A Few Awesome Job Hunt Resources

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It’s that time of year again. It’s the dead of winter, everyone is still wishing it were holidays and the Winter semester has begun with bewildering speed. And unlike in the fall, the question of what comes next is surfacing again. For first years this means facing the question of what to do over the summer, while for second years, this means facing the terrifying real-life job hunt.

This question has been percolating in the back of my mind for a little while now, and over the holidays I decided it was time to start taking some actions to get myself ready for the job hunt. Over the past couple of years, I’ve collected up a few awesome resources from various friends, mentors and professors that are great for helping to update that cover letter or CV, or to get ready for that interview. It’s by no means a complete list, and it does tend to skew towards librarianship (since that is where my interests lie), but I hope it will be useful. This short list can always be expanded!

One resource that I was particularly happy to come across was a website called Open Cover Letters, which is a repository of successful cover letters written for library jobs. It’s a great way to see what kind of skills people are highlighting and what the format of a cover letter includes in the information world.

A second invaluable resource that I recently came across, like Open Cover Letters, is a repository of interview questions tailored to librarians and information professionals called Hiring Librarians

Apart from that, I’ve discovered a particularly good job listserv for Canadian library jobs that can be found at The Partnership Job Board. And as a note for first years looking for summer positions, don’t forget to check out Young Canada Works. There are many listservs out there, so if you’ve come across any other good ones, or ones for other areas of work, let me know and I would be happy to post them!

Accreditation: What Does It Mean?

This fall, McGill’s School of Information Studies underwent the accreditation process. Confused on what that means? Here’s a quick guide:

What’s the ALA?
The ALA is the American Library Association, and is the largest library association in the world. It is responsible for overseeing the accreditation process of library schools across North America. Currently there are 59 accredited programs, 8 of which are in Canada.

What’s the point of the accreditation process?
The accreditation process ensures that member schools are up to standard and are delivering high-quality programs. Many employers require candidates who have a degree from an ALA-accredited school. If you have a library degree not from one of the accredited schools, it may be more challenging to find a job in the library field.

What was the accreditation process like?
In September, six ALA External Review Panel members flew into Montreal for five days. They met with students, faculty, staff, and upper administration. It was an intensive process, and they asked many different types of questions.
The planning for the accreditation process was not limited to the five days. Instead, it has been over a year-long process, with the final report from the faculty clocking in at over 200 pages.

When do we find out if we are accredited again?
January! The panel members don’t decide on whether SIS becomes accredited or not. Instead, they report back to the ALA, who will decide at their conference in January. The ALA’s decision and report will be released to the public.

Thanks to Liz Nash for answering all of these questions for us!

If you’re interested in knowing more about the process, you can also check out the ALA website here.

Welcome Back to a New School Year

Hello everyone, now that we’re all back into the swing of things and fall is definitely in the air, I’d like to introduce myself and get the ball rolling for the school year at Beyond the Shelf.

IMG_20161005_140809183My name is Devon and I’m a second year MISt student interested in librarianship, originally hailing from Edmonton. This is my second year at the Publications Chair and you can take a look at some of last year’s posts if you continue scrolling down. One of my favourite things about this position is that I get to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening around the school and keep an eye out for interesting topics about which to spread the word. Last year, I wrote several posts about events or trips organized by SIS students, so if your student group has something interesting coming up or had a really interesting discussion about something, please let me know and I can help to pass it along to a broader audience. Guest bloggers are always welcome too! I try to post something new about once a month, so if you’d like to collaborate, please get in touch!

I’m looking forward to blogging about lots of interesting information-related stuff this year, so keep your eyes on the facebook pages!

InfoNexus 2016

On February 6th, InfoNexus 2016 opened its doors at Thompson House for a one-day whirlwind tour through a variety of different topics. Speakers from all four areas – libraries, archives, knowledge management and information technology – gave short presentations about their research or ideas they had been working on. The topics were disparate, but it highlighted the incredibly wide range of work that information professionals work in and provided lots of food for thought.

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Ed Bilodeau, President of the SLA Eastern Canada Chapter and Assistant Librarian at McGill University Digital Initiatives started out the day with a talk about excellence in librarianship, and how to balance this goal with the ever-growing workload that librarians are dealing with.

The next speaker was Sarah Severson, Coordinator of Digital Library Services at McGill University Library, who took the audience through a history of digital collections using examples from McGill’s own collections.

