bc library conference recap

I spent Friday and Saturday at the BC Library Association conference at a hotel in Richmond, which was kind of a shame because the weather’s been beautiful, but worked out all right since the sessions were interesting.

On Friday I attended a session on Vancouver Public Library’s First Nations Storyteller in Residence program (which won an award on Saturday – the program not the session). This one was interesting as a case-study of how a community-led library program gets developed in collaboration with the communities it’s serving. Originally it was going to be a simple port of the Writer in Residence program but it turned out that what worked for one actually needed significant revamping through lots of question asking and changing behaviour based on the answers.

I also attended a 12 Lightning Talks on Open Access, which was pretty good. The most interesting thing I got out of it was the idea that public libraries could be doing more things with Massive Online Open Courses (like Udacity and others). Then in the afternoon I went to a panel on LGBTQ YA literature which was interesting, especially since it had a couple of authors and an Orca editor on the panel (along with Rob Bittner, organizer of UBC’s Children’s Literature Conference from a couple of weeks ago).

Then I was on the “Ain’t on the Globe and Mail Bestseller List” panel, which had a pile of librarians talking about indie/hard-to-find/frequently-challenged books for 90 seconds a pop. There were books about Dead White Europeans, miniature painting, combining sex & drugs, dropping out of school, butt-plug art, and roleplaying games. Guess which of those was mine.

Saturday I had less freedom in my panels because I was convening a couple of sessions. (Pro tip: if you want to go to BCLA for free, convene rather than volunteer. We got a way sweeter deal than the people working registration desk.) I went to the BCLA AGM, and then convened a session on in-class feedback tools, such as paper-response, clickers and PollEverywhere, which allows for texting in answers that get embedded live into websites. Very cool stuff.

In the afternoon the session I convened was Phil Hall’s talk on Libraries finding a Plan B once the future arrives and the current model of “Libraries are places with information resources” is ruined. He had a lot of interesting things to say about technology trends and the takeaways were that we have to be thinking about this and adapting to it, without being scared that libraries will be gone in our lifetimes.

Finally, Ingrid Parent and Michael Geist gave closing keynotes. Michael Geist talked about copyright and the internet, and how SOPA in the States was stopped and what bill C-11 was like up here in Canada. It was a really good talk.

By the end of the two days my brain was fried and I had to spend the last two days reading X-Men comics to recuperate. I had a good time though. I met some librarians I didn’t know and had a whole bunch more see me booktalk for a crowd (and got some compliments on my performance, which is always nice). Who knows if I’ll be in Vancouver next year, but if I am I’ll go again.

when you dine with the cannibals

In the last couple of days at the library we had an older guy creepily readjusting his underwear while asking staff at our desk to “take a little walk” with him in the video section, a security guy catching one of our visually impaired patrons using the special computer terminal for the visually impaired to look at porn, and another patron seeking KISS’ manager’s contact information so he could invite Gene Simmons out for kosher food when the band is in town. I had to go through the entire freaking KISS tour schedule for that guy to spot the gaps where they might be able to fit an extra show in if he asked very nicely.

Last night Beard Lady was in a really great mood, trying to find out which came first, Pyramids or Ziggurats. Then while we were researching she was giddily laughing about the hair on the Sphinx and I said “It’s not hair; it’s stone!”

“No no no,” she replied, “You can’t fool me. That’s hair and I know it. And the people who built it we don’t know what they ate. They were all cannibals.”

“Actually part of the reason they could build the Pyramids was because of the surplus food storage made possible by the annual Nile flooding and…”


“Maybe the odd time-travelling serial killer,” I said, “but…”

“In all your 20 thousand videos here,” she jumped tracks, “it’s amazing that not one talks about immortality except the Highlander.”

“That’s not true. What about The Fountain?”


“It’s all about immortality. Here, wait a second.” I found it on the shelf and gave it to her. “It doesn’t have any nudity.”

“No kissing?”

I thought. “The explorer might kiss the Queen of Spain on the hand.”

“Oh that’s good. I don’t like pornography.”

“I know.”

She’s looking at the back of the case. “But he’s so dirty.”

“Yes, he’s a Spanish explorer, trying o find…”

“And these pictures are in circles. That means they aren’t educated. When you graduate you wear a square hat and that means you are educated. The tiles in my bathroom are all square so that symbolizes education and knowledge. And circle means female. In the dictionary under Symbolism. Circle means female. Square means educated.”

“But the circles are like portholes on a ship. Letting you see out and through what you’re passing by. Maybe your floor should get some circular tiles because right now it’s educated but blind.” May I add that I love getting into these discussions with Beard Lady? I just wish she’d actually listen.

“No no no. Circle is female and he’s too dirty. Like a caveman. That’s not immortality.” And then she laughed and laughed as she headed down the stairs.