The new REVISION Policy being considered by the Pickering Public Library will impact most severely on the current PPL book clubs.

Are you a member of a PPL Book Club? The new library policy will include drastic changes to book clubs.

Your book club’s days as a PPL book club are numbered.

The policy was addressed at Public Library February 22 Board meeting. Here are the highlights of the issues addressed with the response from one book club.

  1. “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.”Cathy Grant underlined that the library wishes to expand access to its services to all Pickering residents. Access to all library facilities and services should be greater and more equitable for all Pickering residents. Grant underlined that the current operating system for its book clubs was too exclusive and thus their status needed revision.
  2. “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.”Library CEO Grant further explained that library staff resources are stretched to the limit in working within the current system of book clubs. Interlibrary loans, obtaining multiple copies of requested books and delivering these to the book clubs for a particular date is a staff resources task which is becoming increasingly untenable.The library is exploring alternative methods of dealing with the needs of the book clubs, two of which are e-book borrowing and self-use library book club kits. These solutions, along with others, are being currently examined and considered by the library.

    The current library model limits our ability to reach more clients as we have limited space and a 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.CEO Grant clarified and reinforced library’s new plan at the Board meeting. She underlined that the library recognized the successful operation and the positive social interaction of the current clubs. However, she emphasized that the library should be dedicated to greater access than afforded by the current book club system.
  3. Addressing Book Club Flexibility
    Grant openly acknowledged the value and importance of book clubs in the library system, pointing out that the goal of the library is not to eliminate existing clubs but to modify them in order to broaden their inclusivity and accessibility to all Pickering residents. [ Current clubs are to continue existence as is until July 2019. After which time any book club existence would be permitted based on the new lottery-based system. ] At this time, that policy is still under development.


The views of the George Ashe Book Club

The George Ashe Book Club fully supports the goal of the Pickering Public Library of increasing use and improving access for more of Pickering residents. The value and importance of the library to the community needs no repetition. Additionally, the success and outstanding services provided by the Pickering Public Library are publicly recognized and acknowledged, yes, they have earned all the awards and accolades.

However, existing book clubs within the PPL system should have  serious concerns and issues with the development, inception and goals of the new ‘revision plans.’

Many troubling questions, not criticisms?
If the public were invited to give input into the discussion and development of the ‘revision plans,’ where was the notification? Was public input ever sought? Was the public well notified? Shouldn’t public input be crucial in the revision of existing policy and the operation of such an important community facility? [ Generally, the public struggle with electronic messaging and the city’s website. It is more receptive to newspaper notification rather than electronic. ]

Were any of the affected book clubs approached prior to February 12 for their views regarding the development of new policies?

Community views likely have some value, as do views of book clubs. The George Ashe Library Book club received no prior notifications. Other library books clubs, the same? The input of the George Ashe Book Club, never sought. Wouldn’t our years of existence, years of successful operation have some valuable input? The success of a book club takes time to develop; social interaction between strangers is a tenuous relationship; personal trust and confidence in social integration take much longer than the library seems to propose.

‘Kill and fill’
The new ‘revisions policies’ as proposed by the PPL seem based on a ‘kill and fill’  philosophy: terminate the existing clubs and fill new membership by a lottery system.

Councillors’ input?
Maurice Brenner and Ian Cumming’s insistence that the current limitations of library space would be alleviated very soon by new library facilities. The termination date of the current book clubs is very specific, the dates for this alleviation, not so. Brenner and Cumming point out that it is in the works, just be patient. More space is coming and greater access for Pickering residents will result. Meanwhile, current book clubs, you are out the door.

The possibility of compromise?
The new policy has left no room for compromise, no room for options and alternative considerations. Do the success and many years of operation not merit some consideration by the library? Should the principle of ‘potentially greater inclusivity and access’ trump concrete success and existence?

Limitations of space
The George Ashe Library Book Club is assigned space allocation for one and a half hours per month, 1 1/2 hrs out of a possible 240 hours, ” Less than 1% of the time. The five book clubs acknowledged PPL Book Clubs, use 3% of the available time. Is it possible that the remaining 97% unassigned time might adequate meet the needs of potential registrants in the proposed lottery system? Could the library consider the possibility of a trial period? Or are the pressures for change so burdensome that they cannot be ignored?

Alternative solutions
E-books, library book club kits are two alternative solutions considered by the library, each with inherent challenges and difficulties. However, the George Ashe Library Book Club has no opposition to these possible considerations. Rather, we give unbridled support to trying them and we would be pleased to be part of the trial. But termination of existing book clubs does not seem to be a justifiable alternative toward solving the claimed library problems.

The conclusion
In short, the development of new policies to increase library access for all Pickering residents is a very commendable, worthwhile and valuable objective, one which is undoubtedly supported by every library book club. This goal should not be rejected. Most certainly, the resources, expertise and experience of library staff are invaluable in the development of new library policies. However, should public input to this development be disregarded?

Certainly, the library values the public it serves. Does it value its own book clubs which it established and which are ongoing successes as well? Should the library objective of increasing public access to its facilities and services based on policies without community input be a valid way to develop new policies?

The George Ashe Library Book Club hopes and encourages the Pickering Public Library to consider and accept more public input regarding discussions and development of new policies affecting the community and that it modify its ongoing policies to include the book clubs which it created rather than rejecting them as being exclusive and too limiting of community access. The book clubs are a real and significant part of the Pickering community. Eliminating these clubs decreases the library’s professed goals.

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