A librarian’s story

I’m always fascinated to hear the stories of how successful librarians got started in the field, so I wanted to share a post I found by Char Booth over at info-mational. Apparently this article was written in response to a library school student’s request, which makes it particularly relevant for me. Be sure to follow the link to the full post – Kickstart:

Straight out of library school most of us are identical on paper, so landing a first position is the luck of the draw that can take you literally anywhere. This is precisely how I found myself a year out of library school living in a cabin in rural Ohio, chasing wild turkeys into trees and throwing logs on the fire to stay warm….

I have definitely been accused of naivete when I talk about the potential of fostering change in libraries that seem too stilted and/or stolid to roll with the punches. I hear people say my time at OU was idyllic, that their workplaces are too large, too small, too oldschool, too conservative, too entrenched, too poorly funded to allow any sort of innovation or development. Similarly, whenever people wonder why I can be so blithe, I simply tell them that my first experience as a librarian made me this way. I saw the way academic libraries can work, and by work I mean work extremely well.

If you are a recent graduate in academic libraries chances are good you will have to take a job somewhere so depressingly unlike where you want to be that it breaks your heart. Take it from me, it might be the precise thing that teaches you who you are in the library sense as well as personally.

Welcome to library school

It’s the beginning of September, which means that a new cohort of students is starting library school. I’d like to welcome you all, especially the McGill first years who I plan to peer pressure into reading my blog. But seriously, the LIS field is an exciting place to be if you take advantage of the opportunities available outside of school. Here’s my advice for having an enjoyable and fruitful experience.

Start with blogs – you’ve already found mine, but if you go through my blogroll, and then the blogroll of each of those blogs, soon you’ll be able to keep up to date on all areas of the biblioblogosphere. Of course, following more than a few blogs will be unmanageable without a feed reader, so anyone not using one should start right away (and if you need helping setting a reader up, feel free to email me or leave me a comment on this post).

Don’t be afraid to approach the second year students when you need help, advice, or just someone to hang out with after class. When I started library school, I was too shy to spend much time talking to the second years, but by the end of the school year, I’d discovered that they were actually more than happy to help. Don’t let this happen to you – make friends with the old-timers early, when you’ll have the most questions and feel the most overwhelmed. Start by adding me as a friend on Facebook, and be sure to join the SIS Facebook group too. Another great way to meet second years is to join a student group – at McGill we have the McGill Library and Information Studies Students Association (MLISSA), and student chapters of the CLA and SLA, in addition to a number of smaller student groups.

You’re embarking on a journey full of possibilities. Enjoy!

McGill does Ottawa

On the weekend, I went to Ottawa with some classmates to visit a few libraries. What better way to feel inspired about librarianship than to actually visit some of the most beautiful and interesting libraries in the country? I’m lucky that Montreal is so close to Ottawa, but I’m sure anyone could find some interesting libraries within driving distance.

We started with the Library of Parliament, which is absolutely gorgeous, and one of the librarians gave us a full tour, including the less than glamourous but still interesting basement stacks. Library of Parliament

After lunch, we visited the library at the National Gallery of Canada, which is less impressive architecturally but fascinating from an information perspective (especially for my classmate Rosanne, who has a special interest in art history). The librarian who showed us around even gave us a whole stack of meticulously designed pamphlets advertising past exhibitions. Library of the National Gallery

Finally, we were shown around the Ottawa Public Library. More than one of the librarians expressed frustration with the lagging plans for a new facility, and indeed, the building was far from photogenic. We did, however, meet a number of librarians from different departments, each with a unque perspective on the roles of the library, and we left with our bags full of promotional materials for the library so we could learn more about the programs they offer.

This was a great opportunity, and I highly recommend organizing this kind of trip. Feel free to let me know about experiences you’ve had touring libraries, and for more photos, click the ones above to find my Flickr stream.