Special Libraries Association Student Chapter

Signage in the stacks of a cancer library

As Tour Coordinator for UBC’s Special Libraries Association Student Chapter, I am in charge of researching libraries, contacting potential tour hosts, setting up tour dates, communicating this information to club members, and more.

Organizing tours of Special Libraries for iSchool students

When I started at UBC iSchool, I was not knowledgeable about librarianship at all. I was hungry, though, to apply my background in musicology and ethnomusicology research to my new field, library and information studies. I was keen to learn more about music or performing arts libraries, which I learned were called, aptly, I thought, special libraries. When I heard of the UBC Student Chapter of the Special Libraries Association (SLA), I joined up and volunteered right away to be an events coordinator.

Students see with their own eyes the variety of work information professionals do at Special Libraries.

With my fellow SLA club executive members, we assessed the information needs of our classmates. We found they wanted and would benefit from on-the-ground, real-life information about the variety of libraries out there beyond public and academic ones. To meet this information need, our club arranges tours of special libraries in the Vancouver area for iSchool students. As Tour Coordinator, I oversee researching libraries, contacting potential tour hosts, setting up tour dates, and communicating this information to club members.

The librarians and library technician at BC Cancer
At the Library of the BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver branch

Students like our tours because they offer them real-world information resources—they see with their own eyes the variety of work information professionals do and get the chance to interact in person with staff at a wide range of special libraries. I am very appreciative of the students who come on our tours and are engaged, listening carefully to the information professionals, and asking insightful questions.

Thanks for sharing and for organizing this tour, Janet!

Although some students cancel at the last minute or are no-shows, which can be disappointing, other students have come to multiple tours, and many, too, have expressed their appreciation to me in person or over email. I am especially thankful to the generosity of the librarians and information professionals who take time out of their busy schedules to host us and patiently introduce us to the work they do while showing us around their workplaces.

Our club members and the law librarians at the law firm McCarthy Tétrault
After our tour with the information professionals of the law firm McCarthy Tétrault. (Note: two club members had to leave early, so are missing from the photo.)

A highlight from this semester was our tour of the Canadian law firm, McCarthy Tétrault, where we got an overview of law librarianship and learned about the challenges of doing reference work in a faced-paced and dynamic law office. I was impressed the librarians have billable minutes, which raises the value of their expertise in the eyes of lawyers, and surprised they still depend so much on hard-copy legal texts for research. I was especially impressed by how generous the legal librarians who hosted us were with their time, by their enthusiasm for their profession, and how forthcoming and helpful they were.

This term, Winter 2020, Term 2, I organized three tours:

The next semester when we can resume, I hope to plan tours to a science library (industry or government) and an Indigenous library. But I will follow the suggestions of members on which types of special libraries we visit next.

A poster inviting visitors to visit our blog

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