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Indexing Fiction

All photos in this post are from SIS student Natasha Truttman @tashasbookshelf

by Shannon Viola

Fiction is innately subjective; themes are hidden, motifs are subtle, and sometimes the story itself is a representation of an idea, philosophy, or lesson. Unlike nonfiction, which explicitly states the subjects in abstract or the first few paragraphs, fiction is not so straightforward. Nonfiction indexers may disagree over which subject term best represents the concept, but the opportunity for dissension multiplies when it comes to the abstract “aboutness” of fiction. Moreover, skimming a fiction title does not give the same amount of understanding as an indexer would get from skimming a scientific journal article or thumbing through the chapters of a nonfiction title.

Moreover, there is debate over what aspects of fiction are required to be indexed. Early indexing efforts considered genre, year, and place as important aspects (Saarti, 1999), but authors often write novels that blend genres (Maker, 2008). Some publishers inaccurately label novels (Down, 1995, p. 63). Indexers may disagree over whether a title is relevant enough to be a “Classic” and be indexed as such, or disagree over choosing genres, such as whether the novels of Daphne De Maurier are part of the “Mystery” or “Literature” genre.


Involving the reader in indexing fiction could aid librarians in finding the “core aboutness” of a fictional work. The emergence of folksonomies on social reading sites, like Goodreads, and the theoretical research done on readers’ advisory services in public libraries, can inform the fiction indexer in their work. Analyzing the folksonomy indexing of a community of readers alongside the expertise of librarians will yield indexing terms that a patron is most likely to recognize or search for in an information retrieval system. The consideration of folksonomies and how readers themselves would index a book improves successful retrieval and better serves the fiction users in a public library.

Readers’ advisory is another practice that cannot be ignored when designing a model for fiction indexing. Readers’ advisory is a service provided by librarians that help their patrons discover what book they would like to read. The librarian conducts an interview of the patron in which they discern what “appeal factors” of a book that patron enjoys. Appeal factor are “those features that capture the essence of what is enjoyable about a particular book” (OLA, p. 6). Appeal factors are designed to embody the subjective nature of fiction. Appeal factors also were designed to help a reader find a book akin to books they have already enjoyed, so using appeal factors as indexing terms can help the reader find their next book with or without the assistance of a librarian or a readers’ advisory interview.



The aspects of fiction that Joyce Saricks identifies in “The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction” correspond to the most mentioned characteristics in reader reviews on Goodreads. For example, consider the Goodreads reviews for “The Hours” by Michael Cunningham. Readers mentioned many of the characteristics that Saricks established as part of the Literary Fiction genre. They mention Michael Cunningham’s intricately-wrought language, which is an identifying characteristic of Saricks’ Literary Fiction. In terms of plot, “story lines are thought-provoking. Literary Fiction operates in the realm of ideas as well as practicalities” (Saricks, 2009, p. 178). The Hours has a thought-provoking plot, since it is the story of three women whose actions mimic those of Clarissa Dalloway in Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway.” The interwoven plots  and an hour-by-hour plot were mentioned in the majority of reviews. The tone of the book can be dark, just as Saricks’ identified in her analysis of Literary Fiction (Saricks, 2009, p. 178).  The fact that The Hours won the Pulitzer Prize was also important to readers on Goodreads. Traditional indexing, such as the record for “The Hours” in the McGill catalog, describe the book in terms so broad that the aspects that readers want are hardly represented. How can a reader find a book they want if they retrieval system does not account for their tastes? The principles of readers’ advisory have the potential to inform both the design of future information retrieval systems and guidelines for fiction indexing.



Adkins, D., & Bossaller, J. (2007). Fiction access points across computer-mediated book information sources: A comparison of online bookstores, reader advisory databases, and public library catalogs. Library and Information Science Research, 29(3), 354-368. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2007.03.004

Baker, S., & Shepherd, G. (1987). Fiction classification schemes: The principles behind them and their success. Rq, 27(2), 245-251.

Down, Nancy (1995) Subject access to individual works of fiction, Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 20(20, 61-69, DOI: 10.1300/J104v20n02_05

Maker, R. (2008). Reader centered classification of adult fiction in public libraries. Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services, 21(4), 168-171.

Ontario Library Association (OLA). (n.d.). “Readers’ advisory conversation.”
Retrieved from: https://www.accessola.org/web/Documents/OLA/Divisions/OPLA/RACommittee/RA%20competency_conversation_final.pdf

Saarti, Jarmo. (2002). Consistency of subject indexing of novels by public library professionals and patrons. Journal of Documentation, 58(1), 49-65.

– (1999) Fiction indexing and the development of fiction thesauri. Journal of Librarianship and Information science, 31(2), 85-92.

Saricks, J. (2009). The readers’ advisory guide to genre fiction (2nd ed., ALA readers’ advisory series) Chicago: American Library Association.

Sauperl, A. (2012). Pinning down a novel: Characteristics of literary works as perceived by readers. Library Review, 61(4), 286-303. doi:10.1108/00242531211267581

Cheap Reading: Mass-Market Paperback Books in mid-twentieth century America

By Shannon Viola

With 28 million copies sold, Dr. Spock’s paperback book, “Baby and Child Care,” guided postwar parents as they raised the boomer generation (Davis, 1984). Dr. Spock’s book spurred the publication of even more paperback parenting manuals, to the extent that in “Paperback Mother…” (O’Malley et al, 2006, p. 83-93), the authors detail the pivotal role parenting manuals have had on their conception of parenthood. In addition to demonstrating the myriad and often misguided advice in the “Mommy Lit” genre, the article illustrates the omnipresent existence paperback books have in readers’ lives, especially in an area as intimate as parenting.

Because they are cheap and readily available at venues other than bookstores, paperback books can be bought at high volumes, and can be bought often, by parents in need of a quick parenting lesson, or by a reader searching for in-flight entertainment at an airport kiosk, or picking up a prescription at a drugstore. A rack of paperback books is within sight at all of these venues. Paperback books are small enough to fit in a travel bag and short enough to be consumed in a weekend, and their cover art is intentionally appealing.


