CLA 2014 – Victoria, B.C.

The 2014 Canadian Library Association Conference was held in Victoria, B.C.

Below is the registration area at the Victoria Conference Centre:WP_20140527_18_52_59_Pro

Connected to the Victoria Conference Centre is the Empress Hotel:WP_20140527_18_56_53_Pro

On the other side (and across the street), the conference exhibits were held in the Crystal Garden:WP_20140530_10_27_00_Pro

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Visting Greater Victoria public libraries

The annual Canadian Library Association Conference often offers tours of the libraries in the host city. I participated in a tour of two public library branches: the Emily Carr Branch and the Saanich Centennial Branch.

The Emily Carr Branch recently moved to this location in the vast new Uptown Shopping Centre. Scotiabank occupies most of the first floor, with the library on the second floor, except for the book drop and sorter:WP_20140528_09_21_38_Pro

On the first floor, as people head for the elevator or stairs they can drop off their books. The library page working here is always visible through the glass windows:WP_20140528_09_23_43_Pro

The library doesn’t use RFID– instead the library customers are asked to scan in the barcode before dropping the item in the book drop and conveyor. While this misses some books, which are directed to the bin at the end, the successful check-in rate is high, although not as high as with RFID chips.WP_20140528_09_25_18_Pro


Fastreads and new books are prominently displayed in this airy and bright branch. The branch manager discussed the low shelving.WP_20140528_10_06_30_Pro

The OPAC on the wall is height-adjustable, as is the desk in the foreground:WP_20140528_09_50_08_Pro

The furniture is modular and mobile, with most things on wheels, including the comfy chairs.WP_20140528_09_52_07_Pro

Library customers have the choice of self-checkout with e-mailed receipt or printed receipt.WP_20140528_09_53_22_Pro

Library customers can read outside in the Reading Garden. This space is also used for programming.WP_20140528_10_01_56_Pro

Meeting room that can be booked by the public:WP_20140528_10_03_24_Pro

The second library visited was the Saanich Centennial Branch which is in a recreation centre. This is a larger community library, with a larger collection.WP_20140528_10_23_21_Pro

This was the first branch in the system with self-checkout.WP_20140528_10_25_38_Pro

To pay for printing, library customers use their library cards which can be prepaid with a credited amount. All new library cards are credited $2 for printing to get customers started.WP_20140528_10_28_26_Pro

The Teen Zone and Kids’ Place:WP_20140528_10_30_50_Pro

A computer lab:WP_20140528_10_35_31_Pro

A popular program for guys and their kids:WP_20140528_10_38_50_Pro

This branch is also home to the Saanich Archives, which was moved here from its poor location in a municipal building.WP_20140528_10_42_00_Pro

The archives staff are separate from the library staff, but the archives uses the library’s services for outreach and public education. Archives inside of libraries benefit from the library’s outreach skills.WP_20140528_10_51_09_Pro

As there is no municipal museum, the archives also houses several artefacts alongside a local history reference collection.WP_20140528_10_51_41_Pro

Popular with school children is this History Detective kit, where students learn about researching local history and archival material:WP_20140528_10_53_20_Pro

An archives houses original records (letters, photographs, and other primary source records). To preserve them the Saanich Archives uses this vault behind the public area. The fire suppression system sucks the oxygen out of the air and uses chemicals to eliminate flames:WP_20140528_11_10_10_Pro

The Saanich Archives, housed in the vault in the Saanich Centennial Library:WP_20140528_11_10_35_Pro

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Downtown Victoria

Here are some highlights of Downtown Victoria.

The Empress Hotel:WP_20140527_19_01_53_Pro

On my way to the conference I pass by Thunderbird Park, which is adjacent to the Royal B.C. Museum. In the distance with the Canadian flag is the Empress Hotel.WP_20140527_18_48_10_Pro

On a bus tour of the City of Victoria and surrounding area I took this picture of Victoria City Hall. The style is “Second Empire,” an eclectic mix very flexible for scaling to large sizes, and named after the Second French Empire of Napoleon III.WP_20140528_14_16_26_Pro

On a walk through downtown I took this shot of Munro’s Books – founded by Alice Munro’s husband Jim Munro. The building, carefully restored to its original glory, is a neo-classical design with a 24-ft ceiling designed to resemble the ceiling of the great library in Ephesus built by the Romans.WP_20140528_15_31_21_Pro

The two books I bought at Munro’s Books…

vanished Vanished Kingdoms, by Norman Davies

black sea Black Sea, by Neal Ascherson

Nearby is the historic Bastion Square and the Maritime Museum of BC:WP_20140528_15_40_46_Pro

Whenever possible I catch unique opportunities to learn about topics completely new to me. I caught a lecture by a diver to the wreck of the Empress of Ireland (sank 1914)– Canada’s worst maritime disaster, and on the same level as the sinking of the Titanic.WP_20140530_13_52_55_Pro

