LIBRARY Pickering: GAL BOOK CLUB responds to Pickering Library REVISIONS PLAN

The Pickering Public Library has revealed its new REVISIONS PLAN as its endeavour to make the library more accessible to more Pickering residents. However, the plan uses a kill pill in the plan, thereby terminating existing users from the system

The RESPONSE from the George Ashe Library Book Club:

George Ashe Library Book Club
Richard Szpin, secretary

CEO Cathy Grant:

Dear Ms. Grant,

“The Board Chair asked for a letter from the book clubs on this issue that outlines their concerns.  [As per the Library Board meeting, January 25, 2018.] The Library Board will respond in writing.”

The members of the George Ashe Library Book Club wish to express concerns and issues with the new ‘Revision Policy’ currently being considered by the Pickering library.

The fundamentals of the revision plan aim to resolve problems experienced by the Pickering Library as follows:

Limited Access for New Members to Join
The community has consistently demonstrated a challenge in being able to participate in existing book clubs due to a limited number of spaces and longstanding returning members.

Limited Staffing Resources
As it stands, book clubs currently require time from three programming staff as well as multiple circulation staff which has led to difficulties in time commitments.

Addressing Book Club Flexibility
The current model limits our ability to reach more clients as we have limited space and a s capped number of book clubs. We have found that our current book clubs are not addressing clients who need more flexibility in scheduling, vacation time, and preferences.

The Pickering Public Library states that the new “book club model” will be launched September 2018. Free space will continue to be offered to the existing five book clubs until June 2019, after which, existing book clubs must apply for free space based on this new lottery system, details of which are unclear at this time. Free space will be allotted to successful clubs for one session only and book clubs must after must reapply for free space each year.

Concerns, issues and misgivings
The George Ashe Library Book Club has serious concerns, issues and misgivings with the new “revisions policy.”

Improved Accessibility
The Pickering Public Library revision plan claims to improve and expand accessibility to a broader portion of the community by its ‘lottery system.’ However, the plan terminates access to residents currently members of any book club. Hence, to open The Pickering Public Library book club system to more users, current users lose their accessibility. Future access application does not guarantee accessibility to any the book club.

Not only has the George Ashe Library Book Club been an active and authorized book club within library system, but it has further developed rules, directions and structural guidelines based on the advised directives given by The Pickering Public Library. The club has met monthly, consistently and regularly. Membership and attendance have been consistent and excellent as can be confirmed by the library moderators assigned to the club. Additionally, the George Ashe Library Book Club newsletter has not only promoted public awareness of the book club, but it has also promoted the Pickering Public library in general via its Internet presence. In short, without formal guidance from the Pickering Library, our club is real, dynamic and very active and open to all Pickering residents when space becomes available.

Impact on library staff resources
To imply that the George Ashe Library Book Club impact is extremely burdensome on library staff is a very broad and unsupported generalization. The George Ashe Library Book Club submits book title selections to library staff one year ahead of club meetings which suggests there is adequate time for the library staff to process and organize book selections for the club. Additionally, our club has been open and very flexible in relation to interlibrary loans. Where titles were not available, the club has readily accepted whatever book selections which could be borrowed and were available.

Meeting space
The Pickering Public Library space availability seems very optimal, rather than limited. To imply that the use of this space by the current book clubs is detrimental to greater accessibility is a very broad generalization, if not an outright overstatement. Using the George Ashe Library as an example, and assuming that the optimum time for book club meetings is the evening, there is a possibility of approximately 20+ sessions each month. The 3 book clubs at the George Ashe Library would leave a balance of approximately 17 sessions available for alternate use as the branch sees fit.

Equal accessibility
The George Ashe Library Book Club has been engaging members of the Pickering community for more than five years. Membership has always been near full capacity. When membership openings have occurred, the club has always been most agreeable and encouraging of the addition of new members from the community. However, control and responsibility for new member recruitment has been the full jurisdiction of the Pickering Library, impacting on its own staff workload.

Lottery system
The suggested lottery system for future book clubs has yet to be clearly defined or explained by the Pickering Public Library. It has been implied that this new lottery system would be based on a ‘draw’ in order to ensure equitability and equality of access for Pickering residents. The misleading implication here is that the George Ashe Library Book Club somehow limits access to Pickering residents. This is very confusing as the club has openly and repeatedly informed branch staff of membership openings based on member turnover and member absenteeism. The George Ashe Library Book Club exists now, meets regularly, and has a steadfast core of members who attend with consistency. The club unreservedly supports and always has supported the philosophy of the Pickering Public Library of giving greater access to more members of the community. The club has always been open to new members and will continue with that philosophy as long as it exists.

Public input
With all due respect, we urge that the Pickering Public Library Board hold public hearings to receive community input regarding book clubs and how they can implement the library philosophy of greater accessibility. To claim that the current book clubs restrict or decrease accessibility is misleading and invalid. The opposite is true as these clubs do not forbid any Pickering resident from access to the club provided membership space exists.

Terminating the existence of any of the current Pickering Library book clubs seems unreasonable and contrary to the claimed goals of greater accessibility for the Pickering residents. Given the longevity, integrity and dedication of the current book clubs, and the minimal impact they have on the space allotment and staff resources at the Pickering Public Library branches, we respectfully suggest the Pickering Public Library at the very least consider granting these clubs official and public status as important parts of the Pickering Public Library system. They epitomize the goals and intent of the Pickering Public Library philosophy of equity and accessibility and in that vein, instead of being rejected and terminated, these clubs should be recognized as vital partners in the Pickering Public Library Revision Plan. Rather than being eliminated, they should be supported and promoted by the Pickering Public Library.



George Ashe Library Book Club



Cc:       John Sabean, Chairperson, Pickering Public Library
Cathy Grant, CEO, Pickering Public Library

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