A successful American paperback imprint did not arrive until 1939 when Robert de Graff founded Pocket Books. By reprinting hardcover titles in paperback, Pocket Books proved that good reading could be affordable (Hackley, 2006, p. 178). In the decades after Pocket Books democratized novels, the mass-market paperback flooded American drugstores and college bookstores with promises of affordable reading (Bonn, 1982). As sales for mass-market paperbacks increased, so did publishing competition. Paperback books had to be sized to fit side-by-side on racks, usually controlled by size standards, so publishers had to differentiate their titles from the competition with cover art and publishing house logos. In order to lure the reader, each cover featured sensational illustrations intended to entice the reader. Some of which were so lewd that they were brought to trial (Bonn, 1982).

Publishers distinguished their brand from other publishers with logos on predetermined spots on the book’s cover and with edge stains (Bonn, 1982, p. 104). For example, Pocket Books issued Cardinal Editions in 1950, and in order to establish them as the “luxury” paperback, and therefore worthy of the higher price of thirty-five cents, the titles and figures on the cover were embossed in gold (Bonn, 1982, p. 107). While designing a cover, the art director had to work with multiple elements. Each cover had to have the title, author’s name, editorial and promotion copy, book price, book number, publisher name and logo, and an attractive cover (Bonn, 1982, p. 82).

Paperback production, however, happened so quickly that art directors did not have much time to ponder over the most successful cover design. Bantam once produced a book, from author contract to press, in 46 ¼ hours (Bonn, 1982, p. 67). Titles were introduced as rapidly as periodicals (Bonn, 1982, p. 51). The limited amount of time led to each genre having its own archetypal cover. Westerns have dusty brown covers with hyper-realistic illustrations. Gothic novels are dark and moody, often with a gray castle looming in the background. Romance novels showcase muscular men leering at women both virginal and seductive. Mystery works, like those by hardboiled writer Mickey Spillane, featured murderers, their victims, skulls, and weapons. Works by the same author yielded uniform cover design (Bonn, 1982, p.112). Not only did archetypal covers simplify the art director’s job, but it was a clear message to readers about the subject matter of the book.


The cover art also had to advocate for the book’s purchase. Publishing houses hired artists who could illustrate appealing covers that could be reproduced within mechanical and printing limitations (Bonn, 1982, p. 92). Early paperback books were printed with letterpress machinery, and in the early 1950s, when elaborate and scandalous book covers came to market, covers were printed with offset lithography, since offset printing plates are cheaper and represent the acrylic artwork more faithfully (Bonn, 1982, p. 93). If the illustration was too fine to be reproduced with this method, then it was sent to a printer who was not affiliated with the book manufacturer (Bonn, 1982, p. 94). The cover art was the most important part of the book’s design and so no extra step was spared in its faithful reproduction.

The cover art inspired a reader to pick up the book, and then the “feel” of the book closed the sale. Paperback publishers often applied a spray finish to make the cover smooth and shiny (Bonn, 1982, p. 98). The standard size of a paperback fits well within the palm of a reader’s hand, purse, or pocket. The cover art has to simultaneously inform the reader of the genre and be interesting enough to purchase.

In an effort to generate interest, cover art often bordered on lewd. For example, Mickey Spillane’s book, “The Erection Set” (1972), featured a nude photo of his wife. The publishers had to reissue a more tame cover, without any cover illustration, for general-audience stores like the supermarket or drugstore. Yet even in the 1950s, cover art was daring, but often did not match the content of the book itself (Bonn, 1982, p. 55-56). The cover art for Emile Zola’s “Nana” was published by Pocket Books in 1941 with a somewhat provocative cover; Nana was on stage in a flimsy, strapless gown. Even though Pocket Books was known for relatively conservative covers, a subsequent edition of “Nana” was even more scandalous. Nana is once again on stage, and her gown is still white, but the fabric in the new cover art is transparent, and Nana is posing in a way that the dress hardly covers her (Bonn, 1982, plate 15a and 15b). Despite the sensational and potentially offensive cover, the cover art did not decrease sales for Pocket Books (Bonn, 1982, plate 15). “The Private Life of Helen of Troy” is perhaps one of the more scandalous covers, since it depicts Helen in a gown so transparent that the book was dubbed by news outlets as “the nipple cover.” The publishers most likely avoided a lawsuit for obscenity because Helen was a figure from Classical antiquity (Davis, 1984. P. 138). Cover art became so sensational that it often misrepresented the content of the book (Bonn, 1982, p. 55-56; Davis, 1984, p. 135-141). The slightest shocking passage in the text was amplified on the cover. Even a Nobel Prize winner like Sinclair Lewis’s “Babbitt” was given an exaggerated cover, in which Babbitt catches the attention of two women in tight clothing (Davis, 1984, p. 139).

The sensational cover art of American mass-market paperbacks in the 1950s makes them valuable to book collectors today. Popular Library and Avon titles are known among collectors to have the most wanted cover art, particularly those of the postwar era, which depicted half-naked women (Bonn, 1982, p. 122). Certain trends in cover art, such as the airbrushed back covers of Dell books from 1943-1953, are sought after (Bonn, 1982, p. 122). Popular artists, such as James Avati or Gerald Gregg, are just as collectible as first editions in paperback of famous authors like Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut, Truman Capote, or Dylan Thomas (Bonn, 1982).


Artwork by James Avati. Image source.

Moreover, mass-market paperbacks are easily found in secondhand bookstores or yard sales. Because mass-market paperbacks were designed to be disposable, or as affordable textbooks in a college course, the books can be ripped, stained, or annotated heavily, which the collector can either consider as a nuisance or an asset. The state of a mass-market paperback book is a testament to the book’s lifespan and all of the hands through which it has passed, since this format is what the majority of readers would have encountered (Tetterton, 1994). Mass-market paperbacks can therefore inform literary scholars of the reading habits and patterns of 20th century Americans.

