Over the weekend of July 10-13 I visited my family’s cottage in Gatineau, Quebec. Since I only work part-time and have Mondays off, I decided that it would be a good time to visit Ottawa’s regional libraries that are of interest to me. I’m definitely attracted to Government Information centres and the kind of services they provide, and with the help of my Mother’s contacts (btw, I love you Mom!), was able to meet with several individuals who work at the Library & Archives of Canada (LAC). These contacts work at the Preservation Centre in Gatineau, and the LAC Main Building on Wellington St. downtown Ottawa. Being practically unemployed, I’m beginning to realise and take advantage of opportunities for informational interviewing. I’ve never been a very avid or natural “networker”, as I felt shy or silly doing it, I worked so much while in school and was always busy, and to be frank, I didn’t think it was important to start doing while in school (bad mistake). Now that I have more free time, I’m learning the importance (professional development-wise) and the personal significance/satisfaction that informational interviewing can create. It’s very interesting to meet individuals who work and thrive in the environments where you have interests, and that you have been educated and trained to enter. The first contact that I met is named Bruce Walton, the director of the digitization division of the Preservation Centre in Gatineau (image below).
Bruce gave me a tour of the very impressive facility where roughly 70 employees work on preserving archival materials in a variety of formats. To my surprise, much of this work involved digitization initiatives using both scanning and photographic technologies. I had presumed that most “preservation” work involved more tedious and less interesting tasks (i.e. practices such as re-binding, etc., not really my thing..). Needless to say, I was thoroughly and increasingly impressed with what I was shown by Bruce and his colleagues.
Next I drove 20 minutes or so to the main building of LAC, located in downtown Ottawa. I met with Ian McDonald, a reference librarian and Government and Law Specialist. He was very kind and I greatly enjoyed meeting with him. We had lunch in the cafeteria, and he spoke candidly about his professional career; opponents, achievements, obstacles, etc. For 25 years, Ian worked at the Library of Parliament (LoP) as a reference librarian in various roles. I told Ian that as a child I visited the LoP with my family, and I remember telling my mother that one day I wanted to work in that library. (If you ever get a chance to visit the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, you muuusst visit the library. It’s an incredible space! Here are some photos). Later, Ian and I chatted more about the kinds of work that he does on a day-to-day basis. He talked about the pleasures and advantages of working in a subject-specific library or specialized research collection. I too feel that this kind of subject specialization is one of the major strengths that librarians can provide in a research and reference setting. Without really knowing your collection (its strengths, scope, areas for improvement, best access points, etc.), a librarian’s job in the dissemination of information is greatly unfulfilled. While I worked with the Data, Map, & Government Information Services reference desk at the Robarts library, I learned very quickly that the ability to provide quick and accurate reference help was something which would really improve my abilities as a reference librarian. Government documents are often tricky and difficult to manoeuvre, and knowing their organiational secrets (and the CODOC classification system…) are invaluable skills! So ANYWAY, back to Ian and the LAC. Overall it was a great encounter and I really enjoyed speaking with a seasoned professional in the field of government libraries.