Tag Archives: Library and information science

Librarianship and semi-Professionals: De-professionalization or middle management promotion?

So over the last two years I have seen increased discussion online at conferences and in classes (when I was still in school) about semi-professionals in libraries. Many librarians or people who are in the process of becoming MLIS/MLS accredited argue that semi-professionals are stealing jobs and cheapening our degree; at the same time they argue employers are looking for cheaper labour as budgets become tighter and funding is drying up. The other side of that coin is semi-professionals are arguing that MLIS grads are applying for semi-professional work that is making it hard for them to find work…blaming librarians for crowding in on their jobs. The problem is not that simple, but I would like to open up a discussion about it in 1000 words or less.

Focusing more on the librarian side of the coin. Over the years what used to be work done by librarians is now becoming (or has become) the area of work given to college Library Technician graduates. Many positions posted for cataloguing, reference work, circulation, etc. does not require a Master’s degree. This work was once the realm of master’s (or previously Bachelor’s) degree in Library Sciences. So because Library techs are now the “cheaper” option for many libraries they have taken on the grunt work of librarianship in the past, and are being trained to do it.

In Library School I had 1 semester class on reference services, and one semester class on cataloguing. That was it. I got one day (maybe 2 in a week) on each type of cataloguing: MArc 21, AACR2, Dewey, Library of Congress, etc. This compared to a friend of mine who went through the Library technician course whom recieved a class devoted to dewey, a class devoted to Library or Congress, etc. Full 8 week courses devoted to types of cataloguing. This is just one example of where the Library technician program was given ground work duties, compared to my MLIS.

So what do they teach in an MLIS? It really varies dependant on the program. My own program focused more on Technology, and management based skills. I took a reference class, I had a cataloguing class, I took some technology classes. The core classes focused on giving you the basics. So I learned how to generally do AACR2, Dewey, and Library of Congress. This was taught so that one day I would be able to oversee someone else doing it, and know what they were doing/offer assistance/training/guidance.

Probably the best courses I took were my Management course, which at the time I thought was a waste of time, issues in librarianship, and my Special Libraries course. All three focused on project management, team building, types of volunteers/employees and issues in real world librarianship. They were all basically priming us for middle management issues: how to deal with different demographics involving employees/volunteers, how to make a proposal to refresh/build a new library, are libraries neautral, etc.

It wasn’t just the way things were taught in school, but a few professors argued it was the future of librarianship. There was a meeting between faculty and students, this annual meeting allowed students to voice concerns or opinions on the program. Student concern was pretty central on the topic of practical skills. The response we got was one that we didn’t want to here. We basically got told that the landscape of librarianship was changing. The librarians of the past who stamped books, catalogued the magazines, and answered reference questions had gone the way of the card catalogue. We were told that the skills librarians needed were to act as middle managers for those people who chose to go the library technician route. Next question…

We weren’t too thrilled about that answer but it got me thinking. This allows librarians to move up in the theoretical corporate ladder in libraries. So instead of having a long chain that starts at Library Page and goes up to Library CEO, we start at middle management. This may be a dreamy eyed approach, as many others see it as cutthroat and driving wages down by allowing cheaper, less professionalized people do the work, but as I see it the wages were gonna go down regardless, as it has in all other professions as well. This allows Librarians to try to maintain some form of medium waged salary in a professional field that we love. Regardless of what you think of all this, the professors were right about one thing. It is the future of librarianship, whether you like it or not. You have just got to make the best of a not so great situation.


The Future of Reference Material in Public Libraries

In recent weeks I have heard rumblings on various boards about the Reference sections. Reference material in many area’s of the world are becoming extinct. It would seem that though the book has survived the E-book and Audio book trends, Reference material may not, particularly in the public library setting.

Many libraries are culling their reference section and turning to digital offerings from vendors such as Ebsco, Webster, and Encyclopedia Britannica. With Reference being what it is can it survive in the same way the book has survived?

I do not believe so. I think that reference being general knowledge, most of this is available online. When someone has a question about a generic topic the first resource they seek are not the library, but the internet. Online, general knowledge is freely available from one of the many search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.) or from Wikipedia. Why would anyone go to a library to pick up a huge tome to look up general information? When was the last time you looked up something in a dictionary instead of googling it/checking Dictionary.com?