Additionally, for authors whose work first appeared in paperback edition, subsequent re-printings of their work over the decades can attest to their rise in popularity and to the audience at which their work was aimed (Bonn, 1982, p. 125; Tetterton, 1994). For example, the gender-bending aspect of Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando” is represented on Quality Paperback Book Club’s edition, but not Penguin’s or Signet’s version (Tetterton, 1994). In order to understand this discrepancy in cover design, descriptive bibliographers and literary scholars can study the format and culture of the mass-market paperback. As a book format aimed at the everyday consumer, mass-market paperbacks are valuable evidence of the mid-20th century American reader.

To browse mass-market paperback covers, see this website.



Bonn, Thomas L. 1982. Under Cover : An Illustrated History of American Mass-Market Paperbacks. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.

Brown, Stephen. 2006. “Rattles from the swill bucket.”In “Consuming Books: the Marketing and Consumption of Literature. New York: Routledge. p. 1-18

Davis, Kenneth C. 1984. Two-Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Hackley, Chris. 2006. “I write marketing textbooks but I’m really a swill guy.” In Brown, Stephen (ed.) Consuming Books: the Marketing and Consumption of Literature. New York: Routledge. p. 175-182.

O’Malley, Lisa, Patterson, Maurise, and Bheachain, Caoilfhionn ni. 2006. “Paperback mother…” In Brown, Stephen (ed.) Consuming Books: the Marketing and Consumption of Literature. New York: Routledge. p. 83-95

Tetterton, Kelly. 1994. Paperbacks as an area of bibliographical study: the case of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. Retrieved from: http://www.tetterton.net/orlando/orlando_talk.html

Readers’ Advisory

By Shannon Viola, Maricel del Campo, and Hal Butler

Patrons of public libraries may not know that librarians are trained to help them find their next favorite book. For patrons, readers’ advisory services help them find books tailored to their tastes. For librarians, readers’ advisory services strengthen the library’s bond with the community and allow some of the dustier titles in the collection to be unearthed, read, and loved.

A readers’ advisory interview is a discussion about what a patron finds appealing about their favorite books. For example, “The Sound and the Fury” and “Southern Charmer” are both books about the American South, but would a reader of one like the other? Even though they might be under the same subject heading, “The Sound and the Fury” and “Southern Charmer” were written for readers with different literary tastes.

In a readers’ advisory interview, the patron and librarian are discussing reading experiences. What does the patron like in a book? Flowery prose? Moody atmospheres? A multi-layered plot? A patron may not have a clear idea of what sort of book they’d like to read next, or what exactly they like in a story. The librarian must ask open-ended questions to help the patron discover their reading preferences, and to inform their search for a successful title.

Readers’ advisory can also happen online. Most public libraries have web pages with links to a new titles list, book-browsing websites like Goodreads, or even the email of a readers’ advisory librarian who conduct the readers’ advisory interview remotely. Librarians can use these tools to support their search, but should not rely on these tools alone. A knowledge of their collection is the most important tool in determining the perfect read.

Librarians can also reach patrons for readers’ advisory through social media. The Toronto Public Library runs a blog that posts reading challenges and book suggestions. They also post reading suggestions on their Twitter page. Unlike online reading guides, however, social media reaches patrons who aren’t actively searching for readers’ advisory. An online reading guide may be hidden on a library’s website and can’t be found unless a reader is determined to find a guide.

You can try your hand at readers’ advisory by hunting for your own next read on these websites:

What Should I Read Next?
Literature Map

Read the Ontario Library Association’s report on readers’ advisory here.

Hometown Library: Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Maine

By Shannon Viola

This post is the first in a proposed series on the libraries in which SIS students grew up reading and nurturing their love for Information Science. If you are a SIS student who would like to write about your hometown library, send your post to shannon.viola@mail.mcgill.ca to be featured on Beyond the Shelf. 

Brunswick is a small town nestled in the nooks and crannies of the midcoast Maine coastline. Once a mill town and now a thriving small town community, Brunswick is home to artists, Bowdoin College students, and those who love the Maine wilderness. 

I grew up in Brunswick and return during SIS breaks, and when I am home, I always stop at Curtis Memorial Library. The library building consists of the old library, completed in 1904, that has a cozy atmosphere with its grandfather clock, fireplace, and shelves of art history books. The old library is connected to a larger building from 1999 that contains the majority of the library’s collection. I have been checking out books at Curtis since I was a student at St. John’s Catholic School. Because our school did not have its own library, we walked to Curtis to check out two books a week. As a high schooler, I earned volunteer hours shelving books at Curtis and spent afternoons after school reading by the fireplace. As an undergrad and Masters student, I stop by Curtis to finish assignments and read current issues of Time, or to hemorrhage my bank account at Twice Told Tales, the secondhand bookstore founded by Curtis. 

While the Curtis website offers a multitude of information about the library, I interviewed Wynter Giddings, the Manager of Technology and Training, in order to get a deeper understanding of how some of the ideas I’ve learned at SIS operate in a real-world public library. 

In some aspects, Curtis is a typical public library: free wireless, Young Adult and Children’s collections, e-readers available for borrowing, and genealogical records. Yet Ms. Giddings emphasized that community participation is what sets Curtis apart from other libraries in MidCoast Maine. Because of volunteers, the library has been able to conduct outreach to Harpswell, a smaller town bordering Brunswick, to assisted living and senior living facilities, and to the junior high school. Ms. Giddings, as the Manager of Technology and Training, visits a senior living facility with a colleague once a month to teach tech skills, in addition to providing drop-in tech help during the week. 

The reading room in the 1904 library building. Image source.

