It was with much trepidation that I signed up for the Code4Lib Unconference event in the Irving K. Barber Centre at UBC this past November. While I do a fair amount of webpage editing, my job is primarily in public service. My primary job duties include staffing the Research Help desk, answering questions in the chat reference service AskAway, and delivering general instruction. When I heard about Code4Lib I initially thought it would not be of any interest to me and that the content would be over my head. I categorized it as an interesting event, but something obviously not for me.
Member spotlights are back after a short hiatus! This month please meet Dawn Smaill, a library technician working in an academic library.
Introducing Heather! Some of you may recognize her name from the wonderful Careers emails, or are familiar with her through Vancouver Chapter events.
LTAS Member spotlight
Welcome to the inaugural post of our new series: the LTAS member spotlight. In this series we will introduce our readers to one of our members, learning about their job, why they chose to become a library technician/assistant, and how they enjoy to spend their time outside of work/school.
I want to start this piece by saying how much I enjoy my career. The time I spent in the Library and Information Technology diploma program at the University of the Fraser Valley was enjoyable and I learned a lot both about myself and my future career.
As I started to prepare for the panel session at the 2015 BC Library Conference I found myself reflecting on what it means to be a library technician, the education we go through, and the careers that are open to us. This isn’t something I do regularly but found it be to a good “check in” with where I am in my career and where I might want to be down the road. Thinking about the intersection of the two qualifications (librarian and library technician) within the library profession is another topic that I spent some time thinking about, and the bigger picture of libraries.
Some of my thoughts on these subjects may not be surprising or unique. To echo a fellow panelist “we are one profession with two credentials”. If library technicians and librarians are working in the same field with the same goals, why is there this divide between us? Is part of it a simple lack of understanding surrounding each other’s skills, education, and interest? Going through school I was told to be prepared for some resentment and push back from my potential library colleagues. Are librarians given “the talk” about how technicians may be looking to “steal” their jobs? Why is this even a topic for discussion? Since we are all part of the same profession, there should not be this animosity; we should be working together within our institutions.
I have heard from librarian colleagues that there is a fear of de-professionalization. This fear in not isolated to the librarian career path, library technicians also worry and wonder about their chosen field. Looking at the job market and career opportunities can be depressing at times. While at ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) conference in Portland this past March, I heard many schools talk about using graduate students on the Reference Desk instead of trained professionals to reduce costs and give librarians more time for projects and individual consultations (disclaimer: these statements were from American schools). This came as a surprise to me since I know library technicians who are not given shifts on reference desks, a service point staffed solely by librarians and my first thought was “why wouldn’t you want a library technician hired to work on the desk to allow librarians to focus more time on other duties”. In addition to that situation, some libraries don’t require a technician diploma to work on a circulation desk, potentially taking jobs away from graduates of a library program. Similar to a newly graduated librarian, library technicians face a rough economy with libraries experiencing budget and staff cuts, and part time and/or temporary work. Technicians are worried about their careers, and the job market is topic of interest for current students and recent graduates.
What’s my point with that? Rather than drawing a line in the sand dividing our shared profession, we should be working together to strengthen it. We should be educating our managers, community, and stakeholders of the library about the similarities and differences of our educational paths. We should be highlighting how a library benefits from having both technicians and librarians on staff, and collaborate on making our work environments a welcoming place. Because, when you really come down to it, aren’t we all in this profession for the same reason?
Diane Thompson, former Library Technician and current Chair of Langara College’s Library & Information Technology Program, kindly agreed to answer a few questions for LTAS readers. Continue reading
On April 22, Langara College hosted its first speed mentoring workshop involving Library and Information Technology students and graduates. The event was organized and sponsored by the Langara Library and Information Technology department.
Eleven mentors were invited by department chair Diane Thompson to share their post-graduate experiences with about 30 Langara students. Jennifer Reid from Langara Co-op Education was also on hand to answer questions about resumes and interviews.
Diane Thompson opened the event, and introduced the MC for the event, Ashley Van Dijk . Several tables were set up with about four chairs around each table. Five minutes were alotted for each session. Two or three students would be at one table at a time and ask questions of the mentors stationed there. When the bell rang to indicate the end of the session, each student would move on to another table of their choosing.
The mentors represented various public, academic, and special libraries, and performed different tasks at their work. Some were more generalist in their duties, while others predominantly performed one task, such as cataloguing or reference work. Students asked questions of the mentors pertaining to their work, their job search leading up to employment, and how their Langara education prepared them to enter the field
Students have provided very positive feedback to the Lib Tech department, and indicated that they appreciated the positive attitude and helpful advice of the mentors. They would be happy to participate in a future speed-mentoring event. It was great to see students at various levels participate, from newly-accepted to almost-graduated. It was the first formal mentoring experience for several of the mentors. They enjoyed it and recommend others participate in future.
Though LTAS provided some of the mentors and the MC, as well as advice regarding room setup, a huge thank you is due to Diane Thompson and Serenia Tam of the Langara Library and Information Technology department for doing most of the organizing for this event. Hopefully, there will be many more such events in the future at Langara College.
With contributions from Heather Duff