Library Board

Avnish Mehta
Board Chair
Committee Membership: Audit & Finance, Governance, Strategy & Community
Community Library: Fish Creek, Memorial Park
Term End: 2021

Avnish believes that libraries are the great equalizer because, as he says, “By their very nature, libraries remove barriers and allow for anyone and everyone to find information of any topic they want to explore. Once you bring the Library into someone's life, it can only get better and better.” Born and raised Calgary, Avnish sees that that our city is becoming the city that so many dreamed it could be. “Right now, we are the most diverse we have ever been. We are the most progressive we have ever been. Our arts sector and scene are the strongest they have ever been. And Calgary Public Library is creating the best library system in the world—the system that Calgarians deserve; a system that will challenge Calgarians to strive even further, as well as support them with the resources that they need to meet those goals.  We want a system that is embedded in one's life, so that no matter where a person is at, they can always find value in the Library and the Library can bring value to them. That’s why I’m so committed to bringing the Library into the lives of more and more Calgarians.”

Shereen Samuels
Board Vice-Chair
Chair, Governance Committee
Committee Membership: Audit & Finance, Governance
Community Library: Forest Lawn, Southwood
Term End: 2021

For Shereen, bringing the Library into more people's lives is not just about physical buildings in new neighbourhoods, “It is about seeing the people around us who are otherwise alienated or marginalized, and being willing to change our structures and culture to include them, to go to them, to see ‘them’ in all ‘their’ diverse glory as another ‘us’.” Shereen knows first-hand how invaluable the Library can be. “As my wife and I embarked on our parenting journey, the Library was our touchstone. Through the myriad books we checked out, we found community, support, wisdom, challenge, escape, inspiration. As a queer multi-racial adoptive family, we found proof of others like ourselves. I truly don't know how we could have survived those days without the Library.” She believes that the Library is vital to the future of Calgary. “In this 21st century environment, libraries are uniquely poised to be the new public sphere, a space where citizens gather together to generate ideas and discussion about who we are, and where we see ourselves going. The Calgary Public Library has the potential to be at the forefront of shaping that vision.”

Janet Hutchinson
Committee Membership: Governance, Strategy & Community
Community Library: Giuffre Family (formerly Alexander Calhoun), Shawnessy
Term End: 2020

Janet has always loved libraries. “I worked very hard at learning to print my name—that was the criteria for getting a library card in my home town—and once I had it, I felt like I was somebody,” she says. The strong, positive impression that libraries made in her childhood has lasted her entire life. Because of these experiences, Janet passionately believes in early literacy. She knows how important it is to foster the love of reading in very young children, and is committed to every child in Calgary having that advantage. However, Janet recognizes how important the Library is for people of all ages. The Library’s ability to meet the needs of Calgarians resonates with Janet powerfully. “Whenever we talk about being the best public library in the world, it gives me shivers. Calgary is growing into such an incredible community, and the Library should be at the centre of it all—inviting people in, building community, and giving everyone what they need. I volunteer for the Library because I believe in what we do, and I want to be part of that.”

Isaac Elias
Chair, Strategy & Community
Committee Membership: Strategy & Community
Community Library: Signal Hill
Term End: 2020

Although he remembers reading under the covers each night as a child, it was only as an adult that Isaac came to understand the power of the library, and realize the diversity of programming, resources, and physical space that it provides. Isaac has worked as a pediatrician at some of the largest children's hospitals in Canada and has seen first-hand the difference that library connections can make in the lives of children and families. "Some of the most memorable moments I have had working in hospital environments have been connecting families to the resources available at their local library. It is the only place that families of all languages, backgrounds, and abilities can find access to free resources to support their learning, curiosity, and well-being." Isaac is a strong advocate for the role of early literacy in child health and sees the Calgary Public Library as a critical component in developing strong, healthy, and resilient children.

Councillor Druh Farrell
City Councillor, Ward 7
Community Library: Louise Riley
Term End: 2021

Druh Farrell is a life-long Calgarian who brings a depth of experience to Calgary City Council and to the Calgary Public Library Board. Instrumental to the New Central Library project, Druh co-chaired the advisory committee and steered the project through Council approval. Druh helps communities respond to change with resiliency and foresight by championing initiatives that promote a liveable, walkable city and sustainable, fiscally responsible growth. Druh combines long-term vision with the tenacity to get things done.

