OCLC Canada Advisory Council

Minutes — March 15th 2021


Debbie Schachter, University Librarian, Capilano University
Pilar Martinez, CEO, Edmonton Public Library
May Chan
, Head Metadata Services, University of Toronto
Mélanie Dumas, Directrice de la collection universelle, BAnQ
Caitlin Horrall, Director, Description Division, Published Heritage Branch Library and Archives Canada
Renee Reaume, Director, Metadata Services, University of Calgary
Joseph Hafner, Associate Dean, Collection Services, McGill University
Bruce Crocco, Vice-President, Library Services for the Americas, OCLC
Daniel Boivin
, Executive Director, OCLC Canada, Latin America & the Caribbean


Alexandra Freeland, Director, Library and Information Management Services, National Research Council

Submitted Agenda:

  1. Opening of the meeting and agenda approval
  2. Introduced OCAC's newest member and recent resignation
  3. Review the minutes of the Fall 2020 Meeting
  4. Sanity check with the members – How is everybody doing?
  5. 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
  6. Discuss Global Council upcoming meeting
  7. Other business (Doodle for Fall meeting will be sent)
  8. End of Conference Call

1. Opening of the meeting and agenda approval

  • The agenda was approved as proposed.

2. Introducing OCAC's newest member and recent resignation

  • Mr. Boivin introduced introduced Joseph Hafner as a new member. Mr. Hafner has joined OCAC after Diane Beattie's resignation in 2020 (Diane retired from BAC/LAC).
  • Mr. Boivin also reported that Brenda Mathenia had resigned from OCAC (and Global Council (GC)) for professional reasons. She will not be replaced until the upcoming GC elections are completed.

3. Review the minutes of the Fall 2020 Meeting:

  • Other changes in addition to those already reported by email were identified and they are being submitted by email to Mr. Boivin. Mr. Boivin will do the changes and have the minutes posted.
  • The minutes were approved with these changed.

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

  • Ms. Dumas said that the Grande Bibliothèque (GB) was reopened a few weeks ago. It is not totally back to normal, but it is gradually coming back. Budget: the reduced hours helped the library cope with the challenges, but they did lay off some employees a few months ago. They are hoping to bring them back in the coming weeks.
  • Mr. Hafner from McGill U. said that students are singing up for study spaces a lot right now and they are expecting students to be physically back for the fall but not in large classes of over 200, ie. probably just the smaller classes but this remains to be seen. Many library staff are still working from home. Budget: they have a hiring freeze and only one hire was allowed in the past year. It seems this may soon be relaxed but unsure still. The university has lost a lot of money with parking being closed, no on-site sports events, etc. Overall, everybody on campus has been very cautious with their budgets.
  • Ms. Schachter said that Capilano U. library has been opened since August 2020. They have more students coming back and they had more during this spring semester. They are planning for full in person attendance for the fall and that is true for the entire province of BC. Of course, this will depend on how the circumstances evolve. Budget: expect next fiscal year to be similar to this current fiscal year.
  • Ms. Réaume works from home and said that they are operating at 30% capacity on campus but everything is overall going well. They too have opened study spaces and they have 41 computers that can be loaned for 4h time periods. They have also increased their technology equipment lending (audio/microphone equipment, tripods, etc.) and once returned, they quarantine them for 5 days. Budgets in Alberta are still a problem and this situation was true before COVID-19 hit the world, so it is worst in the province than for the rest of Canada. They still need some time to see how things will look like in terms of budget for their next fiscal year at the University of Calgary. The layoffs made at the university were all related to provincial challenges and were planned cuts. They had another round of cuts recently. However, they had some openings at the library they were allowed to fill. They are waiting for April to arrive to have a better understanding as to how fall could look like on campus. At the same time, they are currently planning for all the kids' summer camp at the library.
  • Mr. Crocco started by saying that he misses his travels. The OCLC office is still quite empty with about 20-30 employees at a time, even if OCLC allows for 15% to be there if needed. Out of 800 employees, this is still a small number. As schools are opening again in Ohio, this has taken pressure off many parents working from home. Staff does continue to be productive and OCLC is making progress and advancement.
  • Ms. Horrall at LAC said that the library is reopening but by appointment, so the public service points are open. Most employees are working from home still. 25% of them went back to the offices in the summer but operating in two different provinces makes it hard for management to juggle with the varying rules that applies in Ontario and Quebec. Budget planning for LAC is happening right now. In April and May, they will know more about what this will look like, but they are not expecting them to increase. They too have currently a hiring freeze and it is expected to continue still for the next little while. If they can return to work gradually, it is expected that some employees will want to stay home while others would want to come back in person.
  • For Ms. Martinez at EPL, today was their first day open to the public since they closed again. But it is not at the same level as only 15% "traffic" is allowed from the normal capacity. They have no big cues waiting to come in, so this is very manageable for now. They have lowered the quarantine time to 24h in the province instead of the original 72h. They are continuing to offer their online and virtual programs as these are working well: they had 1200 persons for one of them. Budget cuts: they suffered one, but the library was able to absorb it with the layoffs. Many of the staff needs to do their work in person and this is why some were temporarily laid off during the library closure. They think that later in the year, or next year maybe, they will be able to bring back all of them. The evolution of the local situation and the budget will be reviewed before this happens.

