the noticeable reduction in assistance and service to these clubs.

Councillor Brenner, a supporter of book clubs
Maurice Brenner, councillor and current library board member attended the meeting. He empathized with the reps and their views. He agreed that the manner in which the policy was invoked may have some justified criticisms. However, he expressed that there is reason for optimism and hope: there is municipal support for Pickering residents who belong to these clubs; these book club members are not seen as being elitist or exclusive of other residents; and their conviction that any resident of Pickering is welcome to join any of the established clubs provided an opening exists. More importantly, his philosophy holds that technology’s prevalence and supremacy within the library is still probably a generation or two away and that book reading, book borrowing, and book clubs should not yet to be relegated to the storage lockers of museums. Brenner says “A new era is about to start at the library, one which will be more accommodating and more supportive of book club clientele. The era of great and positive change is coming.”

The last word
The meeting concluded on a positive, productive and optimistic note thanks to Councillor Brenner taking time out from his heavy campaigning endeavours to sit with local residents who want to continue their ongoing book club endeavours.

Let’s hope Brenner’s crystal ball displays a clear picture of the future of the Pickering Public Library and its book clubs.

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