Community members are able to join Curtis Contemporaries, a patron group that supports advocacy and library stewardship. The Curtis Contemporaries collaborate with library staff to plan events, such as choosing the books for Books and Brews, a library book group hosted at a local brewery, and financially supporting the Collaboratory, an interactive exhibition space at Curtis. A tremendous amount of volunteers who donate time, money, and materials allow Curtis to serve a wider audience with creative solutions to their information needs. 

Serving the Brunswick community also means supporting local artists and writers. Curtis displays books from local writers prominently in the sitting area of the lobby and has a room dedicated to exhibiting works from local artists. The library is decorated with maritime oil paintings and wood relief carvings, and art installations from the Brunswick community. 

Additional Brunswick-specific collections include the Genealogy Room, which provides local histories, directories, and a snow index, and other materials for researchers. Curtis, in collaboration with the Bowdoin College Library and Patten Free Library in Bath, Maine, preserves the Times Record, the Brunswick area newspaper, on microfilm, since the newspaper does not archive their material. Even though Curtis is involved with the digital preservation of the Times Record, the Pejepscot Historical Society and the Bowdoin College Library are involved with the bulk of Brunswick history preservation. 

Curtis even involved the community when they were revamping their strategic planning in 2015. An in-person and online campaign called “10 Days, 100 Great Ideas,” prompted patrons to submit their own ideas for Curtis. At the end of those 10 days, 1,000 ideas were collected, and these ideas were included in the strategic planning process. Free Coffee Fridays and technology support were suggested by the community and implemented by Curtis. 

This focus on community participation is what earned Curtis the title of “Best Library in Maine” by Down East Magazine readers in 2017 and 2018. The library thanked the community for the recognition by hosting a cake and coffee reception. The symbiotic relationship between the library and its community make Curtis Memorial Library a role model for any public library. 

Thank you to Wynter Giddings for taking the time to answer my questions! 

To read more about Curtis Library, click here.

The Dorothy Duncan Fonds

By Shannon Viola

As part of GLIS 641, Archival Description and Access, my peers and I have been tasked with creating finding aids for some of the fonds in McGill’s Rare Books and Archives. My partner, Aeron McHattie, and I have been spending hours in the ROAAr reading room poring over the love letters, typescripts, and scrapbooks of Dorothy Duncan. An American-born Canadian writer, Duncan won the Governor General’s Award for English-language non-fiction in 1946 for Partner in Three Worlds. As I flip through Duncan’s scrapbooks or read her agenda, I feel the presence of a talented, industrious writer who works for the work itself and not for fame—and her claim to fame is often that her husband was Hugh MacLennan, also a writer, and English professor at McGill.

Duncan wrote an article for Maclean’s Magazine in 1945 called “My Author Husband,” a title that seems to overshadow her own work in favor of her husband’s. Duncan writes about her husband’s writing habits, his twofold personality, his dynamism in their twelve years of marriage. She remembers how a newspaper interviewer, who had read neither of their books, wrote that Duncan’s only impetus to write was out of boredom, that she married MacLennan and had nothing else to do in Montreal. Her fonds, however, contains two unpublished novels, written before she married MacLennan. She filled a composition notebook of her favorite quotes and poems in newspapers while she was in high school. Her letters are not the ramblings of a housewife drowning in ennui during a Montreal winter; they are the work of a writer.

Love letters from MacLennan to Duncan, some penned while she was away for the weekend, detail his adoration of her intellect. Duncan’s papers tell the story of their reciprocal admiration and their literary partnership. From the story Duncan’s papers are telling, it is apparent that reading MacLennan is not possible without reading Duncan. In “My Author Husband,” Duncan writes, “It is true that we differ greatly in the nature of our work, but I have still to write a book in which he does not appear.” The love letters from MacLennan echo his wife’s sentiment. If Duncan is remembered as “the wife of Hugh MacLennan,” then it is just as fair for MacLennan to be “the husband of Dorothy Duncan.”

The Dorothy Duncan fonds is available for study in the ROAAr reading room. For opening hours, visit this link.

To read Duncan’s article in Maclean’s, visit this link.

A McGill library search for Duncan’s work can be found here.

Canadian Fair Dealing: A primer for SIS students

By Rebecca Katz

Copyright is significant to the world of libraries, archives, and information management. In my research as well as my work advocating balanced copyright, I’ve come across some misconceptions and misperceptions about the law. A common issue for Canadians is that information about US law often overshadows its Canadian counterparts. Below is a very brief introduction to fair dealing, Canada’s counterpart to American fair use law.

First, copyright is not a limitless monopoly for owners. In most legal systems, copyright (an owner’s exclusive rights to do certain things with a creative work) expires eventually, at which point works enter the public domain. Further, copyright laws generally have both broad and narrow exceptions. The broad scheme of legislative exceptions in the US is called fair use. This means that a second-generation user can make certain uses of a copyrighted work that would otherwise infringe copyright, as long as the use meets some court-determined criteria.

Canada has its own similar, but not identical, legal doctrine, called fair dealing. Like fair use, fair dealing allows actors who are not the copyright owner to make certain uses of copyrighted works, and to defend those uses from infringement claims. Canada’s fair dealing doctrine works kind of like a flow chart. First, to benefit from this defense, a dealing with a copyrighted work must meet one of several purposes specified in Canada’s Copyright Act. Possible purposes are: research, private study, education, parody or satire, criticism or review, and news reporting. Subsequently, if a court determines that a dealing with a copyrighted work qualifies for a listed purpose, the court will consider six fair dealing factors to decide whether the defense applies. The factors are:

The purpose of the dealing Is the purpose an allowable one under the Act? Is it commercial (possibly fair) or non-commercial (even more likely to be considered fair dealing)?
The character of the dealing How was the copyrighted work dealt with? What are typical norms or practices in this community?
The amount of the dealing How much of the copyrighted work was copied or reused? (However, Canada’s Supreme Court has stated there may be times when copying a whole work is nevertheless fair.)
Alternatives to the dealing Did the person hoping to rely on fair dealing have alternatives available that would still allow them to achieve their goals? (The Supreme Court does not, however, require Canadians to change their goals or business model, or to resort to unwieldy alternatives.)
The nature of the copyrighted work Is the work fact or fiction, published or unpublished?
The effect of the dealing on the copyrighted work Is the would-be fair dealing likely to compete with the first-generation copyrighted work?

