Dave Hook is a Faculty of Information graduate (and former SLA-TSG co-chair), now employed at MDA Space Missions in Brampton, Ontario. MDA, self-described on their site as “the world leader in space robotics,” occupies an undeniably interesting nook in the special libraries world. This is an especially special library.
In conversation with Andrea Gagliardi, Dave revealed some of the experiences and professional development resources that helped put him where he is today.
Q: Describe your job. And feel free to talk about your non-library roles as well.
Dave’s current title is “Manager, Operations Information & Configuration Management,” notable for its lack of words like “library” or “librarian.” In explanation, Dave said that since getting his job, fresh out of iSchool in 2000, his duties have evolved far beyond their original parameters.
Initially, he said, his job was to manage the company’s library and intranet. Over time, this led to him being tasked with the oversight of other departments, including product assurance records, configuration management, and business process systems. He acknowledged that his job, in its current form, puts him far from what would be considered the “traditional” librarian role within a corporation, but said that all of his duties are “related to information/documentation control,” despite their unfamiliar ring to the iSchool ear.
“I still manage the library here,” he said, “but it is a very small part of my job these days. In fact, whenever I can get a summer student, I hand the responsibility over to them.”
Q: What were your first jobs in libraries?
“I had absolutely no library experience whatsoever until I started at FIS. Realizing that I’d need to get some library experience before I graduated, I took a part-time job over at the Bora Laskin Law Library. I know a lot of FIS students tend to stay away from Bora Laskin jobs if they can because they don’t pay very well as compared to other student jobs on campus. If you look beyond the low pay, however, the job does give a great deal of responsibility and experience for a student job. I used to work a weekend shift there; if you work evenings or weekends you are usually the only staff member present, so you are essentially running a three-storey library by yourself.
“During my time at FIS I also worked at the Business Information Centre at Rotman, the Engineering Library and (very briefly), the Inforum.
“During the summer between my first and second years at FIS I worked at the law library for Nortel Networks in Brampton. That was a great experience: I learned a lot at that job.”
Q: What were some of the “do’s” and “don’ts” you followed when you were searching for your first job?
Do: Start Early
“I always encourage students to start their job search as early as they can for a number of reasons. It can take a while to find and land the right job, so the process can take a while. Also, if you are following job postings on a regular basis, you get a better feel for what jobs are out there and what jobs you might be able to get. I even encourage students in first year to frequently check what jobs are being posted even though they are over a year away from graduating – that way they can get an idea of what skills are in demand and choose their second year courses appropriately.”
Do: Take Advantage of the Career Centre
“The Career Centre at U of T has a number of great resources and it’s unfortunate that few FIS students take advantage of them. They do resume critiquing, have interview workshops and have a library for researching companies, just to name a few of their services.”
Do: Get Involved with Professional Development
Dave advised getting involved with local professional society chapter events. Besides the obvious networking benefits, he said, activity of this kind can provide a way of seeing what career options are currently available to information professionals in the area. There are no sources of career information more up-to-date and complete than the minds and mouths of people currently employed in the field.
Don’t: Be Afraid to Look Beyond the FIS Job Board for Postings
“The FIS job board is a great resource for job postings, but it is not the only source. There are many organizations that need the skills that FIS students have, but might not thinking of advertising here. Check MBA job boards, or the ones at the career centre.”
Don’t: Take the Job Search Process Lightly
“As I mentioned before, expect the process to take several months. As well, it can take up a great deal of your time between checking job postings, researching companies, writing resumes and cover letters, preparing for interviews, etc. All in all, I found that the time involved was almost equivalent to having an extra course. It’s a lot of work, but in the end, or course, the main reason that most of us go through the program is to land a good job afterwards, so the effort is worth it.”
Q: How do you see your job, or information professional jobs in general evolving over the next ten years?
“I expect to be doing much less of the ‘traditional’ library work in the future. End user searching is happening more and more; interfaces are improving and individuals are becoming better at searching for information themselves.
“Where I see myself getting more involved with is improving the overall information flow within the organization. I think the value of information professionals is that we have an understanding of information – how it is created, how it is used, etc. and are in a better position to architect information systems than many people with an IT background who approach information system design from the technology point of view.”
And on that hopeful note, the interview ended. More information about about MDA Space Missions can be found on the company’s website.
Interview conducted by Andrea Gagliardi.