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Kirsten Wurmann: Are Our Librairies Under Attack?

On this episode of Humans, on Rights, we talk to Kirsten Wurmann, the Program Director for the Manitoba Library Association about how libraries are feeling pressure to remove certain books from the library and because of that libraries should not be neutral spaces. Libraries need to be accountable to our community and our community is comprised of people from a myriad of backgrounds. She believes that libraries must reflect the communities that we serve, and that all of our community members should feel represented within their library collection. Therefore, Wurmann says libraries are not neutral because we do care about the community so much and that’s what guides our work.



Kirsten Wurmann is passionate about human rights, about diversity, about inclusivity and accessibility. And all those values need to be reflected when someone walks into a library. With the support of the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers, the Manitoba Library Association has announced a new award called the Human Rights Book Award. This Human Rights Book Award will support and recognize Manitoba libraries' hard work to uphold library values of intellectual freedom while at the same time reflecting their community’s need for inclusive and diverse library spaces. If you want to nominate someone or a library, go to www.mla.mb.ca and go to the MLA Award Nomination Form.


NOTE: THE DEADLINE FOR NOMINATIONS FOR THE 2024 AWARD IS MAY 1, 2024.

Wurmann has worked tirelessly as a volunteer to bring books and create a library inside provincial carceral institutions where libraries are currently not legislated. She is a Member, Prison Libraries Committee. If you want to find a way to support this program, please go to www.mla.mb.ca.


Episode Transcript:


Stuart Murray 0:00

This podcast was recorded on the ancestral lands on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji Cree, Dakota and the Dene peoples and on the homeland of the Métis Nation.


Amanda Logan (Voiceover) 0:19

This is humans on rights, a podcast advocating for the education of human rights. Here's your host, Stuart Murray.


Stuart Murray 0:30

Albert Einstein said, The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of your library. Pretty heavy stuff from a pretty amazing individual. My guest today is Kirsten Wurmann. She's the program coordinator for the Manitoba Libraries Association. Kirsten is a librarian. She is an art lover, a walker, and a former hostel owner. And she's passionate about social justice and creating access to information for all. And to that end, she advocates for libraries every chance she gets and has volunteered inside carceral institutions. So I am delighted to welcome to this edition of humans on rights. Kirsten Wurmann, welcome.


Kirsten Wurmann 1:19

Thank you so much. Happy to be here.


Stuart Murray 1:22

Well, so listen, before we get into a number of topics we want to cover with respect to the Manitoba Libraries Association. And your background. I'd love to know that you were a former hostel owner. Where did that take place?


Kirsten Wurmann 1:36

I was in Golden British Columbia, small town on the Columbia River. Yeah, my my sister and I bought an old house and opened it up as a youth hostel.


Stuart Murray 1:48

Wow. And so were you a member of the Canadian hostel Association and...


Kirsten Wurmann 1:53

No, so we actually called it a backpackers, okay, to Australia and had seen a lot of backpackers. And so we just called it a backpackers. My parents actually had met in a youth hostel in Ireland. That's how they met my mum from Canada, my dad from Germany, and they met and fell in love in the kitchen. So I don't know, somehow we wanted to sort of create that type of environment. Neither of us met our our true love at that hostel. But it was a lot of fun. And we met some fabulous people.


Stuart Murray 2:24

You see golden BC.


Kirsten Wurmann 2:26

That's right.


Stuart Murray 2:26

So no it been there. And a beautiful part of Canada. Beautiful part of the world, frankly, is so Kirsten who would have been some of your backpackers would they have been Canadians International? What kind of experience would you have had with those people?


Kirsten Wurmann 2:39

From all over the place and living in a very small town I didn't grow up in Golden so I'd never lived in a small town before. And so it was really nice to be in a small town but meeting people from all over the world. So we had folks come from Scotland and Japan and we had bands that actually would come and stop stop with us for a little while. The Smalls actually Corb Lun ds, original band stayed with us. But we also had locals who would come and maybe stay for a longer stretch of time and do some work on on the roof of our hostel. So we had a variety of people. It was a it was a great place to hang out and I just had my baby so I had a baby on the hip and, and and you know, handing out glasses of of homemade wine and sitting around a campfire is a pretty pretty idyllic space to be during that time.