This the 100th anniversary of the sinking. The disaster made headlines in 1914 but was quickly forgotten in the shadow of World War I.WP_20140530_16_16_29_Pro

At sunset the 3300 lights of the BC Legislative Assembly turn on:WP_20140531_21_23_58_Pro


While visiting Canadian cities I often partake of the Ghost Walk. Here the tour guide stops beside one of the twelve Hands of Time — public sculpture spread throughout Victoria in celebration of its 150th anniversary:WP_20140531_21_59_36_Pro

The tour guide pauses to tell a ghastly story in a narrow street in Chinatown. This is a very old part of downtown, with small alleys covered with unusual wooden bricks.WP_20140531_22_39_44_Pro

Weekends in downtown Victoria are full of activities. Here I catch a bike race through the streets of downtown:WP_20140601_13_05_15_Pro

Another wonderful public sculpture, this one called The Homecoming which commemorates the Canadian Navy’s 100th anniversary:WP_20140601_13_09_21_Pro

A bagpiper across the street from the BC Legislative Assembly:WP_20140527_18_58_48_Pro

On a tour of the BC Legislative Assembly I learn about the crest. The original crest had the setting sun above the British flag, but since the “sun will never set on the British Empire” it was moved below the British flag:WP_20140601_16_40_56_Pro

Inside the BC Legislative Assembly:WP_20140601_16_47_31_Pro

The BC Legislative Chamber:WP_20140601_16_52_09_Pro

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Vancouver Island – Gardens and the Sea

While in Victoria I booked a tour to Butchart Gardens – a national historic site of Canada north of Victoria.

Below is the sunken garden– a stunning view greets visitors as they begin their trek through the site:WP_20140531_16_20_09_Pro

Few flowers are labelled. Instead visitors can use a print guide or ask staff who are happy to answer horticultural questions.WP_20140531_17_40_45_Pro

There are many types of gardens, such as this Japanese garden:WP_20140531_17_11_24_Pro

Near the entrance to Butchart Gardens is the Butchart Boar, based on the original Porcellino (“little pig”) that sits on the south side of the Straw Market in Florence, Italy. Rubbing the nose is said to bring good luck:WP_20140531_17_05_27_Pro

Electrically powered boats takes passengers on a ride in Butchart Cove:WP_20140531_17_14_52_Pro

Italian Garden at Butchart Gardens:WP_20140531_17_22_32_Pro

On a tour in the neighbourhoods around Victoria, I take this shot of the only sandy beach in the area, here on the south shore of Vancouver Island:WP_20140528_14_56_01_Pro

This south coast is windy, and the weekend I was there I saw a kite show as well as this person preparing for kitesurfing:WP_20140528_15_14_45_Pro

Near the shore is Beacon Hill Park (which is also a short distance from downtown Victoria). The world’s tallest totem pole is found here:WP_20140528_15_16_21_Pro

At the south end of Beacon Hill Park is Mile 0 of the Trans Canada highway. This is where Terry Fox would have ended his Marathon of Hope. He would have run down Douglas Street (where my hotel was), along Beacon Hill Park, with a spectacular view to the Olympic Mountains of Washington State, visible across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.WP_20140529_08_52_42_Pro

In Beacon Hill Park is the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm. On a hike I took this shot of a peacock which just hopped on a fence:WP_20140529_08_36_35_Pro

On a whale watching tour I took this shot of an American bald eagle on these rocks which are usually mostly submerged. On this occasion the tide was quite low.WP_20140601_10_34_10_Pro

From the tour boat we spot a pod of killer whales feeding off the shore of San Juan Island (an American island):WP_20140601_11_08_41_Pro

The other whale watching boats are on the chase for great views of the killer whales:WP_20140601_11_18_54_Pro

I took this shot of the head of a killer whale is it takes a look around. Note the people on San Juan Island also interested in catching glimpses of the killer whales:WP_20140601_11_53_02_Pro

Large cruise ships can dock in Victoria. For the walk to downtown, visitors from the cruise ships pass by Fisherman’s Wharf:WP_20140530_09_01_54_Pro

Near Fisherman’s Wharf one can see the many condos going up in downtown Victoria. Because of its moderate climate (Victoria is also drier than rainy Vancouver), many Canadian seniors retire here. Victoria is known as “God’s waiting room.”WP_20140530_09_04_07_Pro

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Victoria Miniature World and Victoria Bug Zoo

Close to the Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria are two great attractions: the Victoria Miniature World and the Victoria Bug Zoo.

