With the start of September comes the start of a new year and new semester in MLIS and LIT programs across Canada. When students emerge in December, they will have spent four months exploring a curriculum shaped by standards and guidelines from the American Library Association, the Canadian Library Association, or provincial governments.
The MLIS and LIT experience is, of course, more than just lectures and readings. One key outcome is the building of relationships – with fellow students, with faculty and staff, and with members of the library and information management community. Sometimes it’s about making a connection, other times it’s about being inspired and shaped by the experience.
As students and faculty make their way to classrooms, both physical and virtual, this week, the Government Library and Information Management Professionals Network invites you to look back to your experience in the MLIS or LIT programs and share which educators had the biggest influence on you as an information professionals.
To get the conversation started, we invited some members of the community to share their thoughts:
Assistant Professor, School of Information Studies, University of Ottawa
Alumna, School of Library and Information Science, University of Western Ontario
During my MLS year at the then University of Western Ontario, I met Catherine Sheldrick Ross during my first semester and was fortunate enough to have her as a professor for three classes throughout: Canadiana and Canadian publishing, genres of fiction and research methods. What made Dr. Ross outstanding and long remembered as one of my ‘best of’ teachers is not so easy to put in few words. So impressive was her wry and suddenly crackling sense of humour, combined with obvious deep and passionate interest in the subject, a quiet and non-judgemental demeanour, always listening first rather than speaking. I can still see some of her physical gestures as she walked across the front of the class, sometimes hands in pockets, sometimes smiling or looking perplexed but always nodding, clearly trying to make sense of whatever I was dumping onto the class ‘table’ for discussion. I remember being thrilled to learn that Dr. Ross had a PhD in English literature – as English and particularly Canadian literature was also my background. In the “genres” class, she did a masterful (i.e., subtle) job of turning my highbrow literary view of reading into an appreciation and defense of genre fiction reading that I carry and promote to this day. One of the assignments we did in research methods was to interview someone about their reading tastes and habits – little did I know how significant our contributions in that course would be to Dr. Ross becoming the expert she remains on fiction, readers and public libraries. A great teacher imprints finally only in indelible ways on their students. Only I can know when I’m bringing the illustrious Catherine Ross into my classes these days – and then I smile. Here’s to you, Dr. Ross, with so much appreciation!
University Librarian, St. Mary’s University
Alumna, Ryerson Polytechnical Institute and Dalhousie University
My earliest and most long standing recollection of someone who influenced me as an information professional is of Mr Bean, instructor in the Library Technician Program at what was then Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. He taught cataloguing and while at times I wanted to poke my eyes out at the end of the course I had such an appreciation for the logic and manner in how different information elements describe an item. This is what set the foundation for what we now know as metadata and where would we be as information professionals without metadata? Mr Bean passed on the love of what is in many ways the craft of our profession.
While at Dalhousie I had the privilege of being taught by and experienced the influence of one of the professions greatest leaders – Dr. Norman Horrocks. He was witty, compassionate and deeply committed to seeing students succeed. His willingness to guide and encourage continued long after graduation. Finally I have to recognize the tremendous influence of my fellow students and now colleagues. It is this network of individuals who provide the sounding board for how to deal with the challenges that come my way and also help celebrate the accomplishments of each other.
Director, Libraries and Records Management, ECollab (Sharepoint) Services, Environment Canada
Alumnus, Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, McGill University
It’s a tough call between Professor Lynn Howarth, who taught at UofT but was with us for a semester at McGill while she finished her Phd, and Professor Peter McNally of McGill.
Professor Howarth was impressive because she was genuinely exited about the teaching of cataloguing, which I found bizarre but refreshing as it stood out from the tepid enthusiasm other professors demonstrated.
Professor McNally was the real influence on me. He got me interested in combining my love of History, with that of Libraries and for some time there I was researching and writing about Library History and enjoying it. To the point where I almost finished my own Phd in that subject. I wrote book reviews for books he sent my way and he kept in touch, always generous with his advice. Once he let me fill in for him as a Reference Prof for a semester, an experience I won’t soon forget as it showed me what it looks like from that side to stand in front of some seriously bored adults. All in all a good and fair man and an influence on me unlike any others.