Stuart Murray 3:35

So Kirsten are you a Manitoban?


Kirsten Wurmann 3:37

I was born in Winnipeg, but my family lived up in Whitehorse. So I was born in Winnipeg. And then at three weeks, I went up to my mom and I went up to join my dad up in Whitehorse, Yukon.


Stuart Murray 3:49

And is that where you would have got your education? Your early education?


Kirsten Wurmann 3:54

No, then I moved to Germany with my family for six years, and then to Alberta. And that's where I got my, like, you know, the rest of high school and, and stuff like that. And then University. Yeah, so all over.


Stuart Murray 4:09

Yeah, no kidding. But that's, that's great. I mean, it's a wonderful background to position you for what you're currently doing with the Manitoba librarian Association. How did you get involved with libraries? And what makes you passionate about what the form of what a library should or should be?


Kirsten Wurmann 4:26

Well, I have to say that I was living in Golden at the time and was really feeling like I needed to, to move on. And I was at my local library, thinking about things that I could do to build upon my my undergrad degree. And I thought, Oh, what about working in a library? That would be great. My mom used to be stories with Sharon on CDC up in Whitehorse. And we'd read books all the time to us. You know, libraries have always been important for me as places and spaces to be whether it I was at university during high school or then raising my own child. But I thought, you know, I could, I can, I would like to be a librarian, I think I can learn that Dewey Decimal System. I'm not very great at attention to detail, but I can do it. And so I went to grad school and my very first day in class, the professor, Professor Altman, started talking about libraries and social justice. And I thought, wow, wait a minute. I never thought about libraries in that way. And that's actually what really spoke to the libraries as a space for all equal access for all. Now, whether or not that's actually happening in real life. That's a whole other discussion. But that first day, that's what really inspired me. And it has inspired me all through my career, I worked for a public legal education organization in Edmonton, I became a public library when I moved to Winnipeg. And now I'm advocating and doing programming with the Manitoba Library Association. I'm also doing a contract with the Manitoba Law Library working on getting legal information into Manitoba prisons. So everything is guided by that desire. So bringing social justice and social responsibility into librarianship.


Stuart Murray 6:27

One of the things that, of course, is happening as we have this conversation today. And these are my words Kirsten, not not yours. But some of the I'll just say sort of the attacks that libraries are on I did a podcast, and there was a conversation about a library and Brandon that was being asked to censor some of the books by outsiders. That has got to be something that concerns not only when you talk about your passion for justice for all, and access to all, but what is happening, in your view of why some of these conversations are starting to take place, not in the 1930s 40s or 50s. But in 2024?


Kirsten Wurmann 7:11

Well, I mean, the why is a little bit more of a bigger conversation, I think. But certainly we have found in the Manitoba Libraries association is always is a leader in the library community in Manitoba, in that we do provide advocacy and professional development for our membership. So that's libraries, public libraries, academic libraries, library workers, texts, librarians, trustees, board members. And we've just been finding that in the last few years, as you said, our advocate advocacy and resources that we've had to newly create and share with our members are around a lot of those challenges around information and disinformation. But also just sharing thoughtful information with our membership about the need to uphold human rights. Because we've really seen how, as you were saying how some folks are finding it very easy to challenge some of these most basic of rights to exist. And they do so with rhetoric and disinformation and extremism. And I think a lot of that it's, it's coming up from the south. There are some very organized groups who have now kind of made their way up. And so we've been finding that there are some very organized groups of folks up in Manitoba as well, who are strategically going after school boards, library boards, going right into libraries, and harassing and bullying library staff, calling them terrible names, pedophiles, groomers, and it was starting to happen so much that Manitoba Library Association, the board, of course, sends letters, rights, editorials in newspapers, they do delegations, we had our president and advocacy director, they were at that brand in school board meeting and they spoke very passionately about how we have to fight against this, this censorship. We need to be accountable to our community. And our community is comprised of people from a myriad of backgrounds and, and libraries have to reflect the communities that we serve. And all of our community members should feel represented and within their library collection within the programming that's offered at libraries and within the library services, as well. And I think a lot of what has also happened is the realization that libraries are not neutral spaces. And I think that we've seen that with the Manitoba Library Association sort of coming and doing these delegations and writing these letters to come councils to school boards and in local newspapers. Last spring, we had our annual conference. And we had Megan fullz, who is the lawyer and counsel for the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. And she said, representation is a core tenet of human rights. So this is something that we are trying to help our members feel supported as they are representing the communities that that they serve.