The Victoria Miniature World is the billed as the “greatest little show on Earth.” Scenes from history and fiction are on display. Below is a scene from World War II:WP_20140531_20_22_04_Pro

Many of the older displays harken back to times billed as not that long ago, such as this scene where news of the defeat of Napoleon is being spread:WP_20140531_20_26_30_Pro

Sometimes the minute details are overwhelming, such as this scene of an antique car show:WP_20140531_20_40_53_Pro

A recently opened addition to Victoria Miniature World is King Arthur’s Camelot. Here one can glimpse the round table in Arthur’s court:WP_20140531_21_00_02_Pro

The death of Arthur and the return of Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake. As Arthur lays dying he asks Sir Bedivere to cast his sword Excalibur into the lake:WP_20140531_21_02_22_Pro

The Victoria Bug Zoo offers impressive learning opportunities, as the guide opens cages to allow visitors to hold many of the creatures on display. Here is a scorpion:WP_20140601_15_39_10_Pro

A Madagascar hissing cockroach:WP_20140601_15_45_22_Pro

A Malaysian jungle nymph. This is a leaf mimic. They can rub their legs together to make a “hiss” similar to the sound a snake makes.WP_20140601_15_47_27_Pro

An Australian stick insect. No, it’s not a scorpion, but because it is harmless it often plays one in movies.WP_20140601_16_05_04_Pro

A thorny devil (sometimes called giant spiny stick insects). Found in Papua New Guinea, the large hard spines are so strong and sharp that the people of New Guinea use them as fish hooks and spears:WP_20140601_16_11_42_Pro

A bush cricket of Southeast Asia. This is not a real cricket but actually a katydid. They have ears on their front legs.WP_20140601_16_16_15_Pro

A giant African millipede. As I learned, millipedes have two pairs of legs per body segment, whereas centipedes have one pair per body segment.WP_20140601_16_21_29_Pro

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Displays at the Royal BC Museum

The Royal BC Museum in Victoria has fantastic dioramas and displays that immerse one in history and habitat.

A woolly mammoth– one of many displays in the Natural History gallery.mammoth

shoreline birds



outermosthouse The guide on my tour of the natural history gallery upon learning I was here for the Canadian Library Association Conference discussed her favourite book: The Outermost House, by Henry Beston and considered a classic of American nature literature.

The Modern History gallery also has many visually arresting displays:farm


Masks in the First Peoples gallery:WP_20140530_20_15_01_Pro

Ceremonial objects in Kwakiutl House– an actual house rebuilt inside the Royal BC Museum. The house originally stood in the Fort Rupert area and belonged to the late Chief Kwakwabalasami. Much of the house was carved by the chief’s son and grandson.WP_20140530_20_24_11_Pro

Some of the many totem poles in the Royal BC Museum:WP_20140530_20_20_52_Pro

The Royal BC Museum had a special exhibit on Vikings. In this shot one can see a Viking boat. Note also the BC Archives in the smaller building on the right:WP_20140528_13_42_12_Pro

A replica of a Viking monument with runes:WP_20140529_13_12_12_Pro

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Archives as a Service for the Community and a Tool for Local Economic Development

OLA 2013 Thursday Jan. 31, 2013 – Session 403 – Archives in Your Library

The two presenters at the Archives in Your Library session, Pierre Mercier and Erika Heesen, described their efforts to get an archives established in Leeds and the Thousand Islands. In 2010, the township municipal heritage committee, the local historical society, and the public library board founded the Leeds and Thousand Islands Archives. The library eventually took on the role of administration of the Archives, which was finalized with a memorandum of understanding in 2012. Erika Heesen had been hired to assist in the initial planning for the archives, and she was on hand for its opening to the public in April 2011.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation provided a grant to support the development of the Archives. Erika Heesen also took steps to educate the community through a lecture series about the value of archives and how to manage archives.

Leeds and Thousand Islands Archives (on Facebook)

Getting the Archives from an idea to reality took a lot of research, and the input from members of the local historical society was instrumental in maximizing the grant opportunities. Collaboration paid off when it came to getting funding for the archives.

To start her work, Erika Heesen consulted the Association of Canadian Archivists and the Archives Association of Ontario.

For those looking for a primer on Archives, Erika Heesen recommended the book, A Manual for Small Archives, from the Archives Association of British Columbia. Click on the image for the electronic version:

A point that Erika Heesen that emphasized repeatedly was the importance of establishing (and updating occasionally) a mandate for the archives. The following core set of documents is critical for defining how the Archives will establish relationships with other organizations, including other archives:

  • Mandate
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Collections Policy
  • Access Policy
  • Procedures Manual
  • Disaster Plan

One theme throughout the two sessions I attended on archives was that part of the basis for successful collaboration between the archives and other institutions was adherence to and communication of the mandate of the archives. Having different institutions embark on overlapping collections can mean that mandates come into conflict. Researchers and users can become inconvenienced. The ability to create a comprehensive collection on a particular subject (usually centred on provenance in an archives) is jeopardized with overlapping or unclear mandates among institutions. Unfortunately, in many archives, the key policies and procedures are not written done or regularly revised. These documents are useful for promoting the archives, externally as well as internally for staff within the archives and its host or sponsor organizations.