Assistant Director, Library Services, Concordia University College of Alberta
Alumna, Grant MacEwan Community College
There are actually two educators that had a big influence on me. The first was Tony Fell from the Grant MacEwan LIT program. Tony helped me get started in the program and his enthusiasm, dedication, and passion for the profession are what made me want to give back to the profession once I graduated from the program. It was what inspired me to become involved with my professional associations. I quickly learned that not only was I giving something back but I was gaining as well and I’ve had some amazing opportunities that would never have happened if Tony hadn’t helped me get into the program.
The other educator is Alvin Schrader. Although I didn’t have any courses at the U of A, I would meet Alvin when he came on site visits when we had SLIS Practicum students. I also had an opportunity to have some really great conversations with Alvin through my CLA involvement. His support of library technicians has meant a lot. Alvin was the one that really inspired me when he said something to the effect, “We are all professionals in what we do. We perform our tasks in a professional manner. It is our occupation/career that may be librarian, library technician, library assistant…”
Newcomer Services Librarian, Ottawa Public Library
Alumna, School of Information Studies, University of Ottawa
Heather Lea Moulaison holds a doctorate in Library and Information Science from Rutgers University and two Masters, both from the University of Illinois. She taught at the University of Ottawa School of Information Studies in 2010. Although I only had a few courses with her, I appreciated her depth of knowledge, patience with students, and ability to break down complex concepts easily – in both English and French. After my graduation, she offered me the chance to work with her analysing the results of the 2011 CLA National Salary Survey. At the time I was a newly minted librarian with very little experience in statistics or data analysis, but Heather was willing to provide guidance and let me give it a try, an opportunity for which I am very grateful!
She is a continual inspiration to information professionals, while welcoming those who are new to the field. Heather is a prolific author who writes in a variety of formats and subjects, a selection of which includes 14 refereed journal articles, 5 professional journal articles, 3 books, and 4 chapters in edited books to her name as of June 2014. In addition, she gives her time in professional service to the community by reviewing for journals and serving on committees, among them an International Standards Organization working group and Librarians without Borders board. I could continue to list Heather’s impressive accomplishments, but it would be easier to view them on her web page: http://moulaison.net/
Somehow, while accomplishing all this, Heather manages to keep on top of trends in the library field and stays extremely well-informed. I know she must be very busy, but always makes time for her students, is willing to provide advice, and make them feel like their contributions are valuable. I very much enjoyed learning from Heather – the students at the University of Missouri are lucky to have her as a professor!
Government Information Librarian, University of Ottawa Library
Alumna, School of Information Management, Dalhousie University
As a new academic librarian, my LIS education experiences are quite fresh. I obtained my MLIS from Dalhousie University in 2013 and was fortunate to have had the opportunity to be taught by several outstanding faculty. Though I must say that many professors had a major impact on my education and career as an information professional, the experience I’d like to share in this post relates to my independent reading course with Dr. Fiona Black.
The MLIS program at Dalhousie provides students with the option of essentially developing their own course to explore a topic in greater detail [more information about reading courses is available here]. My reading course explored the process of mapping Canadian political information. More specifically, data from the Parliament of Canada’s PARLINFO database. Needless to say, I was thrilled when Dr. Black agreed to supervise the course. Her boundless enthusiasm had been a source of encouragement throughout my studies. While working through the course, she not only provided guidance and feedback on my research and learning process, but also helped me develop longer-term career and professional development goals. Being encouraged to challenge myself and go beyond my current skills and knowledge to reach specific objectives has definitely translated from the classroom to the workplace, and has provided valuable context for my current position as Government Information Librarian at the University of Ottawa.
Associate Dean, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, The University of Western Ontario
Alumna, School of Library and Information Science, University of Western Ontario
The LIS educators that have had the greatest impact on me have been Sam Neill, Catherine Ross, Gloria Leckie, and Roma Harris. In reference class, Sam never let us get away with anything — he always pushed us further to think about how we knew whatever we thought we knew. As teachers, mentors, and administrators, Catherine, Gloria, and Roma have been terrific role models. Catherine is a master at gently leading students to insights without letting them realize they’ve been led. That means they get the satisfaction of feeling that they’ve come to the insights on their own. Gloria lets her students see that she’s human and hasn’t been afraid to say she doesn’t know something. That opens up opportunities for students to puzzle things out with her. Roma has always both stepped up to the plate to do behind-the-scenes work and has recognized and acknowledged the others who do it. All four took different approaches to teaching, but I still learn from all of them!
It’s your turn!
Which educators in your MLIS or LIT education has had the biggest influence on you as an information professional?
Leave your comments here or join the conversation on the CLA Facebook group.