From the President's Desk

Lou Duggan

It's impossible, that's sure. So let's start working.

– Philippe Petit, Man on Wire, 2008.

I have several photos in my office that I look at all the time. They keep me in line and keep me focused. One is of a tightrope walker named Philippe Petit. His story is told in the 2008 cinematic documentary, Man on Wire. What I love most about this guy is that he understands that some of the things he wants to do in life are going to be hard. He understands that, and he embraces it. He picks a goal that he wants to achieve and then he sets to work. It all seems simple, depending on the goal. In Man on Wire, Petit walks a tightrope between the towers of the former World Trade Center.

The future of libraries in Atlantic Canada may never have been as uncertain as it is at this very moment. A majority federal government has made drastic changes to Libraries and Archives Canada, Statistics Canada, C@P, and other programs we have come to depend on. Local school boards are finding it harder and harder to maintain services and are choosing to cut libraries as a result. Provincial programmers seem to have come around to a, “do less with less” philosophy. Since libraries depend almost entirely on the support of government and other large institutions, we are in a sticky situation to be sure.

Personally, I believe in libraries as a social good: they make the world a better place. Safer, healthier communities with a better standard of living are directly correlated with literacy and education, which in turn are correlated to the existence of libraries. That is why I work in this profession. I have ‘drank the Kool-Aid’, as they say. To sum up, libraries are under grave threat and are worth saving. So let’s start working.

Last year was my first on the APLA Executive, so I was more or less learning the ropes. But when I saw the group in action, I became very confident that this executive could achieve significant results. Among other things, we did some very important advocacy, held an excellent conference, and completed a membership drive that saw our numbers increase by more than 10%. I would call that an excellent year of progress and good work by all. But to top it off, we also launched a new website with all new branding. Those who follow sports will know that often this really does change things. Remember the New England Patriots going from a 1-15 record to become one of the greatest franchises in American football history following a rebranding?

With the rebranding done, I’m hoping the 2012-13 APLA year will focus on four areas:

  1. Advocacy – Past President Jocelyne Thompson is beginning a new APLA Interest Group on advocacy. The terms of reference will be to aid the Executive in advocacy activities by doing background research and helping to draft letters, etc.
  2. Promotion – This is the first point of APLA’s mandate, and promotion is needed now more than ever. It is my personal goal to have the word “library” spoken at as many non-library events as possible. As a good friend advised me, “whisper it in their ears until they think it was their idea.”
  3. Conference – APLA 2013 will take place in Charlottetown next spring. The conference is our flagship event, and I challenge everyone to help with presentations, posters, and most of all attendance!
  4. Membership – Last year we recognized that APLA’s membership only represents a small fraction of library staff in the Atlantic Provinces, even after our successful membership drive. Let’s get everyone involved. Encourage your co-workers and colleagues to join so we can work together with all staff in all types of libraries. We are in this together.

I don’t believe that restoring libraries to some former glory is the aim of all this work. That would be a misguided goal. Rather, the aim should be to create a new sense of worth for libraries and to find a place for them in an ever-changing society. We already know that libraries make the world a better place to live in. It will take work to keep us in the minds of people amid the distractions of the modern age. But I think that is the point: sifting through the deluge of information is what libraries are good at. We need to do the work that will show the citizens of Atlantic Canada what we can do. Let’s start working.