A Message from Shelagh Paterson, the Ontario Library Association Executive Director

Greeting members and partners,

I want to first thank you for your ongoing support and participation with OLA during this challenging year. As with your libraries and workplaces, OLA has also endured disruption and changes. We continue to work with our more than 500 volunteers and look forward to continuing to support programs and initiatives, with some adjustments.

Working closely with the OLA Board and our seven divisional councils, we reviewed our plan for our new fiscal year (September 1, 2020 – August 31, 2021) in light of the restrictions imposed by the global pandemic. We will pause a few initiatives that, while important, are challenging to support right now for all or any of the following reasons, such as:

  • Physical distancing limitations
  • Cost and expense reduction
  • Staff support for volunteers and workload restrictions.

As with many non-profit associations that rely on live events for a portion of revenues, our budget is limited this year. As such, the OLA staff is working on reduced hours (the equivalent of a three day workweek) for the foreseeable future. The OLA staff team have been assessing workflows and initiatives with a view to reducing workload and maintaining stability and continuity. We support the important work you do, but our response time will take longer and we seek your understanding as we make adjustments. If you have emailed us recently and have not received a response, we are working through our backlog and you will hear back from us shortly. Otherwise, please allow 2-5 business days for a response to your query. We deeply appreciate your patience.

I also want to recognize the exceptional work of the OLA Staff team during this time. When COVID-19 hit, the staff team swiftly had a work from home and member outreach plan in place and made significant changes to how they work to best connect with the membership. Despite reduced work hours, staff have been proactive, positive and passionate about OLA.

Additional changes:

OLA Awards and Nominations:
The OLA Awards and Nominations process usually happens October – January. We will pause the OLA Awards and Nomination process this year as follows:

OLA Awards:
OLA coordinates more than 20 awards annually. While OLA awards are an important way to recognize excellence in the library sectors, we are hearing from our members that they are facing time constraints as a result of the work involved in adapting to this new reality. The ability for members to coordinate and submit nomination packages, the ability for the councils and boards to review submissions and for OLA staff to support the process is limited.

Instead, for one year, OLA is working on a self-nomination “wall of honour” program that will showcase the exceptional work of libraries during this time. We look forward to promoting the regular OLA Awards program process next fall.

OLA Nominations and Elections:
Extending the Board and Division Council positions for another year will provide continuity and accountability during a very disruptive time.

The 2020 council and board members are well versed in the challenges faced by the association due to the pandemic and have been contributing ideas and time to help the association be responsive to members and to minimize expenditures. OLA, like many organizations, is not operating in a “business as usual” environment. There is a significant benefit to having seasoned, experienced board and council members steward OLA through this time.

There are some board and council members who cannot extend their term, and a one-year appointment process will be deployed for these instances. This will be an opportunity for OLA members to consider these positions and to get involved.

A Look Ahead:

We’ll definitely make more adjustments along the way, but we are excited about the many ongoing OLA programs and services including the recently launched Forest of Reading program, the upcoming virtual Child and Youth Expo, the virtual OLA Super Conference, OnLibChats, the Education Institute, Government Relations, Open Shelf, Teaching Librarian, The Library Marketplace, and OLA e-newsletters – amongst other initiatives.

Thank you for your continued support and involvement with OLA!

All the best,
Shelagh Paterson, executive director