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Skype with a Librarian

Melanie Parlette-Stewart: Digital Media Librarian,
University of Guelph

On Monday October 2nd, CAPAL Western Chapter had an opportunity to speak with Melanie Parlette Stewart who is a Digital Media Librarian. She talked about her MLIS experience at the Dalhousie University and her current role as a Digital Media Librarian with the University of Guelph.

During our Skype conversation Melanie provided us with a PowerPoint presentation that provides information about her journey into the Digital Librarian field, and her previous experience as a Blended Learning Librarian. Feel free to click on this link to access this PowerPoint presentation: CAPAL Conversation Melanie Parlette Stewart


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Technical Services Co-Op: Electronic Resource Management and Scholarly Publishing

Melissa Seelye is an MLIS candidate at Western University and started an 8-month co-op placement with the Library Information Resources Management (LIRM) unit of Western Libraries in September.

As someone who had no library work experience prior to entering the MLIS program, I spent much of my first two terms trying to figure out which area of librarianship interested me most. Although I knew going into the program that I wanted to pursue work in academic libraries, I teetered between wanting to focus on scholarly publishing or research support and instruction. While taking the Academic Libraries course, I also became interested in assessment as it pertains both to services and collections.

Fortunately, my co-op placement with Library Information Resources Management (LIRM) brings together many of these different aspects of academic librarianship. Broadly speaking, LIRM is known as the technical services arm of Western Libraries. The unit consists of three departments: Metadata Access, Acquisitions, and Interlibrary Loans. And yet, the team of librarians, library assistants, metadata specialists, and technical assistants at LIRM does so much more than what might be thought of as merely behind the scenes support. With each week, I gain more appreciation for the degree to which these “technical services” are integral to the day-to-day functioning of the library system.

My role at LIRM reflects the breadth of work carried out by the unit, with my two main areas of focus being electronic resource management and supporting Western’s institutional repository, Scholarship@Western. On the electronic resource management side of things, I will be helping to devise a means of storing usage statistics for Western Libraries’ digital and print resources. This project will form the crux of Phase Two of the Usage Statistics Working Group, which I will have the opportunity to co-chair in the months ahead. By making usage statistics more readily available and navigable, the hope is that collections librarians will have more support in undertaking evidence-based acquisitions and collections management.

In preparation for that project, I have worked on smaller projects over the last month to gain familiarity with the processes for attaining usage statistics and utilizing them to inform resource acquisitions and cancellations. My first task was to familiarize myself with Project COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources), which is an international set of guidelines for usage statistics reports. From there, I helped download COUNTER-compliant usage reports from publishers’ websites as part of a larger review of electronic serials.

melissa-quoteI have also been encouraged to attend meetings of the Information Resources Standing Committee and the Centrally Funded Resource Review Subcommittee, which has afforded me a more comprehensive understanding of how usage statistics impact collection development and management. Particularly in the context of the depreciation of the Canadian dollar, academic libraries are feeling increasing pressure to justify their expenditures, and usage statistics can be extremely helpful for that purpose. My experience participating in committees has also opened my eyes to the fact that even in a large organization such as Western Libraries, there are still many opportunities for collaboration across different departments and units.

At the same time, I am working on several projects related to scholarly communication and Scholarship@Western more specifically. Through this work I have become more familiar with open access publishing and the various ways in which libraries can support researchers in meeting open access mandates, such as the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications. I have assisted with the development of several collections in Scholarship@Western, including the 2016 Undergraduate Awards series and the 2016 Canadian Society for Civil Engineering Conference. In doing so, I have become more aware of the benefits of publishing in institutional repositories from an author’s perspective. For example, those who publish their work in Scholarship@Western receive monthly download reports that illustrate the global impact of their freely accessible research.

As a member of the Scholarly Communications Subcommittee, I have also been involved in planning events to promote open access at Western. My focus in this capacity has primarily been on increasing student awareness of and engagement with open access initiatives, including Scholarship@Western. In addition to liaising with the Society of Graduate Students, I had the opportunity to collaborate with members of student groups in the MLIS program including CAPAL (Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians), PLG (Progressive Librarians’ Guild), and LWB (Librarians Without Borders) on an Open Access Week launch event. Activities such as these have further enabled me to connect my work on the technical services side of librarianship to the broader university community.

