The Saskatchewan Mafia

It's killing me
but I'm having to change the focus of a a paper I'm doing for my “501 –
Perspectives on Library and
Information Science” class.  Originally, I was going to compare
the differences between the
public library systems in Alberta (the only place in Canada along with
Quebec that charges user fees for library cards) with the library
system in Saskatchewan (the only place in Canada along with BC to have
legislation enacted guaranteeing all citizens equal and unambiguous
free access to library resources).  But it has grown incredibly
unwieldy and
long and so I'm forcing myself to cut it back and focus only on the
Alberta aspect without the comparison to my home province.  It's
still quite long compared to what the word count is supposed to be
but I'm willing to take a penalty just based on the pure joy I got
exploring this topic. 

Well, “joy” isn't exactly the right word.  I got to hear the incredible Lois Hole,
former Lt. Governor of Alberta speak on a couple occasions including at the
opening of the Crowfoot Branch in Calgary and she was such an amazing,
passionate woman, never afraid to call out Ralph Klein or give big
public hugs to people she admired.  She passed away in January
2005 and thinking about her words and how her memory is a large part of
why Banff and Drayton Valley have decided to buck the tide and drop
their user fees is very bittersweet. 

I posted an open
call for comments on the subject of user fees to a few librarians I know in Alberta and to the
Writers Guild of Alberta listserv.  Some of the comments were quite fiery,
some were poignant, and some were surprising.  So that's also a
source of mixed emotions as I work on this essay.  I won't get
into it too much but to hear people who I know  probably can't
afford the fees say they don't mind paying or to hear librarians I
respect say that “we've accepted them now” or that “they're not much
more than the cost of a paperback book” really bothers me. 

Even though I hate to do it, I have to admit that my original essay
wasn't doing what I wanted (I showed it to Sabina and she gently
pointed this out and sometimes you have to hear something you know from
someone else for it to sink in) so I'm changing the focus. 

That's the bad news.  The good news is that I got to change my
original title “The Two-Headed Buffalo: Comparing Library User Fees in
Alberta and Saskatchewan” to the much catchier “Useless at Tits on a
Bull: Library User Fees in Alberta.”  How's that for an academic title? 

After I get my comments back, I'll update both
versions and post them here so people can see them if they want. 

What else?  Looking at the Wikipedia bio on Lois Hole, why is it
not surprising to see she's originally from Saskatchewan?  I
noticed that all over the place in Alberta and I hear about it in other cities from Vancouver to Toronto to various places
outside the country.  There's something about people from Saskatchewan
that often puts them in positions of responsibility and respect. 
(Of course, the flip side of that is that Saskatchewan can't seem to
retain its best and brightest and is like a giant farm system (in the
baseball sense although I guess in the agricultural sense too) for the
rest of the world.) 

In our class of forty or so people, there are two other people from
Saskatchewan and both of them are extremely cool, wicked people. 
I've written a bit about Christina who I've nicknamed “Kinetic” for her
non-stop energy and chatty nature.  The other one is Michelle who
I was lucky enough to be able to meet in Regina a few times before we
moved to London.  She's a bit quieter (at least in class) but no
less remarkable.  She's traveled to something like 40 (?)
countries around the world and not just the usual ones around Europe
that so many people hit to fill out their passport (“I've been to 20
countries in 10 days.  Worship me!”)  Most recently, she
spent an extended period of time in South America. 

Not to disparage my other classmates who all bring their own skills and
abilities to this program but I think it's interesting that the three
Saskatchewaninians (Saskatchewanites?) are some of the most involved
people in my class.  Christina immediately got on student council and
Michelle is involved with the Librarians Without Borders group. 

There truly is something about the volunteer spirit of Saskatchewan
that makes its people special.  As hokey as it was in some ways, I was glad to
be back in Saskatchewan in 2005 for the Centennial and to be part of the
celebrations in the place I grew up and have called home for most of my

To end, I'll stick a quote (which I'm also having to cut out of my
essay) about the source of the differences between Alberta and

It's by Preston Manning, former leader of the Reform Party and son of
the longest-serving Alberta premier, Ernest Manning, in an essay that
he wrote for a special issue of MacLean's celebrating the centennials
of Saskatchewan and Alberta.  I'm not religious in the least but I
read this and just went “yeah…”

the 1920s and '30s, two particularly spiritual streams cut across the Prairies
as do the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers, leaving an indelible impression
on the political landscape. One came to be named the Social Gospel Movement; J.
S. Woodsworth, a Methodist minister from Winnipeg, was one of its main
proponents. He helped found and lead the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation,
a new federal party that later became the New Democratic Party under the
leadership of another man of the cloth, Baptist minister Tommy Douglas, a
former premier of Saskatchewan. From the social-gospel perspective, the most
important dimension of the Christian faith is social justice — the horizontal
dimension of faith, as it's been called — meeting the needs of the young, the
sick, the poor and the old.

around the same time, another spiritual stream, later labeled the Evangelical
Movement, rolled across the Prairies. One of its key proponents was William
“Bible Bill” Aberhart. Born and educated in Ontario, he became a prominent high
school principal in Calgary and a pioneering radio broadcaster whose weekly
religious appeals helped knit together isolated Prairie homes. For
evangelicals, the primary dimension of faith is the relationship between
individuals and God — the so-called vertical relationship of personal
salvation — a prerequisite to being able to effectively do God's work on Earth

Classmates of the Day: 
All who came out after 503 class today for what I think of as a very Saskatchewan-tradition –
heading to a patio as soon as the weather's decent.  It was +10
today but a bit windy and shaded where we were so it felt like
+2…which is usually when I'm heading for the patios back home! (See,
I can justify anything.) 

By the way, Christina is in the sunglasses…

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