The library profession

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?

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Interview with Diane Thompson

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

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Speed Mentoring Workshop at Langara College

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

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Annual Speed Mentoring event at UFV

Picture1

Photo Credit: Ashley Van Dijk

On the afternoon of January 31, 2015 nine alumni from the University of the Fraser Valley’s Library and Information Technology diploma program returned to the familiar hallways and classrooms to share their experiences with some of the program’s current students. This is an annual extra-curricular event, held in partnership with the UFV Alumni Association.

The afternoon started with a welcome from co-coordinators, Anita Thompson and Ashley Van Dijk (class of 2009), followed by introductions from each alum done in a lightning-round style. Once introductions were done the main event of the afternoon began. Alumni spaced themselves out around the room, and students moved around every six minutes. Their time with each alum was spent discussing how library technician education fit with the job, asking what the hiring process is like, and how the various library types differ. Over the course of an hour students had the opportunity to speak with each alumni present, gaining valuable information about various library sectors as there was representation from public, academic, health, and school libraries. After the speed-mentoring ended a representative from the UFV Alumni Association, Dan McArthur spoke to us about the role the Alumni Association has and some of the events they have planned. Dan was very pleased to join us, and presented all of our alumni with Association pins.

Not only is this a great opportunity for students to speak with people working in the field, but it’s also a time for alumni to reconnect. As this is an annual event, each year new alumni participate providing a place for them to network and meet graduates from different years. It’s probably safe to say that the alumni get just as much out of the event as the current students, by being able to share their experiences and connect with their fellow library technicians.

Of course an event like this wouldn’t be a success without the time generously donated by the UFV alumni and the LiBIT student association (LITSA), and support from the UFV Alumni Association. A huge “thank you” is extended to all those involved.  Special thanks to Natalie Ng for the invitation and Noreen Dragani for arranging the room.

We are looking forward to next year’s event, and continuing the conversations that have been started.

Photo Credit: Ashley Van Dijk

Photo Credit: Ashley Van Dijk

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Micheal Vonn: A discussion about Intellectual Freedom, Civil Liberties, and Libraries

On November 24th, Micheal Vonn, Policy Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, came to Vancouver Community College to talk to several library workers at a BCLA sponsored event about the issue of the right to view sexually explicit material in a public library juxtaposed to the perceived need to restrict its availability.

Micheal talked about BCCLA’s approach to these kinds of issues, which she says is less about advocacy than about trying to get interested groups on the same side of the issue, and figure out how we bring together the various public goods.

She mentions section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a key one to balancing competing rights and freedoms.  It says the rights and freedoms in the Charter are guaranteed “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”  Micheal describes a test, known as the Oakes test, used to determine the limits of various rights when competing against other rights.

Recently, BCCLA was consulted on the question of the right to view sexual explicit materials at one of the public computer terminals at Vancouver Public Library.  Micheal started off by drawing a comparison to a medical privacy issue.  In this example, the RCMP want to look at a patient’s record.  The medical professional wants to protect the right of the patient.  The fairest solution is to use a neutral solution, in this case a warrant from a judge.

Returning to the VPL case, the important objective is to have an ethic of wanting to ensure availability for all.  You don’t want to restrict access for the person viewing the images.  On the other hand, the access of others is restricted if they avoid the computer area because of the visibility of the images.

Micheal says that the best hope is for a spatial fix, where users can view the images in a secluded area.  At the same time there are issues the VPL faces that may complicate their ability to respond with a spatial fix.  These could include budgetary constraints as well as limits of available space or the ability to organize the space in certain ways.  Ultimately, we want the constraints upon access to be as minimal as possible. Such a restriction is the least desirable outcome.  With a Section 1 analysis, what you want is the least restrictive thing that is reasonable.  All factors, such and space, money, and the right policies are considered.

A discussion followed with members of the audience. One audience member pointed out that there are many different user groups that could have various interests with respect to library policies.  Micheal responded that we are currently dealing with the issue that exists.

Another member asked why the default position is to restrict use for the user viewing images.  Micheal said that not all user groups will be viewed equally where the balance of rights is concerned.  One of the user groups, those that will view the images, will tend to be very young.  On the other hand some folks who come to the libraries just for the computers because they don’t have one at home, and use the computers for job search, email, and so forth, will tend to be very disadvantaged.

Yet another audience member made a suggestion, not about policy, but about tact in dealing with such an issue when it’s happening.  She suggested going up to the user viewing the images, and ask them to look at the image as well as the surrounding physical and social environment, and think about everyone who can see the image that user is viewing.  She said that this approach usually works.

One member of the audience suggested staff training to enhance the ability to deal with individual cases as they arise.

