Community Librarian, Chilliwack Library; Instructor, Library and Information Technology Diploma Program, University of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford
MLIS, Dalhousie University, 2005 Fraser Valley Regional Library, BC
“If I had to shout one truth from a mountaintop, it would be that the public library exists for everyone in the community: the smelly, the wealthy, the fat, the brown, the ones with carts, and the ones with homes. The services the library offers are as important for those who don’t walk into the library as for those who do.”–Smitty Miller
Photo by Tom Coles Photography
Think Outside the Cube
Not every library outreach initiative involves a traveling library housed in a souped-up Nissan Cube with more than $25,000 in audiovisual enhancements, an Xbox Kinect, a custom-built mount with a 37″ LCD screen, tower speakers, and much more. But not every librarian is Smitty Miller, whose showbiz background (she’s a former professional jazz singer) inspired Fraser Valley Regional Library’s (FVRL) Library Live and on Tour (LiLi). Since 2012, stereotype-shattering LiLi has reached more than 50,000 people through over 160 visits to local community events and social service agencies. LiLi has also issued 2,745 innovative Community Cards, which provide library membership to people with no fixed address, and has forgiven close to $16,000 in fines.
FVRL CEO Robert O’Brennan recounts one success story: “At a drop-in centre for marginalized women, Smitty pulled LiLi into the alley. She waived some fines, issued a couple of library cards, and just sat and hung out with the women. Later, Smitty received a thank you email from a patron: ‘I am so glad to have a library card again; I love to read.’ ”
Miller turned over the LiLi tour reins to a successor in 2012. Now, she’s developing FVRL’s first listening station. The idea came to her after a sight-impaired patron and her guide were unable to listen to a CD. “I was embarrassed,” Miller recalls. “It didn’t make sense for so much of our collection to be audio but not accessible here.” The listening station will feature four mounted and easy-to-use DAISY (digital accessible information system) players.
Miller credits the FVRL community, which includes 25 libraries serving 700,000 people, for much of her success: “Not many organizations would have responded to my idea with ‘Sure, go build a hot rod!’… It takes a whole organization to make something like this work.”