Tag Archives: School of Information Studies

Save the planet and your precious time – Recycle stuff!

30 Apr

One evening last week I was busy putting together a presentation for a few grade 7 classes on how to use the Internet effectively for research.  I was definitely under a time crunch as the teacher had asked me with very little notice if I could do a presentation with her classes. Never one to turn down an opportunity to help the students develop their information literacy skills, I accepted.  The only problem was that I was stuck. My ideas weren’t flowing, I was having trouble coming up with an interesting concept for the presentation and I was getting tired and frustrated. That is until I remembered that during my second year of McGill University’s MLIS program I had already put together a presentation for high school students on evaluating websites for my Information Literacy class. Luckily I was able to find the presentation saved on my laptop and to my sheer delight, it was a great presentation! I definitely had to tweak a few things but everything I wanted to share with the kids on establishing the criteria for a good website to use for research was there. Even the examples of websites that I had used a few years ago for my assignment were still relevant. The example of the article on Barack Obama on the website Conservapedia was especially useful in helping the grade 7s understand the difference between websites that present objective vs. subjective information regardless of how “professional” a website might look. Way to go 2010 Amanda!

During library school, students are often asked to “make up” a fictional library or scenario for assignments. My advice to students is to try and take advantage of these types of assignments to prepare material that might actually be of use to you at a future date. So many students simply go through the motions when it comes to completing their assignments. However, if you truly think that your work might serve you in a professional situation then you will put a lot more thought and effort into it! Use your class assignments to create tutorials, information literacy presentations, strategic planning charts, etc. that you can “recycle” when you need them most.

For professionals, I encourage you to take a peek at your old assignments (especially if they are still on your computer). You might be surprised at how well written something is that you wrote while still in school. The whole point of library school is not to get straight As but rather to give us a foundation for our professional careers. So then, with all the things we need to accomplish in a day, aren’t we lucky if our MLIS assignment that we got a A on could also save us time?

Have you ever recycled an assignment for professional use?

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Canada Reads inspires the reader in all of us

7 Feb

Canada Reads is an annual competition where celebrities debate on the “best Canadian novel”. The goal of the Canada Reads debate is to put a spotlight on Canadian literature and, perhaps more importantly, it also ambitiously attempts to get Canadians to read more. It seems of course like a natural reaction for anyone who listens to an hour-long discussion/debate on the merits of a few specific books to then be enticed to go out and read them. The proof that Canada Reads truly does increase the readership of the selected titles is demonstrated by a noticeable increase in their book sales. Bookstores will usually jump on the promotional bandwagon and market these books as contestants on Canada Reads (in the bookstore where I used to work we would use special stickers to identify the Canada Reads titles). Equally from a public library perspective, the exposure creates a rush on these titles and consequently all of the copies in our provincial system are currently checked out and the reservation list grows longer as the debate intensifies.

Today was the first round of the three days of debates hosted by the amazing representative of culture in Canada Jian Ghomeshi. The five books voted to be included in this year’s competition and whose winner is supposed to represent the essential Canadian novel of the past 10 years are Essex County by Jeff Lemire, The Birth House by Ami McKay, The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou, Unless by Carol Shields, and The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis. Now here I must shamefully admit that I have not yet read any of these five books. In fact prior to Canada Reads, I had never even heard of Essex County or The Best Laid Plans. This is particularly embarrassing considering that I’m a public librarian and that prior to my MLIS I worked in the book industry and have always had a keen interest in promoting Canadian literature.

I perhaps should not be too embarrassed though considering that the whole point of Canada Reads is to say to all Canadians “Wake up! Canadian authors produce amazing literature and you should read their books!”. Apparently librarians are not to be exempted from this wake-up call. As librarians we should not pretend that we know everything about popular books and authors or what people should be reading. We are often too guilty of reading only the genres that interest us or we simply regurgitate the recommendations that we’ve heard from others. What I love about Canada Reads is that it entices people to explore books outside of their regular reading habits (this year for the first time a graphic novel was included in the competition).

