February 17, 2018

Feedback: Letters to LJ, June 1, 2015 Issue

“How do we support the librarians and staff in small libraries, who go above and beyond every single day trying to be everything for everyone?”

Voices for small libraries

Recently, the Southern Ontario Library Service decided that all of its representatives need to reside in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and this is what has pushed me to write to LJ. I have watched as rural and northern libraries struggle financially, los[ing] hours, services, and staff. They are swept up in the political struggles amongst the various tiers of government, pay equity is an ongoing battle in many of these municipalities, and there is still that long-standing opinion that while these little places are “nice” to have, they are not essential.

Rural libraries exist in areas far from urban centers full of various resources. We struggle to provide access to information, technology, and services, in some cases being the only place that provides these for the community. Many small towns and rural areas have aging populations, high [levels] of poverty and unemployment, and, again, less access to the resources available in urban centers. Yet these libraries are constantly overlooked and left to fend for themselves.

Yes, the Toronto Public Library, the Ottawa Public Library, and many other such facilities are doing amazing things—that goes without saying—but they have millions of dollars available to them, they are surrounded by organizations to partner with, [and] access to training that we, in rural areas, need to travel hours to get to. Are we all going to sit back and watch as these smaller libraries disappear? How do we support the librarians and staff in small libraries, who go above and beyond every single day trying to be everything for everyone? I am done being the silent voice of the forgotten libraries. We need our voices back!

—Kelly Thompson, Chief Libn./CEO, Renfrew P.L., Ont., Canada

Books kids like

I agree that public schools are often an after­thought. I hear wonderful things and promises made for technology and putting books in kids’ hands but never see it trickle down to the public high school at which I work (Lisa Peet, “President Obama Announces New Library Initiatives,” News, p. 16). We are so short on computers it is laughable. We have 80 computers in our library computer lab, for 1,800 to 1,900 students. We do have a few rolling carts of laptops that teachers can check out and a small English writing lab upstairs but not nearly enough to fully support the teachers and students. I am trying to link our classroom libraries to the school library to give the kids access to more books. This is only because of the generosity of the teachers who let me catalog their personal books that they buy for their classrooms.

I strongly disagree with [the American Library Association’s] Emily Sheketoff’s statement: “We know that children don’t take books from school for reading for pleasure.” Of course they do! I personally talk to students every day to make sure they are getting the kind of books they like. I know in a perfect world the numbers would be higher, but it saddens me that [Sheketoff] thinks librarians aren’t out there on the front lines encouraging these kids to read. We are out there, and we are making a difference. If our hands weren’t tied behind our backs we could make a bigger difference. Because of another initiative/law of Obama’s, I have been cut to 29 hours a week (district can’t pay for insurance), and our contracted full-time librarian has so many extra assignments that he might be in the library a half hour a day. Libraries are the great equalizer, and we really need someone to hear us.

—Mary Ann Miller, Lib. Asst., Provo H.S., UT

Vying sf subsets

If the Sad Puppies don’t want to be conflated with the Rabid Puppies or called mean words like misogynist, perhaps they should have done a better job of explaining how what they were doing wasn’t a reaction to the “large” number of minorities who won the Hugos last year (Wilda Williams, “Set Your Phasers to Stunned: 2015 Hugo Nominations Stir Controversy”). Yes, it’s lovely that your slate also has women and brown people and that women and brown people were involved in creating Sad Puppies, but if you are going to claim the past winners didn’t deserve their awards but received them because of their gender/race/sexuality/whatever, you have to be very, very careful with your messaging, because it is going to tend to sound like you don’t like women/brown people/LGBT/whatever winning awards instead of white men.

The choice of the term Sad Puppies also doesn’t help your position. It was obviously chosen as a nod toward the anti-SJW [Social Justice Warrior] term, and it is rather disingenuous to claim otherwise. At the very least, your message was not received as it was intended. At worst, you sound like Gamergaters crying, “But it’s about ethics in game journalism!”

At the end of the day, I don’t think it matters. This is about a small subset of the sf reading population vying with another small subset of the sf reading population over a popularity contest. The rest of us readers will continue to read whatever we prefer. If we don’t see ourselves and the works we care about reflected in the ­Hugos, we’ll just go elsewhere.

—Jenn Armistead, Literacy Coordinator, Tulsa City-Cty. Lib. Syst.

This article was published in Library Journal's June 1, 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. I would like to take this opportunity to respond to a specific item in Kelly Thompson’s letter to the Editor in Library Journal, June 1, 2015 Issue. In it, she states: “Southern Ontario Library Service has decided that all of its representatives need to reside in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area)”. The statement is incorrect. SOLS does not attempt to dictate where staff members live. In a recent posting for consultants we did say that working out of the office in Toronto was preferred, for a number of practical administrative and professional reasons. It is important to us that a new consultant has access to the support she or he needs to be effective in providing assistance to libraries. In many cases, this support is best carried out in an office environment. Of the positions posted, one remains vacant as we could not yet find a suitable candidate, while the other was filled by someone who in fact is working out of a home office in Kitchener. The vacant position is proving particularly difficult to fill because of its additional language requirements to serve francophone and English public libraries in eastern Ontario. It is our intention to advertize for that position again in the fall and find the best possible candidate to serve public libraries.

    SOLS continues its commitment to support all public libraries according to their needs regardless of size. Increasingly our work focuses on developing resources and training programs. The main delivery mechanisms tend to be on-line publications and various distance learning tools. Consultation with individual libraries remains critical and most of this occurs by e-mail, telephone, and Skype. Consultants travel periodically to meet in-person with individual libraries on an as needed basis and attend SOLS workshops, small library committee meetings, and trustee councils. The office and/or home location of consultants has little or no impact on how we serve public libraries.