CLA 2009 Sessions


CLA 2009 kicked off Saturday May 30, 2009. The opening remarks by Ken Roberts, President of CLA and Chief Librarian of Hamilton Public Library, captured an important aspect of participating in library associations and conferences– the opportunity to learn of the many activities in the field that often go unnoticed. There is a lot of good work being done in libraries and related institutions and organizations.

The first keynote speaker was Joseph Janes, who is always an animated and enthusiastic presenter. He is Associate Professor at the Information School of the University of Washington. I had seen him present a number of times before, and he repeated his mantra about the library needing to be “somewhere and everywhere”. A library needs to have a physical presence in the community– either a gathering place or physical structure for a civic space, or a building in every neighbourhood of a community. But a library needs to be everywhere too, in the sense of being online but also in the sense of being in people’s mindsets when they need the type of support a library can offer. Joseph Janes also described a future in which print will still be present but no longer predominant in libraries. Information in electronic form will find many homes and many avenues. The stewardship role of libraries will persist, but librarians will need to see their roles as facilitators of information differently as there are many more players out there, producing both information and the mechanisms to organize that information.

Later on Saturday afternoon, Brampton Public Library presented the results of their core service review in a session called “Core Service Review: “Heart of the Matter”“. The core service review was a response to Brampton’s rapidly growing population, which includes many new immigrants. The review was also a response to a perception that the library was trying to be all things to all people, with substandard service overall as a result. Brampton Public Library identified 182 services consisting of different types of collections and materials, reference and readers’ advisory (RA), circulation, and outreach.

Once the services were evaluated, Brampton Public Library found they fit onto a spectrum, with the services to be dropped considered to be duplicative of services done elsewhere in the community, or no longer serving the needs of library users. An area that needed improvement was better access to genealogical and local history material. Their Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) material was catalogued after the library received funding through a grant from the Trillium Foundation, and the local history material was moved to a more accessible location.

The purpose of the core service review was not just to grade the services, but to identify ways of improving them. Once Brampton Public Library implemented the results of its core service review, other agencies in the city sought out their advice for conducting successful core service reviews.

Palais des Congrès, Montreal. The convention centre was built over the underground freeway, the Ville-Marie Expressway, resulting in a restoration of the urban fabric as Old Montreal was reconnected to Downtown Montreal.

One of my objectives for CLA 2009 was to listen to and to learn from presenters from public libraries outside of Ontario. My first session was called “Local Libraries, Universal Libraries – The Reading and the Public Library in a City of Knowledge” and the two speakers covered the history of public libraries in Quebec. The Catholic Church has a strong influence in what people could read in the earlier twentieth century, which meant that Andrew Carnegie philanthropic efforts were rejected in Quebec. Books were considered dangerous. After World War II restrictions on reading lifted, but libraries were grouped under “leisure” departments in governments. The opening of the new Grande Bibliothèque in 2005 has raised hopes that libraries will spur the development of reading habits amongst Quebeckers.

The speakers were Louise Guillemette-Labory of Montreal Public Libraries Network and Pierre Godin, a consultant with the City of Montreal.

The experience of Halifax Public Libraries in the session “Changing Neighbourhoods, Changing Libraries: Urban and Suburban Perspectives on Working with Underserved Youth” was of interest to the Quebec librarians in that the two branch libraries profiled, Halifax North and Sackville, received financial support to assist teens and families in difficulty in their communities. What was most startling about the presentation was the dramatic shift in demographics and economics that occurred in the two Halifax neighbourhoods.

Halifax North is situated in the old district of Africville, which was razed in the 1960s to make way for new highways and public housing– a disastrous decision which has led to a rise in poverty and crime. But the area, with its low cost of housing, has become gentrified, with artists and university students moving in and making the community livable and attractive. Halifax North Public Library had developed many programs for youths at risks, such as youth ambassadors, book clubs, youth/police forums, and workshops on topics such as black pride and educational opportunities.

But many of the young people of Halifax North have been moving out, some going to the bedroom community of Sackville, which has undergone uncontrolled urban sprawl. The Sackville library branch discovered it needed to develop programs for the low income families moving into the neighbourhood. The library created a youth drop-in centre with laptops and snacks. The library connected with parents, and discovered their needs such as homework help and nutrition. The changes at the Sackville branch did result in staff turnover, and some long-time patrons uncomfortable with the new young people in the library began to frequent other branches.

