by Christina Wilson, Head Editor of INALJ Alberta and INALJ Manitoba
Meet Clive Maishment of The Alberta Library (TAL)
I’d like to introduce readers to one of Alberta’s outstanding library organizations and its visionary and effective leader. Formed in 1997, The Alberta Library (TAL) is a consortium of 49 member libraries serving over 300 locations in Alberta. It was established to connect Alberta’s physical and digital libraries and is sustained through voluntary collaboration among members, who are from all library sectors. TAL remains committed to promoting cross-sectoral collaboration and resource sharing amongst different types of Alberta’s libraries. In June, 2010, Clive Maishment became TAL’s third CEO. Last month, TAL received two prestigious awards that recognized its achievements in collaboration and innovation: the Canadian Library Association’s Award for Innovative Technology, sponsored by OCLC, and the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services’ (ALCTS) Outstanding Collaboration Citation award, given out at the ALA conference in Las Vegas. ( Picture: Clive Maishment, CEO, The Alberta Library with the 2014 recipient of the CLA/OCLC Award for Innovative Technology, Canadian Library Association Conference, May 30, 2014)
Below is my interview with Clive Maishment, CEO, The Alberta Library.
Christina: What drew you to this position?
Clive: I have been with TAL since June 2010. I originally came on a secondment from Edmonton Public Library, so I did not come through a conventional application process. The position was and is of interest to me because I am very interested in seeing library service advance through libraries collaborating together.
Christina: TAL was established as a province-wide, cross-sector consortium to help member libraries throughout Alberta face the challenges of a changing government philosophy together and also reap the opportunities of the information explosion, emerging technologies and the Internet. Over the years, it has taken many forms. What do you see as its biggest, current challenge?
Clive: I think there are two main challenges. The first is to clarify our role with regard to government policy; how can we remain partners while still respecting the priorities of members? The second is broader – how to establish a structure that enables us to quickly respond to changing situations and priorities? Some of this is related to governance – what is the best structure to allow that bold action while still making sure we are following our members’ wishes? Some is related to the more mundane matter of having the financial resources to pursue interesting projects. That is a problem every library has!
Christina: TAL has accomplished a great deal since 1997. Of what are you most proud?
Clive: I am most proud of two services: TAL Online and the TAL Card. The new TAL Online has won four awards – provincial, national and international. It is a great new service that makes it easy for patrons to request items from any TAL library.
The TAL Card is newly expanded in reach; now patrons can use it and expect they will receive the same access to resources as patrons of the library they may be visiting. What a service! The challenge is to rationalize this service with the various other card programs that exist in the province. I’m not sure how that will end up looking, but my priority has always to look at what is going to give the best user experience.
Christina: Where do you see the most opportunity for innovation in Alberta’s libraries over the five to 10 years? What will be TAL’s role?
Clive: I think the best opportunity for innovation lies with the next generation library service platforms, also sometimes called next generation ILS’s. The service possibilities of libraries collaborating at the core are amazing. This can truly lead to an excellent and integrated user experience of library service in Alberta. What is TAL’s role in this? Initially it can only be in facilitating the discussion among members, a process that began with our recent ILS Symposium (held in Edmonton, AB on June 23 and 24). Whether TAL’s role evolves to be more active, like that of an automation consortium, remains to be seen. At its simplest, however, I can say that TAL’s role will be whatever TAL’s members want it to be.
Christina: What role do you envision for TAL in the professional development plans of the 21st Century workforce that tomorrow’s libraries require?
Clive: Right now our role is really limited to The Toolshed, an online repository of learning objects. It was originally developed under in the Alberta Public Library Electronic Network (APLEN) program, but now that APLEN is done it is a TAL service. I am very pleased that it is now a joint program offered with the BC Libraries Cooperative. Moving forward our role will be determined by the available resources and whether members wish this to be a priority.
Christina: You’ve sometimes referred to the new, emerging pool of 21st “superheroes”, a great characterization. Who are your library “superheroes”?
Clive: Where to start? Where to end? There are so many great library superheroes. Some people that come to mind (in no particular order):
• Linda Cook. (CEO, Edmonton Public Library) What can you say about a leader that has led her library to so many awards? The latest (LJ Library of the Year 2014) is the best summary of how this library has thrived under her leadership.
• Ernie Ingles. (former University Librarian, University of Alberta and Dean, School of Library and Information Sciences, U of Alberta) Ernie showed so much leadership for the Alberta library community, from his work to get The Alberta Library started, to lobbying for creation of the Lois Hole Campus Alberta Digital Library, to his unilaterally creating the U of Alberta Book Card. This last item was a special card created by U of A Century librarians as to allow any Albertan to sign out 5 books – the pre-cursor to the TAL Card. His work with the Royal Society of Canada rightly gives him the right to put FRCS after his name.
• Punch Jackson. (former Director, Public Library Services Branch, Government of Alberta) Punch is someone who always saw the big picture. By looking for partnerships, he was able to leverage provincial money into a larger pot of money that helped to get APLEN up and running. Under his leadership public library service in Alberta was transformed.
• John Helmer. John is the Executive Director of the Orbis Cascade Alliance, a consortium of post-secondary libraries in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Under his leadership this consortium has taken the leap to shared library software – one of the new library service platforms. John is risk taker and consensus builder, who is helping member libraries move on to the next level of collaboration.
Christina: TAL was first established to help various types of libraries deal with the changing government philosophy together. Is this role still important to Alberta’s libraries and what role does TAL play in this landscape? What tips might you have for library leaders to keep abreast of political leaders/decision makers in Alberta?
Clive: One of the challenges facing libraries is deciding how to try influence government. Is it TAL’s job? One of the several associations in Alberta? The local libraries? Given this diverse landscape, how do libraries ensure government is hearing a consistent message from libraries? Remember, this could be about public libraries, post-secondary libraries or school libraries. What this says to me that there needs to be greater clarity regarding the roles of the various players in the library community. What TAL’s role is or should be will depend on what message is to be communicated, to whom and whether or not there is someone else whose responsibility it is. But for me the key message is that government leaders always wants to hear from the grassroots; there is no way for any organization like TAL to “do advocacy” for its members.
Christina: Is there anything else you’d like people in the library community to know about yourself, The Alberta Library, its services, members or staff (other than you guys are awesome)?
Clive: The big news for me, of course, is that I will be retiring at the end of February 2015. I am delighted that I will be around to see the new strategic design process through to completion, but implementation of a new plan will be the responsibility of the new CEO working closely with the Board and Executive Committee, and of course the terrific TAL staff. On that last point, I have to say that the staff here at TAL really is fantastic. You cannot imagine how proud I am of the excellent work that they do, their professionalism – by how much they care about what they do.
Perhaps I can also refer back to the re-vitalized TAL Online. One of the awards that we received for that was the ALCTS* Outstanding Collaboration Citation. The truth is that it shows what TAL is best at – all of the members and TAL staff working together to do something remarkable. With financial backing from the Public Library Services Branch, that is a project of which we can all be proud.
*Association of Library Collections and Technical Services, a division of ALA
These are exciting times in the landscape of Alberta’s library and information profession, guided by visionaries such as The Alberta Library’s CEO, Clive Maishment.