Day One – Sectoral and Standing Committee Meetings

Sunday October 4th – Sectoral and Standing Committee Meetings

Jet-lagged but game, five CUPE 391 members participated in the 10 am Library Committee meeting. Ed Dickson, Inder Pannu, Mark Whittam, Alex Youngberg and Peter DeGroot (alternate) attended.  Peter is on the National CARD committee nobly gave up vacation and travel points to attend.  Inder and I are bunking together.  Neither of us snore.  Maybe we can try a cruise in our old age.

Library Committee

We handed out copies of our new Tech Services brochure, Public library collections: part of our culture, part of our future.  They were well received by library worker from across the country as they have the similar issues.  Government underfunding of public services opens the door to contracting out and privatisation of library services.  Some public libraries have contracted out such services as as ordering, processing, cataloguing material; while other libraries are considering it.  That would be our employer.  Still other libraries are considering contracting out acquistions.

What we heard across the country

Rhena Oakes, President of the seven hundred Calgary Public Library, CUPE Local 1169, reported on violence in the workplace.  With the economic downturn more people are seeking shelter in the library.  Lower staff numbers because of the economic situation, make it difficult to maintain a safe workplace for members, and sometimes for the public.

On a more cheerful note CPL workers have had a successful organising drive for the “substitute workers”.  These people make $.25 over minimum wage.  The turnover happens sometimes in the same day.


Because of violence in the workplace, libraries are closed every day between 3.30 and 4.30 pm.  Ultra violet lights are being used in the washrooms to make injection use less accessible.  Gangs have been settling their scores in library halls.  The libraries close for the one hour to get a better handle on the situation.  Unfortunately children are getting out of school at this time and wish to use their libraries.


Manitoba library workers discussed the difficulties they had with contracting out processing of materials.  Apparently costs were averaging $5 per item.  The materials often have to be recatalogued and restickered.

Manitoba libraries have found it difficult to get a true costing of these contracted out processes.  Sound familiar?


City of Mississauga

A librarian tells us how the City of Mississauga tried to get rid of the library board.  This did not succeed, but apparently, several councilors sit on the board and the rest are appointees.  The Library is now considered a city department (the library department).


Saskatoon Public Library has the same problems as Manitoba with contracting out material processing.  Also, Saskatchewan is embarking on an Integrated Library System.  All catalogued library records in Saskatchewan are to be standardized.  Cataloguing was shut down for part of this process which mystified the library workers who were deployed elsewhere.  During this time a backlog of materials needing to be processed occurred.  These items were sent out to be processed.  It cost the Library $7 per item and the staff had to resticker and recatalogue many of the items. Centralised selecting is occuring here as in some of the other libraries.  The librarians are being giving less to do and subject specialisation is disappearing here also.  The dumbing down of library service seems prevalent in all library systems.  It appears to go hand in hand with contracting out many aspects of collection development.

Vancouver Public Library

I reported on the provincial library cuts, municipal hiring freeze, shared services and the Vancouver Service Review.  (Darlene Smith from Fraser Valley Regional had earlier reported on the “Don’t Pull the Plug on Libraries” campaign).  I also noted that the City was hoping for big savings with the attendance management program.  The Freedom of Information request that \i put in revealed that the Employer was including exempt staff sick days. leave without pay, members on WCB and members on Long term disability plan, which the union pays.  The Employer said we had an average of 17 days sick per year.  Without removing the LWOP or the WCB, we found that we only averaged 11.2 days.  This apparently is “best practice”.  I have asked other library systems to compare their “best practice” attendance management programs.

Victorian Regional District Library

Holman gleefully reported that integrating pay equity is proving to be a relatively seamless process.  This regions is also experiencing financial hardship.  Hours of opening wil be cut back and a weeks closure at Christmas is a distinct possibility.

San Jose Way

This is the Frankenstein of libraries that has been terrorizing devoted public service workers for over two years.  The University of San Jose does not have a library.  The students use the San Jose Public Library.  The Library resembles a Chapters/Indigo store and entitles its librarians – here it comes – “client service representatives”.  Client are give a wand that beeps to help find their material so they don’t have that annoying and expensive interaction with staff. Some of the features that might sound familiar.

  • reduction/lack of specialised services
  • generalising of job descriptions & classifications generic jobs)
  • more part-time staff, less full-time staff
  • use of ‘rovers” in public service
  • contracting our of specialised services to 3rd party providers e.g.b
  • bibiliographic services, IT, marketing/communications, financial functions

The architect of this shift from serving public good to supporting corporate profit is Dr. Ken Haycock, former head of UBC’s Library School.  Dr. Haycock also has a consulting business and worked with the BC Library Trustees Associations in 2002.  We are in a parallel universe.

The reception tonight featured a Quebecois group called Yves Lambert et Bebert Orchestra.  Very step dancing folk music.  It has the energy of its Celtic cousins but the rich strong flavour of the Quebec countryside.  C’est magnifique!  A la prochaine.  I love Montreal.  Thank you for sending us.

in solidarity