BC Library Association Announces 2022 Award Winners

Each year the British Columbia Library Association (BCLA) invites the library community, partners, and stakeholders to nominate individuals and organizations for awards recognizing outstanding work in libraries throughout the province. The awards were announced at the virtual Awards Ceremony following the BCLA Annual General Meeting on May 11, 2022; a recording of the Awards Ceremony is now available.

The BCLA Eureka Award Winner: Robbyn Lanning, Camosun College Library

The BCLA Eureka Award recognizes individuals or organizations that have created an innovative approach to address a barrier, solve a problem, provide a powerful new insight, or introduce an original idea in the library world.

This year, Robbyn Lanning is recognized for creating and leading “Going with the Flow: Promoting Gender Equality through Menstrual Hygiene Accessibility,” a Camosun College Creativity and Innovation Grant-funded initiative providing free menstrual products at the library, starting in 2019. She designed the project to be inclusive of all menstruating people, using gender neutral language and including menstrual products in washrooms designated as “women’s” and “men’s” to create discussion, reduce stigma around menstruation, and increase understanding and support for menstruating people. Robbyn demonstrated an understanding of the significant barriers the costs of menstrual products can have on students, many of whom are challenged with difficult decisions such as choosing between purchasing textbooks, food, or menstrual products.

During the pandemic, Robbyn continued to advocate for menstrual products on campus. When campus closed in 2020, she maintained access by connecting products to the Camosun College Student Society who delivered care-packages to students in need. When the library’s doors reopened for take-out service, she ensured menstrual products continued to be available. Although classes were held online during this time, students continued to travel to campus to access these essential products from the library.

Robbyn’s advocacy has resulted in tangible change. She has now secured an annual commitment of $25,000 from Camosun towards the expansion of the “Going with the Flow” project; beginning in 2022, menstrual products will be made freely available in a minimum of 24 bathrooms, spanning the college’s campuses. Robbyn has also consulted in support of other educational institutions that have expressed interest in launching similar programs.

The BCLA Building Better Communities Award Winner: Whistler Public Library

The BCLA Building Better Communities Award recognizes an individual or organization responsible for increasing the relevancy and impact of library service through partnership, collaboration, and building trust where little has previously existed.

This year, Whistler Public Library is recognized for their work in creating a space for all. Under the leadership of their Library Director, Elizabeth Tracy, the Whistler Public Library team have become the creators and the connectors in their community, creating partnerships in Whistler and beyond, and developing a space of of inclusivity and access to all as well as educating about and creating environments free from racism, religious intolerance, and violence.

The Library has done significant work to support vulnerable and marginalized people in Whistler. Examples including working with community service providers to support immigrant and settlement services, weekly drop-ins which include Whistler Community Services Society, Sea To Sky Community, Services Homelessness Outreach, WorkBC Employment Services, Legal Aid, and The Whistler Women’s Centre.

With the increase in mental health and addiction issues due to the pandemic in spring of 2021, Whistler Public Library partnered with the municipality and Whistler Community Services Society to expand the frequency and access to outreach workers in the library via a UBCM Strengthening Communities Grant. In December 2021 the UBCM grant paved the way to activate the first ever Emergency Weather Response Shelter (EWRS) in Whistler’s history. WCSS Outreach provided warming shelter support to over 75 visitors in the library Community Room over a 6 day Arctic outflow event, while additional emergency funding from EMBC paid for a security guard to staff an overnight shelter in the library Community Room which supported 19 individuals over 6 nights. As a result, several individuals were able to access much needed mental health support via their visit to the shelter. The activation of EWRS has led to municipal council support for a short-term pilot for the potential development of ongoing Emergency Shelter activations in the future.

In the words of their nominator: “Whistler Public Library is truly the centre of the community and has become known as Whistler’s ‘living room’.”

The BCLA Champion of Intellectual Freedom Award Winner:  British Columbia Historical Textbooks Project Team

This award is given to an individual or organization that demonstrates significant advancement of intellectual freedom in the public realm for the benefit of British Columbians, and/or that champions intellectual freedom issues in their library, community, province or country.

This year, the British Columbia Historical Textbooks Project Team at the University of Victoria, led by Pia Russell, is recognized for creating the British Columbia Historical Textbooks digital collection, providing access to important historical material while placing it within an appropriate context.

In 2016, inspired by the words of Honorable Justice Murray Sinclair, Pia was moved by his declaration of how decades of exclusionary and biased curriculum within the Canadian school system had impaired how Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians interrelate. Understanding that textbooks are historical vehicles of information that provide insight into the thinking, priorities, values, and assumptions of those who wrote, taught, and read these books; and knowing that government-prescribed school textbooks had been used in the BC school system since 1871, she led the Project Team in digitizing, annotating, and indexing the BC Historical Textbook collection held at UVic Libraries to create a digital library for research, teaching, and learning.

This multi-year project has helped to both preserve and highlight these unique artifacts of our province’s history, while also acting as a way to confront many difficult truths that had been systematically taught for decades, and to decolonize the collection. To assist with this journey of truth-telling, Pia has given multiple presentations sharing the project with school districts, at conferences, and with community. Her keen ability to share the work with others, and to bring them into the work she is doing to better educate us all, is exemplary and has tremendous societal impact. As such, Pia has directly contributed to what the idea of a “library” is in our society, and what our responsibilities and commitments are to knowledge, preservation, and truth-telling in an age of fake news and disinformation.

Fully open and accessible to the global community through the Internet Archive, the BCHT has been viewed over 96,181 times and been used by regions such as India, Pakistan, the United States, and Canada. It is also having an impact on other BC libraries as they strive to make decisions about problematic historical materials as part of decolonizing and indigenizing their collections.

In addition to the BCLA Awards, awards were given out by BC Summer Reading Club and by two BCLA Sections, BC Academic Libraries Section (BCALS) and Young Adult and Children’s Services Section (YAACS).

The BC Summer Reading Club presents the Community Story Award to an individual who recounts an experience, event or observation that best demonstrates the impact of the Summer Reading Club within their community. This year’s winner is Mel Edgar from the Powell River Public Library for her story: Plant Your Undies at the Powell River Public Library.

The BC Academic Libraries Section (BCALS) Outstanding Contribution Award is presented to an individual who works in an academic library (or team of academic library personnel) whose professional achievements have made a real difference to students, faculty, or colleagues in British Columbia. This year’s winner is Pia Russell from the University of Victoria Libraries.

The YAACS Award recognizes librarians, library technicians, teacher-librarians and others who have, as individuals or teams, demonstrated exceptional dedication and service in children’s or teen library services. This year’s winner is Sonia Zagwyn from the Powell River Public Library.

Congratulations to all the award winners, and to the many excellent nominees whose collective contributions demonstrate the relevant, innovative, and impactful work libraries do in their communities.