I would encourage anyone considering academic librarianship to explore the technical services that underlie library systems. Even at this early stage, I feel that my co-op projects have provided me with significant insight into more front-facing services such as instruction and outreach more generally. For example, because of projects involving the assessment of electronic resources licensed from traditional (non-open access) publishers paired with my Scholarship@Western work, I feel far better able to advocate for open access initiatives and to target my message to specific audiences.

Another lesson that I have learned over the last several weeks is the importance of organizational culture. While this topic was covered at some length in the mandatory LIS 9005: Managing and Working in Information Organizations course at Western, it was only during the co-op interview process that I grasped just how much one organization can differ from another in terms of workplace culture. I consider myself very fortunate to have been placed in an organization that greatly values the contributions of co-op students and considers me part of the team. Moving forward, I will take this lesson with me into my future job search and seek out organizations that cultivate a similarly supportive work environment.


For more professional insights from working academic librarians, stay tuned to CAPAL UWO’s upcoming Skype with a Librarian (November 25) and Lunch with a Librarian (December 2) events!

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A Farewell to FIMS: Navigating Academic Librarianship

Helen Power is a recent graduate from the MLIS program at Western University. She is currently an Information Services Librarian—Nursing Liaison at University of Windsor’s Leddy Library.

Having spent almost three months as a liaison librarian at the University of Windsor’s Leddy Library, I am finally settling into my new position. I have had some time to reflect on the transition from library school into librarianship, which in my case had some overlap. I began my position in early August when I still had classes and several assignments to complete. This was highly stressful, but if you manage your time effectively, it’s not impossible. Completing final papers and projects while apartment hunting, moving, and starting a new job is exhausting. I recommend not procrastinating, (like I did), and submitting the assignments in advance.

The potentially traumatic shift from student life to a full-time academic position was ameliorated by my co-op experience. I did an 8-month co-op at the University of Guelph Library, which not only helped me to build my CV, but also allowed me to learn about the intricacies of the academic library environment, from its organizational structure to the types of projects which are typically undertaken by librarians.

Since the University of Guelph has a unique team-centered structure, the University of Windsor’s liaison model was new to me. I discovered that while the MLIS program focuses on theory, there are many practical aspects to working in an academic library which are not properly addressed, (unless 9005 – Managing and Working in Libraries has evolved since I took the course in 2015). Understanding the different departments of a library, including their roles and how you work with them, is critical to transitioning into a new position. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to meet with all the Leddy Library department heads to learn about their specific jobs and functions, and this made the transition run smoother. Don’t be afraid to ask questions—it’s less embarrassing than making incorrect assumptions that might be detrimental in the long run.

University administration itself is quite complex, and understanding the nuances of funding, authority, and preferred communication methods is key to developing an effective liaison relationship with your department. I was lucky enough to be able to have a series of meetings with former nursing liaison librarians, who explained my role and provided me with invaluable information, so I did not have to navigate this orientation alone. When starting out in a new position, you should definitely set up similar meetings, if they’re not already a part of your training. You can learn about the position and its various aspects, and, if you’re a liaison librarian, gain valuable insight into the department you’ll be working with.

While a running mantra in the MLIS program is that the courses you take ultimately don’t matter, I have found that this isn’t the case. During my co-op and in my current position, I have often found myself being asked about which courses I took during the program. Many librarians use this as an icebreaker when meeting newly graduated librarians. Whenever I mention having taken Readers’ Advisory, this garners blank stares, because it’s not particularly relevant to my current position. Think about what courses you have taken that are interesting and/or relevant in advance, so you don’t have the same deer-in-the-headlights look that I had when first asked that question.

I have also found that certain courses have been instrumental in helping me with the transition into academic work. I took Information Literacy, which has been invaluable in my lesson planning for classes with both undergraduate and graduate nursing students. I also found Information Retrieval worthwhile, both for enhancing my reference desk work and for facilitating individual consultations that I hold with students. Another great course—which is offered (almost) every semester—is Collection Management. This course was the most useful of all, as it provided practical tips for developing and maintaining a collection, which has eased my introduction to collections duties at Leddy Library. While I do agree that not all courses could (or should) be directly related to your dream job, it’s important to take into consideration which skills you need to develop prior to graduation.

