Black History Month 2023: Ours to Tell…

Black History Month 2023 Theme: Ours to Tell

February is Black History Month

Every February, people across Canada participate in Black History Month events and festivities that honour the legacy of Black people in Canada and their communities… 

The Government of Canada has announced this year’s theme as: “Ours to Tell and represents both an opportunity to engage in open dialogue and a commitment to learning more about the stories Black communities in Canada have to tell about their histories, successes, sacrifices and triumphs.”

Libby OverDrive logoThe Ontario Library Service is committed to providing resources and training opportunities that support and enhance Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for all libraries across the province. Check out the #BlackHistoryMonth curated list available on OverDrive!

How are you celebrating Black History Month? What books and resources can you recommend?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Staff Profile Series: Brian Alberton

Meet the team! Check back each month to learn more about the people who help the Ontario Library Service provide seamless access to programs and services that strengthen all public libraries in Ontario.

Brian Alberton

Name: Brian Alberton

Position: JASI Support Analyst

I’ve grown up and lived in the Sudbury area most of my life.  Though I’ve always loved libraries, I didn’t expect to end up in this field. I couldn’t be happier about it!


My favourite meal is…

Homemade gnocchi and garlic bread

My desert island record is…

Queens of the Stone Age Songs for the Deaf

A random and seldom known fact about me is…

I was born in Kitimat, British Columbia despite my parents both being from the Sudbury area and almost never leaving it.  We moved back to Ontario shortly after I was born, so I have no memories of it.

My favourite task or project in my OLS work role is…

In general, I especially like when librarians contact us with ideas that turn into special projects. It’s a nice change of pace from the routine and isn’t as stressful as trying to figure out a mystery error. I also enjoy creating new reports that aren’t the usual requests. I find it very interesting to look at library data in new ways.

Staff Profile Series: Jeff Laitinen

Meet the team! Check back each month to learn more about the people who help the Ontario Library Service provide seamless access to programs and services that strengthen all public libraries in Ontario.

Calvin and Hobbes Dancing

Name: Jeff Laitinen              

Position: JASI Support Analyst

Growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, I often visited the public library with my mom, and recall checking out many Peanuts books as a young boy. I remember thinking I’d like to work in a library, even back then. In 1991-92 I took the first year of the Cartography program at Sir Sandford Fleming College, receiving Dean’s list honours but did not return for the second year as I was at odds with where my career would lead – we were all told we would likely work in the mining industry, surveying and mapping areas for extracting resources. I saw this as ‘mapping the world to be destroyed’ so did not return. In 1998 I graduated from Seneca college with my diploma in Computer Graphics Imagery, which included animation, website, and graphic design. I started working at Ontario Library Service in 2002 (OLS-North at the time) in the Marketing Department, transferring to JASI when it started up in 2007.

If you could become a character from any book who would you pick and why? Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson. He’s got a great sense of humour, asks the big questions, and is endlessly imaginative – doing his own thing.

My favourite meal is… I’m absolutely not a ‘foodie’, anything that fills my belly (except for liver!). Favourite beer: Innis & Gunn original ; )

My desert island record is… There is sooo much great music out there, it’s hard to pick. If I had to choose just one album (today) I’d have to pick Bitches Brew by Miles Davis, I don’t think I’d ever get tired of listening to that.

My favourite desert island book is… a good survival skills book 😉

A random and seldom known fact about me is… I’m not much of a traveler, but I’d really love to visit my ‘real’ homeland: Finland, someday. Both my parents were born in Finland, but met in Wawa, ON.

What was the most personally inspiring public library related work you’ve helped make a reality during your time with the OLS? Any time I help a library resolve an issue or I can make their job a bit easier makes me happy, and is a reminder of why we do our job.

What do diversity, inclusivity, and connection mean to you? Everyone living together as a community, working together for the betterment of all.




Staff Profile Series: Nancy Cooper

Meet the team! Check back each month to learn more about the people who help the Ontario Library Service provide seamless access to programs and services that strengthen all public libraries in Ontario.

Nancy Cooper

Name: Nancy Cooper              

Position: First Nations Consultant

I am a member of Rama First Nation in southern Ontario and I share Anishnabe/Potawatomi and Irish settler heritage.  I have been one of the First Nations Consultants here at the OLS for just over six years. I work with First Nation Public Libraries throughout the province, along with my colleague Deanna Nebenionquit.  I’ve also administered the First Nation Communities READ program for the past six years.

