Oh, No! Not Another Survey!

Hello, my name is Bob Norman. I?m the Chair ? or The Big Cheese, if you will – of the Board of Trustees of the Tumbler Ridge Library, and I?d like to spend some time talking to you, if I may, about your local Library.

The Library Staff and the Board of Trustees recently spent a weekend formulating a five year plan for the Library. We were facilitated (a fancy word for ?helped?) by Charlie and Mary Parslow from Dawson Creek, who are old hands at this sort of thing, having facilitated other libraries in the Peace Region, as well as other organizations, to formulate five year plans. Now, part of the five year plan involves canvassing you, the public, to get your input. We cannot move forward with the Library without fully knowing what the patrons expect and desire from it. We did talk about how to survey public opinion and rejected the notion of doing a door-to-door survey. We simply don?t have the volunteer base for such an undertaking, and we feel that maybe the public is getting a little ?survey weary? at this time. So we came up with the notion that I would write an article for the town?s newspaper and through that, request your input instead.

I should bring you up to speed about our Library. Libraries have changed enormously over the years since I was a kid. I grew up in London, England, around the middle of the last century. (No kidding! I?m that old? Oh my, oh my! Please give me a couple of moments to compose myself?). My local library was a huge intimidating stone and brick edifice, and as far as I know, all it did was lend out books. And I only remember seeing one, maybe two, employees there ? someone standing behind the checkout desk and somebody returning books to the shelves. Now don?t get me wrong – I?m not criticizing the place. I loved it. As a child, I was used to being restricted to ?children?s activities,? but in my library I could wander over to the adult section and choose any book that I wanted. (Don?t forget that in those days there was strict censorship over the publishing world and ?salacious? novels simply weren?t available, so don?t worry that I was being exposed to inappropriate material). The upshot of my being able to select any book that I wanted was that at the early age of ten or eleven I became hooked on American detective novels and my heroes became not Batman or Superman, but the detectives Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer, the creations of authors Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane. It did not go over well when I started calling women ?dames? and sprinkled my language with other such Americanisms. (?Hey, doll ? nice gams?). That was brought swiftly to an end!

But enough about me; I could talk about myself all day, as you?ve probably gathered. Let?s talk about the Tumbler Ridge Library instead. We certainly have more than two employees, as you?ve no doubt realized if you?ve ever visited the Library. Today is the age of specialization and so we have specialities ? a Children?s Librarian and a Technical Services Assistant are just two examples. (Though, of course, duties overlap and also go beyond the speciality). But to my mind, there are two major differences between today?s libraries and those of my youth ? the sheer number of programmes offered and the impact of computers. Look at the services offered at various times just for children: ?Storytime,? ?Wednesday Club,? ?Lapsit,? ?Summer Reading Club,? and so on. Children as young as two years old are catered to, with arts and crafts. But the biggest impact on Libraries today is the computers. Apart from the computerization of Library services ? from the comfort of your home you can go online and download audio books to your iPod, for example, (or whatever that thing is that you?ve got plugged into your head) ? the Tumbler Ridge Library is part of the federal ?Community Access Programme,? with computers installed solely for public use so that anybody can access the Internet, free of charge. Oh, we also lend out books, too!

So we get to our ?Public Survey.? Do you, gentle reader, have any views or comments about your local Library? Are there programmes that you would like to have added? Are things to your liking? Are there things that you don?t like, or disapprove of? Enquiring minds want to know?

If you have an online computer, you can go to the Library?s Website: www.tumblerridge.bclibrary.ca. Under ?Navigation? on the left hand side, click on ?Ask a Question? and when that page appears, click on ?Feedback Form? in the middle. You can then comment to your heart?s content. Oh, and while you?re there, peruse the website. It?ll clue you in to the many programmes and services that are offered. One of the most fascinating is the ?AskAway? service. This was introduced about 18 months ago province-wide. From your home computer you can find out answers to any question by ?talking? in real time to a librarian somewhere in the province. (You don?t actually talk, you type, but I couldn?t think of any other way to phrase that. It sounds silly to say, ?? you can find out answers to any question by typing in real time to a librarian??). Michele, our Manager, and Kristen, our Technical Services Assistant, have done duty on this programme. They were sent a schedule as to when they were to man the computers (Umm, woman the computers?) and had to sit and respond to questions from around the province. They found that it was better, rather than working individually, if one person fielded the questions and kept the client busy (?How?s the weather out there in Bella Coola??) whilst the other went online or searched through books to find the answers. Unfortunately they cannot answer the questions that have always intrigued me: Why does Northern Metalic spell its name incorrectly? And when you phone a company and get a message that your call may be monitored, who exactly is doing the monitoring? (And if you?re very quiet, can you hear them breathing?) And why do ?fat chance? and ?slim chance? mean exactly the same thing, while ?wise man? and ?wise guy? mean the opposite? I guess that I?ll never know. But I?m starting to ramble again?

If you don?t have a computer, or don?t wish to use the Library?s public ones, you can write your comments on paper and drop them in the ?Survey? box on the front counter. Don?t forget to put your name and ?phone number on it, for as an incentive, at the end of the summer we will make a draw and award a survey responder a copy of Dr. Charles Helm?s new book, ?Exploring Tumbler Ridge.?

Oh, one last thing that I should let you know: Our five year plan is to work towards a larger Library. The planning workshop culminated in the awareness that we really need to ?physically? expand (most of us seem to be doing that on our own). Whether we can expand the present Library or have to work towards building a totally new facility is what we?ll be working on in the next five years. As an adjudicator once told me, ?It is far better to shoot for the moon and hit the chimney pot than it is to shoot for the chimney pot and hit the door.? (This was in England, after all). So we?ll be ?shooting for the moon? at the Library. Stay tuned, and thanks for your time!