Libraries recognized for innovative practices

A Cape Breton library is being recognized for using technology to help it revive part of a dying culture.

Industry Canada chose the Cape Breton regional library, along with 19 other libraries nation-wide, as the winner of the LibraryNet 2001 Best Practices award for innovative use of technology to enhance services to the public.

Rosalie Gillis, project coordinator for the Cape Breton library in Sydney, N.S., said the winning project took two years of hard work to develop, but resulted in a searchable database of resources in English and in Gaelic called ‘LeughSeo.’

“We took all the Gaelic records, which is a fairly large collection along with the University College of Cape Breton, and hired a student who is fluent in Gaelic to translate English-based records into Gaelic so the database would have both an English and Gaelic search function,” she said.

The collection of more than 700 titles include material ranging from adult to children’s books, along with other resources on Celtic culture and Gaelic language, and is searchable by author or title.

“We are always getting in new materials and other things from Scotland,” she said. “It’s a dying language and anything we can do for people that are interested in the language and the new learners, just to have them know we have this wealth of resources on Cape Breton Island, is great.”

Projects like LeughSeo were what Amy Rose, acting manager of LibraryNet in Ottawa, was looking for when she helped choose the winning libraries.

“(We were looking for) something that hadn’t been done before by a library, that really stands out, and whether they make a big effort to use the Internet or information and communications technologies in a really different and new way that provides great services to the public library patrons,” Rose said. “The Cape Breton regional library, they have won on several occasions as well. They are particularly good at digitizing local collections and making them available.”

Rose continued that it is often difficult for smaller libraries to find the money and staff resource to launch big projects, so LibraryNet helps by providing funding to hire youth. The youth often train members of the community on how to use the Internet or compile databases and digitize.

A contractor compiled the annual list of best practices by examining Web sites and asking for nominations from the mailing and the advisory committee. This year’s list includes 18 public libraries and one academic library.

“I think it helps the libraries market themselves more,” Rose said. “People don’t realize just how many services the public library offers that are free. It really makes people aware of what the library can do for them.”

Gillis said that while she knew it was a small target group that the Gaelic Web site would service, it does fill a gap in the academic and cultural community in Nova Scotia.

“We know that people within the Gaelic community here are using it,” she said. “But there is also a Gaelic studies course at St. Francis Xavier in Antigonish, so all this information is available to them on loan. This partnership between the library and the university is fairly unique and to be working on this project together, it strengthened the idea that there is a bond between the two places.”

LibraryNet is at The Cape Breton regional library is at