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WILU 2019 is a partnership between the University of Winnipeg Library, Red River College Library, and the University of Manitoba Libraries. The UWinnipeg campus was selected as the conference site due to its central location and the adjacency of local restaurants, pubs, and a variety of downtown attractions. 

Treaty Acknowledgement: The UWinnipeg campus is located in Treaty 1 territory, and the land on which we will gather is the traditional territory of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene Peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation.

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Post-Vortex Musings: Wintertime Winnipeg

Feb 4, 2019 

Thankfully, it’s very unlikely that WILU 2019 attendees will need to endure the type of weather Winnipeggers are experiencing today. In fact, neither extreme cold nor mosquitoes are likely to plague this city in late-May, so you can leave both those tropes at home. But there is something about a day like today that encompasses a lot of what I love about this city. And there’s a specific moment that I think captures both the hardened and the generous character of Winnipeg and its citizens.

It’s -23c today, a temperature that feels warm compared to last week. But what makes today’s weather particularly hard is the wind and the extreme snowfall warning in effect. But in Winnipeg, conditions that would shutter most cities are treated as a mere hassle. And while driving a car through this is indeed difficult and frustrating, it’s on the city’s sidewalks that you’ll find a truly unique mix of tenacity and friendliness.

It is tedious work navigating the sidewalks today. While the snow slows our feet, a fierce wind bites our faces, tossing us backwards and side-to-side, seemingly never helping us with gusts from behind. Indeed, it’s not rare to see Winnipeggers walking backwards into the wind on days like today. The uninitiated might think they were observing an altogether different species. I’m afraid, though, that these moon-walkers are a story for another time. For me, where Winnipeggers show themselves most completely is when they encounter one another face-to-face in these blustery conditions.

There are enough Winnipeggers out by 8 am to have dug a narrow trench along any major road. Boots after boots level the snow in an endless, one-foot corridor. Each pedestrian whispers quiet thanks to all who came before them. Occasionally, two such people, in their gruelling travels, will find themselves walking in opposite directions toward one another along one of these narrow trenches. What happens next is remarkable. Both will step off the well-trodden path, into two feet of snow, yielding way for the other. Both will trudge through the deep snow for six or eight feet before resuming their place on the path. Both offer the clear path, and neither one accepts it.

It’s a peculiar little tragedy to observe, a nonsensical little dance, a collective self-sacrifice. But neither party seems to mind. And it ensures that, when they arrive at their destinations, picking icicles from their faux-fur hoods and feeling the tingle as their thighs defrost, they both arrive in a shared state of mutual discomfort. Neither winners nor losers, both just Winnipeggers braving the cold.

Ian Murray Fraser

Head, Library Instruction and Reference Services

University of Winnipeg Library