OCLC Canada Advisory Council

Minutes — October 26th 2020


Debbie Schachter, University Librarian, Capilano University
Alexandra Freeland, Director, Library and Information Management Services, National Research Council
Madeleine Lefebvre, Chief Librarian Emerita, Ryerson University, OCLC Board of Trustees
Pilar Martinez, CEO, Edmonton Public Library
May Chan, Head Metadata Services, University of Toronto
Mélanie Dumas, Directrice de la collection universelle, BAnQ
Caitlin Horrall, Acting Director, Description Division, Published Heritage Branch Library and Archives Canada (replacing Monica Fuijkschot, Director General, Published Heritage Branch)
Bruce Crocco, Vice-President, Library Services for the Americas, OCLC
Daniel Boivin
, Executive Director, OCLC Canada, Latin America & the Caribbean


Brenda Mathenia, University Librarian, Thompson Rivers University
Renee Reaume, Director, Metadata Services, University of Calgary

Submitted Agenda:

  1. Opening of the meeting and agenda approval
  2. Review the minutes of the Spring 2020 Meeting
  3. Sanity check with the members – How is everybody doing?
  4. Brainstorming on the Canadian libraries landscape
    • New/revised priorities in light of COVID-19
    • Areas of investments or cuts
    • Budget trends, new/revised initiatives
    • Are new library positions / roles being created
    • Exciting projects underway
  5. OCLC Enterprise / Canadian division year in review and update
  6. Departing delegate
  7. Review of the OCAC Charter
  8. Discussion of the next Spring meeting (date and location)
  9. Other business
  10. End of Conference Call

1. Opening of the meeting and agenda approval

  • The agenda was approved as proposed.

2. Review the minutes of the Spring 2020 Meeting:

  • No other changes were identified, and the minutes were approved.

3. Sanity check with the members – How is everybody doing?

  • This agenda topic ended up meshing in with the next topic so all the notes for point 3 and 4 can be found below.

