Mary Baxter, Hub reporter, receives award for work on public libraries

Mary Baxter receives OLA award

Mary Baxter received the OLA award for Media and Communications on February 1 in Toronto. Photo courtesy of Steve Paikin

The partnership between FIMS and TVO’s Ontario Hubs project has paid early dividends, with Hub reporter Mary Baxter, and Steve Paikin of TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin, being recognized for their work examining the changing role of Ontario’s public libraries.

Baxter and Paikin were presented with the Ontario Library Association’s Media and Communications award at the OLA Super Conference awards gala in Toronto on February 1, 2018. Their award-winning multimedia piece included a panel interview on the October 20th episode of The Agenda that was produced with the assistance of the FIMS Broadcast Services team.

“I'm absolutely delighted and truly honoured that Steve and I have been singled out for this award. We are part of a small army of people who were involved in putting together this broadcast,” said Baxter, who noted that TVO editors, producers and other staff played a role, as well as the FIMS Broadcast Technical Servicers team.

“If FIMS technical staff Erin Carroll and Paul Buckley-Golder hadn't contributed their know-how to set up a remote feed to Toronto from Western's studio, this broadcast wouldn't have happened,” she said.

Read:Libraries are providing more services than ever – so why aren’t we funding them?
Watch:Ontario Hubs: Our Changing Libraries

That the TVO Hubs project exists at all is due to funding from the Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman Fund. Once funded, the partnership between TVO and FIMS was announced in September 2017, with Baxter signing on as both the hub reporter for the southwestern Ontario region, and as the first journalist-in-residence for FIMS. With a mandate to strengthen in-depth, regional reporting, Baxter zeroed in on the top of public libraries as an important story.

“Over the years I've spent a lot of time reporting on rural communities, and during that time, I became aware of how important a role libraries played -- particularly in more remote locations. As well, we've seen a political push to create community hubs to provide people living in both rural and urban communities better access to the services they need,” explained Baxter, who pointed to the London Public Library’s work with the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association as an example.

Baxter felt this evolution in the use of public libraries was an important story to tell from a regional perspective in order to show how pivotal this role of ‘community hub’ had become, and to demonstrate the continued importance of libraries and librarianship across the province.

“I greatly respect what librarians do -- I always have. My first job was in a library; libraries have been an integral resource for my work both as an academic and a journalist. To me, librarians' ability to track down solid, credible information makes them superheroes, and no more so than now, as our society wrestles with the plague of ‘fake news.’"

For FIMS, which offers master’s and doctoral degrees in library and information science, the story was a natural fit for an early collaboration with the hubs project. Along with the technical help, Baxter was also able to interview LIS professor Heather Hill for the print piece.

The partnership is expected to evolve over time, with the goal being continued collaboration between Baxter and FIMS students that will generate positive results for all involved.

“The partnership between TVO and FIMS is in its early stages, and we are feeling our way. In my books, that's a really good approach that allows us to establish a solid foundation and build momentum, and already there have been promising interactions,” explained Baxter.

“For instance, right now, TVO is working with one class of graduate students to develop web coverage that looks at the opioid crisis in London.”

Internship opportunities will also open doors to further collaboration, and simply having an office and a presence in the FIMS & Nursing Building on Western’s campus will lead to natural co-mingling between Baxter and the FIMS community.

The opportunities the partnership affords to both FIMS and TVO are many. If the OLA award presented to Baxter and Paikin in February is any kind of early indicator, the future of that partnership looks promising.