On co-op: Q&A with Cal Murgu

Cal Murgu is an MLIS candidate currently on co-op in the Information Services and Resources department at the University of Waterloo, Dana Porter Library.

Where is your co-op, and how did you find the process of securing a co-op?
I’m about half way through an eight-month co-op at the Dana Porter Library, University of Waterloo.  I divide my time between three portfolios: reference and instruction, bibliometrics and research impact, and collections development.  The co-op process was straightforward, though I understand it has changed markedly in the interim.  I made the process quite a bit more stressful for myself by applying solely to eight-month positions in academic libraries.  As a result, my choices were limited to two or three institutions.

What are some of your duties at the Dana Porter Library?

I work on the reference desk for three or four hours a week, assisting students and faculty with their research needs.  I’ve had the opportunity to lead one-shot instruction sessions, as well. In these sessions I teach students how get the most out of our research databases, and introduce them to basic aspects of information literacy.  I’m looking forward to running more of these sessions in the fall.  I also support the Bibliometrics and Research Impact librarian with specific bibliometrics projects.  Generally speaking, these duties involve pulling and analyzing citation data for specific research centers or institutes.  Recently, I’ve been playing around with bibliometric data visualization tools, like VOSViewer, exploring ways of presenting data in more palatable ways.

In LIS9005 we talked a lot about organization cultures in information organizations. What is the organization culture like at Waterloo?

The Dana Porter Library is organized by departments (Circulation, ISR, Collections, Cataloguing, Digital Initiatives, Special Collections & Archives).  While each department has its own independent organizational structure (and culture, I suspect), working groups and committees provide individuals with opportunities to branch outside of their official department.  For example, the Open Access Working Group, a working group which I recently joined, has members from Digital Initiatives, ISR, and Collections Development. This type of collaboration is pretty awesome, for it naturally promotes collaborative, multidimensional problem-solving.  In general, the work environment as a whole is casual, but professional.

Do you have any tips for students interested in a co-op at an academic library?

Academic libraries are pretty awesome places to work; you’re surrounded by erudite colleagues, faculty, and students in a constantly changing environment.  I’d encourage anyone who’s even remotely interested in the idea of working at an academic institution to apply.  Generally, the competition for these (limited) positions is stiff.  I’d suggest that you make an effort to become conversant in the different trends affecting academic libraries, in Canada as well as abroad, and think about how you’d support these initiatives.  Ultimately, it’s about added value.

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