Be An Informed Citizen 2

Be An Informed Citizen 2

Posted on Tuesday January 04, 2011 at 10:26AM

Be an Informed Citizen 2
Purchasing books on government, democracy, civil rights and civic responsibility can be a minefield! Everything out there tends to have a strong bias or slant, is American, or is reactionary and therefore becomes quickly dated. If you’re looking for something that will appeal to the younger generation as well, then it can be pretty near impossible to find anything. The ideal would be a Canadian graphic novel series that deals with civics in a fictionalized way, with various characters representing the differing positions and people involved. Yup, that’s my Utopia, and yes, I do realize that I am slightly weird.
Until that day comes, here are a few topic options that you may wish to consider for your collections, if your library is focusing on “Being an Informed Citizen”: constitutional law, current events, environmental issues, globalization, grassroots organizing, municipal, provincial, and national government, municipal finance, political ideologies, political process, politics, public administration, public policy issues. And definitely weed out anything you currently own that looks or smells old. It’s hard to get interested in a topic when the books smell musty and the information is dated – it may even create a mental association of old and musty with government, politics and civic responsibility.
For younger audiences, a ULS advanced search under the non-fiction category of Canada/Canadian History & Politics, with the grade level set for everything except for adult, yielded me a list of 118 items. Granted, a number of them were dealing with specific points in history, or particular provinces, but there were some more general works as well. The fact that there are some with bright covers and attractive pictures will make the topic more appealing to younger audiences.
For the library space itself, you could develop a display of the political process. You might actually partner with a school, or have a poster contest. Any or all of the posters may be chosen for display in the library for a set amount of time. This would initiate community involvement, as well as drawing in the younger patrons to view their work on public display (and their adoring parents who would fawn at your feet for acknowledging the brilliance and artistry of their little Bobby or Susie’s creation).
One of the resources that Sandra Nelson recognizes as being critical for the success of this library service option is staff knowledge and involvement. If you’re anything like me, you’ll pop your head up when elections come around, vote someone out of office, then pull your head back under ground, occasionally muttering complaints about how poorly things are being run (this is the Canadian way, after all!). This service response, however, requires a much more active knowledge and participation of library staff. I’m not saying you need to run for office, but you should be able to explain the process, know which branch of the government is responsible for what, and be able to direct patrons to the correct source for information. A good place to start is to scan through the list of departments and agencies within the Canadian Government. You can find this list at http://canada.gc.ca/depts/major/depind-eng.html. This list is hyperlinked to the department or agencies own website, so it’s a great jumping off point for all things government of Canada related.
Most of the information you will need can be self taught. It will just require some self discipline to read through the entire newspaper (not just opening to the cross word puzzles and going no further, like I tend to do). You may want to attend town council meetings, whether the library is on the agenda or not. The more you hear, know and understand, the better you will be able to assist your patrons.
I have to say that personally this is my least favorite service response. There are some really great things you can do with it, and it can help to position the library quite strongly in the community. I believe that it’s the people and partnerships that really make this service response work.

Reminders:
December 15th is the date for the next webinar “Adding Item Records.” It will be presented by Mike. Register on the NLLS website: www.nlls.ab.ca/Training.
December 3 is the cut-off date for all orders. We will begin taking them again January 10th.
It’s time for the NLLS headquarters satisfaction survey. We will be sending these out to today! Please fill them in online and return them to us via email as soon as possible. Thanks.

Author: Northern Lights Library System

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