Strength Together -- School Boards, A Public Library, A Regional Library System, A College:  A Cooperative Venture into the World of French resources

Lesley Doell
French Language Resource Centre
Grande Prairie Regional College

Pam Chislett
Deputy Director
Grande Prairie Public Library

How does a public library go from owning less than 5 French language books to owning more than 1500 in 3 years? How does a teaching of French language community go from having a scattered number of resources throughout the Peace district to gaining access to over 1500 titles in 3 years?

This project began in 2004 when several organizations got together to apply for a federal government grant to explore ways to improve language services for students in French as a second language. The organizations were successful in their grant application to Canadian Heritage for just under $500,000 matching dollars and since that time the project has grown to include several other organizations. The result has been a successful collaboration in our community that includes the local college, the local public library and its regional headquarters plus 5 area school boards. The public library now houses a collection of over 2500 titles that assist teachers in their delivery of French as a second language (FSL), French immersion and Francophone education. For our French reading public our collection now numbers over 1500 items.

Like any project, there were several drivers at the start. First, the local community members involved with Francophones and the delivery of French teaching programs in the city saw a need to address resources in Grande Prairie. Second, the provincial government mandated the teaching of FSL for Grade 4 and up. Our schools were not prepared. These groups got together and submitted an application to the federal government for a grant. It was a lot of work but the application was successful and Grande Prairie received over half a million dollars over 3 years to deliver the program.

The school boards partnered with Grande Prairie Public Library and Peace Library System (PLS) to process, house and circulate the items, and contracted with a French teacher to do the selection of the materials. During the first year of the project, over $70,000 was spent on resources.

During the second year of the project, a facilitator was hired to coordinate the project as it grew in scope enormously and went beyond the selection and ordering of resources; during that year, over $90,000 worth of resources arrived. Also during the second year, French was withdrawn as a language that was supported by the International collection. The library decided to use $10,000 of the Public Library Initiative money to develop the French adult reading collection. The project matched that amount and the items were ordered.

Because this ordering was being done by the Library, PLS headquarters became involved because not only were they processing all of the French Resource Centre items, they now had to order and process all of the French adult reading materials.

Collection Development

How does one order resources for 43 schools each offering a variety of French programs and each experiencing different challenges and strengths?

What steps were taken? The Centre…

Through this process, the Centre was able to order a collection containing:

Cooperation with the College

In the framework of the collaboration, the Grande Prairie Regional College further developed their course offerings in order to:

A third of the consultant position is to teach a college French course, but also to:

DELF

French International Diplomas (Diplômes d'études de langue française) have been brought to Grande Prairie. Currently, Grande Prairie is the ninth examination centre in all of Canada, following institutions such as McGill and Edmonton Public. Some important points are listed:

Professional Development for Educators

Providing professional development opportunities in French and about French has been an ongoing objective of the Centre. Some of the projects undertaken have been:

Promotion of Resources and the Centre

Challenges

As in any organization, there have been some challenges along the way. These are some we have had to date and may have in the future!

Ultimately, the Grande Prairie Public Library now has a core French language reading collection that allows for normal collection growth in future years. In the new library (2009) both the FLRC resources and the French adult resources will be housed together so the library will have a Francophone reading and study area. We are accessing a clientele that we were never able to serve. Would we do it again? Absolutely!

Facts:

Funding agency:
Canadian Heritage under the Federal Action Plan- goal to double
the number of French language graduates by 2013 

Partners in the project:
Grande Prairie Regional College
Grande Prairie Public School District
Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools
Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta
Peace Wapiti School Division
Canadian Parents For French
Conseil scolaire du Nord-Ouest
Peace Library System
Grande Prairie Public Library

Dollars:
about $470,000 matching dollars

FLRC collection:
6,000 items $150,000 to date; $35,000 left

Public Library benefit:
$15,000 resources - French Adult materials (2000+ items);
$20,000 shelving
$185,000 French Resources collection

Ordering source for French adult materials:
Renaud Bray- Quebec

Grande Prairie population
76,667

No. of students in the area studying French:
FSL              4,047
Immersion    1200
Francophone    500
Total             4,429