Question: Please describe your position at Osler.
As a librarian at Osler, Jenn commits half her time to training and half to reference services. As a reference librarian, Jenn helps partners, lawyers and new hires with various legal reference duties. When performing these duties, half her day is spent at the reference desk located at the entrance to the library. Here she fields reference questions by phone, email, or in person. When not at the reference desk, Jenn acts as a reference partner at her own desk. Since many reference queries in her office are time sensitive, she can field reference questions by phone or email while the reference desk is busy, allowing her to locate the appropriate resources without distraction.
Jenn is the primary individual responsible for training employees in the use of library resources. Her busy season runs in May and August when articling students and new hires are taken on and the biggest training programs are run. Each of the sessions run one month, and include 10-11 programs. Each program runs about 1-3 hours each and is repeated 3 or 4 times based on the number of hires. Many of the librarians in the office run specialized programs during this time, but Jenn herself is responsible for approximately 50% of the learning process.
Although May and August may be the busiest training times, Jenn’s teaching duties continue throughout the year. She is responsible for producing and updating finding aids, user guides, and online resources. If individuals are hired outside of May or August, separate individual training sessions must be performed. Lunch and learns are also held throughout the year. When she is not teaching, new programs must be designed while old ones are retooled. Currently, Jenn is leading a major project that is evaluating the effectiveness of learning within the sessions. These training duties, combined with her reference responsibilities, keep Jenn very busy throughout the year, but it is an experience that she describes as rewarding and enjoyable.
Question: Please discuss your career path including education.
Jenn began her education at Queens University as a Classics and English major. A class visit from a librarian got her interested in information studies. On a visit to Dalhousie, she met with the Faculty of Information’s own Judy Dunn, who was working there at the time, and after an informative lunch decided to enrol in their MLS program. During this program, she began to become more focused on the technology and information literacy side of information studies, mostly through her TA duties. Jenn received hands-on experience through a practicum at the
ROM, which was completed during her second year.
Between her first and second years of the program, Jenn worked at Hewlett Packard in a non-library capacity. However, she decided to use the opportunity to gain valuable experience. Jenn’s job was to analyze customer feedback. She took the initiative and designed a database to come up with a matrix to track the feedback she was receiving. This led to a position at the Center for Management Informatics at Dalhousie, which gave her great research experience and directly led to her current job at Osler.
Question: What advice do you have for those in a Master of Information Studies (MISt) program just getting into the field?
Jenn’s primary advice is that a MISt student should not narrow their options while enrolled in the program. What a student may think they want at the start of the program may not necessarily be the perfect fit for them. There are so many different paths with a MISt degree that it is important to diversify your experience and keep an open mind.
It is also very important to network. Jenn said that her own experience as the student president of the SLA at Dalhousie was invaluable, and she advises that one should never be afraid to ask a professional for coffee to get some one-on-one time. Gaining these networking connections early in one’s student life will result in more opportunities later on. Jenn also says that alumni contacts should be maintained after graduation.
As a professional, Jenn is still networking outside of her workplace. She is currently on the education committee of the Toronto Association of Law Libraries (TALL) and has also recently been appointed the Finance Director for the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD). These activities do not take up a huge amount of Jenn’s time, and yet they lead to invaluable networking opportunities.
Question: Where do you see the field going in the next 10 years?
Jenn explains that the livelihood of the librarian profession depends on our ability to market ourselves in the right way. As long as librarians can show that they are relevant and important, through statistics and services offered, then the profession will be treated as relevant and important. Jenn does not see the profession slowing down at all, with expansion into knowledge management and competitive intelligence. The toughest part may be escaping the “L” word, as it often invokes the image of someone who only stocks shelves in a public library. As long as librarians can continue to offer valuable research, training, knowledge management, and many other services that are valuable to private and public organizations, the possibilities are limitless.
–Interview conducted by Robert Keshen