Check out Sackville Public Library’s report on crime prevention:
Crime Prevention Action Fund Grant: Youth Opposing Gang Activity. Year 1 Report – Sackville Public Library

The two Halifax library branches learned from each other as the demographics and economic conditions changed in their neighbourhoods. In both cases, the public libraries was seen by city and police officials as catalysts for social transformation in the community, and the funding that the libraries received reflected that high value the City of Halifax places on libraries.

SUNDAY MAY 31, 2009

Early Sunday morning I attended the session “SACO (The Subject Authority Component of the PCC): An Introduction and Discussion of McGill’s Experience“. McGill University is a member of SACO, a cooperative program for the creation of subject headings to be added to the Library of Congress’ subject authority file. Members can also make proposals or changes to the Library of Congress classification schedule.

SACO web site:

At one point individuals could be members of SACO, but the rules have been tightened such that only institutions can be members. The benefit to McGill is that subject headings that are specific to their collection (especially to dissertations and research papers produced at McGill) can be part of the Library of Congress subject authority file (SAF). Once part of SAF, the new subject headings can be part of the syndetic structure of SEE and SEE ALSO (broader, narrower, related) references. The careful research done for subject headings contrasts with the freewheeling tagging that is being proposed for catalogue records in a web 2.0 environment. For scientific terms, the research needed for precise distinctions in terminology seems be well served by Library of Congress subject headings. Multiple sources are checked to determine the correct terminology. But subject headings are driven by bibliographic warrant, which means that subject headings generally do not change unless a new publication justifies an update. With the linking capabilities of the Semantic Web, I wonder if subject headings can be linked to other reference sources, such that users can be made aware of changes in the field that occur independently of formal publications that end up catalogued in a library. In a Semantic Web environment, this might now become practical, whereas in a traditional library catalogue such dynamic linking would have been prohibitively complex and time-consuming to implement.

The SACO web site has a link to the new Semantic Web (also known as “Linked Data”) form of the subject headings:

One record that McGill worked on was “Rutabaga”. Various plants and seeds of the Brassica family have multiple names, and precise subject headings are needed to collocate research papers on the subject. record for “Rutabaga”:
Library of Congress subject authority number: sh 85116077 (search “Rutabaga” at

Capture This is a screen capture of the Visualize tool at displaying relationships between “Rutabaga” and other headings, in this case, the broader term “Brassica”. This new Semantic Web version of subject headings was not covered in the McGill presentation at CLA, but it represents a new direction for subject headings.

Next up was Innisfil Public Library’s experience with implementing the open source integrated library system (ILS) Evergreen. The presentation was called “Tsuga-riffic: A Public Library’s Experience with Open Source“.

“Tsuga” is Latin for hemlock, a tree found in the Lake Simcoe area around Innisfil and consistent with the “Evergreen” theme.

Several other small Ontario libraries have chosen Koha, another open source ILS, but the presenters from Innisfil said that their reasons for choosing Evergreen came down to its scalability and the momentum behind it caused by the several university libraries that have implemented Evergreen and have shown support for its development. That being said, there are some showstoppers in Evergreen for libraries seeking a new ILS, as some modules are missing or incomplete (such as Acquisitions and Serials).

More information about TSUGA is at:

The next session was presented by Alexandra Yarrow of Ottawa Public Library and it was called “Increase Your Readers’ Advisory Knowledge with Book Blogs!“.

Alexandra has organized her links of useful resources at her delicious account: The specific examples she used in her CLA 2009 presentation are listed under her OLA_2009 tag. A copy of her slide show can be obtained at

Alexandra’s own blog is at

When asked to name the best book blog, Alexandra pointed to BookNinja:

I noticed her slides included a link to the Twitter feed of Kingston-Frontenac Public Library: Twitter combines texting with blogging, and its usage seems to be spreading amongst libraries. Any new announcement by the library that can fit into the 140 characters allowed in “tweets” can be fed through Twitter, and it looks like Kingston-Frontenac has several tweets a day, alerting users to program deadlines, system changes, and new books, services, and resources.

