Diagramming How 52 Ninth Graders Spell “Camouflage”

(via r/dataisbeautiful)

Music Monday – “I’m on my way to nowhere/I been runnin’ from my past/Runnin’ from the things I used to be”

Sometimes it pays to be a blogger.

Last week’s “Music Monday” post about Colter Wall was seen by a friend who happened to have an extra ticket to see Wall’s¬†album release show at The Exchange last night.

It was a good show but a strange night – seeing a bunch of Sask Party MLAs (including someone I’m pretty sure was Colter’s dad in a black leather jacket…which is a very *dad* thing to do!) ūüėČ at a show that’s also populated by hipsters and old tyme country music fans. ¬†Seeing the singer Belle Plaine do a duet with Colter when the last time I saw her on stage, she was doing a duet with Ryan Meili. ¬†Getting a notification on my phone about more Sask Party waste at literally the same time as Colter was singing a song called “The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie”. ¬†Or when he sang his other song which a line about “don’t trust no politicians” (I thought it might get a cheer from the crowd but people were too polite for that). ¬†Getting there early and getting to¬†see Colter hanging out with some friends outside the venue’s side entrance. ¬†Wondering if there’d be any protesters during the show. ¬†Wondering if I’d bump into any MLAs at the urinals. ¬†Drinking a beer by a local craft brewery and wondering if it was true that local craft beers were exempted from the new 6% PST charge on restaurant meals as someone had recently told me.

Anyhow, I just posted a Colter Wall song last week so instead, I thought I’d post a song that his drummer sang when he came out as the opening act buy a guy who apparently used to run with some of the more¬†famous Texas singer-songwriters¬†back in the day¬†but only released a single album of his own.

Ballad of Spider John” – Willis Alan Ramsey

Regina Public Library Hosts Mental Health Trade Show

A very innovative program was held at Regina Public Library’s main branch on Saturday.

Program lead for the event, Alejandra Cabrera, said she was pleased with the turnout of people both looking for and offering support.

“Sometimes, people don’t know where to start, so if we just offer something that’s casual or drop-in for people, they may be more inclined to seek help or information,” she said. “People are asking lots of questions which is exactly what they’re looking for.”

Saturday Snap – #saveSKLibraries Panel at #saskLA2017 Conference

It was a fairly last minute decision but after debating back and forth for the past couple months, after library funding was restored, I decided to apply to attend the Sask Library Association conference in Waskesiu.

(I know the conference location was probably picked 18-24 months ago but the optics of having a conference at a swanky resort after facing major budget cuts isn’t that great. ¬†I debated making a motion at the AGM that the next conference be held at the Motel 6 in Swift Current!) ūüėČ

As always, the conference was great for the program – keynotes, breakout sessions, etc. and also for networking and catching up with people. ¬†But in reality, a big part of the reason I wanted to go was to hear and be part of the conversation about the library cuts – how they happened, how we fought back, and how we’re going to make sure they *never* happen again.

I wasn’t the only one doing something at the last minute. ¬†SLA scrambled and pulled together a panel discussion on the library cuts that featured (from left to right in the above photo):¬†Michael Shires (President of SLA),¬†Merilee Rasmussen (who spearheaded the legally binding petition which gathered 20,000 signatures in a month),¬†Christine Freethy (creator of the “Save Sask Libraries” Facebook group), Joylene Campbell (former Provincial Librarian and founder of the “Concerned Citizens for Libraries” group) and moderator, Judy Nicholson, Executive Director of the Sask Library Association.

I might try to do a summary of the session (or share my thoughts on the entire SLA conference) in a future post but anyhow, it was great to get some more insight into the many moving parts that all worked to get library funding restored.

(At the same time, that was another realization at the conference – even though there was a bit of a celebratory mood because public libraries in the province were basically saved, there wasn’t a lot of formal acknowledgement of the impact of the cuts on other sectors. ¬†I sat at breakfast the first morning with a woman who works in school libraries and had found out that a bunch of people had lost their jobs. ¬†And I talked to many academic librarians who were trying to figure out budget cuts of around 5% in their own institutions. ¬†So still much work to do to fight back against the damage to other libraries and so many other areas of our society as well.)

Friday Fun Link – “Beep Beep, I’m A Sheep!”

I bookmarked this a while back. ¬†A Regina man has created a comedy song that’s topping the charts.


Throwback Thursday – #tbt – Sask Library Association Conference (somewhere between 1997-2001) #saskla2017

I’m at the Saskatchewan Library Association Conference in Waskesiu right now.

It’s the 75th Anniversary of SLA and as part of the anniversary celebration, they have a photo album which includes this photo of me on a panel discussion at a previous SLA.