Debra Giles
Committee Membership: Governance
Community Library: Central, Crowfoot, Bowness
Term End: 2019

Debra reads avidly. “I use the library’s electronic services to download books on my phone so I have a book with me all the time.” But she recognizes that reading isn’t all the Library has to offer. “Library services have made a big difference in the life of my husband, who is a recent immigrant from Honduras. To prepare for his citizenship exam, he attended citizenship classes provided for free at Calgary Public Library. These sessions helped him pass his exam.” With her personal experience, Debra feels passionate about the services the Library provides to new Canadian families. “I believe in the Library, and the impact it has on immigrants to Canada—including the education of the children of immigrants, but also all the other services directed to immigrant families. Given my husband’s experience, I know it is very difficult to be an immigrant and to start up a new life in a new country.” Debra also believes in the crucial role the Library plays in early literacy. “The Library’s strategic plan to bring the Library and literacy into the lives of children, especially children of immigrants, falls into my passion of educating girls.” She says. “This is the one of the main reasons why I joined the Library Board.”

Robert Macaulay
Committee Membership: Audit & Finance, Strategy & Community
Community Library: Judith Umbach, Saddletowne
Term End: 2020

Robert’s love of libraries stretches back to childhood. “My earliest memory of a library was the magic of visiting a bookmobile at night on our single-street mining township in northern Ontario—being outside late, entering this very strange vehicle that was full of books which I could pick from myself!” Today he feels that “there is no other public institution that is as open and available to all citizens as the public library. Calgary’s library system is as interesting as the City itself; its community libraries are as diverse as the neighbourhoods they serve, and the spirit of growth and improvement that characterizes the City is also evident in the people who work and volunteer at the Library.” Robert is focused on strengthening neighbourhoods in Calgary, and he sees the Library as key to building community and thereby improving the Calgary’s quality of life.

Jocelyn Phu Jocelyn Phu
Community Library: Central
Committee Membership: Audit & Finance, Strategy & Community
Term end: 2021

Born and raised in Calgary to refugee parents, Jocelyn credits the Calgary Public Library for helping her family settle into their new community and adapt to Canadian culture. Beyond this, the library was a space for many firsts for Jocelyn: where she got her first membership (library card!), set up her first email account and joined her first club. Thanks to the librarians and clerks who encouraged her to share her love of reading with others early on, it was also at the Library that Jocelyn developed a life-long passion for volunteerism, knack for storytelling and deep interest in place making. For Jocelyn, the feeling of wonder and curiosity when you enter the library has never gone away. She considers libraries as essential components in all communities because they are spaces where ideas are born and grow; most importantly, libraries are versatile institutions that serve all of society regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or socioeconomic background. Jocelyn is a fierce advocate for the right for accessible digital literacy education in Alberta and strongly believes that knowledge should be democratic, free and open.

Andrew Rodych
Chair, Audit & Finance
Committee Membership: Audit & Finance, Governance
Community Library: Sage Hill, Signal Hill
Term End: 2020

Andrew’s love of reading stems from his parents’ passion for education, including early memories of his father reading bedtime stories and mother’s work as a library technician and volunteer. Now with young kids of his own, he feels there is no better place, nowhere more open and available to all citizens to grow their own love of reading and learning than the library. In the fast-changing information landscape, the library has evolved too, continuing to offer critical paths for learning and opportunity. Whether as a student, a reader, or a father, Andrew has been able to experience the wide opportunities of the library system and see how Calgary’s libraries are diverse institutions that help shape the communities in which they are located.

Councillor Evan Woolley
City Councillor, Ward 8
Community Library: Central, Nicholls Family, Rocky Ridge
Term End: 2021

Evan’s relationship to the Library goes back to childhood. "Giuffre Family Library (formerly the Alexander Calhoun Library) has a grassy, sloping roof. When I was a kid, we would take out books after my soccer games in the adjacent field, sit on the roof, eat oranges, and read. It was awesome."

He believes that the Library is one of our city’s most important resources, one that is vital in building community across Calgary. Speaking from the experiences gained as a Calgarian and in his travels, he says "I know that libraries – and the inspiration they provide through education, accessible public space, and the encouragement to learn – are crucial foundations for strong, resilient, and livable neighbourhoods."

Evan knows that Calgary Public Library has changed lives. He sees the Library playing a key role in helping this diverse and growing city fulfill its boundless potential. "The future I want to build," he says, "includes a popular, robust, world-class, and totally accessible library system of which all citizens will be proud."