I’ve lived in Toronto for the past 30 years but will always call the north my home. In my spare time I attempt to wrangle my 14-year old twin boys.

Biindigen! Amik Says Welcome a book by Nancy Cooper and Joshua Mangeshig  Pawis-Steckley
I have a children’s book being released in March of 2023 called Biindigen! Amik Says Welcome, published by Owlkids Books.

If you could become a character from any book who would you pick and why?

I’ve always loved books about WWII resistance fighters/spies/couriers.  I’d be a plucky young woman in one of those books helping to overthrow the bad guys, one coded message at a time.

My favourite meal is…

One I don’t have to cook.   If I don’t have to cook it, it is my current favourite meal.

A random and seldom known fact about me is…

I once was on an episode of Candid Camera when I visited England in my early 20s!

What do diversity, inclusion, and connection mean to you?

Before I was 10 I had lived in five towns throughout northern Ontario.  My father was an OPP officer, and we were transferred quite a few times.  No matter where we lived, my mom, who was Anishinaabe, made social connections and worked to help in the local Indigenous community in any way she could.  I learned from her about what community support really meant, to always share what I have, and to provide a safe haven for those in need whenever I can.  For our family, there was always room for one more at the table, there was always room in the circle we made.

I’ve been fortunate throughout my adult life to work in and for the Indigenous community at local, provincial, national and international levels as an adult educator and community development facilitator.  There is such a profound shift when people who have been silenced in the past, are encouraged and celebrated as they use their voices to speak truth to power and for change at a personal, community, and societal level.  Right there, in that place of voice, is where connection, inclusivity and diversity meet and its amazing.

Perspectives and Policies of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Image of three people looking at a wall of photographs depicting diversity.

“What’s the number one thing we need to remember? Be a GOOD HUMAN.
~ Auntie Plum, Haliburton County

Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.” The topic at hand for this post is to consider how Ontario’s public libraries support those freedoms in relation to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) and Intellectual Freedom. Every community is different and unique; therefore the application of EDI may vary slightly from one library to the next. It is important to regularly reflect on and review the library’s position and communication about EDI as understanding develops and new information is presented.

EDI work within the public library reaches every level of the organization including the Board and its policies and planning, HR practices, programming, collection development, customer service, spaces, online activity, and much more. This can lead to uncertainty about where to begin this work and what processes to follow. Consider starting with a critical review of the Library’s mission, vision, and values statements. Do they represent the Library’s commitment to Intellectual Freedom and EDI? Do they represent all of the Library’s users and community members?

“Some of the books we read have some very important topics that some parents or kids may not know how to talk about; gender, race, bullying, the importance of protecting water, being kind to one another, the list goes on.  We read the stories, but the adults take the kids home, and then the conversations happen, or they don’t.  But for one hour we plant seeds of inclusion, acceptance and freedom to be yourself. Those seeds go on and perhaps spread and open the mind and hearts of those who need it and help keep open the ones of those who already get it.”
~ Fantasia LaPremiere, Thunder Bay

Next up are the Library’s policies – there is great value in having a foundational policy that establishes and communicates the Library’s position BUT it is important to also review all other policies to determine how Intellectual Freedom and EDI can be incorporated within policies related to programming, collection development, meeting room use, HR, social media and communications, and more. There are implications to be considered at every level and up to date policies provide library leaders / staff with solid support during the delivery of service.

Providing talking points or key messaging notes for staff and library leadership will also help to support the library in maintaining a safe and welcoming environment. Consider the ways in which the library’s EDI work will be shared online through the library’s website or social media and how staff will interact with comments or questions. Effective communication about programming, collections, and other library services supports strong relationships with local media and individuals when discussing these nuanced and sometimes challenging topics.

Ontario Library Service (OLS) recently had an opportunity to deliver a live webinar on the topic in partnership with the Haliburton County Public Library focusing on the public library experience in hosting and delivering Drag Storytime programs (you can access the recorded webinar on LearnHQ). Some of the most valuable resources to help your library’s development can be gained through talking with colleagues at other libraries, borrowing or adapting effective practices and procedures, bringing questions to networking events, and of course the OLS Consulting Team is always available for questions and support.

