February 17, 2018

Barbara Franchetto | Movers & Shakers 2003

The Connector


From the very beginning of her career, when she was a customer service representative for Utlas’s French-speaking customers in Quebec, Barbara Franchetto has been helping librarians connect to and use online services. (She did a little connecting on her own behalf there as well, since that’s where she met her husband.)

Franchetto says the most important thing she learned at Utlas was how to listen to people’s problems, ask the right questions to pinpoint the difficulties, and guide people step by step through the solutions. She admits that she was young and eager to bring this bright technological future to everyone and that patience has never been her strongest suit. As a customer service rep, she had to learn to accommodate herself to those who were a touch timid, like the librarian who plaintively asked her to tell the Utlas developers to slow things down a bit.

In 1989, when she became senior coordinator for training and development for the Southern Ontario Library System (SOLS), Toronto, Franchetto got to know the librarians at those 252 public libraries as she traveled around the province delivering presentations. Then in 1991, as chair of the Network Management Committee, Franchetto was assigned to write the requirements for developing a new provincial system, INFO: Information Network for Ontario.

The working relationships she built during that time provided a solid foundation for her in 1995 when she planned and carried out the SOLScape Initiative, a “low-risk introduction to the Internet that allowed librarians to assess how to integrate it into their library service.” The initiative provided dial-up access, navigation software, training, and tech support to 140 library systems.

Laurey Gillies, CEO of SOLS, says that “SOLScape was so successful that the Ontario government asked SOLS to lead a successor project”: a provincewide Internet connectivity project to bring high-speed access to libraries and train librarians in effective use. Recently, Franchetto has initiated a licensing initiative to create a core collection of e-resources for public libraries across the entire province and projects for provincewide virtual reference and document delivery.

Not limiting herself to public libraries, in 1999 Franchetto founded a purely volunteer organization, COOL (Consortium of Ontario Libraries), which organized public, academic, and school libraries to gain collective clout in negotiating licenses for electronic products, including an e-books collection that the small and medium-sized libraries could not have afforded on their own. A colleague who worked with her on COOL says, “Franchetto deserves credit for forging the partnerships between the sectors, maintaining the relationships even as they occasionally grew strained.”

Networking requires the ability to see yourself not as the leader or the originator of ideas but as a member of a team. Asked about the origin of the idea for SOLScape, Franchetto says, “Was it my idea? Frankly, I can’t remember…. We really do work as a team at SOLS.” Gillies praises Franchetto’s ability “to bring the best out in her staff.” Networking is also about spreading knowledge, taking what you know and passing it on, and Franchetto is revered for mentoring junior librarians. (She doesn’t restrict her mentoring to her young colleagues; she coaches junior sports in her free time.)

For all her achievements, Franchetto keeps work in its proper perspective. Her colleagues say she really does live by the motto she espouses: family and health come before work. It takes imagination to come up with ideas and drive to implement them (and maybe a little impatience helps, too). But it also takes a special kind of personality, the kind that makes one colleague say, “I am one of the many librarians who worship this woman.”

That is just one of the reasons why librarian Eva McDonald says, “I’m 35 years old and I finally know who I want to be when I grow up: I want to be Barbara Franchetto.”




Current Position: Director of Resource Sharing, Southern Ontario Library System, Toronto

MLS, McGill University, 1984

Spare Time Activity: Coaches youth sports