Stuart Murray 10:29

There's lots to cover there and unpack for sur e. Kirsten, you know, as you all currently said, libraries have to represent the communities of which they represent or you know, sort of have to be a reflection. How do you answer a question when somebody says, Well, who decides which books go into a library? How does that decision get made?


Kirsten Wurmann 10:47

Well, and that's a conversation that's been happening a lot more, and a lot more in public, I noticed what I think it was Altona. So the South Central Regional Library System, out the Altona branch, on their social media, they have a whole description of how they choose and catalog books, how they purchase them, the immense time, and effort and knowledge and research that goes into making those decisions. It's not one person that is making that decision. And I think we were at a conference that was held at U of W. And again, they spoke to the audience about how, how do librarians make these decisions. So I think sharing some of that information is really, really important. Now, there are some folks, they will not listen to any of that anyway, they have their own ideas. But I think for the majority of folks, they're really blown away by that, that the smallest library is making really, really thoughtful decisions about the book purchases, just as larger libraries are, we all take that same approach. So I think something that's really important when we talk about intellectual freedom, which is always been talked about as a real core value of librarianship, many of us are really starting to talk about also the value of social responsibility and social justice as a key component in practicing that intellectual freedom. And sometimes that really comes into a bit of conflict with each other because of course, intellectual freedom is much more of a philosophy of more individualism. And I've seen a number of presentations. Now it goes right into sort of the philosophies of social contract and things like that. And then social justice has a bit more of a broader focus on group identities and social space. So sometimes that can get into the conflict. But there are ways that we can be sure to be asking the right questions. So to be asking the questions of, are we operating from a belief that all people are of equal worth and dignity. And that's something again, that Megan Foltz, asked us and asked that of us, as librarians as library workers, we need to ask ourselves, have everyone's needs been met? Is this environment safe for everyone to feel like they belong, whose needs are not being met? So it takes a little bit more effort and time to answer those questions, rather than just to say, we're keeping you know, either all the books here, whether they offend people or not. But also thinking about the room bookings if you're booking a room, what kind of programming you're doing and what kind of services you provide. We just had L'Oreal Harris, who I know you interviewed on on this podcast. Fabulous, absolutely fabulous. We had L'Oreal Harris on doing a two day workshop with some of our members. And she really, you know, spoke about how some of those questions that I was just talking about, like, who are we actually serving in the library and how our society has really been built on colonialism, and really systemic and historic racism and libraries have been built. So many of these institutions have been built on that. So we really need to take a look at what that foundation is. And then who are we serving? Now? What does our community look like? And who should we be serving? As I said before.


Stuart Murray 14:29

K irsten, you are the program coordinator for the Manitoba Library Association. So you've got a lot on your on your plate. You know, I'd love to get your thoughts on who is a librarian who gets interested in in become a librarian. And I only put that out there because I grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan. And I always sort of looked at libraries as you know, kind of the I was sort of with that joke about that a library and was a keeper of books a guardian of knowledge In a professional Shusher, you know, and I love the fact that you made reference to the Dewey Decimal System. I mean, you know, again, something that, you know, you kind of learn at the very outset. I mean, I think there's probably people today, you know, in no criticism, it's just a reality with Google. And the opportunity to do research on a computer Dewey Decimal System is, is something that is no longer part of probably everyday language. But if you do go to a library, you know, there's something to learn about that in its own standalone as a Dewey Decimal System. But people that become a librarian, like you, it must be an interesting journey. To understand that, yes, this is a physical building with a series of books, but the programming, the place for people to come in to have conversation, the opportunity for people to come in and have dialogue, the opportunity for people to to look at different ways that having presentations, all those elements come out to what you described as making sure that this is a safe place for people to feel when they come in that they are in a place where they can learn. And so how would you share your personal journey of being a librarian from when you first got involved? I mean, you were passionate about it. And what changes have you seen come into the role of that person who's known as the librarian? And what would you say to anybody who's listening who's saying, while I was thinking maybe of being a librarian, but now when I hear some of these challenges, I wonder if it's what I really thought it should be?