For anyone looking for more context and resources for Ontario public libraries incorporating EDI practices into their organizations, the OLS has released a new professional resource guide on this topic. This guide includes lists of further resources and a link to the recording of the live webinar mentioned earlier in this post.

Staff Profile Series: Peggy Malcolm

Meet the team! Check back each month to learn more about the people who help the Ontario Library Service provide seamless access to programs and services that strengthen all public libraries in Ontario.

Picture of Peggy Malcolm

Name: Peggy Malcolm              

Position: Consultant

As many of you know, I have worked for the OLS and its predecessor for many years.  In fact, I started working at the Ottawa office of the Southern Ontario Library Service in early 1991, and was hired to write for the EXCEL distance education program and to create resource books called Sourcebooks for Small Public Libraries.  We have come a long way from those green-covered printed booklets – but I am quite proud of the fact that the Ontario Library Service continues to provide resource materials for staff, volunteers, and board members at Ontario public libraries through the OLS website.

What do diversity, inclusion, and connection mean to you?

Throughout my life, diversity, inclusion, and connections have played a significant role. A little-known fact is that I was born in Taiwan and lived the first few years of my life in a village called Miaoli. Back in Canada, our home always had a steady stream of visitors from around the world, and at the time, I thought everyone had overnight visitors from New Hebrides and dinners with Hakka-speaking international students from McMaster University to name a few. Reflecting, I realize that these experiences shaped my understanding of diversity, inclusion, and connections especially as I listened, observed, and absorbed everything I could.

I got another chance to experience this after university (undergrad in Geography at Laurier; graduate library degree at Western; HR at Toronto Metropolitan U) and a few years at the Pickering, Ajax, and Whitby Public Libraries. In the late 1980s, through CUSO, I accepted a job in the Library at a United Nations Agricultural Research Station in Bogor, Indonesia (the photo above is of the Centre’s two librarians – Yuni and myself). While interesting work, this location allowed me to be surrounded by a different culture and language (after 2 months of language training, I was better, but always humbled in speaking Indonesian). Several times throughout the three years, we travelled through Indonesia and Southeast Asia, always finding our way by local bus, on foot, boat… meeting people, asking questions, visiting sites, listening, and learning.

I believe that the tone was set for my understanding of diversity but also of inclusion and connections to others. In everything I write or create for the Ontario Library Service, I consider whether the reader would understand the words, especially if English was not a first language or literacy skills are not strong. I am very proud of my 25 years working on the EXCEL distance education program. I know that the explanatory notes and information pieces have helped to shape many working in Ontario’s public libraries. I am proud of the years of consulting work helping people to navigate through legislation, operational questions and personnel issues.

As a side note, while I was in Indonesia, I hit several items on my bucket list including a visit to the fabled Spice Islands, famed for nutmeg. To explain, you might want to read: Nathaniel’s Nutmeg: Or the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History by Giles Milton. In 1993, Canadian author, Ernest Hillen wrote a memoir called The Way of Boy: A Memoir of Java, and we were so fortunate to be a part of the book as we sent a package via Ernest to Indonesian friends who turned out to be key to unlocking his past.

One never knows what will happen when you listen carefully, observe, and make connections.

Staff Profile Series: Linda Langedijk

Meet the team! Check back each month to learn more about the people who help the Ontario Library Service provide seamless access to programs and services that strengthen all public libraries in Ontario.

Linda Langedijk

Name: Linda Langedijk              

Position: Helpdesk Representative

I’ve worked in the library field for many years, first at Toronto Reference Library (7 years) then Toronto Public Library (2 years) and now OLS for 25 years! I love books and customer service, so OLS was a perfect fit for me. My job here has always been interlibrary loan, first processing requests, then moving on to Helpdesk and VDX admin. It’s always interesting… often quite fun and I really enjoy the relationships I’ve built with ILL staff across Ontario and Canada.

If you could become a character from any book who would you pick and why?

I read broadly but am drawn to speculative fiction and mysteries. The characters are always in trouble, so I probably don’t want to be any of them, but I enjoy living vicariously through them.