People may argue, what about specialize generalist information, like Medical dictionary or special interest books suc as the encyclopedia of Middle Earth, Bird Watchers encyclopedia or the Guide to Neo-Paganism.? Well these may be still sought out as special interest sources, but in a public library? Let us look at the Medical Dictionary.

With the medical dictionary we may consider that a great tool and guide to have. This may be true for some, but with the cost of updating medical information every 3-5 years it can get costly. The budgets of public libraries are not keeping up with the cost of reference material. Also that information is generally available online through Pubmed or Webmd, one would need to be purchased digitally, but is updated without much effort from the library, while the other is freely available online.

So now what about the special interests such as Encyclopedia of Middle – Earth or Guide to Neo-Paganism. Both these types of special interest books are not going to change much in 5,10, or 15 years, so they may be able to stay on the shelf a bit longer, without them being replaced. The problem is that spending money in a public library on stuff that is readily available through a simple google search just might not pass mustard with your library board.

At my library I am struggling with that question of keeping it, updating it or tossing it. Some people may think this is a no brainer, but in a small library do I keep the encyclopedia on Canada from 1989 or the Wordsworth dictionary? Do I ditch the books on general history that have not gone out in 15 years or do I minimize the collection to special interest/specific generalities like the Encyclopedia of Home Remedies. Whats a budget strapped public librarian to do?


Attawapiskat..how can libraries/books help?

In Northern Ontario there is currently a suicide crisis going on. In the small first nations community of Attawapiskat there are young adults taking their own live or making pacts to do so in groups. I am of the opinion that libraries and people with used books could save lives and would love to see more libraries come together and help these troubled teens.

I had a bit of a troubled teen life myself, but nothing compared to what these kids are going through. I got through it with good family, friends, and books. I spent much of my time in high school reading. I found it to be a way to escape whatever was bothering me at the time and believe it could be helpful to others in a situation like what is going on up north.

I propose anyone reading this please contact your library about sending a book (or five) to Attawapiskat. If a lot of people and libraries did this we could build a sort of library/book exchange up there and give these kids something to keep them occupied, encourage them to read, and possibly find hope in the pages of a novel.

Libraries can save lives…books can be the answer…or inspiration for children to continue to fight the sense of hopelessness and lonelyness that many people suffer through. I urge people to reach out to these kids and pay that old book forward…it brought joy and hope to you once, let it continue to work its magic on others.

The CLA is gone….

As of yesterday, Jan 27th, 2016 the Canadian Library Association (CLA) is no more. This comes at a time when many people in the Canadian Library landscape had been repeatedly questioning the relevance of the organization. I am not completely unaffected by it’s passing. I served in a student group that was an extension of the organization and it will be missed. Today is not a time for mourning; it is a time for renewal.

For many years the CLA has served as the voice of libraries across the country. It was imagined to be the Canadian equivalent to the American Library Association. This was never truly realized. The Canadian Library association faced many criticisms over the years, some warranted and some unwarranted, these criticisms and many shortcomings were what lead to its demise.

The CLA as a National voice

The CLA was envisioned to be a National voice for libraries and its core members: Library workers. It never was a national voice for its members and faltered in meeting up to those expectations. It routinely sided with libraries in dispute with their workers and never became the Canadian vision of National voice of Canada that it could have been.

The CLA represented Libraries but not Librarians

The CLA was accused repeatedly of representing the interests of libraries, but not those who worked in libraries. This was disheartening to many, as the organization alienated itself from the core of its membership. The people that were most likely to join a national library association were those who worked in the libraries. With the CLA clearly not representing the work force, their numbers dwindled as their core supporters found other more regional organizations that would support them.

The CLA could not compete with Provincial Library associations

Many people who worked in libraries were already part of smaller organizations that were provincial or regionally centralized. These organizations were more accepting of representing the needs of their library workforce. By doing this they overshadowed the CLA and practically made it obsolete.

The Future – Federation of Library Associations in Canada (CLA, web)

A new proposal is in the works, and it has promise. the Regional and Provincial organizations have gained strength; it has been proposed that a Federation of Library Associations replace the ailing CLA. Instead of having a separate organization oversee the nations information needs, a union of the regional and provincial organizations will help to ensure Canadian interests in Library and information field are met. This will work only if all regions of Canada are represented. The proposal suggests regional members that join will have a voice. This is a great idea, but what happens if one group decides to strike it on their own? They will not have a national voice, and neither will Canada, as the Nation as a whole has to be fully represented….or this new Federation may falter before it gets off the starting line.

