Pickering Public Library new CEO 'is a true leader'
January 13, 2019
Alone at age 15 after her father’s death, Tanya Sinclair was left to fend for herself in western Canada.
Kenneth Latibeaudiere, a World War II veteran, succumbed to cancer in 1990.
Eligible for a surviving child’s benefit, she used the monthly payment to take care of some basic human needs and rent a basement apartment near the University of Alberta campus in Edmonton.
Success in life is diminished for some youths growing up without parental support.
Failure, however, wasn’t an option for Sinclair who bore her first child a year after graduating from high school.
“Having my son was the wake-up call to do something positive for the two of us,” she said. “Life was hard back then, particularly when you factored in the racism that was prevalent in that part of Canada. What doesn’t break, however, makes you strong.”
The married mother of three children was recently appointed chief executive officer of the Pickering Public Library (PPL).
The library board, comprising eight community members and councillors Maurice Brenner and Ian Cumming, endorsed the nomination.
After her son’s birth, Sinclair sold cosmetics at Eaton and worked at Southgate and West Edmonton malls before moving to the Greater Toronto Area in 1998.
“I had visited on a few occasions and was very impressed with the diversity,” she said. “There were restaurants selling cultural food, hair salons that I felt comfortable going to and people that looked like me everywhere. It didn’t take me long to realize there were endless possibilities here and this is where I needed to be.”
Sinclair switched careers after working in sales for a few years
“I was never driven by the selling part,” she pointed out. “I like connecting with people.”
As a single parent raising a son at the time, Sinclair found libraries extremely useful.
“I used the space to study, print essays and assignments and access information,” she said. “I took my son and he usually played in a corner while I did those things. I didn’t have to pay a babysitter.”
Upon completing some human resources courses at Ryerson University, Sinclair graduated from Sheridan College’s Pilon School of Business in 2004. She spent four years at Brampton library before joining PPL as its first human resources manager in 2009.
The job function included creating staffing policies, recruitment and learning programs, generating learning and development activities and enhancing the promotion of health & safety.
Promoted to human resources director in 2014, Sinclair was elevated to deputy CEO three years later.
She replaces Cathy Grant who took early retirement.
“Tanya is incredibly intelligent and she has a deep understanding of what the mission of a public library is,” noted Grant. “Having experienced how transformative and how helpful a public library could be in her own life, she was able to see the role that it plays in the community. She sees the big picture and analyzes problems intelligently. In addition, she understands what motivate people and make them tick. We are talking about a real true leader who is taking over at a time when we are on the cusp of so much change and growth in the city. She is the right person to take this library forward.”
On Sinclair’s desk sits a plaque with the words, ‘Some people dream of success, others accomplish it’.
“That has always been my motto because you have to work to achieve,” she said. “I was fortunate to have someone like Cathy that believed in me. However, I still had to do the work to make it happen.”
Operational in several branches since 1841, the PPL was officially launched as the main library in 1990.
With a staff of about 100 of which 60 is full-time, the library’s budget is $6 million.
Nearly, 10,000 people visit the library weekly and there are about 6,000 virtual visitors every week.
Over the years, libraries have transitioned from outlets for lending books into vital community hubs offering free space and WI-FI.
“Not everyone has internet at home and the ability to have a smart device,” said Sinclair. “Students come after school to use the technology and seniors use our space to get information and connect with other people because they live alone and are lonely. While we still carry books and lots of people are reading them, people come here to read and listen to books on their tablets. You can also come here to sign up for a video conference and log in for an online course if you can’t get a good connection at home. People are just using libraries in different ways. Instead of seeing that as a threat, we are leveraging it.”
Last year, the PPL launched a makerspace that is an area and/or service that offers library patrons an opportunity to create intellectual and physical materials using resources such as computers, 3-D printers, audio and video capture and editing tools, and traditional arts and crafts supplies.
“This is an area that you don’t have to book in advance,” said Sinclair. “You can just come in and use the facility to tinker with all different types of technology.”
She is assuming her new position at an exciting time in the library’s history.
As part of Pickering’s downtown development, the library will re-locate to the Pickering Town Centre in the space held by Sears which closed and the movie theatres which have relocated to the mall’s west side.
“Right now, we are in a 35,000 square feet space with two floors,” said Sinclair. “The new space will have 50,000 square feet and three floors. There will be room to accommodate partners and community agencies that are quite small but need a place to meet.”