This would have been when I worked for the Sask Publishers Group. ¬†I can’t¬†remember for sure when this panel was or what the topic was but I think it might’ve been when I had to pinch hit for one of our publisher members who got sick and couldn’t appear on a panel about library collections so having only a few of his typed notes to go on, I faked my way through a presentation as best I could (I’m not presenting at this particular conference but I’d observe that some things never change and I still occasionally wing my way through presentations today. ¬†On the other hand, some things do change – check out that hair!)

Thumbs Up From Two Cute Kids

Being “all libraries, all the time” for the past month has meant there’s been a serious lack of cute kid pictures on this blog.

Here’s a couple to rectify the situation…

Music Monday – “Don’t be picking fights/With no Mennonites/Don’t be raising Cain/When they’re planting grain/Working through the night”

I mentioned Saskatchewan Premier, Brad Wall’s musician son, Colter Wall, in a post about¬†eighteen months ago.

He was a rising star then but he’s blown up completely in the interim – having one of his songs on the soundtrack to an Oscar nominated movie, named as one of Rolling Stone’s “10 New Country Artists to Watch“, appearing at the Grammys, getting kudos from and¬†showcases with some pretty big names.

I have no idea of what Colter Wall’s personal politics are and I know firsthand that not everyone shares the politics of their parents. ¬†(I do know that someone posted on Twitter that “Brad Wall and Don McMorris’ children¬†are privileged kids who never worked a day in their lives” and Colter responded “Leave me out of your bullshit political arguments. ¬†I used to work on ranches and farms before I became a musician!”) but being May Day, I can’t help but mention that I find it fascinating that someone who’s dad is a right-wing conservative would be chumming with Steve Earle and covering Woody Guthrie songs.

It’s not always the case but artists often have more liberal views than the average person and young people are often also more liberal than older people.

So that may or may not be the case with Colter Wall.

What I do know is that, no matter his personal politics or who his dad is, I’m really enjoying Colter Wall’s music, proud he’s a Saskatchewan artist selling out shows in North America and Europe to great acclaim, and I’m looking forward to his first full-length¬†album¬†which will be released this month.

“Saskatchewan 1881” – Colter Wall

10 Reasons The #SaveSKLibraries Campaign Was Successful #skpoli

So, during the fight against the library¬†cuts over the past month, one of the things I wanted to do was try to compile some of the best approaches and strategies¬†that I’d learned in an¬†Advocacy class while doing my Masters of Library Science, various tips from many of the very experienced library leaders across the country who were paying close attention to what was happening in Saskatchewan (and sharing their knowledge in conversations on Facebook and elsewhere) and some of my own personal thoughts from being a long-time observer of politics and political strategy.

I am happy to report that I never had time to do that post as the funding was fully restored last week.

But it leads to another question – why have libraries gotten their funding back when many other issues of varying levels of importance to people’s lives, proportion of the provincial budget, and size of potential number of citizens impacted haven’t (yet, for the most part) had their funding restored?

(Or, another example РNewfoundland saw similar drastic cuts to its libraries in their budget last year.  They had a large public outcry as well but that only resulted in their cuts being put on hold while a review was conducted leaving Newfoundland libraries with a great deal of uncertainty.)

Here is a list of some of the main reasons I think Saskatchewan libraries were successful in getting their funding restored.

(If you think I missed anything, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email or a DM on Facebook, Twitter, or any of the usual channels.)

  1. People Love Libraries on a Fundamental Level
    Whenever a survey is done of most trusted public services, it’s usually libraries or fire fighters that come out on top. ¬†Why libraries? ¬†Most people have very positive experiences with libraries relatively early in life and then that continues throughout their lives. ¬†Most people, even if they aren’t regular library users, also see the value they provide for a relatively¬†small amount of tax dollars. ¬†Few other services (perhaps healthcare?) have the potential to impact our lives from cradle to grave in the positive way that libraries do.
  2. Libraries Are Politically Neutral

    As I said in another post, no matter the personal politics of those who work in libraries (and research shows that librarians tend to be to the left of most everyone except yoga instructors, environmental activists and union organizers!), librarians also pride themselves on overseeing a neutral, non-political space which believes in equity of access, freedom of information, and providing a complete range of information without judgement or bias.  That means that, unlike other cut areas, where protests might appear to be coming mostly from unions or other interest groups, the library protests clearly represented people from across the political spectrum as well as a very large contingent who were not normally politically active at all.
  3. The “Save Sask Libraries” Facebook Group