Kirsten Wurmann 16:38

That's a big question. Because I, you know, of course, there are all sorts of different librarians, all sorts of different library workers with all sorts of different reasons for becoming a librarian or working in a library. And I can definitely see the population of library workers changing, evolving as the profession changes, and evolves. And certainly for myself, personally, what I've really found is, I see myself as a connector, I see libraries, I see library workers as connectors. So whether that's connecting you to a book, connecting you to another person, connecting you to a program connecting you to a phone number, connecting you to a granola bar, connecting you to a place to sit. I think that most of us who work in libraries, I've actually been shushed myself, while I'm working on a library. Because it's not that I mean, certainly there are still very, very quiet spaces, library spaces, academia, you know, you need that space. And certainly there are lots of people that come to public libraries, and they still need that space, which is why we have lots of rooms and study rooms and things so that you can have that space. So I think it's also about like, letting the public know that our library spaces are changing and evolving, so that they know that as a space, it's changing, but that they know also that our services are also changing and improving and getting ever better. And the fact that we do respond to our community means that sometimes those spaces are very different than days of old. This does not mean that people are not still coming to the library. You know, I remember going to my I was a branch head for many years when a paid public library, and I would be unloading the book return and people would walk by the library was in Cindy Clawson rec center. And so people would be walking by going to the gym boy, are those all from today, all the books, some people who haven't been to a library are shocked that so many people still read and still go to the library. So I think I don't know if I'm really answering your question. But I think that there is a lot less of a need to be really aware of how do we decimal works, you can learn that on the job, and more have an awareness of the importance of libraries to community and as a space for community and as a safe space, not just for community, but for the library workers as well. And that I mean, that brings up a whole other sort of issue that is facing libraries right now. You know, we have the issues of the banning and the censorship. But you know, funding is something that we are advocating for strongly at the Manitoba Library Association, and especially funding for increased staffing. Libraries are woefully understaffed libraries in Winnipeg and Manitoba are understaffed, and for libraries to be safe spaces for everyone for to community and for the staff, you need to have more staff. You can't just have one person working at the desk.


Stuart Murray 20:07

Is it your sense that there is a direct hit on libraries that there's something that is under whelmingly there to support libraries in the in the public system of funding? And just maybe you could talk a little bit about what is the relationship between the School Board of Trustees, and the Manitoba Library Association in terms of the conversation around funding.


Kirsten Wurmann 20:33

There is a separate Manitoba School Library Association. So they would be really good to be able to speak to, but I would say that historically, libraries and any even now, I mean, libraries are notorious for just and library workers are notorious for doing so much with so little, because they are so passionate about the communities that they serve. And they're passionate about their job. And they can see how important it is. So they make do with very little money. And at very low salaries, because they're passionate about it. That is no reason to take advantage of libraries and library workers. And certainly the provincial government has raised their funding their funding formula for Winnipeg Public Library and public libraries in Manitoba. They hadn't raised that, I think, since the late 80s. So this was about time. So this is great. municipally, as well, we go back again, and again, talking about the need for funding, and the City of Winnipeg has provided some more funds. But again, it's staffing, it's the paying for staff that is just not really I think, understood to be as important. So I think there's work that we need to do. But I think it's all about making people aware like an awareness campaign, we did a bit of an awareness campaign like a library 101 through the MLA, social media. And actually, I was just noticing St. Joe Lee, the public library, has some great a social media campaign, about how Libraries Transform that libraries give a seat to everyone at the table, I wrote some of these down libraries support those who need it, most libraries promote justice and inclusion for all, you know, these are messages coming out from from Central league. And certainly we were also talking about those same messages. But also messages of you know, the return on investment is so high, you know, all these studies across Canada, you get $5 back on an investment of $1 into libraries. That's important. That's what funders like to hear.


Stuart Murray 22:48

You just said something, I think that is worth just pausing for a second to explain. Give me that economic equation. Again.


Kirsten Wurmann 22:55

The return on investment is five, or it might even be $6 return on investment for every dollar that is invested in libraries. It's based on a Toronto study, it's based on a number of different studies that have happened across Canada for library systems.


Stuart Murray 23:12

Does that investment going into the community?


