A common complaint in library school was the amount of group work that was required. The GIF posted above and found on Librarian Problems is hilarious to anyone and everyone who has gone through this experience. Many of the MLIS students in my cohort at McGill including myself were coming from a Humanities BA where marks were reliant on individual work in essays and exams. It was an especially huge learning curve because for all of our first-year mandatory courses there were at least two group projects. The atmosphere when a group project was announced was usually panic-stricken as the majority of librarians are introverts and in first semester we were essentially partnering up with strangers. As an extrovert, I was perhaps less stressed than my fellow students, I mean, I figured that since all potential group partners had been accepted into the Masters program I could only assume that we were all fairly intelligent studious people. In retrospect, I was generally lucky to have “good groups”. Around me I could see people who took group work to the extreme forcing their fellow group members to spend hours longer than required on projects in the attempt of attaining a perfect assignment. Other group members could go AWOL without notice leaving their groups in the lurch. The only bad experience that I had in a group (that will not be named to protect the innocent) seemed so disastrous at the time but 5 years later I brush it off knowing what it taught me in diplomacy and the importance of knowing when it’s time to cut your losses. Now as the only librarian in my schools I honestly miss the group dynamic. I miss having other librarians to bounce ideas off or to work collaboratively on a library-focused project. The skills that I learned in group work are still there and I made some good friends during these projects. So much that I was tagged 3 years after graduation in a friend’s Facebook post about that featured this GIF making fun of our shared experience of group work. If you are in library school now, don’t worry, you get through the group projects and to those who clench up looking back upon those assignments, what was your best or your worst group experience? Do you ever talk to those people anymore or have they developed into lifelong friends?
Being on the selection committee of a literary prize is something that has always interested me. Perhaps what appealed to me was the power trip of having my opinion count for so much (pretentious? Yes, I know). The best way to remove pretension from book awards is having them be truly chosen by readers of a larger audience. The Ontario Library Association has an excellent example of a readers’ choice Book Award for young people called “the Forest of Reading”. The Forest of Reading is broken down into different categories (the names of different tress) in terms of reading level and features Canadian authors.
Last February when I was attending the OLA’s SuperConference, I kept running into Céline Marcoux-Hamade, the head of French Services at the Toronto Public Library (probably my dream job!). She was impressed with my involvement in the conference (I think her words were that I was young and energetic) and so she invited me to join the selection committee for the French categories of the Forest of Reading. The French books are read by French Immersion and Francophone children alike and there is Le Prix Peuplier (Picture books), le Prix Tamarac Express (easy novels) and le Prix Tamarac (novels). Our job on the selection committee was to read during the spring all of the recently published books submitted by publishers (over a hundred titles) and then collectively determine which books would become the final ten nominated finalists for each category. It is now in the fall and winter that children all over the province will read the 10 nominated titles in order to vote on their favourite title. Province-wide, the votes are tallied up and the winner is determined in the spring.
I was ecstatic at the prospect of reading so many new children’s literature titles. When I opened the first delivery of books, I was like a child at Christmas but as the months went on and the boxes kept coming, the books piled up and I definitely started questioning my commitment. At one point I had to rebel for a month and read only adult fiction. The committee members were spread across the province and it helped a lot that we were sharing our opinions on a forum on the OLA website. I was reassured when others shared my opinions on certain titles and surprised when others praised books that I thought were mediocre or dismissed titles that I had really enjoyed. Through the whole process we were very focused on “What will the kids like?”. We were after all selecting books that would be read throughout the province by kids from kindergarten to grade 6. It was important that I read the books through the eyes of a child. Since I continue to love children’s literature and I work with kids every day, I thought that this would not be that challenging but sometimes I really needed to keep my adult expectations in check. In the end the 10 titles for the three French categories were selected and although I must admit that I do not agree 100% with some of the nominated titles (I think some “better” books got left off the lists) that is the result of working collaboratively with a committee.
I am excited to introduce these titles to the kids in my two libraries and to see all of my hard reading pay off when they get passionate about the book that should win and hopefully in the process they will become aware of Canadian authors who they can continue to read after the contest is over. I am already organizing a school visit for Mireille Messier, one of my favourite children’s authors, who visited my library in New Brunswick and whose book Partout Charlotte is nominated for the Prix Peuplier!
I strongly encourage those passionate about promoting reading to get involved in a selection committee like the Forest of Reading. I recently went to a presentation presenting “new titles” and I found that I had already read them all! For once in my life, I’m ahead of the curve!
Since I began my new position in a school library last fall, I have been excited to find any professional opportunities related to school librarianship. Last fall, I saw that the CLA made a call for volunteers interested in various advisory committees:
- Copyright Advisory Committee
- Information Policy Advisory Committee
- Intellectual Freedom Advisory Committee
- Library Services for People with Print‐Disabilities Advisory Committee
- School Libraries Advisory Committee
Despite many Canadian librarians being rather jaded with the CLA of late, no one can deny that one of the CLA’s most important functions as a national association is its role in advocacy. People recognize the need for a strong national voice on issues essential to the values of librarianship such as intellectual freedom and copyright. If Canadian librarians cannot present a united front to policy makers to provide information and influence them on these important issues then who will? And if it is not the CLA influencing policy makers, then there is no guarantee that those who are share our librarianship values. As I’ve mentioned I think that it is essential that librarians get involved on a larger scale in issues that they are passionate about. Anyone who is passionate about the issues covered by the advisory committees should definitely look into joining these committees for the next term.
I was impressed that such a CLA advisory committee would exist for school libraries. I submitted an application to the CLA to volunteer my time on this committee and I was pleased when my application was accepted and I was named a member of the CLA School Libraries Advisory Committee for 2012-2013. After a bit of a slow start, we had our first teleconference last week. It’s extremely interesting to be put on a committee with people from across the country with different backgrounds and levels of experience. I have to admit that I felt a bit overwhelmed; certain names of people and acronyms of associations were mentioned as if we all already knew about them but were unfamiliar to me. I was sitting at my laptop simultaneously listening to the conversation and looking up groups/websites as they were mentioned. Although I am extremely passionate about school libraries and the policies that need to be put into place and the advocacy that needs to be done, I realized that my passion can only carry me so far. I really need to read up on a lot on the actions already being carried out by various organizations (provincially, nationally and internationally) and the evidence-based research that has been conducted in this field.
As a committee we are still discussing what our specific course of action will be. The instruction we’ve received from the CLA is basically our terms of reference :
Terms of Reference for CLA School Libraries Advisory Committee
- To inform and support CLA responses to media coverage of school library issues.
- To educate the Canadian public about the role of school libraries and their professional staffing.
- To contribute to the continuous development of standards for school libraries and professional roles.
You can visit the CLA Committees webpage to find out more about the various CLA committees and opportunities to get involved. If you are interested in offering your help to these committees, the contact information of the committee members is listed on the sites.