    Getting into more practical reasons, how amazing was it that the “Save Sask Libraries” group, started by two female friends in a rural community of just over one hundred people, grew from two members to dozens to hundreds to thousands within a single day – a response¬†that no other group protesting the various budget cuts, either specific ones or in a more general fashion, has seen. ¬†The group had incredibly strong moderation from a team of family and friends¬†who knew and trusted each other, were able to devote an enormous amount of time and energy to building, encouraging, and monitoring the group, and maintaining a laser-like focus on saving libraries, even though there were many calls to use the group’s energy and numbers to focus on other topics.
  4. “Drop Everything and Read” Protests

    The “Save Sask Libraries” Facebook group became a clearing house for various actions – letter-writing campaigns to MLAs, posting responses that were received, telling stories of how libraries impacted people and more. Perhaps the single most effective action that was coordinated out of the “Save Sask Libraries” group were the “Drop Everything and Read” protests. ¬†Originally an idea proposed by the wife of a rural librarian (whose own job was possibly at risk), the idea of having people show up at MLA offices across the province to read books in silent (or sometimes, not so silent!) protest had a long enough timeline from conception to implementation for the idea to grow and gain momentum resulting in something that became not just a protest but a celebration of libraries with each of the 85 locations being similar but each being unique too – some had signs, some had costumes, some had singing, some had lawn chairs, one even had a donkey! ¬†6000+ participants made this the biggest protest in a generation in the province. ¬†And¬†one other note on this – most protests so far have been at one location – the STC bus depot, the Legislature, the Premier’s Dinner in Saskatoon. ¬†This decentralized protest showed there was support across the province in places big and small.
  5. Other Advocacy

    Right after the budget, I was nervous that there was so much advocacy happening at so many levels and in so many ways but without much (overt) coordination. Sask Library Association, Sask Library Trustees Association, SILS, all 10 library systems (which, unsurprisingly, all have their own histories and internal politics), unions, a grassroots Facebook group, various bloggers, tweeters, and other social media posters (eg. on the comments pages of media stories), members of the media who may not have been actively lobbying but were often sympathetic to libraries, not one but two petition drives (technically three since the Sask NDP had one too though I’m pretty sure that was just to harvest emails), library associations outside the province, opposition MLAs as well as (presumably) some internal discussions if not outright lobbying from Provincial Library and possibly other internal lobbying by Sask Party MLAs. I would imagine some well-connected members of various local library boards were making calls and calling in favours, especially if they were involved with the Sask Party. ¬†Again, it was all felt chaotic in some ways but it was amazing how everyone slotted into their space organically. ¬†Early on, I know there was concern from some groups¬†that some of the other groups were undermining lobbying efforts. ¬†But my view was that everyone had their place. ¬†The analogy I used a few different times was that we were out at sea – some organizations were like big luxury liners that moved slowly and quietly and others were like speedboats, able to speed along and react quickly – and all had their place.
  6. Respectful and Civil Approach

    Although in the earliest day of the “Save Sask Libraries” group, it felt like it could go either way, the group made the wise choice to focus on tactics and actions that were respectful. ¬†For example, instead of creating memes making fun of Brad Wall or Don Morgan’s intelligence (which would’ve been very easy to do given the decision they’d just made!), the group’s members created memes that were, for the most part, based in facts and persuasive techniques. I’m not going to express¬†a personal preference one way or the other as I believe everyone has a right to choose whatever approach they think will work best depending on the situation. ¬†But as the recent “Stop the Cuts” protests outside the Premier’s Dinner showed, a more confrontational approach can end up hurting your cause as much as it helps if¬†the media coverage suddenly becomes about protesters jumping on the hoods of cars (even if this was only very isolated or the dinner goers were just as guilty of “nudging” protesters with their cars as anything the protesters did.) ¬†Generating scenes of angry white men in cars giving the finger to protesters is useful if you want to score points with other people who are already on your side. But if you’re trying to get people who look like and sympathize with (but may not share the bank balance) of the guy in the car, your technique might backfire. It’s hard to believe in hindsight but I know there were even some Sask Party supporters who were worried that the DEAR protests would be confrontational too. ¬†(Honestly, the thing that generated the most controversy was that Swift Current protesters brought a “Reading Donkey” to their protest and some were troubled that it implied that protesters were calling Brad Wall a “jackass”. ¬†But it turned out that Swift Current Public Library legitimately has a “read to the donkey” program for kids so it actually made sense…on many levels!) ūüėČ At least in the case of the library protests, I believe that taking an approach to reassure MLAs that it would be peaceful and show where we had commonality clearly led to much better results (how silly to some of the MLAs who refused to open their doors to constituents look? ¬†How smart would they have looked if only one rogue protester had thrown a book at an MLA?). On a related note, I know that the Save Sask Libraries folks have also taken heat for encouraging group members to write thank-you letters to Brad Wall. ¬†Again, to me, this is “Playground 101” – even if someone hurts you, once they’ve said “sorry”, you’re supposed to say “It’s okay” and accept their apology (even if you might not really mean it and secretly harbour thoughts of getting back at whoever attacked to – which, in this tortured analogy, means that I suspect a lot of library protesters who are thanking the government right now are also thinking about how they can be involved in the 2020 election even if they’ve never been politically active or ever voted NDP ¬†ever in their lives!)
  7. Book People Are Word People