Kirsten Wurmann 23:14

Yes, you know, folks needing jobs, they come to the library to help with a resume to access the computers, if they want to start a business. There are lots of libraries that have information on how to start a business again, using the lot the computers, not everyone has access to computers, and Wi Fi and internet. So So even that access is really, really important. But yeah, so that type of investment, just even having the computers and the Internet, that's a return on investment for a large number of folks.


Stuart Murray 23:46

Yeah, I appreciate you explaining that. Because I, when you're putting a narrative out about an organization, or particularly when you're you know, there's modeling that's changing, you know, things are, are not the way they used to be. So you're trying to educate people on how libraries are changing. I think that for some people, there's always a part of a narrative that gets their attention. And I'll just be one to put my hand up right now to say that I think of libraries that are such wonderful places and provide so much information, so much knowledge, so much opportunity to learn. I never thought of them as that economic element to drive. And so, you know, I think that's an important part of your entire kind of narrative as you're looking at the entire piece. Because for some, you know, if you're thinking from a business perspective, all of a sudden investment and a return on investment is part of a conversation that is highly, highly important.


Kirsten Wurmann 24:40

Yeah, and it's something that has come up time and time again in our delegations, and sometimes it hits and sometimes it doesn't, but it is a message that we will continue to be sharing.


Stuart Murray 24:52

Kirsten when you're looking at a library in a community which we have numerous in the City of Winnipeg or City of Brandon port. And then you go down into a much smaller community where the chances are that the librarian is known in that community because they're a neighbor of somebody. And you know, in a smaller community, it's one of the beautiful things about a small community. You mentioned it living in Golden, I mean, the relationships you develop with people. What sort of support do librarians in smaller communities have, when it's their neighbors that are starting to make them feel uncomfortable, because they have books in their library that these people feel shouldn't be there? And, you know, you see them in the coffee shop, you see them on the street, you know, they're their neighbors.


Kirsten Wurmann 25:36

That's something that we've been really asking ourselves, you know, especially when there was a lot of stuff happening down around Winkler and how can we support those library workers? Now, I will say that not all of the people that were going into those libraries, or harassing the library staff were from those areas, some of them were from a way, we found that also with some of the delegations to city council, here in Winnipeg, they're not always. So they're pushing their agenda. But we definitely have a good relationship with many of our members, we open our doors so that they can talk to us, we bring in other folks to be able to talk to them about how best to either speak or not speak to some of these folks who are doing the harassment, I found that through talking with some of the staff, they had a very good board, they had a very, very good strong board chair that was very, very helpful and useful to them and spoke that same message. And so that was really important. And I remember talking to one of the librarians or the head librarian there, and she said, you know, like, 20 years ago, when I first started this job, if you were to say to me, I would be this sort of, you know, staunch defender of intellectual freedom and social justice, like, I didn't know that that's who I would become. And the library's all the greater for it. I will also say as well, that there's a lot of community support, people come in with baked goods. And there's a really great Instagram called Pembina Valley amplified. It's an anonymous, really strong campaign that is supporting their area in terms of fighting against some of these untruths and misinformation. So what we've tried to do is right around the time that all of this was happening, our advocacy director, Richard B, started creating a intellectual freedom toolkit. So it was released last year, and he's just doing some updates to it now. And basically, it's for Manitoba public libraries to sort of prepare for any of these challenges that are associated with these attempts to censor, so brings together information about how to write policies, some draft policies, so important to have those boring as it sounds, the policy work, but it's so so critical, others sort of recommendations from other public libraries, other resources that people can draw from, and also people that they can reach out to for some assistance. So that's been really great. We also actually came up with a value statement, and we hadn't had a value statement for the Manitoba Library Association. But we have a value statement now so that if you become a Manitoba Library Association member, you need to agree to this value statement, because what we were finding was that many folks were actually becoming MLA members. But we're then going in front of delegation and calling for censorship and saying, as an MLA member, so we have a value statement now that says we uphold intellectual freedom, social responsibility, and the equitable access of library services and resources and that we condemn all calls to censor and or defund libraries. members are encouraged to develop their own perspective and views on critical issues and events. But we are committed to the key tenants of diversity, inclusion and equitable access to information. So even just creating some of those documents, I think are really important in terms of the support for for our members, as well as providing professional development, like bringing in L'Oreal Paris, bringing in Megan folds from the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. We had a keynote speaker last year, Dr. Lucy Santos Green who created a toolkit for American Libraries going through the same thing. So just trying to bring in those resources and especially because of lack of funding, lack of staffing, some of those professional wealth, there's no professional development money. So being able to provide some of this information for free actually, for our members. We been able to do that over the last year. And that I think has been very helpful.