There are also some opportunities for professional development outside of the MLIS program that I used to boost my resume. These also increased my self-confidence going into this new position. offers several MLIS related courses, which can help to bolster your knowledge in certain areas. I completed a Research Data Management course. This was an area in which I previously had little knowledge. If you’re interested in a health-sciences academic librarian position, the Systematic Reviews Coursera course walks you through the steps, which can be quite convoluted and are not fully addressed in Western’s Consumer Health Information course.

A solid understanding of the discipline to which you are liaising is critical. My educational background is in the sciences, but not specifically nursing. After accepting this job, I did a considerable amount of reading on nursing philosophy, evidence-based research, and the landscape of nursing practice in Canada. This has improved my understanding of the approach that nursing students and faculty take to learning. It doesn’t hurt that I appear knowledgeable during consultations, because this increases my worth or usefulness in the eyes of the faculty and students, who might be reluctant to seek help from a librarian. While I am lucky in the sense that the nursing faculty at University of Windsor highly values the library and its resources, the culture of every discipline and university can vary greatly, and some faculties might need more convincing than others.

Even though I have graduated from the MLIS program, it feels as if I’m still learning just as much–but on the job. It’s important to keep on top of new trends and to remain up to date on consistently evolving topics such as research metrics, open access issues, and new technologies. Awareness and knowledge of current trends can open up opportunities for new projects and collaborations which you wouldn’t otherwise be involved in.

The transition from library student to academic librarian was stressful, but not overly traumatic. Preparing in advance by reading on my subject area, developing my skill set both through the LIS program and external courses and workshops, and completing an eight-month co-op all contributed to preparing me to embark on this exciting journey into academic librarianship.

Additional Tips:

If possible, secure a co-op at an academic library. I have spoken with several librarians involved in hiring, and they all agree that the presence of a co-op on a CV is what sets those recent graduates above the rest. If this isn’t possible, any co-op experience, whether it’s at a special library or a public library is invaluable. Many librarians working in Ontario understand the value of a co-op in Western’s MLIS program, and they view it as almost on par with actual work experience when considering applications.

Apply early. The application process is quite extensive and lengthy for academic libraries. I applied for my position in early April, and the interview process was much quicker than that for other academic libraries. When looking at job advertisements, it’s critical to consider the anticipated start date and whether the search committee can be flexible on that date. Applying for positions before your final semester has even begun can ensure that you get interviews and even an offer before you’ve completed your studies.

Spend time on your application. It’s better to send out one highly-tailored and polished CV and cover letter to a position that you have the qualifications for than to send generic applications to three positions. When applying for the Leddy Library position, I spent a considerable amount of time going over the job advertisement, and I addressed the key aspects in-depth in my cover letter. Reading the strategic plan for the library and/or the faculty for which you will be liaising is also highly beneficial, and will allow you to demonstrate that you went above and beyond in your application.

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CAPAL Supporting OA


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by | October 21, 2016 · 2:30 PM

Downsview Tour with U of T’s CAPAL Chapter

On Friday October 14 some of Western’s CAPAL members made the trek to Toronto to meet up with U of T’s CAPAL chapter and tour the University of Toronto Libraries Downsivew facility.  Downsivew is a high density storage facility for U of T and, hopefully one day, several other university Libraries across the province.

Although rather unassuming from the outside…


…the facility currently holds over 2.5 million volumes with approximately 10,000 new books being added every week!  As libraries at U of T weed their collections every book they are getting rid of makes its way to Downsivew.  Books are sorted and stored by size, with a barcode for every book, box, and shelf. Only 1% of the books that end up here are ever requested again.  Busy days at the height of the academic term see requests for 100 books while slow days in the summer see only 20 or so.


Books are sorted and stored by size and placed in the appropriate box


The books are placed on the shelving…


…and then picked up by a person driving this!


The books seem to go on….


… and on …


… and up … forever!

We thank everyone at UTL Downsview for taking the time to show us their amazing facility and answer all of our questions. It was a fantastic tour and a great opportunity to see libraries from another system.

After the tour we met with the members of U of T’s CAPAL chapter. It was a great opportunity to get to know our future colleagues and learn about another MLIS program. Many thanks to U of T’s CAPAL chapter for allowing us the opportunity to join their tour. We hope we can extend the same favour in the future!



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