    A big part of the power of the library protests was that the people who were writing letters to their MLAs and sharing stories of how the libraries have impacted their lives are (obviously) book lovers. ¬†It’s no surprise that people who love stories have an advantage when it comes time to tell their own stories!
  8. Carla Beck

    All 11 NDP MLAs were very visible in the fight against library cuts, most notably via their active participation in the DEAR protests.  But as the Critic for Education, Carla Beck, did an amazing job of calling the government to account in the House, in Committee and in the media as well.
  9. This Was The Plan All Along

    Naomi Klein wrote a book called “The Shock Doctrine” about how politicians will use certain shocking events – either natural or planned – to manipulate, exploit and control the citizenry. ¬†Along those lines, there are some who believe that the Sask Party’s latest budget was done in a very purposeful manner – numerous cuts across many different areas and some shocking (the complete closing of STC, the removal of funerals for disadvantaged) – which serves two purposes. ¬†1) It makes it harder for any one issue to gain traction when people want to fight back against all the cuts. ¬†2) It’s possible that part of the Sask Party’s strategy was to be willing to walk back cuts in a certain area (or areas) if they got enough pushback. ¬†That way, they can save face by saying “Hey, we made a mistake but we listened” *and* hope that people stop protesting other cuts after winning one (relatively small) battle.
  10. Damage Control

    At their most basic, politicians exist to get re-elected which, in turn, allows the parties they are affiliated with to gain (or retain) power. ¬†Tammy Robert called it in her column on the library issue – why would a political party risk doing so much damage to themselves over an amount that is literally a rounding error in the overall provincial budget? Eric Olauson may have revealed more than he meant to when he accidentally told a constituent he was going to “run her name in a party database”. ¬†I have no doubt that some politicians do, to a certain degree, check *who* is writing to them when they make decisions rather than giving equal weight to all constituents. ¬†If Jason Hammond writes a letter to his Sask Party MLA and they see that I’m a union member, an NDP supporter who has a sign in my yard every election, etc., my letter’s maybe more likely to get a form letter response and filed under “G” in the bin in the corner. ¬†But if one of my relatives out in Indian Head who has had lawn signs for conservative political parties and been identified as a Sask Party supporter *also* writes a letter (or even shows up at a protest, says “hello” to Don McMorris’ constituency assistant *and* posts a photo of themselves at the protest on Facebook to *their* circle of friends), maybe they get a personal phone call or just have their letter carry a bit more weight than mine did?

So as much as I believe all nine things I listed above played a part in getting the library funding restored, I think that final point – the reality that the Sask Party saw they were taking a huge hit – not just in urban areas where they’ve only recently had some slim electoral victories but especially among with their base in rural Saskatchewan which they’ve owned for a decade – played a¬†huge part in getting library funding restored.

Now the interesting question becomes – what does this all mean in 2020? ¬†Will people remember the attack on the libraries which I’ve called “the hearts of rural Saskatchewan”? ¬†Will the economy recover or continue to sputter? ¬†Will other Sask Party scandals emerge? ¬†Who will the NDP select as their next Leader and will they be able to capitalize on the Sask Party’s many mistakes?

Time will tell…

[Edit: Bonus bullet point – The decision to turn off the library-to-library lending feature of SILS really quickly was both practical (regions were already laying off staff, STC was facing pending shut down as of the end of May) but probably also strategic as this is one of the single most useful, popular features in public libraries. ¬†Turning that off made the cuts “real” to people who might not have otherwise been aware of exactly what the cuts meant (I mean, most people barely know how the library is funded at all) and how they would be impacted giving a real boost to advocacy efforts.]

Saturday Snap – Me at @saskbookawards 2017 (and Some Random Thoughts On The Awards, Life, and How I Got There)

So, I once again attended the Sask Book Awards tonight.