Stuart Murray 30:04

It sounds like again, this isn't just a Manitoba issue in terms of censorship. I've been across Canada, I'm sure there's a Canadian Library Association, and you can start to get, you know, resources and learn from one another. And I think it's fantastic as you talk about this value statement and code of conduct that, you know, it allows people to say, we would love you to be members. But you know, you can't come inside our organization and attack us without understanding what our value of conduct is. So that that's very interesting. With inside the Manitoba Library Association, there is a prison libraries committee. Why is that important?


Kirsten Wurmann 30:41

That's my passion. The personal libraries committee, I have to say, it is so important, because these are our community members. These are our incarcerated community members. And those community members inside provincial prisons do not have a library. And I think that shocks a lot of people when they hear that, that a prison doesn't have even a library. I think that is a human rights. It is a right to have access to information. These folks have already been punished for whatever crime they're in prison to add on further punitive measures to not create access to information for these folks is further punishment, which should not be happening. And we we work with provincial institutions because they do not have those libraries, unlike stony Mountain, which which is a federal institution and does have a library and has library staff. So we as a volunteer organization, have we now go into almost every single provincial institution, we bring in programming we bring in books we bring in special guests, like Dr. Monica Sinclair did an art workshop for the women with Sonya Ballantine, the filmmaker, young, amazing indigenous star, went into the Manitoba Youth Center and did some some programming. So it's access to books, it's access to information. And as I said, I'm working now on a project about legal information as well. A big project that we're working on right now is because of the over incarceration of indigenous folks, we are working with the partner of a elder named Joe, big George, who died last year. And he was a elder at Milner Ridge Correctional Center, as well as some other correctional centers, formerly incarcerated himself. And he just really understood the value of of books, but reading books about his own culture and history. And we found the the prison libraries committee, we found it so difficult to get indigenous books donated, because we're all about just the donations because we're volunteers. So we've started this collection called the Joe Big George collection. And we've raised money. And we have purchased new books, beautiful books, right now. It's a collection of about 200 books, and it will be going into the Milner rich Correctional Center, hopefully in May. So that is just indigenous materials because that is all part of the TRC calls to action as well.


Stuart Murray 33:27

A good you know, sort of friend of mine and somebody who, you know, I learned from him has been a great volunteer is Trixie May Beutin. As you know, Trixie was generous enough to put you and I together for this conversation. So I have a lot a lot of tremendous respect for Trixie. Just to kind of summarize for a second so Federal Penitentiary is have libraries provincial ones do not.


Kirsten Wurmann 33:51

Right. It's not legislated to have prison libraries. It is legislated in federal.


Stuart Murray 33:56

For example, Milner Ridge Correctional Institution. When you talk about 200 books, do they have a home? Can you leave them there and somebody will have access? You don't have to sort of keep bringing them in? And I guess I'm just saying to that if anybody's listening on this podcast is saying, Well, I you know, I've got books, I'd love to donate them. Where would they donate these books to Kirsten?


Kirsten Wurmann 34:16

Okay, so first of all, yes, the prisons don't have libraries, but they sort they do now because of our work. So Milner Ridge, they have a library space, they do have a space, the teacher there because of her passion. And working with us. She has created a library space. She has raised money to have a library space there and she's working with us and asked to work with us women's corrections as well. They asked us can you come and help us build a library, which you know, it's a little bit of a double edged sword here because I'm like, okay, so you're reaching out to a volunteer group to do this when this really should be the job of the prison and to have a line item for that. But then again, it's the whole All kinds of like, awareness of how important libraries are, whether it's in a prison, or whether it's in a small town, or whether it's in the urban center. So all of these prisons now do have some sort of space, even if it's just a cupboard, on wheels, that they wheel into the gym. So they do have a space now, we have an annual fundraiser book sale every year in June, and this year, it is June 22. It'll be at the West and commons, where it was last year, we do it in conjunction with the prison Arnon prison rideshare program, which is a program where they drive folks out to visit their loved ones who are incarcerated, because of course, a lot of these prisons are far away. And so we raise money. So we right now we are in the midst of a book drive. So I can pass on information about that to you if you want to post that people can come to the Manitoba mla.env.ca website. And if you go to the prison libraries committee section, there is an email for our Donations Coordinator, because we do need folks to just reach out, because we need to see what we're dealing with here in terms of donations. And we have definite wish lists, things like that. So go to our website, but also just watch our social media, because we will have lots of information coming out over the next couple months.