4. Brainstorming on the Canadian libraries landscape

  1. New/revised priorities in light of COVID-19
  2. Areas of investments or cuts
  3. Budget trends, new/revised initiatives
  4. Are new library positions / roles being created
  5. Exciting projects underway
  • Ms. Schachter started the discussion by indicating that at the Capilano University, they opened the library at the end of August (they kept on working remotely for most of the summer). They have a lot of safety measures in place: removed some furniture, put plexiglass, partitions between working areas, they scan ID codes when people are coming in, employees register on the HR system that they are feeling well when they come in, etc. Almost all the employees at the university pivoted to focus on online delivery of their services. The new chat service at the library is being used more than before. They are teaching using Teams, Webex or other tools as appropriate. One of the comment often heard now from managers is that staff feel like they are constantly working because they are working from home. They have arranged for two cohorts at the library to cover hours from 8h am to 7h pm. This is going well. On a personal note, Ms. Schachter shared how she is performing in the local orchestra (practicing, recording and so on) while being physically distant.
  • Ms. Freeman indicated that at NRC, they pivoted priorities to support the COVID-19 response. Researchers are back in labs across Canada but the staff doing corporate functions are all at home and the "talk" is that it will stay that way as this is working successfully. Downtown Ottawa is very quiet. Ms. Freeman thinks that previous discussions about evaluating print collections will happen because they all have moved online. Most services are currently virtual and this would feel like a "natural" transition now. On a personal note, she indicated living outside of the city and things were working out well for her too. She is in fact adding another puppy to the family.
  • Ms. Horrall lives on the Quebec side in a rural community. She does get out as often as she can to get some fresh air. She works from home as well. At BAC/LAC, the change to remote working for the "standards and systems" team was seamless for them as everything was and is done online. For the "description team" (in technical services), they were shifting towards a more digital world with COVID-19 accelerating that shift. She said that if it had not been from the pandemic, they probably would still be talking about this change internally! The "beginning cataloguers" worked on mostly the digital material but in mid-August, some staff went back on site to work on print material. Most of those working in the office do not go in for the whole week, working only for a few days to deal mostly with print material. They are also piloting a "cataloguing from home" project where staff takes boxes home, work on them and return them to the library and repeat the process.
  • Ms. Dumas. The Grande bibliothèque (GB) was closed until July and for most of the summer, they offered curbside pick up. They opened at the end of August but they are closed again when Montreal went in to the "red zone" for COVID-19. They shifted back to offering only curbside pick up services. They are actively "pushing" online resources to respond to the demand. They have more actively started some other services such as: making phone calls to seniors, helping people finding jobs, helping homeless individuals and so on. They as well are having staff doing cataloguing from home. Some staff go on-site 1-2 days a week for technical services as well. They had to lay off some employees in October for the 1st time since the pandemic. On a personal note, she enjoyed going to her garden during summertime while working form home.
  • Ms. Chan indicated that their ILS migration was planned to go live on the new system in August. Due to the pandemic, the go live was delayed to January. For them, this was a huge pressure point taken off the staff. A training plan was developed to work remotely but this was challenging. During this transition to their new ILS, one thing cropped up with OCLC related to cataloguing. Out of the 42 libraries, 18 currently are affiliated with the central system. Some of these libraries have technical services, others do not, etc. The central library team has managed to streamline this through a central account, bringing everybody to a centralized technical service. In doing so, it increased the central library's subscription costs but, they could bare it. Manon Barbeau from the OCLC Brossard office helped them in the process. Ms. Chan also indicated that they were affected by the closing of the contract cataloguing Winnipeg office. They did not see that coming and they have to make adjustments very rapidly as it left them with a major service gap. Acquiring print material is still slow but they are unsure how they will deal with this challenge in the future. In the meantime, they still have a directive to not order print for a while still but some areas of study where e-books are not as prevalent is a challenge. They are getting lots of demand from Social & Humanities Sciences and U of T is starting to open their policy a little to accommodate print requests. Shipping & Receiving opened in August so it was hard to cope with reopening as they needed space to store for all these delayed arrivals. One person is in everyday for handling these arrivals and that is it. Ms. Chan goes in three days a week. So, they are currently challenged dealing with their backlog and respecting the health requirements from the government. This is a lot to juggle all together while doing the transition to a new ILS. Learning to work from home has improved at the library and has not been an issue but people cannot still bring things home to catalog.
  • Ms. Martinez indicated that EPL closed on March 14 and reopened in July on a gradual basis with curbside pickups. They are all open, all hours, now. They had to lay off 85% of EPL employees but temporarily and most of them are back. They had various initiatives (baby lap-time online, other virtual programs, provided books and materials for some organizations serving homeless, even laptops outside library to help support those with no access) during the closure but she feels that the digital divide grew wider in the process. At the library, they all transitioned well to working from home. They are using Teams for video conferencing. Currently, the city of Edmonton has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Alberta. They have more protocols in place. They work at 50% of capacity but the number of users and visitors are not as high as before the closing, so this is not an issue. Ms. Martinez is wondering how the population's behaviour will change/evolve; will this mean they will stop visiting libraries as much as they were before the pandemic, etc. They are quarantining the material for 72h after being checked out. BC provided guidelines and says this is no longer required and necessary. There are major barriers to get material to circulate so they are looking into this very seriously. The province has serious budget issue. The city of Edmonton has asked EPL to cut their budget by 2% and the city has requested the library (and other agencies) return unspent funds from 2020 as well. The finances are not looking good for the next three to four years. But she does feel lucky and blessed. Ms. Martinez spent time outside in the Rockies, walking a lot.
  • Ms. Lefebvre indicated that it is difficult for the Board of Trustees to not meet in person as the meetings are very intense. Normally in these meetings, a lot would happen on the "margins" but online, this is not possible, and she misses that. Next week will be her last meeting of the Board of Trustees and this will be her last meeting on OCAC. She now lives on Vancouver Island and she is happy to have made that move -- things happen for a reason she says so being on an island in this pandemic time is great. The number of cases is very low up there. This makes one appreciate nature even more so now. Weather is not currently great on Vancouver Island but there is worst than that in life! She mentioned that she finds it amazing what has been achieved at OCLC during this climate. She then shared that she had a "sideline' position as an actor for many years and she had left it while at Ryerson, but this opportunity resurfaced recently but with COVID-19, they have to follow strict protocols. She has been working at this since July and a lot is going on as she has been in six different productions since last January. She is enjoying it now and never expected this would happen when she moved up to the Island.
