Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Long Lost Treasure is Found

Forty-five years ago, the Houston Public Library Association was incorporated as a public library under the Public Libraries Act. To make that incorporation official, a certificate of incorporation was issued by the Registrar of Companies in Victoria on January 28, 1965 and was dispatched via post along with a letter from R.L. Davison, Superintendent on February 4th.

There is no clear indication of what R.L. super-intended , though it is probably safe to assume it was the Public Library Commission, since it is on Public Library Commission letter head that the letter is neatly and perfectly typed on behalf of R.L. by mbs, whose initials follow R.L.’s in lower case – as illustrated - at the bottom of the page. (Remember when people actually had secretaries who typed their letters for them and added their lower-case initials at the end of the letters? Does that still happen?)

The certificate is printed on legal sized paper in black ink. It is numbered 79 and sports the large red seal of the office of the Registrar of Companies in the lower left-hand corner. Between the I Hereby Certify at the top and the Given at the bottom, a vast expanse of nothingness dominates the certificate. The certificate is obviously a generic form used by many departments of the government where master-typists fill in the blanks with awe-inspiring accuracy.

The letter is addressed to Mr. C.R. Matthews, Municipal Clerk, Houston, B.C. That is the actual address typed – again so amazingly perfectly – on both the letter and the envelope that it arrived in. Neither street nor box number appears anywhere, let alone a postal code. It cost the tax-payers forty-six cents to have the certificate delivered. And that was as Registered mail! There is a stamp with a large R above the mailing label with the number 7952 stamped within its borders – presumably to indicate that the letter was registered. But in case the average layman wasn’t certain about that, the word registered is also typed in red ink on the mailing label itself – presumably by the master-typist, mbs.

It took two days to get from Victoria to Houston. Two days! Imagine that. And with no box number, street address or postal code to guide it. Stamps on the back of the envelope track its progress from Victoria on February 4th to Prince George on February 5th and finally Houston on February 6th. Two days! That’s amazing. I am deeply impressed.

The reason I know so much about this certificate and the letter that accompanied it on it’s long journey from the provincial capital is because it is sitting on my desk next to my computer (with precious backspace and delete keys) in all of its original glory... Well, except for a few crinkles along the edges and a smidgeon of yellowing that is a natural result of aging in paper. I dare say that forty-five years is a fairly advanced age for these sorts of documents.

So why, you may ask, am I dithering on about this certificate and its accompanying letter? Well, because it probably hasn’t been seen since it was filed in the municipal office way back in 1965 when it was first received and duly acknowledged. The library has a faded mimeographed copy of the both of these documents and keeps them filed with the minutes from that time. But no one knew where the originals were or what had become of them.

Until last Tuesday, that is.

E, an employee of the District of Houston, stumbled across them while cleaning out some old files. L, also an employee of the District of Houston, called to see if I wanted them back. The rest, as they say, is history. Albeit, recent history.

Anyway, these long lost treasures have been found and are now in my charge. I will see to it the certificate is framed and prominently displayed. I will file the letter and the envelope safely away again – not because they are necessary or even important, but because they are interesting examples of clerical and postal efficiency from days gone by. (Two days!?)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Our Super Trustee

What does it take to be a Super Trustee? Well, in the case of HPL’s esteemed Chair, five years of service on the Board of Trustees, two of those as Chair, two years of service on the North Coast Library Federation (NCLF) Board as Chair and two years as a director for the BC Library Trustees Association (BCLTA). Not to mention endless hours of volunteer time at meetings and in consultation with Library directors, Federation Coordinators and fellow Trustees across the province. Natasha Brienen wears many hats in the provincial library world. And she does all this between taking care of her husband and four children.

At the BCLTA Annual General Meeting that was held in conjunction with the BC Library Association Spring Conference and Annual General Meeting this past April, Natasha was honoured with a Super Trustee Award. This award is presented annually to library trustees that have made major contributions to their libraries.

As presenter of the awards this year, keeping her nomination and award a secret from her was tricky. But the look on her face when Andy Ackerman, the Chair for the BCLTA, called her up to receive the reward was one of those priceless moments where one really should have had a camera ready. Alas, we were caught without photographic equipment and had to settle for the memory!

Natasha’s contribution to HPL, NCLF and the BCLTA have helped to shape library structure and leadership in the province. Her guidance and support are gratefully appreciated by the Chief Librarian at HPL and the Coordinator for the NCLF. Her voice at the provincial level ensures that library advocacy continues to reach the government and libraries continue to receive the support they need from it.

Now, it’s confession time...

This blog should have been done ages ago. I’ve been waiting for the photos from other camera-ready attendees. There have been some technical difficulties as well. But with the better-late-than-never adage rolling around in my head to assuage my guilt, here, at last, is the tribute to our wonderful and beloved Chairperson!

Congratulation, Natasha! You really are a Super Trustee!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

You'll never guess what we're up to now

It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to do an update here. It’s not that nothing is happening; it’s more a matter of not having time to sit down and put together a coherent and interesting article to post.

Today, however, I feel compelled to make the time. Something really exciting has just happened and I want to share it. In these troubled financial times, fundraising is all the more important and all the more difficult. Everyone, it seems, has their hand out and people are tired of reaching into their pockets. The begging part isn’t all that fun, either. But a little creative inspiration goes a long way.

Yesterday, two of our staff members hit on an interesting theory. What if we sold some of the used books we have on eBay or Amazon? Hmmm... I had to admit that I was a little sceptical at first. EBay was definitely out, but I suggested that we do a little research and see what is involved in listing the books with Amazon.

Guess what? It’s not rocket science. Nor do you have to sign your life away. The registration process is relatively simple and for a small per-sale fee, Amazon handles all the money. You simply list your items and wait for a customer to come along to buy them. Once every two weeks, if any of your items have sold, Amazon pays out your cut. Well, I figured it was worth a try, so I signed HPL up and started listing books.

HPL has hundreds of books for sale on a continuing basis. For a donation patrons can carry away as many books as they like. (And the more the better!) We hold a big annual book sale in the mall, but there are tons (well, at least half a ton) of books stacked up in the storage room taking up valuable space. Many of these are donations and are in excellent condition. It is from these that we are choosing the items to list on Amazon.

We have no idea how it’s going to go; if we’ll even sell anything at all. We are hopeful, though! This is a free and easy way to expand our market and reach out to book lovers beyond the walls of the library. And if it boosts our revenues even by a couple hundred dollars a year... Well, I’d say it is worth the effort. We’ll see how it goes.

As for the staff members whose suggestion it was to give this a try, they have been rewarded with giant chocolate bars for their innovative idea.