Canadian law also contains specific copyright exceptions for different actors or circumstances, such as libraries seeking to preserve items in their collections or offer interlibrary loans. Those exceptions tend to be quite detailed and narrow, with many conditions to meet. Fair dealing, by contrast, is high level. Fair dealing is also a retroactive defense, i.e., it can be hard to predict whether a specific dealing will be fair. However, Canada’s Supreme Court has been moving toward a liberal view of fair dealing for decades. Canadian information professionals should familiarize themselves with the fair dealing context and should not be overly conservative in dealing with works in our collections.

AMIA Symposium 2019

By Nicole Gauvreau

On February 18, 2019, the McGill student chapter of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) held their annual symposium. This year the symposium featured four student presentations, three presentations from current professionals, and a Q&A with a panel of professionals.

The Student Presentations

First Paige Stewart, MISt II, presented on the ongoing digitization project for CKUT 90.3’s collection of small batch release, Canadiana, and Montreal music cassettes, some of which are now unique. While previous digitization and transfer projects have been carried out, they were done in collaboration with ArcMTL; Stewart has developed a new workflow for the current project that is suitable for implementation by CKUT 90.3’s 8 staff and 250 volunteers. All volunteers will undergo a training in the digitization process to empower them to carry out the process on their own, with the guidance of a workflow document or wiki.

Next, Laura Jacyna, MISt II, presented her “Review of audiovisual archive case studies in Africa.” Jacyna’s compared audiovisual archives in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Botswana, and Namibia and presented on the contents and common problems face by the archives, including a lack of trained professionals, a variety of obsolete formats, and funding that most often comes from foreign sources.

The third presenter, Pamela Smofsky, MISt II, shared her ongoing home movie digitization process. Smofsky’s family has a large collection of home movies from 1991 to 2008 on VHS, Hi8, and DV tapes. Due to previous conversion of VHS to DVD, Smofsky is currently working on the Hi8 tapes. Smofsky’s workflow includes digitizing in real time (around 2 hours per tape), editing multi-event videos into individual events and adding metadata, and saving the videos to two separate external hard drives.

Finally, Emma Wilson, MISt II, presented on the Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York City, which accepts everything from self-identified lesbians, including ephemera, gossip, and rumour. The Herstory Archives also maintains a fabricated history archive of photos and a mockumentary about the fictitious Fae Richards in order to represent women who lived but whose lives were not recorded. Wilson’s final takeaway on the archives was that institutions should privilege ephemera, gossip, and even fabricated evidence to reconstruct marginalized narratives.

The Professional Presentations

The first of the professional presentations came from Alexandra Mills, Special Collections Archivist for Concordia University. As part of her work, Mills has assessed the digital special collections at Concordia to identify A/V formats, ultimately identifying over 6,200 original recordings and an unknown number of copies in analogue and digital formats across 51 fonds on a variety of carriers. In the collections, originals have been saved, often in multiple identical copies, with inconsistent metadata that leads to a risk of inauthenticity or dubious quality. Thus, a need to make metadata consistent and find multiples for version control is needed and being implemented.

Next, Louis Rastrelli, director and co-founder of ArcMTL, presented on ArcMTL’s collection generally, and more specifically the digitization of VHS tapes documenting the 1980s Montreal hardcore punk scene. ArcMTL’s collections focus on small press, printed and poster art, and A/V material from the 1960s to today, which means they have many legacy formats from the 1960s to the 1990s. In 2017, hundreds of tapes related to the 1980s punk scene were donated. As ArcMTL does not use legacy formats for access, it is necessary to perform a physical evaluation and then digitize all the tapes and their labels and inserts. At ArcMTL this process means using machines from the era in which the carrier was made and using as high of a sampling rate as possible, but that isn’t higher than the resolution of the carrier for the best results.

Finally, Alexandra Jokinen, Digital Processing Archivist for the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), presented on complex digital objects in archives. As an architecture institution, the CAA’s archives contain many complex digital objects, especially CAD files, on a variety of carriers, including 5.5-inch floppies and 8 mm data cartridges. Accessing and maintaining these files often requires specialized hardware and software. At the CAA, this has led to using BitCurrator, disk imaging tools (such as Kryoflux), write blockers to ensure data can’t be modified, Nimbi (a disk imaging robot), specialized programs to summarize and analyze data, and manual file normalization. Presently there is no public access to digitized material, but a plan is in development so that people can directly access DIPs.

From the panel:

Finding jobs in archives: Listservs, ArchivesGig and the SAA jobsite.

Organizations to join: AMIA, IASA, ARSC

The Subtle Art of Postcards: A Newberry Crowdsourcing Project

By Nina Patterson

Postcard from Art in Miniature, The Newberry Library

For the past five weeks or so I have been looking at postcards. Fields, Mountains, Roads, Rest Stops, Motels, Chickens having breakfast in bed (see above): images that one might see winding along Route 66. Each postcard provides a glimpse into a nostalgic past. This project is part of a remote internship offered by the Newberry, an independent research library in Chicago. I have always been enamoured with postcards. I usually buy several every time I visit a new place. I was unexpectedly excited to learn that one who collects postcards is called deltiologist. While my own collection is humble, the Newberry has a staggering number of postcards beginning with the 500,000 unique postcards in the Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection that was acquired by the Newberry in 2016. Since then several other collections have been added.