After that, Jean Archambault, Director of Information and Analysis Services at NRC Knowledge Management, started a lively discussion about how the concepts of uncertainty  and anticipation affect the provision of information, and what this might mean for information professionals.

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Next, Lori Podolsky, Acting University Archivist at McGill University Archives, gave a thought-provoking talk about how archivists have presented their profession in the past, and how these ideas and perceptions are changing today.

The final speaker of the morning session was Joel Alleyne, President of Alleyne Inc., who moved the focus over to the world of Knowledge Management. He talked about knowledge networks and the concept of expertise, and drew upon his experiences in the realm of law and health sciences.

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After lunch, there were two more speakers who presented.

Kathleen Botter, Systems Librarian at Concordia University Library, dove into the world of reference rot, which is what happens when links in electronic resources stop working properly. It was a fascinating presentation about an area of librarianship I had never even considered.

Finally, Anton Stiglic, Corporate Director Information Security (CISO) at Loto-Quebec, gave a revealing presentation about information security, going into how and why hackers steal information, what they do with it afterwards, and how companies can protect themselves.

After the individual presentations concluded, there was a panel session featuring all of the previous speakers and moderated by Professor Max Evans. This was an opportunity to delve further into some questions that affect all information professionals, and also a time for the audience to ask questions.

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As a first year MISt student, it was my first time attending the InfoNexus conference, and I very much enjoyed the variety of speakers and the thought-provoking topics they brought up. A huge thank-you to the organization committee for putting it all together, and I look forward to experiencing the 2017 edition of InfoNexus!

Many thanks to Kayleigh Girard for helping with this write-up and to Annette Li for all the lovely photos. More information about InfoNexus can be found at http://info-nexus.org/.

 

 

 

 

 

MISSA’s New Fridge Has Arrived!

MISSA would like to inform all SIS students of the fact that a momentous day has arrived! Last semester the MISSA council purchased a new fridge for the SIS mansion to be used by students. The fridge is located in the basement of the mansion (immediately to the left of the stairs when you arrive in the basement), and is available to all students who wish to use it, as well as to any student groups needing to store food for an event.

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This long awaited day has finally arrived and the fridge is already receiving lots of love from adoring SIS students!

Eight or Nine Things to Know about SIS

So, you’ve just entered McGill’s MIST program and you’re not sure what to expect. Or, more realistically (because I suck at writing posts), you’re about a month in and feeling overwhelmed.

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Along with a few second year students/minions, I’ve compiled a list of things that might help make your first year a little easier.

1) Thomson House is your friend. The program has a lot of group projects, and this is a place where you can a) drink beer, b) avoid climbing up and down the hill unnecessarily (see no. 7), and c) work loudly in groups without being shushed by librarians.

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2) Google Drive is also your friend (you have a lot of friends, OKAY??) – for when you want to avoid said group meetings.

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3) The CLA Professional Mentorship Program is endlessly helpful. Sign up in your first or second year and take advantage of this awesome opportunity. It’s a great way to connect with professionals in your field and I speak from personal experience when I say they offer way better advice than that publications committee chairperson or whatever. Want more info? Check out this site: http://www.mcgill.ca/sis-students/cla/partnering

4) Don’t go through it alone.

Before I started the program, I had a Survivor type mentality (Reality TV, not Destiny’s Child) in which I found myself thinking/saying things like “I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to win”.

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Fun fact: your friends will help you get through this year. Smile, get to know them, talk about similar interests with them. Oh, c’mon, you know how to make friends.

5) Classes aren’t everything. In an information studies program, I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your first semester might feel a little like Information Overload. Be that as it may, I was surprised and it was a tough adjustment. It’s important to keep in mind that classes aren’t everything in this program, and you’ll get a whole lot more out of them if you volunteer, work, take part in our student associations and those associations’ events. Check out the write-ups on the various associations on this very blog. Psst…SISnic is tomorrow! Come network and EAT FOOD.

6) The education classroom temperatures are whack. Layer-up. Why do you think librarians own so many cardigans?

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7) The hill will never get easier. It’s not you. It’s the hill.

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8) Learn how to “sell” your degree, and memorize that sentence. You’ll get lots of eye-roll inducing questions asking what information studies is, why you need a master’s degree to shelve books, or if there are classes on shushing. We all know the value of this degree, but it can be difficult to put into words when put on the spot. Think of this as a catch phrase, and trust me, it will come in handy.

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 9) Volunteer to help write for the school’s blog! And I’m out.

