“Home” for the Holidays

Ho ho ho, it’s Christmas Eve day!

I’m Presently in Fredericton, New Brunswick, spending time with my Mother over the Holidays. She moved here in January 2009 from my childhood home in Oshawa (A.K.A., The ‘Shwa’).

It was a bit of a pleasant shock to land at the airport and suddenly be immersed into a Winter Wonderland. There has been little to no snow in Toronto, contributing to my Scrooge-like attitude, but upon entering this snowy paradise, I am pumped for Yuletide traditions!

Spending the holidays in New Brunswick for the first time also makes me feel reflective and observant about my new “home-base” in the Maritimes. So on that note, Here Are A Few of My Favourite Things… about Fredericton:

  • City-wide Wireless Internet:
    Aptly called the “Fred-eZone“, the Municipality of Fredericton provides free Wi-Fi to its residents and visitors! What a marvelous Gift!
  • Fredericton reminds me of a smaller Ottawa:
    Being the capital city of the Province, Fredericton is dabbled with Provincial headquarters, historic buildings, and a certain feel that I find is similar to Ottawa… lots of lights downtown, and a lot of funding for parks, infrastructure, etc. It’s just a really nice place to be!
  • University of New Brunswick (UNB) & St. Thomas University:
    Atop the hill of Fredericton are the campuses  of UNB and St. Thomas University. I definitely have a thing for small primarily-undergraduate universities, so I have an appreciation and love for visiting campuses of these types of institutions. The buildings and campuses tend to be quaint, old, and historic, and they remind me of my own academic experiences at Acadia. They also have gorgeous academic libraries and research centres!
  • Friendliness:
    It’s not just a stereotype about the Maritimes… it is actually true! I studied at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia for four years, and my combined experiences of being in the Atlantic Provinces (including Newfoundland) has demonstrated to me that people here are genuinely, proportionately nicer and more considerate than city-dwellers of Ontario. No offense intended, but it’s been my objective observation for years, and I’m continuously reminded of this each time I visit the Maritimes. It’s nice to say “Hi” to a stranger in the grocery store, or converse with a friendly passer-by on the street. It is refreshing and puts a smile on your face!

I leave you now with the trailer for my favourite Christmas movie of all time: A Christmas Story (1983). Happy Holidays!!!

New York Public Library

Zack at the NYPL

Recently I took a trip to New York City. I’d never been, and was really excited to experience “the Big Apple.” I didn’t have a lot on my schedule in terms of things to see, or places to go… I much prefer to wander neighbourhoods and people watch.  A few highlights of my trip were seeing some Broadway shows (West Side Story & Hair… both are AMAZING), hanging out in Central Park, visiting Brooklyn, the Meatpacking District and the High Line, and of course, the New York Public Library!

I had never been to the NYPL, and through the combination of my personal interest in libraries, and the “screen presence” of the New York Public Library in movies (e.g. Ghostbusters, The Day After Tomorrow, Sex and the City, etc.), I simply had to take a tour!

I was amazed to learn that the main branch of the NYPL is largely a reference (i.e. non-circulating) and research-focused library! (This contradicts the scene in SATC the movie when Carrie Bradshaw leaves the library with a book she’d borrowed [!!!])… But back to the point of this blog entry… I was mostly interested in learning about the collection, library services, some history, and to marvel at the beauty and majestic presence of the building. I love libraries.

The most interesting thing that I learned on our tour was that the majority of the stacks of the main branch are closed to the public. Public users are required to locate items using OPAC machines or the online catalogue, then write down each title on a small piece of paper to be submitted to the staff at the retrievals desk access point. (Here comes the craziest part..) THEN, staff members roll up the piece of paper containing the bibliographic information and call number and place the request in a tube, where the request is sent using pneumatic tube technology to the stacks area. Once the request has been received (on the stacks floors below the reference area), a staff member finds the requested materials to be delivered back to the reference area. Our tour guide told us that this process takes roughly 20 minutes (which, is pretty darn good, I’d say!). This system is something I’d only seen in science fiction, and I was surprised to learn of its success in a library environment. You can read more about this technology in this New York Times article.

Unfortunately we lost our tour group during a tour of the reference room, because we were snapping photographs and admiring the collection on our own. We eventually caught up with the group (which had dwindled in numbers, significantly), just in time to visit the gift shop on the main floor. Our guide was so kind, she gave us coupons for %15 percent off our purchase! I bought a mug : )

Reference questions at NYPL

Visit to Library & Archives Canada!

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).

Library and Archives Canada Preservation Centre

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.

The sculpture outside LAC entrance

The sculpture outside LAC entrance