With so many postcards it would take the permanent staff eons to complete the task of cataloguing and classifying these unique pieces of ephemera. The two main projects that interns this winter have been working on are Picture Postcard America (20th Century American life) and Art in Miniature (early 20th century visual culture and Edwardian-era Britain). We have been using the Zooniverse platform; it is fairly easy to navigate in comparison to some other crowdsourcing platforms that I have previously browsed. The staff at the Newberry have been very helpful and any hiccups with the transcription process usually get resolved within a couple days. We help to classify these postcards using controlled vocabulary as well as assisting in transcribing titles and production numbers.  Along the way we have learned about the value of crowdsourcing, metadata, and data wrangling to GLAM institutions; all things that can hopefully serve us well in future projects.

There are some crowdsourcing projects presently going on at McGill including Data Rescue: Archival and Weather (DRAW) which seeks to uncover “the story of Montreal’s evolving climate captured in the McGill Observatory’s historical weather logs.” These valuable transcriptions aid scientists and researchers to gain a better understanding of the changing environment of the city of Montreal.

So, while it’s looking at a postcard for The Ranchito Motel (the last postcard I came across) or finding out what the temperature was on February 11. 1926, I think crowdsourcing gives us a chance to help with fascinating initiatives often from the comfort of our own homes.

Postcard from Picture Postcard America, The Newberry Library

Records in Ruins: Preservation and Conservation of Archaeological Heritage

By Gabryelle Iaconetti

On November 26, 2018, I had the pleasure of attending a conference at Pointe-à-Callière Museum in old Montreal entitled “La conservation du patrimoine culturel: Archeologie et monuments anciens”, translating to “The conservation of cultural heritage: Archaeology and ancient monuments.” This conference was organized in honour of 2018’s European Year of Cultural Heritage in partnership with multiple cultural institutions across Canada and Europe. The speakers present were Massimo Osanna from Italy, Jean-Marc Mignon from France, Pilar Fatas from Spain, Franziska Fecher from Germany, Gerda Koch from Austria, Hendrik Van Gijseghem and Louise Pothier from the hosting museum, and James Woollett and Julien Riel-Salavatore from Canada. The aforementioned presenters come from different cultural heritage institutions with research interests in a variety of archaeological sites worldwide.

As a future information professional with an educational background in classics, I had always wondered how I could incorporate my interest and passion for the ancient world with that of archives and the preservation of information. That question was easily answered by the professionals and academics who spoke about their work in the field at this conference. In fact, several of the presentations incorporated many aspects of archives, data management, digital preservation and information dissemination. For the purposes of remaining succinct, I will only recount the findings from the presentations which I believe are the most applicable to the information field.

Massimo Osanna kicked off the event with his case study on conservation and preservation efforts at Pompeii. Pompeii is one of the most famous and important cities of the ancient world. Excavations began in 1748, and conservation and preservation efforts are ongoing. However, a major issue that is currently being tackled by academics studying Pompeii is the lack of record-keeping and archiving of previous excavations. Without the maintenance of archives and records, it is difficult for excavators and scholars to understand the use of materials for restoration efforts at Pompeii. With the use of photogrammetry and laser scans of the site, there has been a new informatic archive implementated, as well as better documentation. Additionally, there have been efforts put towards the digitization of the Pompeii photographic archives. These new emphases on documentation and record-keeping of excavation activities will certainly aid in the preservation of knowledge within the archaeological community.

It was obvious from the reports of the presenters that there are tremendous steps being made in the areas of digital archaeology, and how it pertains to the preservation of cultural heritage. This was emphasised by James Woollet’s penultimate presentation about the risks to archaeological sites due to climate change. Ultimately, we have limited time before a number of sites are destroyed by rising sea levels and lost for good. Archaeological sites are of extreme value to those studying history, classics, and other humanities disciplines, which makes it all the more urgent to preserve their existence, even in digital form. Franziska Fecher’s presentation was heavily focused on digital archaeology practices at sites in the Honduras, namely Copan and Guadalupe. Much like Pompeii, the archaeologists working at the Honduran sites make sure of photogrammetry and laser scans to document current states of the sites, and to be able to later digitally reconstruct them for analysis and preservation. This is incredibly important as these digital scans allow researchers to analyze and manipulate these models in order to gain better understanding of archaeological structures and artifacts.

Gerda Koch’s presentation on Europeana proved to be a big hit with me personally, as it focused on many of the concepts of preservation and information dissemination that I have learned thus far in the MISt program. Europeana is a digital initiative that ensures online access to digital information collected from libraries, archives and museums across Europe. One can access millions of records through Europeana. Some of its great qualities include searchability by metadata, curated collections of content, growth of thematic collections, and online exhibitions. There are over 2 million archaeological objects on Europeana, which goes to show how crucial preservation of these cultural heritage materials are. There is an incredible amount of things I can say about Europeana, but it would be more beneficial for anyone interested in European heritage to check out their website for themselves and discover what their collection has to offer.

Attending this conference was an incredibly enriching experience and has strengthened my resolve to continue my own research in information science with regard to archaeological heritage. It is undeniable that the two fields intersect at crucial points, and it is relieving to see that consideration for the proper preservation of archaeological heritage is being taken seriously. As the field continues to evolve, and more information is being collected, so too should our methods for adequate preservation and record-keeping of these very important cultural heritage materials.

Librarianship around the world: A conversation with Linda Bréard

By Nicole Gauvreau

In December, Linda Bréard will be the final person to graduate McGill’s School of Information Studies with an MLIS. However, Bréard will not be new to the world of working as an information professional upon graduation: she has worked as a school librarian in international schools (in particular international baccalaureate, or IB, schools) in Mali, Morocco, China, and Vietnam since 2002. Last week Beyond the Shelf sat down with Bréard to talk about entering the field of international school librarianship, resources to find jobs, what the experience is like, other important things to know about international school librarianship, and the type of person who may do best as an international school librarian.

Entering the field
Even before becoming and international school librarian, Bréard knew a lot of teachers and had been interested in education, despite not having a background in it herself. She was also working on a BSc in Library and Information Technology from the University of Maine; in many international schools in Africa and Asia this is sufficient though in Europe you need an MLIS or equivalent.