My favourite meal is…

My all-time favourite – must have it as my birthday meal every year – is Vietnamese Bun Ga Nuong (grilled chicken with vermicelli salad). I had the best version ever while visiting Vietnam in 2019 – on my birthday!

My favourite desert island book is…

Well, I can’t fall asleep without a cozy mystery so I’m going to need one of those. I’m loving the Mrs. Jeffries series right now.

A random and seldom known fact about me is…

Years ago we visited a vintage aviation museum in Rhinebeck, NY and took a flight over the Hudson River Valley in an open cockpit 1929 biplane, complete with leather helmet and goggles and a handsome young pilot! Such a thrill to be able to experience living history, I will never forget it.

Do you have a favourite task or project in your OLS work role? Tell us a bit about it…

I do what I love every day and that is connecting people with information and books. Interlibrary loan allows me to have that connection to library staff and patrons that really energized me when working in the public library system. Every request or query that comes across my desk has a patron on the other side and trying to track down that odd copy of a book that someone is looking for and then actually finding it brings me great joy. It also allows me to combine customer service with my love of solving puzzles – troubleshooting VDX request issues and helping ILL staff resolve procedural or technical difficulties is always satisfying.

Staff Profile Series: Beth Harding

Meet the team! Check back each month to learn more about the people who help the Ontario Library Service provide seamless access to programs and services that strengthen all public libraries in Ontario.

Beth Harding

Name: Beth Harding             

Position: Digital Licensing Coordinator

After saying that I would never live in Toronto, I moved here to take a position with the OLS (at that time SOLS) in 2010 and it was a very good decision! As the Digital Licensing Coordinator, I work with libraries and vendors to secure licensing for digital content through discounted purchasing programs and shared collections.

If you could become a character from any book who would you pick and why?

It’s hard to pick just one! When I read Less by Andrew Sean Greer I was very envious of Arthur Less’s worldwide travels, even though he had the worst luck (at first anyway… you’ll have to read it to see what I mean!).

My desert island record is…

Fleet Foxes’ self-titled album. It’s also my go-to cottage album.

A random and seldom known fact about me is…

I grew up Lewisporte, a small town in central Newfoundland not far from Gander. Last month I went back for the first time in over two years and had the best time!

Do you have a favourite task or project in your OLS work role? Tell us a bit about it…

I LOVE selecting and curating titles for the OLS Download Centre site (an OverDrive collection shared by over 190 Ontario public libraries… learn more here). It’s fascinating to see which titles become the most popular over time – Booktok has really changed the game and renewed the popularity of some less recent titles.

What do diversity, inclusivity, and connection mean to you?

I believe that reading is a great way to explore the experiences of people from cultures and backgrounds that may be different from our own. Research has found that fiction reading can foster empathy for others and help us to understand their feelings and reactions. I keep this in mind when I’m selecting titles and building curated lists. I also think that we’re lucky to live in a country where authors have the right to express their thoughts publicly and are protected by free expression legislation. It’s important to protect works from censorship by supporting the universal principles of intellectual freedom.

Your Data, Your Story

Your Data, Your Story

You’ve completed the Typical Week Survey and the Annual Survey of Public Libraries – so what are you doing next with all that data? If it’s just being shelved or filed away in storage, you may be missing out on some valuable opportunities to leverage the work and efforts that went into its collection.

But first, some history…

The Province of Ontario has collected statistics from libraries since the late 19th Century, with most early surveys counting cardholders, collections, and classes offered. Self-reported data submitted by public libraries through the Annual Survey of Public Libraries has been collected since 1999 and is made publicly available through the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport and the Ontario Government’s Open Data website.

“Data is like garbage. You’d better know what you are going to do with it before you collect it.” – Mark Twain

Fast forward to today…

Every library collects data – for the Annual Survey of Public Libraries, library annual reports, gate counts, program evaluations and attendance, circulation reports, and more. The focus of this post is on all the ways that data can be used to maximize its value and inform library planning. Often when questions arise around open hours, community needs, collection development, marketing, or programming there are answers to be found within the library’s existing data; and it is far too easy to forget what is already at your fingertips when it was originally collected for a very different purpose.