Another attendee proposed distinguishing between images designed for pornographic entertainment, and images that serve an educational purpose, such as those that might be found on an HIV/AIDS education website.  Micheal responded by saying that we don’t want to get to the point where we are interrogating the private thoughts of users, which is what we’d be doing if we were considering the source of the images.

Yet another point that was raised in the audience was the notion that those who want to view sexually explicit images might actually want to be discreet, and are being constrained by the library not making such spaces available.

The ability to view sexually graphic images in a public library is certainly an issue that will not disappear anytime soon.  However, the talk and lively discussion which took place at this event provided a helpful framework through which to view the issue, as well as possible perspectives through which the issue can be filtered.

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Library Tech Conferences-Proposing and Attending.

While I have never presented at a Library Technicians’ Conference I have attended a few and tonight I did a bit of research.

According the Alberta Association of Library Technicians (AALT) conference proposal form one must include the following:

Contact information : your name,  job title, company or organization name, city in which you work, email address, and telephone number ; any additional presenters and your previous presentation experience.

Session information: session title and description, capacity if audience number is to be limited, target audience, equipment needs and presentation time wish ie. when in the conference do you wish present.

Session titles and content are as diverse as the people presenting them.

Here are a few from the 2014 AALT conference :

Evolving library services for indigenous, immigrant and special populations

Manisha Khetarpall
Come and explore the historical
development of library services for diverse
populations. The challenges and success
stories will be illustrated with evidence of
resource generation.

Enchanted Express: Using the Grab-and-Go Concept to Market your Preschool Collections

Susan Bennett & Nicole Van Den Berg
Does your library have a picture book
collection that contains hidden gems? Ours
did, so we developed an express-like
service for parents of preschoolers called
the Enchanted Express! Come aboard and
leave with ideas for a low cost and highly
adaptable grab-and-go service that is
suitable for public libraries of any size.

Legal Research Boot Camp

Erin Storey
Get ready for a fast and furious
introduction to the world of legal
information resources! This session will
take you through the steps in the legal
research process, and introduce you to a
selected collection of primary and
secondary legal materials. A mix of digital
and print resources will be introduced, both
open access and paid. Best practices, tips
and tricks will also be discussed plus
helpful referrals to community resources
and organizations. A great session for
reference staff and those working in public
services.

What!? Fines?

Heather Willner
Ever have a patron exclaim, “There is no
possible way that I have fines owing!”, or
“It is without a doubt, that I have returned
ALL of my library materials.” How do we
prepare for these volatile situations that
result in satisfied customers, while not
leaving staff like a heap of wet noodles on
the floor? In this session, I will share my
discoveries of dealing with our public.

Ontario Association of Library Technicians 2014 conference included sessions titled:

The Virtual Historian-a session on the history information network.

Austentation- a session on marketing a month long program around Pride and Prejudice

Reading through each other’s eyes-a session on planning, promoting, and running a summer reading program.

Crafts for the non crafter

It’s virtually the real thing- a session on interactive videoconferencing.

Please do not hesitate to comment on session you have run or attended in or are planning to present at coming at a coming conference.

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What do we read for pleasure?

I received an interesting copy of a survey conducted in an ESL class at Douglas College about whether and what people of different cultures choose to read for pleasure. I know that whenever I am on a bus or waiting somewhere I am always curious about what others are reading.

Here are the survey results:

China:
– Chinese historical adventure/romance/king fu (different dynasties) **very popular! Students told me, ‘America has a short history, so Americans like to read stories about the future, but China has a long history, so Chinese people like to read about the past’
– finance
– reading for pleasure is rare….you don’t see a lot of people reading in public
– very few people use libraries

Vietnam:
– reading for pleasure is rare, nobody reads, everyone uses electronic devices/Internet/social media

India:
– very highly educated people read newspapers, detective novels and for a specific purpose (school, work)
– you don’t see people reading in public…..women don’t have much time to read, as they are busy taking care of family/house….high percentage of illiterate people

Philippines:
– fairy tales, novels, fiction….similar to here, lots of people read for enjoyment…these students were familiar with English literature, classic and contemporary

Guatemala:
– reading for pleasure is highly uncommon
– only professional people read for pleasure
– the student who reported this never learned to read in Spanish, yet she really promotes reading with her children!

Iran:
– romance…..everyone reads romance…men, women, all the time :-) (there is a man and a woman from Iran in this class, and they both heartily agreed on this point!)
– personal development
– biographies
– historical novels and non-fiction
– the libraries are always crowded

Saudi Arabia:
– children don’t read (?)
– men rarely read…..however, women treasure books like they would jewelry
– self-help
– novels
– literature
– they prefer to buy new books, then they donate them to the library

I would like to thank Mary Daniel for the thought provoking material.  I know that I read a variety of different books and listen to still others from biographies to science fiction to travel writing to romance and mysteries. Has my reading been influenced the variety of different places I have lived?

What do you read? Or do you read for pleasure?

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