Happy Public Library Week! To all librarians who work in public libraries, thank you for improving the quality of life of the people in your communities through your services, resources, events, and smiles. To the people who haven’t been to their public library in awhile, head down to your local branch and discover cool and interesting activities that are being organized this week to celebrate public libraries. For example, Westmount Public Library is holding special events all week for diverse interests. Check them out! Westmount Public Library Special Events
Those who read my previous post know that I attended this fall’s first CLA Montreal Chapter’s “Salon des Bibliothécaire”. This event was both fun and educational and as I learn more about new and interesting possibilities in librarianship, like virtual reference, it reinforced my belief that I’m entering the right career.
There was a large group of librarians from different types of libraries; some had experience doing virtual reference and others were there to learn. We divided up into smaller groups and each group was assigned an “expert” in virtual reference. My expert worked for five years for a company that provided virtual reference internationally. He worked from home and had so many interesting stories to tell us of his experiences. One of his comments was that on virtual reference people tend to have less inhibitions, like teenagers asking questions about sex, or a mistress seeking divorce advice for her boyfriend who refuses to leave his wife. Apparently there is a fine line between being a librarian and being an advice counselor. I learned a lot from these stories on how to address the touchy questions that librarians are bound to encounter whether they are asked through technology or face to face. Obviously these types of questions do not make up the majority of enquiries, but hearing about them adds to the excitement of being a librarian, knowing that each day will be different and to always expect the unexpected.
I am looking forward to the next CLA Montreal Chapter’s “Salon des Bibliothécaires”. Meeting with librarians and hearing about a variety of topics is a fantastic way to keep my motivational level high in my last year of school. These meetings confirm that I’ll soon be surrounded by interesting colleagues and that my work will stimulate me intellectually as it will always keep me on my toes because there will always be new things to learn.
This evening I will be attending the CLA Montreal Chapter’s kick-off of their series “Salon des bibliothécaires”. This title is a play on the traditional “Salons littéraires” that thrived in the 17th and 18th centuries. At the time, the aristocrats, being rich and not having to work, could spend their time developing themselves intellectually, socially, politically, and culturally. The “salons” provided an opportunity for these elitists to discuss and amuse each other with their knowledge of various subjects. The people attending these salons, as one can imagine, were usually very pretentious and so I am reassured that tonight’s discussion on Virtual Reference will be led in part by Amy Buckland, one of the least pretentious people that I know.
I do not necessarily have any expectations for this evening. Although I’m curious as to whether any diversity of thought will present itself in a group of like-minded, highly educated professionals discussing a topic of which they are all passionate. I will probably simply sit back and enjoy the discussion knowing that my practical knowledge of virtual reference is minimal and that this is an excellent opportunity for me to learn from practicing librarians.
This semester I have been accepted by a faculty committee to conduct a 6-credit research project. The School of Information Studies at McGill does not require any research for its Masters program and apparently it is rare that students choose to do independent research despite it being offered. I think that it is disappointing that more students are not interested in completing research on a particular topic that interests them. Last year, my Intro to Research Methods professor, Catherine Guastavino, made a lasting impression on me during a speech on the importance of research in librarianship. She argued that it is research that allows practitioners to better understand certain phenomena in libraries as well as identify potential methods for improvement.
I have had no experience conducting research unless you count my grade 7 science project on “What Stains are the Hardest to Remove?”. However, I am passionate about many topics that I feel are not properly addressed in library school. I decided that one poorly addressed topic of growing importance in libraries is the service offered to visually impaired persons. Approximately 816,250 (3.2%) of Canadians aged 15 and older reported having some type of seeing limitation. This should be of great concern to librarians since visually impaired users are the group that requires the most alternatives to traditional print. However, less than 5% of published Canadian material is available in formats accessible to this user-group. The gravity of this problem will escalate steadily within the next 10 years as the generation of the baby boomers ages, therefore, increasing the number of persons suffering from diseases associated with loss of vision such as age-related macular degeneration.
While doing my preliminary lit review and through conversations with librarians, I have come to the conclusion that there have been a lot of improvements recently to accessibility such as databases like Ebsco creating specific platforms for visually impaired users and the availability of audio books such as Playaways. However, I have developed the hypothesis that librarians lack the knowledge of these improved resources as well as the knowledge of how to appropriately address this user-group which consequently prevents the librarians from offering quality service. My research project over the next 7 months will attempt to explore whether librarians are able to identify resources relevant to serving users who are visually impaired as well as if they are aware of the appropriate behaviour and attitudes to adopt when dealing with this user-group. Wish me luck and if you know of any references that might be relevant to this topic I would appreciate hearing from you!