The data public libraries collect during the year can be combined to outline the library’s story – it’s past, present, and future directions. Trends, highlights, and lessons exist within the available data as well as in its gaps or black holes. Whether you are looking at the previous season to inform decisions about the next, comparing year over year performance, or looking at long term trends and patterns in library usage and development, library data is a powerful tool to help the organization move forward.

As you’re planning for the upcoming season, municipal elections, or board orientations, consider how library data might be useful in…

  • Decision making and planning – turning to data as a decision-making tool helps to identify patterns or trends in collection development, programming, and services at a local level. Collection turnover rate, programming attendance, and year over year annual survey numbers provide valuable insight into the priorities and interests of your community to inform planning for future needs or ideas. Consider then taking the next step to compare library data to the changing demographics of your area, the recently released 2021 Census Profiles show how communities are developing and changing over time. A solid understanding of your community at large along with library usage patterns and non-user demographics is useful at an operational planning level and more broadly at a strategic planning or master planning level.
  • Staff engagement – Talking about library data on a regular basis ensures that everyone can understand the story it holds and the details it can provide. For staff working in public service roles, it means knowing what’s popular in the community during readers’ advisory interactions or when brainstorming ideas for the next great season of programming. It also means connecting the day-to-day work of staff with the bigger picture of the library’s mission, vision, and values.
  • Communications and marketing – Incorporate data points or significant figures in community messaging, promotion, advocacy, and other communications from the library. When a program is wildly successful, make a splash of the attendance rate and turn comments into testimonials that can be shared on social media or in print documents such as strategic plans or annual reports. Transfer important pieces of data into talking points or graphics to have at the ready when engaging with stakeholders in your community and beyond.
  • Performance measures and assessment – The provincial Open Data site mentioned earlier in this post includes the self-reported data by Ontario Public Libraries from 1999-2020 (at time of this posting). If you want to know how your library activity compares to others of similar size or in your geographic area, it’s all there and available for review or download. The presentation of the data may have shifted recently, but the baseline information is a great tool for taking a step back and looking at the data with an eye on short, medium, and long-range planning for your library.

The next time you’re headed into a planning meeting, ask yourself if there is data available that you should have on hand for review and discussion. Chances are there will be!

To hear more on connected topics, join us at the 2022 Stronger Libraries. Stronger Communities. Virtual Conference in September. Registration is FREE and live now through LearnHQ with full details available on the Ontario Library Service website.

Staff Profile Series: Gwen Boyd

Meet the team! Check back each month to learn more about the people who help the Ontario Library Service provide seamless access to programs and services that strengthen all public libraries in Ontario.

Name:  Gwen Boyd

Position: Finance Assistant

My earliest memory of the library is riding my bike to the bookmobile to take out as many books as possible.  My nose was always stuck in a book. I took my children to the library and now I am bringing my grandchildren.

In 2007, after working for roughly 20 years in the non-profit housing sector, a friend suggested I apply for a position at OLS – North.  What luck! It was the perfect fit for me.  Working with numbers for an agency that helps libraries – who could ask for more?

If you could become a character from any book who would you pick and why?

Eve Dallas of J.D. Robb’s In Death series.  She’s just so cool.  She is strong yet vulnerable and supersmart, very no-nonsense, with great personal and work ethics. And she’s married to Roarke – enough said.

My favourite meal is…

I love food. Period. And so, one of my favourite meals is Christmas dinner because it offers many of my favourite foods in one sitting:  turkey, meatpie, mashed potatoes, gravy, lasagna, fresh bread and desserts.  Maybe this year I’ll add barbecued steak to the menu and then it will be just perfect.

A random and seldom known fact about me is…

We plan to move to our property in the Sables-Spanish Rivers Township.  It is totally off-grid, no power and no water. We will have a combination solar- wind system for electricity and hope to sink a point for water.  The plan is to be relatively self-sufficient with a garden and a greenhouse and maybe even chickens and goats. 😊

Do you have a favourite task or project in your OLS work role? Tell us a bit about it…

My favourite task is to reconcile – anything. Whether it is a general ledger account or a bank account, I so love the challenge of trying to find out why it is not balancing and fix it.

What do diversity, inclusivity, and connection mean to you?

It is about fully accepting and welcoming everyone, and it is also recognizing that I may never fully understand. I have not been in someone else’s shoes and cannot walk that mile; but I can listen and I can learn.