CULC/CBUC Toolkit on Recovery & Reimagined Public Library Services Post COVID-19


Stories from the Field

From Paul Takala, Chief Librarian/CEO: “Hamilton Public Library is amending its Bylaws to enable virtual meetings as well as calling emergency meetings. HPL is on Office 365 and is using MS Teams Live to support this. Board members and senior staff are set-up as “Presenters” and they can speak and be shown. Paul as CEO is the “Producer” and has been in the BoardRoom with the Board Chair, controlling who has control of the screen. The meeting is live streamed and it can be recorded, which we do. We are required to allow remote participation and are doing this through the Live Chat. The meeting generates a URL that anyone can follow, if you are not a producer of a presenter you are only able to watch and contribute via chat. We can go in-camera by turning the Live Recording off and then only presenters and producers can participate. Delegations that want to speak, need to be approved by the Board Chair in advance.”

From Christina de Castell, Chief Librarian: “Vancouver Public Library used Zoom for our board meeting in April. We set up two meetings, one public and one in-camera, with passwords for each, and we invited registration of the public on our website (no public attended). This allowed us to meet at our regular time, and the use of video meant participants felt more connected to each other and staff than had been possible for our March teleconference meeting. Our trustees successfully used the features like raising their hands, chatting, and using “thumbs up”. We didn’t record as we don’t normally. We’re anticipating that we’ll be able to continue virtual meetings in this way as long as physical distancing restrictions are in place with little adjustment.”

From Vickery Bowles, City Librarian: “Toronto used Webex for the virtual board meeting and hired a third-party service to facilitate and run the technology for the meeting. It was important to ensure members of the public who wanted to depute on any of the Board agenda items could do so, the public could hear/view the meeting and that the Board could go into closed session at the end of the meeting to discuss confidential matters. Members of the public who want to depute have to register in advance of the meeting. All voting is conducted as a recorded vote with the name of each Board member read for each vote and the Board member declaring ‘In Favour/Opposed’. This ensures transparency so members of the public listening to the meeting know how Board members are voting.”

From Pilar Martinez, CEO: “Edmonton Public Library held its first virtual board meeting tonight and along with regular board business prioritized time on the agenda for a generative discussion regarding COVID19 and the financial challenges we are facing. The discussion was rich and inspiring. We used the Tamarack Institute’s Planning for the Future During Uncertainty as one of the items on the pre-reading list, along with several questions including: 1) How do you think the pandemic and the financial crisis will change behaviors? 2. What risks do changing citizen behaviors and economic challenges pose for EPL? 3. What are your fears / worries for our city, our province, our country? 4. What opportunities might this situation provide for EPL?

It was a robust and rich conversation that will be instrumental in our recovery planning. I am sharing comments that resonated most. We need to stay true to our north star and keep our fundamental values at the forefront, even though we may be using a different lens and applying different actions. With change, particularly global change of this magnitude, people crave certainty during uncertain times. The library is extremely well positioned because we are seen as a trusted friend, and individuals are looking for institutions they can trust. Now more than ever customers are dependent on digital access. What can we do to leverage this situation to ensure that our customers get equitable access to these resources and take full advantage of digital content. I am fearful that we will forget the lessons that we have been learning through this pandemic, that we will forget the care and compassion that we have shown. Public libraries could be such a huge asset and support for people in being entrepreneurial; they are critical institutions when times are tough. As one of the last true public spaces, the value we provide to seeking public space cannot be underestimated. Libraries can lead in terms of promoting humane values and democracy.”