Bréard emphasized that the schools looking to hire librarians are not the sort that take people on to teach English to local students, but are schools accredited by international bodies and one in their home country that offer a curriculum from their home country (most often the UK or US) and/or the IB curriculum.

While it is possible to be hired if you only speak English (generally at the British or American International schools), schools will ask what languages you speak and being multilingual is helpful in collection development and because the students at the school will often come from 40-60 countries, speak dozens of different first languages, and be learning multiple languages at school. You will often be given the chance to learn some of the local language.


Early in her career Bréard used The International Educator (TIE) to find and apply for positions. Most of the jobs advertised on TIE are not the top international schools, but they do hire new grads and those with little experience if you have enthusiasm. There is a US$39 fee for one year of online only access, which allows you to view job postings, put your resume online, and see articles.

Bréard now uses Search Associates, a recruiting firm that specializes in international schools. Search Associates is more expensive (US$225) for three years or until you sign a contract through them, whichever comes first), but provides more (including in-person job fairs), is targeted at professional staff with more experience, and hosts listings from top tier schools.

Other resources include International School Services-Schrole Advantage (US$75 for one year).

The Experience

In an international school you will often be the only librarian in a K to 12 school and professional development is hard as the chance to meet with other international school librarians from your region of the world only comes once a year for a few days. This is part of why Bréard chose to begin her MLIS in 2012: to get more recent information (such as implementing eBook collections) and get inspired in order to better support students.

Bréard says as an international school librarian you “work like crazy, but get a lot out of it”. You are expected to be at the school for extra-curricular activities and school events, may need to host an extra research class on a weekend, and will not only be in charge of but also do the collection development and cataloguing.

However, the community at the school from staff to students becomes like family when you work in an international school as people are often in the same situation of getting to know the country and moving often. You will also likely get a lot of time off for holidays as many schools give both local and home country holidays, which gives you a chance to travel.

Other Things to Know

Many of the positions will be listed as teacher-librarian positions, and while you don’t need to be a qualified teacher if you are a qualified librarian.

International schools have a hard time filling librarian positions (on par with chemistry and physics teachers)

The time to apply for jobs starting in August is NOW! You will need to provide police checks.

You may not want to come “home”.  Bréard has tried twice but found things to be more rewarding and exciting at international schools.

Who should you be?

Someone who wants to give everyone access to everything, but can deal with censorship based on local laws

Flexible and adaptable to change

Prepared to teach at least a research or information literacy course

Ready to deal with lots of bureaucracy

Have a really good sense of humour


Technically Sound

By Michael Stewart

To this day, the wise words of professor Jamshid Beheshti ring clearly in my head (for all those who had GLIS601 with him in Fall 2017 or before, I will do my best to paraphrase him); ‘do you really think you are going to be paid the big bucks with your master’s degree to stock shelves or catalogue? No, you will be managers!’. As true as this statement is, it does raise another issue. If we are not the ones ‘stocking shelves’ or ‘cataloguing’, then who will? Where will these people come from and if we are to be managers, how are we to recognize them?

Here enters the role of library and information technicians. Information technicians are highly skilled and in high demand in information organization including document centres, archives, special libraries, and beyond. In Quebec, the training of these technicians falls under the responsibilities of CEGEPs and there are currently 6 institutions scattered around the province which offer a Technique de la Documentation program. Of those 6 schools, there is only one who offers the program in English and (surprise, surprise) it is right here in Montreal.

John Abbott College (johnabbott.qc.ca) is one of 8 English-language public colleges in the province and the only one to offer the Information and Library Technologies (ILT) program. It is a 3-year technical degree, however there is a 2-year intensive stream offered for anyone who already holds a CEGEP diploma (DEC). By the end of their time in the program, ILT students will have learned several hard skills and be more proficient in the day-to-day operations of a library than any of us in the MISt program. I had the chance to sit down with one of the program’s instructors, Esther Szeben (McGill, MLIS ’99), and talk about the program as well as her professional and educative journey.

MS: Can you tell me a little bit about the Information and Library Technologies program and your position in the program?

ES: Our program is very comprehensive. We are trying to prepare technicians to work in libraries or record centres to support information management and work in conjunction with librarians. Our students graduate with a lot of concrete skills. For example, they take three classification courses and two cataloguing courses… when they graduate, they really know where to place everything. They come out and they know tangibly what to do with a record, a file, a CD, etc. They know how to descriptively catalogue it, they know how to download the MARC record and integrate it into the library system. They get a number of computer courses. They know HTML, they can create web-sites, they can do advanced PowerPoint presentations, they know the majority of the large integrated library systems like Koha and Regard, they can create a relational database in Access, etc.

MS: Roughly how many students come into the program every year?

ES: This year I believe there were about 27 new students. It is a small program but growing. In the program they need to do their general education classes (English, French, Physical Education, etc.), and then they have the core program courses. Last year about 18 students graduated and half of them had job offers before graduation in June. Some are working in academic libraries at Concordia and McGill, they are working in school libraries, some are in special libraries (e.g. law libraries, the Federal Space Agency).

MS: What would the professional relationship be between a graduate from your program and a MISt graduate?

ES: You will work in parallel, you will work together. They will be your cataloguer and so on. The librarian will have to know the macro of how the library is set up while the technicians will know the micro. These students are specialists in the hands-on tasks of an information center. I couldn’t catalogue to save my life, but these students come out of this program having perfected the art of cataloguing.

Another thing we do teach is communications. Some of our students might have chosen this field because they are shy, but they will still have to effectively communicate with suppliers, sometimes with patrons, and for sure with the librarians. So, we feel communication skills are very important too.

MS: So, do you teach teaching? With information literacy being very important now, do you show your students how to teach others to use information services?

