During October, National Library Month, we are featuring the five CUPE members who won recognition as 2021 BC Library Association award winners. Congratulations to CUPE 23 member Allison Jones, winner of the BCLA Champion of Intellectual Freedom, awarded for championing intellectual freedom issues in their libraries, their communities, their province, or their country.
BURNABY—CUPE 23 member Allison Jones, a systems librarian at the Metrotown branch of Burnaby Public Library (BPL), has won the BC Library Association’s Champion of Intellectual Freedom Award for the Organizing Ideas Podcast they produced with their friend, archivist Karen Ng who works with the Squamish Nation.
“We were really surprised,” said Jones. “It’s a really big honour.”
After graduation from library school, Jones and Ng wanted to stay in touch and explore interesting topics for possible future projects. A new librarian, Jones was a precarious worker at BPL. For an on-call auxiliary worker, they were called in sporadically to cover leave time for others, so their job didn’t present many opportunities to discuss or work on complex issues.
The podcast was a solution.
“The podcast was a place where we could talk about big ideas or things we were struggling with and have conversations with different people whose work or ideas we were interested in digging a little deeper into,” said Jones.
Pre-COVID, Jones and Ng started recording at Vancouver Public Library where they booked a studio and met to record in person. Jones sends a big shout-out to thank CUPE members at VPL who provided training. During COVID when VPL was closed, they would meet and record guests using video conferencing.
Each hour-long episode takes five or six hours to produce including planning, pre-interview, setup, recording and editing. They have done 35 episodes, all on their own time.
Jones was surprised by the award because both they and Ng had struggled with the traditional definition of intellectual freedom.
“Librarianship is re-examining what intellectual freedom means and how we can apply it.,” said Jones. “I’m excited that this is a conversation people are willing to have, and I hope it continues to be the case.”
As a systems librarian Jones helps people understand technology, their team ensuring that computers are available for the public and that printers work. Recently they helped set up a program where patrons can borrow Wi-Fi hotspots at BPL. The team does a lot of staff training and maintains the library catalogue database.
“We provide a lot of technological infrastructure for staff to do their jobs and for the public to use the library,” said Jones.