5. Brainstorming on the Canadian libraries landscape

  • Mr. Crocco started the discussion by asking: what were the things their library has done in reaction to adjusting to the pandemic that might be kept as an on-going measure or program, such as the virtual session at EPL?
  • Mr. Hafner said that before the pandemic, the bookstore was printing course packs for some articles and chapters and some professors loved them. However, students were complaining about these course packs: they did not want to pay for them, it was not good for the environment, etc. With the pandemic, the library has taken that challenge to help with the electronic delivery of the course packs. One professor did not like the idea at all and made 5 printed course packs overall himself. In the fall, the library did 30 of these e-course packs in total but Mr. Hafner thinks these are here to stay now as students love them. Preparing them can be tricky though as copyright clearance is still required. Also, the library used to buy a lot of textbooks before the pandemic and these were put on loan to help students that could not buy them. Moving to electronic access, professors do not seem to realize there is still a limit to what the library can do even with "e" documents as many need to be acquired on a leasing model instead. Online sessions are more popular at McGill as well (1000 attendees instead of 100 in person – rare books session example). They also had one on knitting that had as much as 650 persons virtually attending. These sessions of course reach out to individuals not living in the city or even not living in the greater Montreal area. The library also had to buy some "stick" to provide wifi at home to some employees that did not have any access when the pandemic started. Currently, management is having discussions on who should be back at work, who should be allowed to work from home, partially or in full, etc. During the pandemic, ergonomic requirements have become a challenge for employees working from home as many were not "geared" to do a full week of work at home.
  • Ms. Reaume reported that the chat service at the library increased a lot. So much so that they had to have all librarians committed to two chat shifts per day. The good news is that students love it. Consequently, the library has moved some staff to work more online than in the library. This is believed to be positive for the individuals involved. The chat service is offered until 22h. Because of that, the library is doing more analyzes of the chats and they are providing more focused training for the employees as a result. They have also been leveraging access to their e-resources content. For example, they were able to obtain additional funding to add Leganto (reading list) and D2L (learning management system) at the library.
  • Ms. Schachter added that, last March, Capilano U. tried to get more eBooks and it was hard to get them on a temporarily model. They have no e-reserve tool at the library, and they need a tool to manage copyright. They are currently looking at Talis Aspire and they see this as an opportunity to bring new initiatives at the library to better serve their users virtually. They had limited opportunity to improve the online offering before and this situation gives the library a chance to improve their positioning online with their local community. They use the BC AskAway service and they have launched a local academic support at Capilano U. They expect this service to continue at their reference desk, i.e. be local and virtual. They are also actively developing a "working remotely" policy for employees wanting to continue working from home as nothing like that is currently in place. Usually, the teaching/faculty professors are flexible with their time, but the library workers are not, so Ms. Schachter feels that this is needed as the classrooms have all moved to be more online than in person. To her, the pandemic has proven the point that employees can do most of their work remotely with the proper tools. She now has the opportunity selling this to faculty as some VPs were asking about this situation and she feels this is now "a no brainer" to her and the library staff. She added that in the future, having some artificial intelligence (AI) to help responding to patron requests when the library is closed might be something to start investigating as this would be more interactive than just posting some FAQ.
