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BC Library Conference 2020

T09 - What happens outside happens inside: navigating the intersections of community engagement, democracy, and patron-centered service

Thursday, April 16, 2020 at 11:00 AM–12:15 PM EDT
Meeting Room #4
Session Description

Community Librarians have been an integral part of the Vancouver Public Library for over 8 years. Their work takes them outside branch walls, often working alongside marginalized groups that have been institutionally prevented from experiencing a full library service. Rather than a top-down model, where community wants and needs are mostly speculated upon, Community Librarians actively listen and empathetically pick up on local cues that, then, carefully direct and outline what the community actually wants from their public library.

While Community Librarians practice community engagement outside the branch, how does it manifest itself within the branch? In other words, how do we ensure what happens outside happens inside as well? How do we ensure there isn’t a major discrepancy between expectations of library workers outside of the branch and inside of the branch? If coordination, communication, and resources are missing, we set ourselves up with a paternalistic dichotomy – fun dad vs. rule enforcing moms.

Our panel focuses on how recent developments in patron-centered service could be the connective tissue needed for community engagement to come back full circle. How does patron-centred service reflect and enhance community engagement? How do they parallel one another? And what are the limitations faced by front-line workers when service models call for a kind of care that takes more time and privacy? If Community Librarians are one of the many arms of VPL’s service model, ultimately the service should not be an exception, but the foundation.

This session brings together Community Librarians and Circulation staff from the Vancouver Public Library talking through various perspectives, acknowledging what is happening and what is needed to coordinate, support, and enhance each other’s work. Library staff from all classifications will leave with organizational challenges, models to adopt and attempt, and thought provoking discussion.


Danielle LaFrance, Vancouver Public Library

Danielle LaFrance lives on occupied and stolen xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw, and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ lands. She is a community librarian at Vancouver Public Library, poet, fighter, and independent scholar. She is also the author of JUST LIKE I LIKE IT (Talonbooks 2019), Friendly + Fire (Talonbooks 2016) and species branding (Capilano University Editions 2010).

Audrey Wang, Vancouver Public Library

Audrey Wang has been working in Vancouver Downtown Eastside libraries for the past five years as a non-librarian, and is part of the training team for VPL's patron-centred service model. Since they opened their doors in April of 2017 she's been at the nə́c̓aʔmat ct Strathcona Branch, saying hi to folks and making library cards.

Sze Wann Lim, Vancouver Public Library

Sze Wann Lim is a Circulation Supervisor at the Mount Pleasant Branch with the Vancouver Public Library. She is also a customer service trainer who was key in developing VPL’s current patron-centred service guidelines and workshop to foster a culture of customer service.

Eleonore Shaffer, Vancouver Public Library

Eleonore Shaffer is a Community Librarian at Vancouver Public Library. Before taking on this role, she worked in a variety of clerical positions at VPL. Eleonore is an active member of the BCLA Community-Led Interest Group and the CUPE BC Education Committee. She is passionate about working to make libraries a welcoming space for all.

Will Dereume, Vancouver Public Library, Collingwood Branch

Will Dereume is a Library Technician at the Collingwood Branch of the Vancouver Public Library. In addition to working in a variety of roles, classifications, and settings in libraries, he engages with the public as a volunteer crisis counsellor. Will graduated from Emily Carr University's Faculty of Culture + Community before completing his studies at Langara College's Library and Information Technology program.