British Columbia Library Association

‘He talked to us about intellectual freedom, and social equity, and access, and public space’

By Shannon Daub, Larry Khuen, Anita Zaenker, and Joan Andersen

We were appointed to the Vancouver Public Library Board in 2002, shortly after the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) swept to power. It was a heady time in municipal politics: an election fought amid controversy and protest about homelessness, the dire lack of social housing, drug addiction and harm reduction, the Olympics, and a growing sense that Vancouver could be so much more. The election saw a record-high voter turnout that reflected public appetite for a more dynamic and ambitious city government.

And so we showed up to our first VPL Board meeting with tremendous enthusiasm for this important public institution, but wanting to make it stronger and

Brian Campbell at his retirement party. Photo provided by Vancouver Public Library.

Brian Campbell at his retirement party. Photo provided by Vancouver Public Library.

more accessible to the city’s residents. We also showed up without an in-depth knowledge of the library’s inner workings and history, or a clear sense of exactly how to translate some of the progressive ideas swirling about into action. Lucky for us, we were greeted by an incredible senior leadership team at VPL, one that included Brian Campbell.

Brian shared our sense of excitement and possibility, and he made sure we learned about the full breadth of the library’s work and role. He talked to us about intellectual freedom, and social equity, and access, and public space. He urged us to be confident and bold in shaping the library’s strategic direction and new initiatives. He asked tough questions, debated with us, and told us, in no uncertain terms, when he thought we were on the wrong track. Working with Brian was exciting, fun, sometimes tumultuous, and always worthwhile. He engaged with us as trustees—and with the library community—emphatically, urgently, personally, and with a sense of shared mission.

Our city and library are a better place thanks to his commitment and service.

 

 


Shannon Daub served as a Director on the Vancouver Public Library Board from 2002-2010, and is the Associate Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in BC. She met Brian when organizing the first Media Democracy Day, which found a welcome home at VPL thanks to Brian’s commitment to making public libraries places that foster discussion, debate, and activism.

Larry Kuehn served as a Director of the Vancouver Public Library Board from 2002-2009. He is Director of Research and Technology at the BC Teachers’ Federation. He first worked with Brian at the founding of the Vancouver Regional FreeNet and was always inspired by his principled positions on open access to technology and to privacy.

Anita Zaenker served as a Director of the Vancouver Public Library Board from 2002-2006 and chaired its Community Engagement Committee. She is the Director of Organizing for the BC Federation of Labour and has worked in organized student and labour organizations for 20 years. She last saw Brian, surrounded by many people, at a town hall meeting on Kinder Morgan this past fall.

Joan Andersen was the Chair of the Vancouver Public Library Board from 2002-2010 and is the Director of Employment and Language Services at MOSAIC. Trained as a librarian, Joan knew Brian through the profession for many years before her term on the Board. He stood out among librarians as a progressive force for change.

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