  • Mr. Crocco, who indicated graduating from college in 1979, and never been off the road for more than 2 months in his entire professional career. This is currently the longest time he has had not travelling and he misses that, misses visiting libraries and meeting with library staff there and at library conferences. And, his wife misses him being away once in a while. That has allowed him though to enjoy small things of live such as his 18 months neighbour everyday hugging the lion statue in front of his house. He too has worked remotely, from home, most days. He goes to the office once a week to sign contracts. Despite all the changes we have experienced in the past six months, digital signature is not adopted universally and hopes that this will change soon. He then indicated that he is missing meeting in person with his team, especially those who do not report to him. The hallway discussions are being missed as he does not get the chance to do meet his whole team informally as he used to. Mr. Crocco is impressed with Teams and Zoom's rapid adjustments while the world went working from home. The tools have made significant improvements. He is able to end his and his team's days "on time" and not linger in the office. This is good for those working at home.
  • Ms. Schachter added that in BC, they had their provincial elections, within 5 weeks, and the NDP has a majority government instead of minority one like they had before the elections. BCLA made some recommendations to the new government to increase funding to libraries. There has been no increase in over a decade so it will be interesting to see how this will unfold.
  • Ms. Chan added that the copyright workload at U of T exploded by 80%. The demand to access digital materials also exploded. They have temporarily shifted resources and students were hired to help as workload is not same than the usual start of the semester. Curbside pickup is the main service offered. Ms Chan then spoke about the "unification" of the various OCLC cataloguing accounts at the university while preserving the cataloguing infrastructure in place. She indicated that the library director was able to financially support this change. They had some cuts with a good number of retirements, and some were replaced but not all. Otherwise, the positions are frozen for now. The university had some layoffs, but she feels that the university librarian advocates for the role of the library so there have been no cuts at the library for now. Budget trends: they are careful because not sure of what the enrolment will be like. Consequently, their collection budget is frozen for now. Ms Chan shared that ACRL issued a statement where they indicated that a number of study areas are using the pandemic to shift to "e" material. The feeling is print collection can be critical to help the equity, diversity and inclusion. It does bring diversity to a collection. She also indicated having been involved a lot with linked data lately through Wikidata. She stopped this looked more closely at what could be done in-house, doing training and found a PCC call for a pilot project and she is involved with that. It is a links initiative (confidential for now) where researcher across Canada had the option of publishing their research data as linked data and then linked other researches to theirs. Ms Chan was not sure if this will be funded yet and Susan Brown from U of Guelph is leading the grant request (Stacy Cassel, and Ms. Furnal from U of A are also involved). U of T is a partner and collaborator, in-kind contribution.
  • Ms. Dumas talked about the bookstores in the province of Quebec and mentioned that BAnQ is trying to support them locally. They also had discussions with local associations to find ways to support them better in these more difficult times. At BAnQ, there is not more or less budgets than before but shift to "e" is obvious. For "e" material, BAnQ has to buy from bookstores across the province to respect the provincial law. Mr. Crocco asked if any went out of business yet? Ms. Dumas reported that BAnQ works with 95 of them and they only lost one or two of them through the pandemics so far. It is not as bad as expected but the next months will be difficult and there could be more of the bookstores to go out of business.
  • Ms. Lefebvre lives in Sydney, BC, which is known to be a book town. Bookstores are thriving now up there. The Vancouver PL branch she goes to has not reopened and this is helping the bookstores. They are filling a gap left by the VPL branch closing as many citizens are not too keen about using Amazon or driving to the Indigo branch. At the VPL branch, they are limited to 5 items to borrow at a time. She finds it limiting and disappointing so she and probably others are spending a lot at the bookstores. Ms. Schachter, having previously worked at the VPL main branch, said that they do not have that sort of problem in mainland BC. This is then an obvious opportunity for this library/branch as there is a gap waiting to be filled.
  • Ms. Schachter indicated that her budget at Capilano is on a status quo for this year. Some funds were modified (travel, conference registrations, professional developments, individual memberships -- those were expenses that had to go). They had no salary cuts and they did put an inflationary increase for salaries next year because in libraries, zero budget increase ends up being a cut after inflation. The university projected an $8M deficit in their pandemic planning but they are well under $1M so far and she thinks they might be close to break even at the end of their fiscal year. One reason for this is that the international students, with high tuitions, were allowed to start online and come in later if they could. Local students are taking more courses than before and they are doing overall well. There is the possibility of some extra funding through the addition of "new degrees" (for databases, reference tools, etc.) but she is unsure yet if this will happen. They have no new "roles" at the library, but employees are definitely taken on some new responsibilities. The projects underway are limited. They are just trying to do quality teaching and supports, not pushing out for new projects particularly.
  • Ms. Freeland, the added that at her library, they do have new priorities. Three services have experienced a growing demand:
    • "Marketing / environmental scan": "this went through the roof"
    • Bibliometrics and research impact also grew a lot
    • Open science. There is a huge international community of scientific sharing and NRC researchers are part of this (they use open repositories and other value-added pieces).
    Their ILL demands continue but budget wise, it will be challenging for them overall for a few years to come. Their travelling budget was pulled back while the collection budget is steady which means they will experience some cuts due to cost of living and publishers' increases. She senses that we are at the tip of the iceberg due to the contribution made so far by the Canadian government to help the country. Collaboration has increased across sectors (private, academic and public sectors) so at NRC, they are working at supporting more platforms to facilitate this. She ended in saying that Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) are growing areas of focus by numerous institutions so they too are involved and participating.
  • Ms. Horrall's budget at BAC/LAC is on hold. They lost their discretionary funding (travel, etc.), all conferences have moved to be virtual so this is lowering the cost and luckily, BAC/LAC has more staff that can join these virtual conferences than they would normally do. Their CIP requests are up and down and she indicated that this is a sign that the publishing industry is also struggling.

