Sooo…what did you think?

As I was having dinner with my colleagues, the first thing that came up was our day at the ACADEMIC LIBRARIANSHIP – A CRISIS OR AN OPPORTUNITY? symposium at the Koffler House at the University of Toronto.  “So, what did you think of the symposium?”  my beautiful and brilliant colleague asked…

Some background before I tell you what I think:  Since graduating in 2009, I have been on three different contracts at three different libraries at universities.  I am doing my M.Ed so I have some good understanding of postsecondary education issues.  I also went to the symposium at McMaster University on the “future of academic librarianship.”  So now that you know where I am coming from, here are my thoughts:

Thanks to Mary and Diane from York and Ryerson respectively, wonderfully organized, great speakers, great topics and a variety of beverages and snacks.  Thank you for organizing this event.  As a relatively new librarian (2-3 years now), it’s always helpful to get the inside look into the issues that concern academic librarians.

Faculty Associations and National Labour Associations in Defense of Academic Librarianship

Speakers:

Constance Adamson, President, OCUFA / Queen’s University
Francesca Holyoke, Chair, CAUT Librarians’ Committee/University of New Brunswick

It was interesting to learn more about what associations do and how they operate.  I’ve been encouraged by my academic supervisor while doing my M.Ed to see if any associations would be willing to fund some of my research projects.  I’ll admit, the content was dry and hard to follow and as a visual learner, I found it extremely difficult to engage due to a lack of visuals or text on the screen.  I guess I expected it to be a little more like the McMaster Symposium where slides or images or at least some text would be displayed on the screen.  I really had a hard time paying attention but it’s always good to exercise my listening skills when learning.

Current Trends in Library Education and Curriculum

Speakers:

Dr. Gale Moore, University of Toronto (Emerita), Founding member and former Director, Knowledge Media Design Institute, Tri-campus Scholarly Communication Group, University of Toronto Libraries
Dr. Seamus Ross, Dean, iSchool, University of Toronto
Dr. Siobhan Stevenson, iSchool, University of Toronto
Dr. Sam Trosow, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario

It started out interesting and then it got distasteful.  While I believe in free speech, I also believe that as a library professional at a library symposium that is supposed to support discussion on how to change, not who is to blame, that one of the speakers should have been moderated a little more than others.  THIS IS NOT A UWO VS. UoT DISCUSSION, both schools have a great program and both produce great graduates with skill.  I know many UoT and UWO who go on to do great things.  We are partners in making librarianship great not enemies.

I graduated from UWO and at the end of the session, I had more respect for UoT than I did for my own school.   Dr. Seamus Ross handled himself elegantly and professionally.  I took a course last term that discussed postsecondary education and policy and did research on academic capitalism.  After writing the paper, I had sympathy for administrators.  It is so easy to blame them because they are the decision makers.  They take the flack for things that they really don’t have control over.  When you can grow money on trees, then sure, point the finger but Dr. Seamus Ross brings up a good point.  Provincial funding is a difficult matter, while the province wants to invest in the knowledge economy, much of that money goes towards for fruitful projects and departments.  These administrators can try to champion the social sciences and humanities but fact of the matter is that the sciences, engineering and technology take precedence in the provincial government eyes.  Don’t believe me?  Review SSHRC and NSERC funding.  The amount that NSERC distributes is gargantuan compared to SSHRC funding.  I recently heard a speaker with expertise on education policy in Ontario talk about these larger classrooms and she brought up a good point, in order to maintain and keep the program due to lack of funding from the province, classroom sizes need to grow and because they grow, the quality of education diminishes.  Do we want to increase class sizes?  No.  But fact of the matter, there is a lack of support for certain disciplines.  One that can’t be put onto university administrators.  Educate yourself before you point fingers.   I’d suggest reading Axelrod’s chapter, ” “Public Policy in Ontario Higher Education: From Frost to Harris”  from 2008 in the book titled, The Exchange University: The Transformation of Academic Culture in CanadaI was disappointed, I thought the panel would focus more on developing a curriculum  for these larger class sizes.  It is unfortunate that these class sizes are getting big, but talking about the problem rather than the solution or compromise won’t change anything.  I’m a problem solver not a finger pointer.  That’s what life has taught me, not library school.  By the way, if UWO is so great at supporting librarianship and churning out engaged and involved graduates, why don’t I see UWO anywhere under acknowledgments of support.

Acknowledgements of support on eventbrite

Acknowledgements of support on eventbrite

Okay, I’m getting too riled up about this, I need to move on because this part of the symposium was really disappointing.

The Roles of Professional Associations & Professional Accreditation

Speakers:

Karen Adams, President CLA, University of Manitoba
Robert Johnston, MLIS student, University of Western Ontario and Progressive Librarians Guild, London Chapter
Janice Mutz, President, Ontario College and University Library Association / Lakehead University
Michael Ridley, Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Librarian, University of Guelph

Thank you, a breath of fresh air.  Reasonable and professional librarians.  Their passion for professional association involvement is inspiring.  In the future, when I get a permanent position, I’d like to involve myself more in events.  Although I’ve always volunteered for various OLA events, I’d like to expand and see what else I can help with.

Academic Librarians on the Front Lines

Speakers:

Kristin Hoffmann, University of Western Ontario
Marc Richard, McGill University
Nick Ruest, McMaster University

What an interesting look into the bargaining issues that librarians face in unions.  I have only had the pleasure of being in a union at one institution while the two others did not have contract staff unionized.  My brush with crossing a picket line, actually happened this year at my new contract job, the reason for the picket line?  The increase in hiring contracts part-time (ex. my current position) and raises that coincided with inflation.   Thanks to those who fight for our rights.  I enjoyed Kristin the most, she spoke eloquently and professionally and am very sad that I didn’t have her as an instructor for the Academic Librarianship course I took at UWO.

Overall, I felt a little less uncomfortable as the one at McMaster had high tensions (although at some points, this one had it’s moments).  I would have liked to have a longer session with the speakers having more time to talk and visuals.

 

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