Twenty questions for Mike Foderick

Somebody tell him these have been published. And where. Point values as shown.

  1. Off the top of your head, what are the full names of the branches abbveviated thus? PE; BE; GE; LE. (4)

  2. Because of the implications (more like demands) of automated sorters, the collection at which branch had to be tagged in a hurry and at considerable expense? (1)

  3. What exactly happens when you walk into a branch and set the alarm off? Customize your response for YO, BL, RD. (3)

    • (Those codes refer to…?) (1)

  4. Name three titles of the last ten items you borrowed via self-checkout. (3)

  5. Name three architects (not companies – people) responsible for library renovations carried out in the last five years. (3)

  6. Tell us what’s special about a Browsery, and which branches have one. (2)

  7. LA and SLA are abbreviations that expand to…? (2)

  8. Where’s the Tibetan collection located? (1)

  9. Name the third library in this set: High Park, Beaches, and what other? (3)

    • What ties them together? (1)

  10. Name any regular Bookmobile stop reasonably close to where you live. (1)

  11. Printing from microfilm readers costs how much per page? (1)

  12. What’s the threshold for accumulated fines above which the library invokes its caring and sensitive collection agency? (1)

  13. Name all the chairs of the TPL Board in place in each case where the union took strike action in living memory. (2)

  14. Where can I practise the piano at the library? (2)

  15. What’s a floater? (1)

  16. What’s the dusty-book report? (1)

  17. What’s an untrapped hold? (1)

  18. The teen area at CL was formerly called…? (1)

  19. What was the first storefront library branch? (1)

  20. And finally: Name one TPL branch where a homicide took place. (1)

Fun fact! I couldn’t score 100% either. But I’m not the just-re-elected, “fiercely independent” yet City Hall–skullduggery-implicated, accuracy-minded vice-chair of the Toronto Public Library Board.

This just in: Mike Foderick isn’t one of the lobbyists on the TPL Board

Sounding a few fries short of a Happy Meal, TPL Board vice-chair Mike Foderick today wrote me thus (link added; sic throughout):

Someone brought to my attention that the following quote appears on one of your Web sites: “TPL vice-chair (and lobbyist, though no longer on the official registry) Mike Foderick.”

It seems that you have inaccurate information and I am kindly asking you to correct this error. I am not, nor have I ever been, a lobbyist. This can be confirmed with the City of Toronto or Ontario’s lobbyist registrar.

Somebody had to tell Foderick he’d been written about on the Internet. I heartily and unreservedly correct my implication that Foderick had previously been a lobbyist. That’s one lobbyist we can deduct from the number on the Toronto Public Library Board.

This is what happened with the 2013 budget

I asked Linda Hazzan to explain what exactly City Council approved for the library’s 2013 budget. She then sent that along to Larry Hughsam, TPL’s de facto budget chief, who replied (emphasis added, copy-edited):

  • For the 2013 operating budget, the Board’s request was for an increase of $0.930 million or 0.6%.

  • Council approved a 2013 budget of $165.360 million net ($180.794 million gross), which represents an increase of $0.581 million or 0.4%.

  • Council did not approve $0.349 million or 0.2% of requested funding, which was comprised of:

    • $250,000 to expand open hours at district branches and Toronto Reference Library;

    • $99,000 for the economic increase for collections; the original request was $0.299 million, [of which] only $0.200 million was funded.

Searching in other languages

I’ve seen the way a couple of patrons use the third-language collections of the library (that’s a federal-government term; it means non-English non-French) and I think there’s a structural barrier that prevents people from using those collections. And I say all the following as a longtime defender of minority languages who holds a degree in linguistics and is a well versed in character encoding.

  • One day at Beaches I was in line behind a young mom who had just been issued a new library card. (She had her daughter right there.) I detected an accent. So I chatted her up later and, sure enough, she was Russian. I told her the library had thousands of Russian books, but you have to search the catalogue for them. (There are about 6,300 Russian-language circulating books in stock.) I don’t think I mentioned the other option – schlepping out to one of the few branches with significant Russian collections, like Barbara Frum or Щука. But it did occur to me “This poor lady is never going to see a Russian book at Beaches ever.”

  • The other day I was recombobulating at the TSA-like exit of the Reference Library. The man behind me, a middle-aged Korean, in fact had checked out three Korean books (of about 2,300 domiciled there). I guessed he probably has a hard time searching the catalogue in Korean and basically schleps out to TRL whenever he wants a new book to read.

Problems with third-language materials at TPL

  • You really have to know how to use the catalogue. You need to use advanced search in typical cases.

  • You can’t use your own script unless it’s Latin or Chinese. I did a few tests to verify this, actually. If your language is written in Latin (not “Roman”) script and you can basically type it out, even without diacritics, you can use the catalogue no problem. You can also search in Traditional Chinese. But, my testing suggests, that is it.

  • Hence you have to romanize your non-Latin script. If you want books in Russian or Korean, you have to know how to transliterate Russian or Korean into phonetic English. As this is either an inexact science or simply something people have different preferences for, it’s error-prone.

At some level you have to be functionally bilingual to search for items in non-Latin scripts. But this leaves out the people who basically cannot read anything but their first language. It leaves out the people with the fewest options and capabilities. Stated more extremely, the most vulnerable users of TPL’s third-language collections have the hardest time using them.

There is no solution to this problem. Tens of thousands of materials have already been catalogued via romanization. Of course it’s possible to go back and update the records to include original scripts, but who has the time or money for that? And doing so would introduce its own mistakes.

Every time I see the library promoting its multilanguage collections, I cringe

Because there are serious structural barriers preventing the most needy users from benefitting from those collections.

Also, a postulate: Every circulating Chinese-language item actually circulates if you look back over a reasonably long period (e.g., three years). And every Chinese item added in the previous year circulates in that year. These postulates are easily verifiable, I suppose, but are basically fun little talking points.