I’ve had an essay on the back-burner for some time, in an attempt to gather my thoughts on what it is to be a librarian at the Carnegie. Initially, I had imagined presenting this paper at a conference because I love public speaking. I get a real high out of it. And when I was unexpectedly asked to present at the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) last year for their annual conference, I was pretty excited. IFLA is the ultimate platform for librarians.
Unfortunately, after some mixed messages I learned that my organization could not endorse sending me. This was disappointing because through the panel I would have met other librarians from around the world working towards creating policies for serving the homeless community better but maybe the timing was not right.
I compromised by being interviewed for the City of Vancouver, doing a promo piece about the library. This turned out to be stressful because after pointing out an error, the journalist explained how he wanted to attribute my quotes to someone else with more seniority in the Centre because it would sound better. I refused to comply and made a pact with myself to keep things to myself and avoid media outlets. The end result was this little blurb, “City’s smallest library makes a big impact,” which I don’t imagine anyone ever read besides my parents! The whole experience made me irritated with the City and its hierarchies, when it should have been celebratory.
Obviously I’m still using this blog to talk about the library, but I was making a conscious choice to not propose conference presentations, figuring I would focus my time and energy on my patrons rather than sharing with library colleagues. I started to harbor some bitterness towards my organization as well, feeling like I was getting worked hard and putting out so much energy, but with minimal workplace affirmation (especially when I was simultaneously the Co-ordinator of the epic ordeal of organizing the Alley Health Fair / full-time Branch Head / the lone full-time Information staff at Carnegie!).
There are days when feelings of institutional frustration still flares up, but at least the patrons are gold, and it’s an awesome job. I just think that the City would want to flood a place like the Carnegie with loads of support and resources, and want to renovate the place, and refurbish the wood furniture, and make it shine! Instead, it sometimes seems like it’s such a battle to improve anything and that the higher-ups resent you for wanting the best for the people who need it the most. I find the slowness of it all hard to understand. But these thoughts pass and once in-awhile something miraculously gets done and kind words are spoken.
When I was approached by an editor from the British Columbia Library Association’s (BCLA) journal called Perspectives to do a piece about the Carnegie, in connection to “access and inclusion,” I decided to offer up my languishing paper. I’m glad that I did this. The feedback from fellow library staff has been really encouraging. The process also reminded me that it’s okay to share directly with colleagues and that maybe when I was feeling bitter and unappreciated my motives were off.
Here it is: “Embracing access and inclusion at the Downtown Eastside’s Carnegie Library.” Enjoy.
I’m also reminded of the Wesley Covenant Prayer, and how I need to be humbled and “brought low.” It feels much easier to yield all things. I don’t own this library experience, it simply fills me and empties me. In time this job will be laid aside and I will be ranked with whomever God chooses.