Here are a few random thoughts…

  • Was flying solo tonight as Shea decided to take advantage of the great weather and her parents¬†(her mom works shift work) being off to take the kids and go to Weyburn for the weekend.
  • Yes, I wore an olive jacket, a purple shirt, a grey and purple tie, grey pants and brown shoes. ¬†I told myself that¬†whatever weird combination a person¬†wears to the Book Awards is cool because it’s artsy and funky. ¬†But really, I mostly looked like I was doing a bad Joker cosplay. ūüėČ
  • I had to work at the library today so it was a record-setting race at 5pm to get home, throw on my dress clothes (the SBA is literally the only time I wear a tie all year!) and get back across the city to the Conexus Arts Centre. ¬†Thought I’d be late but managed to get there in time to have a drink and a visit as part of their cocktail hour.
  • A¬†friend I graduated high school with works with a local publisher and, if possible, is even smarter than she was in high school when she graduated with the highest average in our class. ¬†She¬†now gets shouts out from the stage multiple times for what a brilliant editor she is (and I get to re-live jealousies that go back to elementary school of wondering how somebody can be that smart!) ūüėČ ¬†But seriously, we got a chance to chat before the Gala and while catching up on various people we knew in common, agreed that it was funny that we’d both basically ended up close to where we thought we might end up in high school – her in publishing and me in libraries¬†– and how some many former classmates¬†had ended up exactly where we thought they would while others have veered off in very unexpected ways – career or otherwise.
  • As always, I got to chat with many friends and colleagues from the writing and publishing world and although there are times I regret spending the first ten years of my life making very little money in the non-profit sector, I don’t regret the experiences and skills and connections I gained in that time not to mention, in hindsight, realising how lucky I was to find work in my field relatively quickly after graduating, even with “only” a BA degree. ¬†Some people I talked to tonight took SEVEN years to find work in a field even close to what they studied.
  • I met a few different people I didn’t know before who are not much removed in age from when I started in the publishing world and it was interesting to compare notes on how our career paths were similar and different.
  • I think the Sask Book Awards should make their official Gala program document into a more formal “game card” and have spots where attendees can put a check in a box beside who they think will win each award and keep a running total since many of us do this anyhow (I got 5/14 this year – not my best, not my worst.)
  • Coteau Books, of which I’m a board member, had a pretty good night winning four of fourteen awards (total that were handed out – even better percentage if you only look at awards where Coteau was nominated), more than any other publisher (I think).
  • Went for a drink at a downtown hotel after (in the old days before they tightened up our liquor rules so much, you might have two or <gasp> three drinks after the Book Awards) and hung out with a bunch of people I knew and a bunch of people I was meeting for the first time which was¬†fun.
  • Happened to find out that someone I was sitting beside had more recently been on the same U of R facilitated exchange I’d gone on to England way back in 1995 (!) so that was the end of my talking about books/publishing for the night and I spent pretty much the rest of the night comparing notes about our respective experiences – travel itineraries, impressions of York, life in dorms, pubs we frequented, classes we took, “theresickness” and more. ¬†Both of us agreed it was one of the most amazing experience of our lives.
  • Libraries got a lot of love at the SBA Gala¬†– two of Saskatchewan’s heaviest hitters in the literary world (Trevor Herriot and Yann Martel via his proxy, Art Slade, who’s no slouch himself) directly acknowledged the importance of libraries from the stage and a few other presenters/sponsors acknowledged the recent library fiasco more in passing.
  • Our publisher had asked me, as a board member, to accept one publishing award on behalf of Coteau if we happened to win. ¬†In a way, it’s probably good that we didn’t as I had plans to take a moment to share a few thoughts¬†about the library issue myself! ūüėČ
  • Sask Party MLA,¬†Laura Ross, was there to present an award and I thought it was kinda funny that her constituency was listed incorrectly in the program *and* when she was announced. (Probably an innocent human error but I’m going to tell myself¬†it was an intentional jab about the Sask Party’s own habit of playing fast and loose with facts.) ūüėČ
  • I had lots of side conversations about the library issue with a variety of people and got lots of congratulations from attendees who recognized the victory the library sector had.
  • The SBA Gala is a weird place to be discussing advocacy and political strategy but I had more conversations on those topics tonight than¬†probably ever previous SBA Gala I’ve attended in total (and I’ve been attending without missing more than a handful since 1997!)
  • Overall, a fun enjoyable night. ¬†Usually there are things that stand out as really awesome and things I’m not enamoured with but tonight felt very even keel – not too high, not too low and everything just running smoothly. ¬†As RPL Director, Jeff Barber said, when he got up to present the Book of the Year award (which RPL sponsors), “this is a great way to cap what’s been a pretty amazing week.” ¬†I agree!