My day at CLA ended with the “Great Debate – Be It Resolved that Collaboration Between Academic and Public Libraries is a Waste of Resources“. This was a lively and humour-filled session as Ken Roberts (Hamilton Public Library), Melody Burton (UBC Okanagan), Jeff Barber (Regina Public Library), and Candice Dahl (University of Saskatchewan) faced off in pairs. Ken Roberts and Melody Burton spoke in favour of the resolution, which also meant that they had to demonstrate a poor job of collaborating in presenting their views as that would be consistent with their side of the debate. In the end they swayed people to their side, although the final vote was a tie. Ken Roberts exclaimed at the end that he is actually in favour of collaboration between academic and public libraries!


My first session Monday morning was “Implementing Primo at the Tri-University Group of Libraries“, presented by Alison Hitchens, Cataloguing & Metadata Librarian, University of Waterloo. Primo is one of the new “discovery layers” that are replacing traditional ILS OPACs. Other discovery layers include Endeca, Aquabrowser, and Encore. The University of Waterloo chose Primo because it belonged to the family of products offered by their commercial ILS vendor, Ex Libris. Since the library did not want to devote resources to software development, open source options were not considered.

As with most discovery layers, catalogue records are uploaded into the new service. As I had learned at other occasions, there are many problems with uploading catalogue records to these new services. At an early meeting between Ex Libris and the University of Waterloo, cataloguers weren’t present, and Ex Libris asked “Where are your metadata people? You are going to need them.” For the time being, both the original catalogue and the Primo catalogue will be available to users while the University of Waterloo shakes out the issues with the new interface. Many issues, such as the FRBRization of records, are a work in progress. But the new Primo catalogue does a much better job of relevancy ranking of search results.

The University of Waterloo library is part of tri-university consortium with Wilfred Laurier University and the University of Guelph. You can check out the Primo Beta from the “TUG – Tri-University Group” main catalogue page:

The next session I was particularly eager to hear, and it was called “The Impact of Social Cataloguing Sites on the Public Library Catalogue: Patrons, Social Tagging and the New Face of the Catalogue“.

The two PowerPoint presentations can be found by clicking:

Social Cataloguing Sites: Features and Implications for Cataloguing Practice and the Public Library Catalogue, presented by Dr. Louise Spiteri, School of Information Management, Dalhousie University


Social Catalogues: The New Face of the Public Library Catalogue, presented by Laurel Tarulli, Halifax Public Libraries

Laurel Tarulli’s blog is at:

Reference was made to OCLC’s 2008 report Online Catalogs: What Users and Librarians Want.

LibraryThing, as the king of social cataloguing sites, was discussed in detail. There were many other sites that were new to me. In particular, Stashmatic ( lets you create and share catalogues for just about any kind of item.

A key question driving the future of library catalogue is how they will accommodate users’ expectations, especially now that many library users make extensive use of these social cataloguing sites. Adding tagging capability to a library catalogue may not result in an immediate surge in usage, but eventually some groups of users find that tagging is a perfect tool for their needs, as it allows people to organize library resources to suit their purposes.

hblowers Helene Blowers

Helene Blowers, the creator of 23 Things, a training program for web 2.0 topics for libraries, gave the final keynote speech on the subject of play. Her slide show can be viewed at: Using the symbol of soap bubbles, the most popular toy in history, Helene Blowers tapped into the history and vitality of play as a way to energize our commitment to the role of libraries in shaping people’s lives. Lifelong learning is lifelong play, and she used famous quotes celebrating play by major figures from Albert Einstein to Friedrich Froebel, the inventor of kindergarten.

File:Frederick-Froebel-Bardeen.jpeg Freidrich Froebel, the creator of kindergarten

I was reading Aladdin’s Lamp, by John Freely shortly after returning from CLA 2009, and a quote (p. 225) attributed to Isaac Newton reflected well on Helene Blowers choice of play as being central to the mission of what libraries (and books and life-long learning) are all about:

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy, playing on the seashore, and diverting myself, in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
                                                                                                                                     Isaac Newton

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