Reaction by secretary of GAL Book Club

The focus of the Pickering Public library has changed, numbers supercede people.

It is a sad development when community institutions begin buying into the impersonality and sterile mentality of the larger neighbouring municipalities. Cold, detached and disinterested residents. Is that Pickering now? 

The new REVISION Policy being considered by the Pickering Public Library is a sadly demonstrates how our community may be degenerating into the kind as personified by larger ones such as Toronto, Hamilton and such.

The policy asserts its goal as being to increase accessibility and equal opportunity for more residents in use of the library. A commendable goal without reservation but has the library considered the potential the collateral damage of the policy. The existing five Pickering Public Library book clubs are scheduled for termination in June 2019.

The claim
The policy claims that the book clubs as they now exist are elitist, exclusive preserves of cliquish groups, membership of privileged rather than broad democratically based gatherings. The implication here is that the clubs are ‘closed to new membership.’ Nothing is farther from the truth. Every one of the current book clubs permits, more correctly, promotes recruitment of new members from the local community.

However, not only is the responsibility of recruitment of new members the sole responsibility of the library, but the claimed lengthy waiting lists take forever to be implemented. Adding new members from the community takes an inordinate and suprising long time. Frequently, clubs have given the library liaison staff notification that vacant seats are available for new members, only to wait for months before a new member is recruited. The claim that these clubs are limiting access to Pickering residents is an outright diversion from reality. ‘Fake news’ has arrived in Pickering and resides in the PPL.

The PPL Books Clubs personify the best in Pickering
The PPL Book Clubs are exactly what Pickering is, a community of friends and neighbours who know each other, care about each other and respect one another. But the book clubs take this philosophy to a higher level.

One club has a single mother of two children, without a car, using Pickering public transit to get to club meetings. She has accepted, encouraged as an equal among peers. She has been welcomed and assisted by other club members who drive her home after meetings. She has found friendship and support in a group of people just meeting to discuss books. She has found a group who respects her as a person, treats her as an important member of the group. Her book club is much more than simply a Pickering Library book club.

Another book club member, a professional before retirement, reaching the inevitable chapter in life where age challenges require major changes, no longer able to drive, moving into a care home. When this retiree stopped attending book club meetings, the club members reached out, pursued the reasons for the lack of attendance. In response to what the club members learned, they offered transportation from and back to the care home. Another example of a book club being much more than simply a Pickering Library book club.

Another club has a physically handicapped participant which has made the person reluctant to attend public meetings of any sort because of the stares and attention given to this disability. The book club member is respected for discussion participation, for intelligence and for capability. The person is accepted as a person and treated accordingly. The member is an equal status member again demonstrating a book club is much more than simply a Pickering Library book club.

Finally, one person, an older person, timid and shy, intimidated by large groups, recruited as a new member of a book club, joined it and sat quiet, meeting after meeting. The members reached out welcoming the new member and inviting the member to voice an opinion as they regarded that opinion as important and valuable to the book club discussions. The invitation became the motivation needed and today this member is a significant and outspoken contributor at every meeting. The shyness and timidity have been supplanted by confidence and self-belief because of acceptance, friendship and respect. A book club is much more than simply a Pickering Library book club.

The bottom line
Pickering Public Library book clubs are not mere book clubs. They are neighbourhood unions, social gatherings of friends, collections of community caring people who have bonded over many years. One club recently celebrated a 25 -year membership; another boasts a member who has been using the Pickering Library system for nearly 40 years. We didn’t know the PPL has been around that long. But the Pickering Library Policy disregards what already exists, not book clubs but community treasures. In the name of greater accessibility, the PPL wants to terminate these clubs, clubs which have been developing friendships, community and “neighhourhoodness” for many years. The PPL sees these clubs as simply being ‘book clubs’ and therefore, terminable. The PPL should closely review and examine its operating philosophy and policy goals and recognize that a PPL book club is much more than simply a book club.

Pickering Public Library, are you listening?

We’re just saying.

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