On Wednesday, January 20th, the SLAIS chapter of the SLA hosted a professional panel discussion on Convergence: Special Librarian Roles in Libraries, Archives and Museums. It featured a mix of research librarians and archivists from the commercial, public and legal sectors. On the panel, we had (pictured, from left to right):
- Taryn Day, the Sample Librarian and Archivist for lululemon athletica, an international athletic apparel company founded in Vancouver;
- Bronwyn Guiton, a Research Librarian at Lawson Lundell LLP, a 3-person
law firm library in downtown Vancouver, and President-Elect of the SLA Western Canada Chapter;
- Carolyn Soltau, a Research Librarian with The Province and Vancouver Sun, a contract Reference Librarian at Douglas College and Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and Vancouver Director of the SLA Western Canada Chapter;
- Kristy Waller, a Media Archivist at the Western Front, an artist-run
centre, and a part-time auxiliary archivist at the City of Vancouver Archives;
- Jana Bühlmann, a senior project archivist at Libraries and Archives Canada (LAC), a federal institution that acquires, preserves and makes Canada’s documentary heritage accessible.
Our panellists were given various questions about aspects of their job, the information field and some thoughts on how best SLAISers can utilise their time at UBC’s iSchool.
What do you like most about your role?
Taryn Day (TD) – the ability to try anything. Lululemon works under the ethos of asking for forgiveness rather than asking for permission.
Bronwyn Guiton (BG) – prefers working with lawyers because their information needs are more honed than those of the public.
Carolyn Soltau (CS) – most enjoys the fact that the media sector is ever-changing as is her role. Her role touches on private investigating, photo-archiving and researching for reporters. The sector changes in the way it does because its prime source of revenue, advertising, is so unstable.
Kristy Waller (KW) – she finds the preservation process of audio-visual material satisfying in that it helps future generations to access the digitised material while the original remains protected.
Jana Buhlmann (JB) – the bureaucracy. She enjoys the problem-solving element in working with records and bringing Libraries and Archives Canada (LAC) closer to the public. Public servants care about what they do.
What did you learn most from your time at the iSchool?
BG – do professional experience in an area that you are interested in. BG had taken the legal information sources and services class. However, BG pointed out that LLP only required her training on that class for the first five minutes of her role there.
CS – focused on aptitude and learning to get on with an array of personalities. Join professional associations in order to build networks. She added that her Co-op experience was most helpful.
JB – applied experience over and above experience from the course work is a must. You are interviewing the job just as much as the employer is interviewing you.
In what ways is your field changing?
BG – the library sector is changing its attitude positively towards ebooks. The cost of storing them is cheaper than it is for storing print resources.
CS – the media sector remains ambivalent to librarians. At Vancouver Sun, the librarians were lucky to have been unionised. That way, they became embedded with the Vancouver Sun’s office.
KW – there has been a spike in interest in archives and what they can offer librarians.
What are the benefits of bringing together the work of professionals from different backgrounds?
TD – Taryn is the only librarian at Lululemon. She alone manages five libraries for each process: trim, fabric and books. The library also functions as an archive where she receives 75-100 requests per day from all quarters of the business. It is often more critical to deal with the business requests first before those from the design department.
CS – Carolyn is part of a staff of twelve people. Even so, the archival team is still required to keep a tight rein on its resources. The team has had to make tough choices in the past whenever human resources have become limited.
JB – LAC is in the process of fusing various elements at around the same time: libraries with archives, private records with government records. At present, the processes are separate. LAC is working towards the concept of a national presence and to develop a proactive relationship with the publishing sector.
Questions about specific issues
CS – the media sector has come to treat digitisation as an efficient means to recover business costs. The corporate media operates under business imperatives rather than public imperatives. Carolyn then took the opportunity to promote a data visualisation workshop at Langara College on April 13.
TD – she was never keen on IT courses. When she took classes on Microsoft Access during her librarianship studies. She was sceptical that her experience on that application was strong enough for Lululemon’s requirements. However, she found that Lululemon was basing its archive on a single spreadsheet. So, she created a database on Access for them. In 2017, Lululemon will open an IT department. The message is that you can be surprised just how much of a skills shortfall some organisations have.
KW – when she was digitising video tapes, she applied for a grant from the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre for a small digitisation centre. It is easier to win grants for projects than for the wage bill.
KW – Western Front did not have many provisions for security issues. So much so, they considered positioning some plants in the office in such a way as to deter burglars.
JB – LAC has a regional-based office, in Burnaby. Facilitating access to its digital resources to the public can bring about security issues.
CS – there needs to be a partnership between media professionals and IT for corporate information security. The Province and Vancouver Sun had been archiving its video content in step with IT requirements. The security provisions for this process have become more critical since the launching of the digital revolution.
In all, this was a very successful event and it was good to hear so many interesting experiences and insights.