LTAS Member Spotlight : Heather Duff

Introducing Heather! Some of you may recognize her name from the wonderful Careers emails, or are familiar with her through Vancouver Chapter events.

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Member Spotlight

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.

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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

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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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