I suggest that all members of the Canadian Library landscape petition your local associations to join the federation and help build a strong National Library Federation that we can be proud of and that is representative of all of Canada. This is not the end, but the beginning of a new and exciting future.


CLA – http://cla.ca/wp-content/uploads/Proposal_Cdn_federation_library_associations_Final_2015_12_18_EN.pdf

The Wage gap? – Library edition

There are many people who still believe in the wage gap. That women make less money than men doing the same work. While this may be true on a general level, I would like to look at it in libraries and on a more specific level.

In libraries the wage gap or low income of library workers/librarians is not because you are a woman or I am a man. It is caused by past ideas on male and female roles. It has nothing to do with you or me. A library job was once considered clerical work, which included librarianship. Library jobs were paid out as clerical work to women who were thought to be better suited to the job. Unfortunately in the 21st century the increase in pay for library workers has not gone up exponentially to make up for the short sightedness and shortcomings of past judgements.

So the wage gap has nothing to do with your sex, it has to do with what the wage for our job was 50 years ago. Because Librarianship, like secretaries and other professions, were considered lady like the wage did not go up for men either. I as a man make the same starting wage as the previous female librarian who came before me. If the wage gap were true, I would be making significantly more because I am a man, but this isn’t true.

The wage gap is a generality and there are many factors that go into creating that stat: Longer hours, jobs that women are likely to take or are still considered feminine: like librarianship. “Career choice is another factor. Research in 2013 by Anthony Carnevale, a Georgetown University economist, shows that women flock to college majors that lead to lower-paying careers.[Wallstreet Journal, 2015].

The low paying jobs in librarianship are more to do with economics than gender. If people want to complain about the pay they receive as a library worker they should really consider the situation they and their employer are in, instead of crying wolf to the overall statistic slated under “wage gap”. Be proactive instead of complaining about a large number you can’t control. Change starts at the local level…so maybe start with what is right in front of you. I know I will.



Chow, Lisa. “Why Women (Like Me) Choose Lower-Paying Jobs”http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2013/09/11/220748057/why-women-like-me-choose-lower-paying-jobs, Sept 11, 201

Wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-wage-gap-myth-that-wont-die-1443654408, Sept 30, 2015




Genealogy at the Library

Libraries are so much more than books these days. Libraries are culture centers and one group of culture seekers that frequent libraries (particularly public libraries) are family genealogists. These people are often seeking help and information in both digital and personal forms. This is how a library can help a amateur genealogist or family historian.

The Librarian

So Librarians are professionally trained to help you find all kinds of information. This goes beyond finding the latest Faye Kellerman novel. Librarians are usually specialists who hold a bachelors degree in something. The most common bachelor’s degrees I have come across are  English, History and other social sciences majors. The background in a social science (regardless of type) allows us to help conduct research and find relevant information. I myself have a degree in History from Western University.

When combining the social sciences background with a Library sciences background we begin to compound our knowledge. Librarians are specialists in navigating the internet. Some of the classes I took in Library school can be of great assistance when looking for family history or genealogical files. I have taken classes on Government Information, Database Searching, and Archival studies. What all this means is a librarian is very well equipped to help guide you in your search. This does not only apply to me but all librarians.

The Library – Physical

Many libraries have genealogical sections in their library. This will sometimes include archival records, books and guides on the how to of genealogy or local history books. At the Point Alexander branch of the Laurentian Hills Library I have taken it upon myself to rebuild our genealogical section of books. Most the titles we had had been neglected for a few years and I am in the process of restoring that section of the library. Currently there are 3 titles in the genealogical section. One is a Beginner’s Guide to Online Genealogy. This is a great resource for those just delving into online resources and whom are unsure what is available and where to find good information. Another resource is Family Photo Detective by Maureen Taylor. This is a newer book that also looks at how to find genealogical clues in old photographs. The third book is an older book from 2004 that has been kept for its staying relevance – “Digitizing your Family History” a guide to maintaining family heirlooms and other relevant documents so that future genealogists may enjoy them.