Among the most fascinating parts of this session were the tips on fundraising. Pierre Mercier, of the local historical society that helped create the Leeds and Thousand Islands Archives, provided a great deal of insight on getting grants.

Lessons learned for grant funding included:

  • Make a realistic assessment of needs
  • Meet with granting agencies prior to submission
  • Provide evidence of partnerships
  • Have a viable program with an end product or “destination” on the ground
  • Accept contributions of goods and services “in kind”
  • Do not forget about “leverage”

These bullet points from presentation just scratch the surface on the advice Pierre Mercier gave. For example, one tip for submitting grant proposals for a group of institutions that has formed a partnership for a project is to pick the partner agency that is most likely to receive the grant. Establishing partnerships and collaborating means opportunities for leveraging increase.

Pierre Mercier also talked about the decrease of funding for archives from the federal government, but he indicated that there are still opportunities if projects can be billed as promoting the “cultural economy,” in the Richard Florida sense ( – Richard Florida is the director of this institute). Promoting an archives means promoting tourism, as well as skills development. Getting digitization projects off the ground can mean hiring locals who can gain experience with new technology and so also help the local economy by building a skilled workforce.

Archives in a Library

One aspect of Erika Heesen’s presentation that stood out for me was the fact that Leeds and Thousand Islands Archives was administered by the public library, similar to the situation at the Guelph Public Library. Erika Heesen listed a number of ways in which archives can provide value to a library:

  • The Archive can be another service within the library that counters the misconception of libraries as just book warehouses. Archives provide unique services that can augment the heritage-related programming and local history collections of published material in a library. The Archives can be a source of unique promotional material such as rack cards, walking tours, and interpretive signs.
  • The Archive can open up new channels of direct service in municipalities, essentially broadening the library’s outreach and expanding its clientele base. The Archives offers new avenues for outreach to local groups and individuals.
  • The Archive can provide opportunities for a broader skill set, such as with digitization and social media, and so can then be used to showcase the library as being a place of innovation and skills development that assists in developing the economic diversification in the community.


There was a healthy discussion after the presentations. Here are some of the highlights:

Archival collection development is different than library collection development, in that archives ask individuals, families and organizations in a community to trust the archives to be the repository of their memories through their original records. Issues of ownership and copyright, as well as preservation practices, play a much more significant role in an archival collection than in a library collection of published material.

Collaboration amongst archives is very important. Archives offer repository services to the community, but some organizations can support their own archives. Pierre Mercier mentioned the Canadian Lesbian+Gay Archives in Toronto. Archives are about keeping a community’s history and stories alive. It is important to see archives in that light – without a community with those values for preserving history then there would be no reason for an archive. In addition, once an archive is established for a niche in the community then it’s important that other archives support the mandate of that archive by not creating competing collections. Since archives collect original material, it is important to see archives as part of a network and as a referral service. [This topic of collaboration was expanded on significantly in the afternoon session on collaboration between libraries, archives, and museums.]

The session also provided an opportunity to learn more about the technology used in archives and digitization projects. The ubiquitous “Our Ontario” service was brought up, and the Leeds Public Library has a collection of scanned images on this service– The list of institutions with digital collections in Our Ontario (now called Vita) can be found here: Because Our Ontario is no longer funded through the provincial government’s Knowledge Ontario program, the digitization service is now a commercial service. Services are expanding, such as improvements to the newspaper digitization service (just release brochure here: For a recently digitized newspaper collection by Vita, check out the Whitby Digital Newspaper Collection.

While the Our Ontario/Vita service combines a database for the materials as well as the public web interface (including Google Maps and social networking links), there is still a need to have separate integrated management software for an archives. I learned about archive management software that has received good word-of-mouth—ICA-AtoM (short for ‘International Council on Archives – Access to Memory’). This is open source software which the Guelph Public Library already has experience with, since its archival descriptive records are copied to Archeion – the Archives Association of Ontario repository of descriptive records.

Compare Guelph Public Library Archive records in Archeion–;isdiah versus Guelph Public Library hosted locally — Missing in our current database are hierarchical browse displays and authority control (for names, places and subjects).

As I learned in these sessions on archives, and from other others I spoke to at the OLA conference, archives have confusing and contradictory choices when it comes to software. Powerful software may already exist in an institution (such as a library’s integrated library system), but features that support unique archival functions may be lacking. A few years ago there were not many choices for archives, apart from expensive ones such as OCLC’s ContentDM, and many proceeded on their own and developed in-house solutions. The recent trend is to adopt open standards, which has an immediate benefit when it comes to sharing records. A major new consideration is the “mash-up” approach of connecting archival data and digitized objects with social networking services and Google Maps. The more standardized the data, the better these services can function.

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