Treasures of Islam: The McGill Islamic Studies Library

By Caitlin Bailey

The Islamic Studies library at McGill is housed in Morrice Hall, formerly the Presbyterian College. One of the more prominent features of the space is the Octagonal Room at the rear, which still contains the original oak shelving and stained glass windows of the College. I visited the library to speak with the current head librarian, Mrs. Anaïs Salamon, who took her current position in 2010 after the departure of the former head.

Mrs. Salamon began by noting that the Islamic Studies library was founded in 1952, when the Institute of Islamic Studies separated from the Religious Studies Department with funding from Wilfred Cantwell Smith, a specialist in comparative religion. Dr. Smith was primarily interested with Islam in South Asia and hoped to facilitate further inter-religious interactions through a separate department. In fact, the Institute of Islamic Studies and its adjoining independent library were the first in North America. Mrs. Salamon pointed out that its foundation predates significantly larger departments at Harvard and the University of Chicago.

As the Head librarian, Mrs. Salamon manages a diverse collection, including reference materials in ten languages and a small body of rare books and materials. Mrs. Salamon emphasized the broadness of the McGill collection and noted that it is particular due to its coverage of the entirety of the Islamic cultural world. The library holds materials not only from the Arabic countries, but also from Southeast Asia, Turkey and Afghanistan (to name a few).  During our interview, she mentioned that many of the copies held by McGill are also the only examples in North America.

The bulk of the library’s collection remains non-digitized, due to the reluctance of many publishing firms in the Islamic world to use digital formats. Mrs. Salamon explained that this is changing somewhat, but that unless materials (such as journals and periodicals) are published in North America, the library usually has to buy them in print. This leads to what she called the main problem of the library; the chronic lack of space. Currently, there are no off-site storage areas, making the de-accessioning of materials necessary.

The future goals of the library, according to Mrs. Salamon, include the location of storage space for its holdings, which she predicts will continue to grow. Additionally, she would like to extend service hours to 24 hours a day. Under current staffing divisions, the library cannot remain open past 10pm. She would also like to continue with, and broaden, the library’s “Islamic Film Nights”, which currently run several times a semester and feature some of the most notable films from the modern Islamic world. To conclude our interview, when asked about the most interesting item in the collection, Mrs. Salamon cited the library’s copy of an Albanian translation of the Qur’an, which she further explained might be the only one in North America.

Truly a unique space, the Islamic Studies library offers not only a beautiful study environment, but also the richness of Islamic culture and thought.

National Novel Writing Month: An interview with a veteran

Notice: This post initiates the academic year for this blog! Submissions to Beyond the Shelf are solicited and encouraged by MLISSA from past and current members of MLISSA. Submissions can be e-mailed to jacob.siefring@mail.mcgill.ca.

By Jacob Siefring

Did you ever want to write a novel? Then read on! National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, as it’s abbreviated, is a website (and more) dedicated to the goal of helping individuals achieve the realisable goal of writing a novel, defined loosely as a narrative of 50,000+ words. It’s run by the Office of Letters and Light, a self-described ‘tiny but mighty nonprofit.’ November is the original month for novel writing, but events also take place during June and August.

To gain an understanding of what it’s like to participate in NaNoWriMo, I submitted a brief questionnaire to a Andrea Black, a recent graduate of the School of Information Studies’s MLIS program. She generously supplied the following responses and advice.

Successful NaNoWriMo participants get bragging rights, improved writing skills, a draft of a novel they've written, and this emblem, commemorating their persistence.

1. How many times have you done NaNoWriMo? How did you first hear about it?

I’ve just completed my third NaNoWriMo event and am gearing up for my fourth in November. The main event is in November each year with smaller “Camp NaNoWriMo” events in June and August. I’ve done two in November and one in August so far. I honestly can’t remember when I first heard about it: it was probably two or three years before I decided to give it a try.

2. Prior to NaNoWriMo had you written much fiction? Short stories?

I wrote a lot – poems, short stories and one novella in addition to nearly daily journaling – up until about my second or third year of university. Around that time, I started to get so burned out from reading textbooks and writing papers that I basically stopped writing and reading for pleasure for the better part of a decade. It wasn’t until I decided to do NaNoWriMo that I got motivated to start writing again. It’s great because I’m such a perfectionist when it comes to my writing that I find it hard to even get started. With NaNoWriMo, you don’t have time to worry about editing: if you’re going to get out 50k or more words in a month, you need to ruthlessly squash your inner editor. You can always edit in December. I find that frees me up to be creative and just let my ideas flow onto the page.

