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BC Library Conference 2017

April 19–21, 2017

Vancouver, BC

T14 - Rhymes, Rhythm, and Relationships: A Model of Community Collaboration between a Public Library and an Organization Serving Aboriginal Families

Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 1:45 PM–2:30 PM PDT
Tuscany Room
Session Description

Generously Sponsored By: Vancouver Public Library

When a Children’s Librarian from the Vancouver Public Library and an Aboriginal Infant Development Consultant from the YWCA got together to co-create a weekly early literacy program for Aboriginal families with young children, the planning process, by all appearances, took only an hour over coffee. But the relationship-building behind that coffee hour had started almost two years earlier, and involved intention, reflection, and effort from the two professionals, as well as considerable support, conscious policy creation, and staff development on the part of their respective organizations.
In this session, we will present a model of community engagement and collaboration between a public library and a local organization serving Aboriginal families, including the background principles and policies that the Vancouver Public Library and YWCA Crabtree Corner brought to the process. We will discuss the values that facilitated our partnership, including a shared belief in the importance of individual relationships, a commitment to process over product, and knowledge of and respect for Aboriginal culture. Finally, we will share guidelines that other libraries can apply and adapt when working with Aboriginal and other marginalized groups in their own communities.


Els Kushner, Vancouver Public Library

Els Kushner has been a Children’s Librarian at the Vancouver Public Library since 2008. Previously, she worked as a Teacher-Librarian and as the BC Summer Reading Club Coordinator. Her professional work focuses on vulnerable families and young children in library and community settings, most recently in the Strathcona and Downtown Eastside neighbourhoods. Els believes strongly in the power of individual relationships as drivers of change and progress.

Robyn Lean, YWCA Crabtree Corner

Robyn Lean has worked with the YWCA, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, for the past two years. She currently works as an Aboriginal Infant Development Consultant (by providing culturally safe support for Aboriginal families with children 0-6 years of age, at risk of developmental delays) and Regional Advising to other consultants and programs in the North Fraser Region. She has a strong background in program facilitation and providing 1:1 support and advocacy for women. Robyn strives to be a visible Cree woman in a positive leadership role to represent and champion for equal rights of Aboriginal women and children.