Tanya Abramovitch, director of the Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc library gave the assignment last year to her students in McGill’s School of Information Studies Public Libraries’ course to read three books from a genre that they would not normally chose. I think that this assignment is a brilliant idea and that more librarians should be encouraged to read outside of their comfort zone. Canada Reads provides a cultural spotlight for Canadians to discover amazing titles and authors that they might not have otherwise read but that are worthy of our attention. Librarians need to be actively promoting Canada Reads as a way of tapping into the media attention surrounding these titles to increase readership. However, we cannot simply rely on Canada Reads; we need to be at the forefront exploring publishing catalogues, literary magazines like the Quill and Quire, websites like Goodreads, and our own library’s book stacks searching for the next great book to recommend.

I encourage everyone, even those not in Canada, to follow Canada Reads on the CBC Canada Reads website.

I also would really love if people posted below their own recommendation of a book they feel is worthy of a national literary competition.

Happy reading!

Response to article “How to Raise Boys that Read”

26 Sep

The following blog post is my response to the article How to Raise Boys who Read by Thomas Spence published in the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section. In this article, Spence comments on the tendency of publishers to promote “gross-out” books in an effort to get boys to read more. He argues against this current trend to “meet boys where they are” stating that these books do not support a valuable education of manners and taste and that ultimately “if you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn’t go very far”.

Anyone who knows me is well aware of my huge passion for Children’s Literature. Before returning to McGill’s School of Information Studies, I was the educational representative for the only English bookstore in eastern Quebec and was often invited to give presentations to teachers on how to integrate literature into the ESL classroom. It was my job to know all the new titles from different publishing companies and anticipate which books would be

a) able to capture a student’s interest

b) appropriate for a wide range of different ESL reading levels

Through my meetings with teachers across the province of Quebec, I encountered all sorts of opinions on what kids should be reading. The challenge of getting certain kids to read book is doubled when that book is written in the child’s second language. Most educators were of the opinion that if a student could read a particular book in English then he/she should be reading that book. Popular titles were Captain Underpants, Garfield comics and the high interest/low reading level Stone Arch books from Capstone Publishing.

Once I even had a high school teacher ask me to recommend a book for hersecondary 3 (grade 10) class that had sex in it. This teacher told me that the year before for individual reading one girl’s book with a sex scene chapter had been passed around because everyone was so curious to read that particular chapter. She thought if they were interested in reading about sex, then that would be what she would give them. I recommended Noughts and Crosses by Marjorie Blackman, an extremely well-written story of passion using the typical literary motif of star-crossed lovers. In this case, I guess I was sharing Thomas Spence’s perspective in that I was careful not to recommend just any book with a sex scene. I felt Noughts and Crosses would contribute to the students’ education because in addition to having the hot and steamy forbidden sex it also touches on interesting themes for high school students such as loyalty, racism, and terrorism.

Now that I am the director of a public library, I am truly happy to see young people checking out whatever books will make them happy. One series of comics that is extremely popular at my library is Kidpaddle, the latest title in this collection is “Le retour de la momie qui pue  qui tue” (The Return of the mummy who stinks and kills), definitely the type of book that Spence would categorize as a “gross-out book” but the other day a boy around 10 years old came into the library and was so incredibly excited when I showed him that there was a new Kidpaddle book. His face lit up into a huge smile and he exclaimed to his mom “I haven’t read this one yet, I want to borrow this book!” The boy’s excitement to read this comic was the most wonderful reaction to a book I’d ever seen. It completely made my day!

So in conclusion, I’m still on the fence about Thomas Spence’s article. I understand and respect his opinion but at the same time, I really do not think that reading always has to be about learning. I am not convinced that boys would be better off if they were all reading Treasure Island as he suggests. I am an advocate of reading and books and so I will continue to be happy to provide boys with whatever reading they might want.

