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Regina librarians walk out, nix fines to protest stalled contract negotiations

Regina Public Library staffers temporarily walked out of work and are refusing to collect late fees in a bid to get administration back to the bargaining table. A post to the website for CUPE Local 1594, which represents RPL library workers, states union members are “refusing to collect fines on overdue materials or library fees as they continue their strike to achieve a fair agreement.”

More than 180 members of the library’s union have been working without a contract since December 2009 and negotiations with the library board stalled last month.

The announcement comes a day after library staff staged a temporary walk-out. The 4 p.m. strike that lasted until the end of the work day caused many RPL branches to close early and preceeded a scheduled rally at City Hall, reports Vanessa Brown at the Leader-Post:

[Library staffers] are particularly concerned with concessions that include working longer on Sundays with less pay and a reduction of dental and health benefits for new part-time employees.

“We think the concessions are significant,” [CUPE national representative Guy Marsden] said. “… We need them to take those remaining concessions off the table. We don’t think that’s much to ask for because other civic employees didn’t have to take concessions like that.”

It might be “business as usual” at RPL today according to one library staff member who spoke with Quillblog, but the union will continue to press its case. The job action appears to be part of a ramped up public outreach campaign, which also includes the release of a TV commercial this week.



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Regina and Okanagan libraries vote to strike

With the dust of the 10-day strike at the Toronto Public Library settling, two other public library systems face the possibility of job action.

On Monday, public library workers in Regina voted 83 per cent in favour of a strike. The members of CUPE Local 1594 have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2009. Roughly 180 library workers could walk off the job at nine branches if an agreement isn’t reached by April 10.

According to the Leader-Post, the major bone of contention is the proposal to extend library hours while cutting wages, and shrinking benefits for new employees. RPL staff went on strike for nearly a month in 2002 on the issues of pay equity and the extension of health benefits.

A day after the RPL vote, 96 per cent of workers at B.C.’s Okanagan Regional Library voted for a work stoppage. Members of CUPE 1123, the union representing 150 library workers at 16 branches, opted for the strike mandate after multiple bargaining meetings and two mediation sessions left contract discussions at an impasse.

In a press release, CUPE 1123 president Rose Jurkic says the sticking points are wage increases and benefits.

“The employer has put us in a tough position, the work we do inside our communities is important and we don’t want to see that disrupted,” Jurkic says. “However, in comparison to libraries of similar sizes we have fallen behind. We’re only asking for what workers doing the same type of work we do have.”

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Slideshow: Toronto Public Library workers on strike

Sunday marked one week that Toronto Public Library workers have been on strike. To recognize the occasion, The Writers’ Union of Canada hosted a rally and read-in to support CUPE Local 4948 (the Toronto Public Library Workers’ Union). Chris Dart, a reporter with Torontoist, describes the tone at the gathering as one of “cheerful rage.”

After months of negotiations and a number of pushed deadlines, on March 18, TPLWU president Maureen O’Reilly announced that the union could not come to an agreement with the municipal government. The bone of contention, she said, was job security for TPL’s 2,300 library workers. With a significant proportion of staff made up of part-timers, O’Reilly said any deal that doesn’t protect workers from library closures, layoffs, and privatization would leave 70 per cent of TPL employees vulnerable.

All library branches and dropboxes have been closed since March 19, and all library programming and events have been cancelled until further notice. The library has encouraged patrons to keep materials until strike action has ended (late fines will not be charged for the duration of the strike).

The TWUC rally is just one of many events that took place over the past week in support of library workers. Click through the slideshow below for highlights from the week’s strike action.

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    The Rights Factory strikes a deal for Andrew Kaufman book in 140 characters

    This morning, The Rights Factory rights manager Kelvin Kong sold Swedish rights to Andrew Kaufman’s The Waterproof Bible (Random House Canada) to Printz Publishing, via Twitter.

    The exchange started after Kong visited Kaufman on Tuesday and tweeted a picture of the author’s office to some of his international publishers. Kong says the Twitter offer that followed from publisher Pia Printz, with whom he had discussed the book previously, “was something serendipitous that came from bantering.”

    This isn’t the first time Kong has used Twitter to sell foreign rights. In 2010, Kong made a deal with France’s Éditions Leduc.s for rights to Why Mr. Right Can’t Find You by J.M. Kearns (Wiley), although he says he mostly uses the site for information and entertainment.

    See below for today’s exchange. Kong says all other details were settled via e-mail.

    Screenshot courtesy of Kelvin Kong

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    CLA kicks off Canadian Library Month

    The Canadian Library Association kicked off Canadian Library Month on Tuesday. Throughout the month of October, libraries across the country will host events to raise awareness about the importance of libraries in the nation’s communities.

    According to a press release from the CLA, the theme for 2011, Your Library: A Place Unbound, strengthens this message by pointing to libraries as hubs of information and personal connection in the midst of a quickly evolving world. “From coast to coast to coast, libraries are without boundaries, places of endless opportunity where Canadians have an equal right to access resources,” says CLA president Karen Adams in the media release.

    Within the span of a few months, Canadian libraries have faced threats from municipal funding cuts, union strikes, devastating fires, and natural disasters — to name but a few challenges. It’s nice, then, to have some positive library-related news to report.

    And in case a month of library celebrations isn’t uplifting enough, here’s a quick round up of other library-friendly news:

    Happy Canadian Libraries Month!

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    Scott Griffin brings poetry into Canadian schools

    Canadian literary benefactor Scott Griffin is taking his passion for poetry – in particular, the live recitation of poetry – into schools across Canada with a new bilingual recitation contest that will award $10,000 to students and school libraries.

    Griffin announced the initiative, known as Poetry in Voice, at a press conference in Toronto on Tuesday. A pilot program is currently underway at a dozen Ontario high schools, and the plan is to expand to Quebec in 2011–12 and across the country in 2012–13.

    Griffin, who recites a favourite poem from memory at each annual Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist announcement, spoke of the importance of recitation in discovering poetry. “The best way to know a poem short of writing it is to memorize it,” he said. “It’s amazing how different emotional settings or scenes will resurrect that particular poem because it strikes exactly what you’re experiencing at the time.”

    Griffin wants to change the negative attitude many people have toward the rote memorization of poetry. “We hope this program … will excite students to want to memorize [poetry], and then they will discover the value of the poem,” he said.

    Students participating in the pilot program can choose three poems from an online anthology that currently comprises more than 100 English-language and 25 French-language poems in the public domain, as selected by Poetry in Voice director Damian Rogers (author of the collection Paper Radio, published by ECW Press) and three-time Governor General’s Literary Award–winning poet Pierre Nepveu.

    According to Rogers, the contest will serve as a platform for bringing Canadian literature and contemporary poets into schools. “I want students to make the connection that poetry is part of the Canadian cultural landscape across the country,” said Rogers, who added that the group is currently in the process of securing rights to contemporary and Canadian poems.

    Competing students will be judged according to a variety of criteria, including physical presence, voice and articulation, accuracy, and dramatization. Griffin says students who choose to recite at least one poem in their non-native tongue will have a slight advantage over other competitors.

    The province-wide finalists will face off on April 12 at Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre, with the winning student receiving $5,000, plus an additional $2,500 for the student’s school library. The runner-up will receive $1,000 (plus $500 for the library), while the third-place student will receive $500 (plus $500 for the library).

    In addition to the $10,000 earmarked for the Poetry in Voice program, the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry will hand out $200,000 to the nominees of the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize.

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