5. OCLC enterprise / Canadian division year in review and update

  • The details of the presentation will be posted with the minutes.

6. Departing delegate

  • Ms Lefebvre. She thanked everyone. She plans to keep going to ARC (at OCLC) and will try to keep going to IFLA assuming traveling resumes in the near future.
  • She concluded saying that she was happy with the involvement of OCLC in Canada and vice versa. She is also happy to see fellow Canadians elected on OCLC committees and more are needed on the OCLC Board of Trustees!

7. Review of the OCAC Charter

  • Nothing to review and the number of OCAC delegates will be fine for 2021 knowing that Joseph Hafner from McGill University will be replacing Diane Beattie that still have one year on Global Council (Joseph was an alternate and why he was approached for this).

8. Discussion of the next Spring meeting (date and location)

  • There was no ARC meeting in the fall of 2020. It has been postponed to 2021. Plans are to have a few online meetings in the spring so it was agreed that OCAC should try to schedule its next call around the same time of year it has in past years, i.e. late March or early April.

9. Other business

  • No other business was raised.

10. End of the meeting

  • At 14h50
Actions required before the next meeting Responsibility
  1. Send a Doodle to establish the spring meeting date.
  1. Daniel Boivin (Done).
  1. The details of the presentation will be posted with the minutes.
  1. Daniel Boivin