Thursday, August 23, 2007

West Coast Writers: You're Wanted On This Line

One of the worst things about the Vancouver civic strike, which now looks as though it may go on for weeks, is that it's left the city without a library.

This just happens to be a very lousy turn of luck for me, because the Vancouver Public Library contains one of the most important centres for Chinese-Canadian geneological research in the country, and that's exactly the resource I was hoping to use for a long project I'm working on at the moment. The project took me all the way to China earlier this summer. Now I can't get into the Saltwater City library.

It's harder on the library workers, of course. I confess to a particular sympathy for the library workers. Every book I've written has been at least partly the result of a collaboration with a librarian or a group of librarians. They're the unsung heroes of literature. They not just literature's guardians. They're key workers in the production of literature.

One of the most difficult issues on the bargaining table for Vancouver's library workers (CUPE local 391) is pay equity, and this is something that further arouses my sympathies. Pay equity was the key issue in the sit-down strike I had the honour of helping lead as the chairman of the joint council of unions at the old Daily Columbian, in New Westminster. Women who'd been working for the newspaper for 20-plus years, in the old Guild jurisdiction, were getting paid roughly half the wages of young men in the craft unions their first day on the job. It was hard fight, and it meant fighting our union headquarters, too.

So here's what the headline of this post is about.

My chum Todd Wong - library worker, convener of the world-famous annual Toddish McWong Robbie Burns Chinese New Year's Dinner, astonishing Dragon Boat commodore, and all-round terrific human being - is inviting novelists, poets, non-fiction writers, essayists and musicians to read, perform, or just chat with Vancouver's striking library workers at the Central Branch Library (Library Square - 350 West Georgia Street). Todd and the union plan to have a featured presenter every day at 1 p.m.

Says Todd: "Vancouver Public Library is one of Western Canada's biggest public reference libraries and a vital part of our cultural, business, historical, academic and arts communities. This is our first strike in our 77-year union history. We are striking for respect, pay equity and other key issues."

So if you're a writer or a musician of some sort and you'd like to lift the spirits of the people on the library picket line, now you know how. You can reach Todd at gunghaggis at yahoo dot ca, or you can call Todd on his cell phone at 778-846-7090.

I'm pleased to say I was the first writer in the series (I'm the guy with the microphone in the photograph up at the top of this post). It was a lovely day, and the librarians there are the nicest people you'll meet in a day's walk.


Blogger Todd Wong said...

Wow.... thank you for the kind words.

Yes... the internationally renowned Terry Glavin was the first author in our reading series.

Terry set the standard for the writers who followed including Tom Sandborn, Stan Persky, Chuck Davis, Hiromi Goto, Daniel Gawthrop, Rita Wong, Fiona Tinwei Lam, and today's speaker... George McWhirter - the inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of Vancouver.

Library workers are proving themselves to be creatively resilient in their first strike ever! Check out our website for videos, blogs, and activity reports.

1:22 AM  

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