We also carry a good selection of local history books. These local history books can be a general guide to finding more about the places your family has been and can sometimes give insight into the person you are looking at in  your family tree. We carry several local history books/series and magazines including: Carol Bennett’s series of books about the Ottawa Valley which includes Peter Robinson’s Settlers, The Lanark Society Settler’s, and Eganville. We also have Renfrew County People and Places, as well as Tamarack Magazine: a history of the Valley and Your Genealogy magazine a monthly publication that is a great guide for genealogists.

These are just current offerings. On back order for the new year I plan on expanding the Genealogical offering’s including: Online Genealogy for Dummies, Genealogy Ontario: Searching the Records and Who Do You Think You Are: The Genealogy Handbook.

The Library – Digital:

So now for the good stuff. Most of the offerings in the library are the how, I’m going to talk about resources. Many people are under the assumption that everything is online now. This is an incorrect assumption. Only %2 of human knowledge is available online. In the case of genealogy it may be slightly higher. Online genealogy makes it easier for the family genealogist to just sit at home in front of a computer and do genealogical research. Like everything online there are good places and bad places to look…I’m going to focus on the good resources.

Ancestry.com/.ca/library edition – The Laurentian Hills public Library subscribes to Ancestry.com library edition. It is a collection of most of the best parts of Ancestry.com/.ca without you having to shell out money to use it. All you need is a library card. Ancestry.com as off June 2014, reported having access to approximately 16 billion historical records. User-submissions included more than 70 million family trees and subscribers have added more than 200 million photographs, scanned documents and written stories.

Family Search – Family Search.org is a free to use genealogical resource. Familysearch.org is the genealogical arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). It is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch maintains a collection of records, resources, and services designed to help people learn more about their family history.

Library & Archives Canada – Library & Archives Canada is Canada’s Archive. It has many records recently uploaded online and freely available including Birth records, death records, immigration and military records. All of this is available through the Genealogy and Family history section of the site. You can also peruse the site by type of record your looking for such as Home Children and Old Census Records.

Canadagenweb.org – this is a volunteer database of Cemeteries across Canada. You can find records for over 18,000 cemeteries. It is a great resource if you are looking for a family plot. It includes gravestone pictures, and markings.

Torontopubliclibrary.com – The Toronto Public Library has a great resource of information on genealogy and local history. They have a section called digital archive. In here you can find a vast resource of documents under the genealogy and family history link. In this section you can find a guide to Census records, as well as local Toronto Local history collection as well as guides to Aboriginal genealogy, Irish and British Genealogy, Jewish Genealogy, Immigration Records, Adoption Records, Land Records and more. This is not just for Toronto many of these records are Canada wide inclusive.

Libraries are places of knowledge and community and can serve the genealogical community quite well. There is so much that can be done with this aspect of librarianship that I believe every library should have something ready for when the local family historian steps into the library. be it a small up to date physical collection or large databases and knowledge for the family historian to access. We are guardians of history and knowledge, we should be prepared not only to preserve it, but distribute it to our respected communities.

Thoughts after 4 weeks

So four weeks have passed since my first class at the UWO (University of Western Ontario) MLIS (Masters in Library and Information Sciences) program and a few words of wisdom for those who may be starting the program. First of all, don’t let the pace of the program get you down; four weeks in and already I’m feeling like its passing me by, take the experience in stride one week at a time. The program may seem overwhelming but if you just take it on a weekly basis you’ll find that managing the assignments and readings is much easier than trying to think too far ahead. Second piece of advice is to keep ontop of things. Though I say ‘don’t think too far ahead’, I also have to stress that you don’t wait for the last minute to do things. Take early assignments if you can, and get them done when they are assigned to you. I’ve heard tales of people waiting till the end of the term and thats when things begin to get hectic.

Another thought: Ask for help. I have found that this program is unlike most programs people have done throughout their university career. The assignments are practical and short, though they can sometimes be time consuming. I was lost on one of my assignments and so were a few others, so what I did was booked an appointment with the TA to go over what exactly I was doing, This has saved me time and frustration, if you don’t get the help you need now you will be left for dead and will find yourself struggling for the rest of the term.

Four weeks and already I am discovering alot about myself and others. Enough so to make the attempt to write a blog about it.