3. What are the titles of the novels you’ve written?

I’d prefer not to answer this. They’ve got working titles but they’re sort of silly.

4. How would you describe them? (individually or considered together)

The first two are meant to be YA fantasy and the third is… some kind of mainstream/supernatural fiction that could pass as either YA or adult, depending on how I handle the editing stage. They’re not of publishable quality in their current form, but there’s enough there to form the skeletons of what could be pretty decent novels someday (at least I’d like to think so).

5. Have people read your novels? Who?

My mom and my grandma are the only people who have read them. I haven’t done any editing; they’re all still in the first draft stage and they’re really rough (typos; I altered a character’s personality partway through the first novel; in the second novel I changed from third person to first person perspective in chapter 10 because I decided it would work better, etc). I’d be embarrassed to let anyone else read them until I had a chance to edit. My mom loved them, but she’s biased. J My grandma is not a fan of fantasy, so she didn’t really get them. She still insists on reading them though, which is nice of her.

6. Do you write on a computer? Are you partial to any particular writing software?

Yes, I do my writing on a computer. My handwriting can’t keep up with my thoughts. Also, I can’t always read my own handwriting.

I’ve used Word, which wasn’t ideal, and I’ve used Scrivener, which I love. Winning NaNoWriMo (i.e. making it to 50,000 words in 30 days) is mostly about the satisfaction of winning, but you also get a printable certificate and discounts on writing software like Scrivener and Storyist – I bought Scrivener after winning my first NaNo. When I write the way I did for my last novel (unplanned, just sitting down and writing whatever came into my head), Word worked fine, but it’s not the best tool for organizing a novel. Scrivener lets you separate your chapters or scenes, keep notes, character sketches and research all in one place, and compiles your writing into an official manuscript ready for submission to a publisher when you’re finished. It also has a full-screen feature that helps cut out distractions while you’re typing and a split-screen option so you can view your notes while you’re writing. I’ve found it really flexible. It even has templates for papers in Chicago, APA and MLA styles: I used it a couple of times for that last year at school.

7. How do you organise your daily quotas? Do you map out a chapter/scene schedule to correspond to the month in advance?

If you write 1667 words every day, you’ll finish on November 30th (or 1613 words per day to finish on August 31st). For my first two novels, I ended up falling really far behind in the first week or two, and then the stress that caused helped me to really buckle down and write during the second half of the month. For my third novel, I actually finished a week early. Unfortunately, it seems that when I start out with a certain word count in mind, my story ends up naturally coming to a conclusion around that point. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll try aiming for 75,000 words on my next attempt: I know there are some rare and amazing people who exceed 100k. We’ll see. November tends to be a pretty busy month.

8. Do you know the ending of your novel when you begin it?

I planned out each of my novels very differently. For the first one, I had a very detailed outline before I started. I knew exactly where the story was going and had a basic outline of what would happen in each scene. For the second one, I had a very broad outline and really only planned a chapter or two in advance. I didn’t know how it was going to end until I found myself writing the ending. For the third one, I hardly planned at all. I had a basic premise and that was it. That strategy actually ended up working really well for me, except I had no idea how the story was going to end. The last four thousand words or so were really tough to write.

9. Do you feel that your handling of narrative elements like character, plot, and dialogue has improved with your continuing participation in NaNoWriMo?

I do. Practice makes perfect, as they say. I’ve deliberately chosen different styles (tense, point of view, etc) for my novels just for the experience, and I definitely think some facets of my writing have improved. I’d like to try to work more on character development in my next novel: in my last one I was very plot-focused.

10. Do you seek to publish your novels?

No. However, I like the idea that if I do decide to become a published author some day, I’ll have several manuscripts to work from.

11. Can you share any tips for balancing the demands of work and/or school with your daily writing sessions during NaNoWriMo?

Warn your friends and family ahead of time that you will have virtually no social life for a month.

Figure out what your priorities are. If you need human contact but don’t want to sacrifice writing time, find a “write-in” in your area or enlist a friend to write with. Schedule time to do homework, grocery shop, etc. I didn’t clean my apartment or exercise for a month.

There may be days you ask yourself: “What am I doing?” Keep in mind that even if you don’t ‘win,’ you at least have more of a start to your novel than you might have otherwise, and it’s great writing practice. Hitting 50k words and finishing a novel is an incredibly rewarding experience: it’s definitely worth it.

Thanks go to Andrea Black, MLIS ’12 in Librarianship,  for supplying responses to my questions. If you see her, congratulate her and wish her luck as she gears up to writes her fourth novel!