Stuart Murray 36:26

And then for people that are listening, I will in the Episode Notes of this podcast, I will make sure that all of the information that Kirsten has talked about the website, the social media site, I'll make sure all those links are part of the Episode notes so people can make reference to that. One of the things that I wanted to spend a moment talking to you about, of course, as the new award announcement on the human rights Book Award. That's very exciting. Tell me a little bit about how this has come about what it means. And I think there's a deadline if anybody wants to put their a nomination in for it, so Kirsten, tell us a little bit about what this human rights Book Award is all about.


Kirsten Wurmann 37:03

Yeah, I'm really excited about it. You know, I was saying before how we've, we've really been sort of searching within ourselves, how can we best support but also recognize the amazing work of Manitoba libraries and library staff. I think most people don't even realize some of this amazing work that folks are doing to uphold these library and values, library values of intellectual freedom, but still, really reflecting their community's needs for inclusivity and diverse library spaces. So actually, back at our last book sale that we had last June, David Larsen, who is the director of the University of Manitoba publishing, came up to me, and I've known David for quite a long time. He's been a great supporter of the prison libraries committee. So but he said, you know, all this stuff happening with Manitoba Libraries? What can we do what you know, he's the chair or co chair of the Manitoba association of book publishers. And he said, what, what could we do to support these libraries? So I suggested, you know, maybe we could have an award, have an annual award. And he ran with that. And I've been in in lots of conversations with Michelle at the Association of Manitoba book publishers. And so we've come up with this award. So this is an annual award or will be an annual award that we are giving an award this year, the deadline is May 1 for nominations, nominations. Okay, that's my first okay. But starting next year, we're actually going to be awarding this Book Award during freedom to read week, which is February of every year, which we just think is kind of a good relationship. So it is an award for either a vibrant worker, or a library who has demonstrated, you know, some of this real hard work in upholding human rights. And yes, so nominations, basically, you can self nominate, and I know, I brands and library workers are the worst at sort of doing their own self promotion. But you know, please don't be shy. We need to let folks know what you've been up to. But it's a very simple nomination process on the website and get the link there's a nomination form very, very easy. And then there's a letter of nomination that should sort of illustrate why this person or this library should be considered for the award.

Stuart Murray 39:36

Wow, that's very exciting. You know, it's a great project. And as you say, I love the audacity to say this is an annual award and yes, this is the first one we're gonna keep giving it away. I think it's fantastic. Kirsten Wurmann it's been really wonderful to sort of chat with you and to sort of learn what it's like to be a librarian some of the things that the Manitoba library association with you from your background as a policy director and all of stuff you've done in your passion. It's really been wonderful to sort of listen to you and learn from you. And I just wanted to just before we sort of sign off on this, on this podcast, Kirsten, if there was one element that you looked at in terms of the perspective of libraries and human rights, what would that be? How would you tie that together?


Kirsten Wurmann 40:24

I think there's been this mis conception. And it's been promoted over the years about libraries that libraries are these neutral spaces. And that's just not not the case at all. I think when we're talking about human rights, inclusivity, equity, diversity, accessibility, that's also another really huge piece. There's no way that you can be neutral if you are asking for someone's humanity to be dismissed. And I think that like it or not, libraries are not neutral, because we do care about the community so much. And that's what guides our work. So I think that that's a guiding principle, certainly for me, and I think for a growing number of library workers and libraries.


Stuart Murray 41:20

Appreciate that wrap up Kirsten Warmann, it's been a pleasure to chat with you and continued success in what you do.


Kirsten Wurmann 41:27

Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.


Matt Cundill 41:30

Thanks for listening to Humans on Rights. A transcript of this episode is available by clicking the link in the show notes of this episode. Humans on Rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart Murray, social media marketing by Buffy Davey music by Doug Edmund. For more go to humanrightshub.ca produced and distributed by the Sound Off Media company

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