Gerald Beasley and Joceylne Andrews speak at McGill’s SIS

8 Feb

Gerald Beasley Photo

Gerald Beasley, University Librarian at Concordia University

Joceylne Andrews Photo

Joceylne Andrews, Technical Services Librarian at Westmount Public Librarian


This is a post that I started writing over a week ago but was never finished because the Web 2.You conference completely took over my life. I strongly believe that everything in this post is still relevant and important even over a week after the presentations discussed below took place:

Most students do not enter librarianship to become managers. Much to the dismay of these MLIS students, who cannot possibly envision themselves as managers anytime in the near future, the majority of MLIS programs do require at least one core course on management. This semester, I am the Graduate Assistant for McGill’s Information and Agency Management class. This is slightly ironic as, I too, only last year was a student sitting through this class thinking to myself, “I know nothing about business models, managing a budget, or dealing with the conflicts of staff members, I can’t possibly become a manager!” This is such a common frame of mind amongst students as well as a source of some concern. Therefore, it was incredibly reassuring last week in class to listen to Gerald Beasley and Joceylne Andrews, two engaging guest speakers, who addressed this common notion with much honesty.

Gerald Beasley is the University Librarian at Concordia University in Montreal (directing both the downtown and Loyola campus libraries). In the field of librarianship, no one has more management issues to deal with than an academic library director and Gerald Beasley seems to accept the responsibilities of his position with humility and extreme interest. His extensive career demonstrates the potential to be elevated to positions of authority without necessarily seeking them out. Gerald Beasley began as a Rare Books cataloguer, probably the position least likely to lend itself to becoming a leader in an academic library environment. However, when listening to Mr Beasley talk, it is easy to understand why he was promoted to a position of authority. He comes across as a man who genuinely cares about the mission of libraries in addition to the well-being of the people who choose to work in these settings. As a response to one question on how he started taking on leadership responsibilities, he answered that in a work environment, decisions are made all the time and at one point he realized that he wasn’t always happy with the decisions that were being made. He then started to become more involved in the decision-making process and obviously the decisions that he made set him apart as a respected leader in the library as he was then rose in the ranks of management.

Although Gerald Beasley was extremely inspiring and he has had a fascinating international career, I think that it was easier for students to identify with Jocelyne Andrews’s talk on management. Jocelyne graduated from McGill’s MLIS program only four years ago in 2006 and therefore seemed a bit closer to the current mind frame of students. Her well thought out talk highlighted various reasons of why students might be afraid of the prospect of management and discredited these potential fears. Like I said, I did not enter into librarianship to become a manager but Jocelyne argued that as professionals, the likelihood of us being called upon to fill a management position is quite high. We therefore need to think about developing valuable management skills like problem solving, learning to prioritize and communicating effectively. She argued that we can start improving these skills immediately by becoming involved in library associations, taking part in group projects and by drawing on our experiences from part-time jobs.

I am so grateful to be the Graduate Assistant for this class. I honestly feel that I am learning just as much in this position as last year when I was taking the class. It is perhaps because I am getting closer to graduation and I realize more now than when I was in first year just how important management skills are when working as a professional librarian. In fact, I have a few interviews lined up in the upcoming weeks for a few open positions in library management. I hope that the theory learned in the Information and Agency Management course, my various job experiences, as well as the valuable insight shared by Gerald Beasley and Joceylne Andrews will help me convince my interviewers that I have the skills necessary to be trusted in a position of management!

Yes, Another Library related Blog but this one’s written by a blond!

26 May

The universe of Web 2.0 is powerful and librarians can either remain confused and intimated by all the ho0pla surrounding these technologies or they can experiment with them in order to discover a world of possibilities that may or may not work for them…but then at least they’ll know.

Since I started my masters in the School of Information Studies at McGill University, talk of the influence of Web 2.0 in the library world has been .  I even co-organized a day conference entitled Web 2.You with the likes of Michael Stephens, Stephen Abram, Amy Buckland and my favourite Inspired Library School Student: Graham Lavender.

However, it wasn’t until hearing a discussion at the 2009 WILU conference that everything clicked. Interactive discussion on any topic leads to critical thinking and critical thinking leads to true learning and understanding. I realized that if I want to understand the many topics that interest me that I’m hearing about through readings, presentations, and conferences then I need to have a platform where I can voice my opinions about these issues and have constructive feedback from others.

Please take part in what will hopefully become a forum for librarians of all disciplines and hopefully we will all better understand why interaction makes learning and critical thinking so much more enjoyable and effective!