#20 SIS Kids Are Doing It For Themselves: Meet Veronica!

1. Name:
 Veronica Ramshaw

2. Year: MLIS I

3. Stream: Librarianship

4. Hometown: Guelph, ON

5. What is your favourite book?
 My favourite book of all time is Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. However, I have quite a love for pretty much anything written by Douglas Adams, and Jane Eyre wins out in the category of Classics.

6. Do you own an eReader? If so, is it cool?
 I have an iPad app with a few too many eReader apps… Kindle, Stanza, iBooks… and so far, all the books I’ve got on it are ones I also own. I’m actually reading Game of Thrones in hard copy and on my iPad right now, reading from one when I don’t have the other.

7. If you weren’t in library school, what would you be doing RIGHT NOW? I would still be trying to find work in film production in Montreal. It’s notoriously difficult to get your foot in the door of the film production industry, and all my networking would help in Toronto or maybe even LA, but not here.

8. What is your dream job? My Dream Job would be film and media librarian/archivist at the NFB, a film company or with a tv network.

9. What is your dream sandwich? I have been eating so many of La Prep’s Chicken Pesto sandwiches you’d think that was my dream sandwich! But no, I’m not very adventurous when it comes to sandwich making (pasta making on the other hand…) so my dream sandwich is really just a good tuna melt.

10. What is your favourite thing about living in Montreal? History so old it’s practically palpable. Not exactly a feeling you get in Guelph or Toronto… also, I love living somewhere that actually gives me an opportunity to use my french on a regular basis!

11. Living or dead, who would be at your imaginary potlatch? Terry Pratchet, Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams, Freddie Mercury, Joss Whedon, my fiance and both of our families.

Also, check out my blog!

Peace, Order and Good Student Government

It ‘s the time of year when we SIS students get to flex our democratic muscles and select the group of our comrades we wish to have represent us next year as our student government.  Of course, voting only works if there’s someone to vote for, so that’s where you lovely folks come in.  You’ve all got opinions and ideas about what SIS should be like – I’ve heard many of them spouted over pints at Thompson House – so it’s time to step up to the plate and make a play to put those ideas into action.  We’re not talking revolutionary healthcare reform: maybe you think there should have been guacamole and tortillas instead of cheese cubes at the Christmas party,  or maybe you’d like to see a school funded trip to Toronto next year.  Whatever your ideas, MLISSA is your opportunity to give SIS the student life you’d like to see. An added bonus is that MLISSA is a great way to get to know some of the new first years, both through all of the welcome week activities and by interacting with the first year reps on next year’s council.

I’ve found being on MLISSA to have been an incredibly rewarding experience: it looks nifty on a resume, true, but more than that, I have gotten to see an idea that I came up with – getting a school blog going – take shape and start to make a difference at SIS.  I’ve enjoyed my time as a MLISSA committee member immensely, and I encourage you all to submit nominations and oust me from my place!

You can check out the formal description of the MLISSA positions here,  but you should all feel free to get in touch with the incumbents as well in order to get a sense of what we really do – we’ll be more than happy to give you the inside scoop!

So what are you waiting for? Nominate today!

2011 SIS-EBSI Career Fair

As you may know, the 2011 SIS-EBSI Career Fair is taking place next week! For the second year, students from Université de Montréal’s École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’information (EBSI) and McGill University’s School of Information Studies (SIS) will be holding a joint Career Fair.

This will be an exciting opportunity for employers to meet enthusiastic and talented students from the Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) programs. The 2011 EBSI-SIS Career Fair will be a major networking event during which future graduates and potential employers will have a chance to discuss employment possibilities.

If you want to take part in this great event, prepared by students from SIS and Université de Montréal’s École de bibliothéconomie et sciences de l’information, YOU MUST complete the form on our website (http://ebsi-sis-en.weebly.com/registration—students.html) before March 11. Students who have not signed up on time won’t be allowed to attend. If you’d like to find out what this Fair is all about, visit http://ebsi-sis-en.weebly.com/ Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us: sis.ebsi.2011@gmail.com This Fair was planned for you, so please try to make the most of this opportunity!

The Organizing Committee is also looking for volunteers to help out the day before and during the Fair. It is a fantastic occasion to meet employers and fellow students! Your commitment would be limited to a 1:30-2:00 period, so you still can enjoy your career day. Please contact us with your availability (on the 16th at night, the morning of the 17th or during the afternoon on the 17th) and if you are bilingual (English/French).

See you at the Fair!

Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.