  • Ms. Dumas indicated that they are, at her library, also developing a "working remotely" policy for library staff as this was not in place. The Grande Bibliothèque is a library for all Quebecers so being virtual is required as many do not come on site to be served. They put in place a virtual "series" of sessions called "10 minutes pour", 10 minutes on how to… use OverDrive for example. This was apparently very popular, and they will continue producing these for their users.
  • Ms. Martinez sees the library as a "space" to remain key, to be a key service after the pandemic, even if they experienced a 34% usage increase of their online services. Curbside is also expected to continue to be offered so would their online virtual programming, but the parents have already indicated that the kids need less screen time and more in person interactions these days. The EPL staff that may work from home will be IT personnel and those in other areas where it is easier to do so. It is expected that some will also have a "hybrid model", work and stay home if and when needed (Ex.: plumbing issues and need to be home so have that kind of flexibility they did not have before). EPL is reviewing their current five year plan right now and Alberta's current economy makes this process more challenging. It is expected that they will review many services and it is possible they will stop providing some in the process.
  • Ms. Horrall from LAC indicated that some of these new initiatives are expected to continue. For example, many virtual public events were successful, and these will continue even after the pandemic. The "reach" is better in real and remote time as these are always posted for later view. Some of their funding program are working out well as many are spread across the country and being virtual facilitates scheduling and having these meetings. Currently, the Public Heritage division is focusing more on acquiring digital material and she expects this to continue. A new DAM is in place now and an expansion is expected. On the other hand, doing cataloguing from home is a task that does not work as well. A lot of the material needing to be catalogued is for the legal deposit division and these documents are always delivered at the library first. The employees then need to check these items out, i.e. take them home and once done, bringing them back to the library. They are looking at how they can balance this transportation of the material with more on-site cataloguing to be performed once they are going back to a more normal life.
  • Mr. Crocco said that OCLC is also thinking about its working spaces and that the idea of having no assigned offices to employees is being considered. With that idea, employees would then have "floating" office spaces made available to them when they would be coming to work on-site to accommodate such a possible hybrid model. He also shared that management had to decree that nobody could take their chairs home. However, some felt that it was not totally a good decision as this is a low cost bonus for all the dedication most employees showed while working home in sometimes less than "stable" environments (kids around, small spaces, etc.). The question for many remains and will remain, i.e. how do you set people to work in two places if some or all the furniture is gone?
  • Ms. Chan was able to contribute some of their own changes and initiatives at the U of Toronto and indicated that seeking licensing permissions for their course reserve workload increased by 60% during the pandemic and they had to add more resources to this area. They also made sure that targeted training was provided to assure everybody could bring value to their new work responsibilities while at home assuring that flexible workload could also be considered and implemented when needed. She thinks that the increased teaching and learning online is there to stay for students that really want that kind of approach. Her department also participated in a pilot to the PCC (Program for Cooperative Cataloguing) as they had more time to do this while working from home. The U of T just finished their migration to ALMA and it has been very challenging to adapt while all being remote.

6. Discuss Global Council upcoming meeting – Anything needing a Canadian perspective to be reported on?

  • Those attending the Global Council got their "meeting in a box' information but there was no more time to discuss the agenda that was proposed for this March 23-24 virtual meeting with all the OCAC delegates.

7. Other business

  • No other business was raised.

8. End of the meeting

  • At 15h Eastern Time.
Actions required before the next meeting Responsibility
  1. Send a Doodle for the fall meeting/conference call.
  1. Daniel Boivin.