ES: It is covered in a few courses. Our program is currently going through a revision and I can tell you that information literacy is slatted as a new course. We have a consulting committee which meets twice a year and we meet with librarians from academia, special and school libraries, and other institutions to see what is happening; to get our finger on the pulse of what is going on. Through these discussions it has been resolved that IL and education instruction is going to have to be a focus for our program.

MS: Could you tell me more about your position in the program?

ES: I teach reference courses. I teach a class called “Documents and their Producers”. It is a third-year course which focuses on the publishing industry. We look at traditional publishing and now with the advent of self-publishing and open source we talk about those too. We also talk about the government as a producer of information. They understand the structure of the government, where to find information about the House of Commons and the Senate, once a bill becomes a law where do they find the consolidated statutes and all those very exciting things. They also learn where to find and how to use the various [Statistics Canada] products like the consumer price index, the census, and the daily bulletins so that they can manipulate the data that is out there which the government manages.

MS: You have had professional experiences in many information fields, what advice could you give to a MISt student?

ES: My advice is this: if you are able to, study part-time and work, in the field, part-time. Academia is good, but we do not want to only become a cog in the assessment machine (hear, learn, test, assess, write a paper, etc.). It is very difficult to absorb and integrate knowledge in such a system. My first year in MLIS I did full-time and then I went down to part-time and got to work in a pharmaceutical library. I got to put the theory which I was learning in class into practice.

Also, I wouldn’t have known that I wanted to work in a library and do reference until I tried it. I finished my undergrad and had some experience as an information professional but never in a library. I assumed my natural path would be continuing in research and knowledge management. But once I tried academic library reference, I fell in love with it and that is where I have spent most of my professional career. I guess I am saying, try everything and anything. Some people are really lucky and fall upon their dream job right away, but my experience is that ultimately it is a crap-shoot. If you see a position, apply and try it out. You never know. I have worked in public libraries, corporate libraries, record centers, fundraising, academia, and now here. When I saw this position, I knew it was for me and I love it here; but I have learned something from every professional experience which has led me to this place.

MS: Is there anything else to add?

ES: I miss my days at Thomson House…? Those were good times!

Decolonizing, Indigenizing, and Examining the Patriarchy: 2018 ACA Student Colloquium: Archives and Activism

By Nicole Gauvreau

How can archives be activists? What archival institutions are already being activists? These were the most basic questions of the 2018 ACA Colloquium on Friday, March 16. The answers came from Katherine Kasirer of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB); Camille Callison—a member of the Tsesk iye clan of the Tahlatan Nation, Indigenous Services Librarian at the University of Manitoba, and member of the NFB Indigenous Advisory Board; Beth Greenhorn of Library and Archives Canada (LAC), and François Dansereau, archivist for the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).

Katherine and Camille gave a joint presentation, with Camille joining via video link, on decolonizing and indigenizing subject access to the NFB indigenous collection. The effort is part of a three year plan in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s report and includes over 33 action to transform the NFB, redefine its relationship with the indigenous peoples it has historically viewed through a European lens, and to re-write their descriptions to meet today’s standards. A large part of this is a new indigenous cinema page, which employs the Brian Deer Classification System and uses tribes and nations names for themselves. The NFB would like to eventual decolonize the entire “ethnographic” film collection.

Beth Greenhorn spoke of her long-time involvement with Project Naming, LAC’s effort to correct the historical record and past wrongs in relation to images of indigenous peoples. The project started with a collection of 500 photos of people from what is now Nunavut and has grown from there to include pictures of people from a variety First Nations, Inuit, and Métis groups. Once photos are identified through events in communities or in Ottawa, through social media, through the LAC website, or through the “Do you know your elders?” series that has been run in Nunavut newspapers, new caption are made for the photos. A general caption is kept, and information on the person or people in the photo is added in brackets. The LAC is also currently working to change location information to indigenous names, though they are retaining the English names from the time the photos were taken for the historical record. Finally, the materials can be made available to communities to tell their own stories. Social tagging and transcription tools should be available soon.

The end of the colloquium brought François Dansereau and his presentation “Power Dynamic and Institutional Archives: Masculine Authority and the Modern Hospital”, which looked at the representation of women in the MUHC archives. Women were drastically under represented in the hospital archive; often the only early appearances were nurses and nuns in group pictures with male doctors. This changed as time went on, with women appearing more alone and using technology as nurses, technicians, and doctors, but still at a lower rate than male doctors. How do you solve the problem? For existing archives the role of women needs to be highlighted; for materials to be added records from women must be taken as well.

Overview of Programming Languages for Beginners

By Tyler Kolody

DISCLAIMER: Though I’ve tried to stick with the facts, I’m primarily a Python programmer interested in data science/AI, so opinions expressed come from that perspective.



Pros: Faster than pretty much anything else, OG modern language with most other languages inheriting syntax from it, will let you do anything you want even if you shouldn’t.

Cons: Lacks the versatility of the object-oriented paradigm, doesn’t do anything for you; everything must be explicitly built, will let you do anything you want even if you shouldn’t

Summary: The grandfather of modern programming languages, except this grandpa is Usain Bolt and none of its kids or grandkids can keep up with it in a straight race. Like most geriatrics, it’s not very flexible, but despite being over 40 years old, it is still in active use for many applications. It isn’t as popular as C++ or Java, but is useful when writing code that must be extremely fast and light weight, while still being executable on multiple system architectures. Different compilers can read and convert it into machine code for many different system architectures without changing the code itself. It epitomizes the old adage “Easy to learn, hard to master” as the codebase itself is extremely small, but true understanding is something that could take decades to reach.

Hello World!:



Pros: Very fast, has modern language features, won’t let you access memory willy-nilly so is safer than C

Cons: Difficult to learn, suffers from readability issues as it is literally just C with a bunch of things added retroactively and some of it can get messy

Summary: Much of what has been said about C can be said about C++, and you can technically run C++ as C. However, they are not the same language and C++ adds many modern features; most notably the concept of classes and objects is central to C. It is still a low-level language and abstracts very little, but it will not allow you to do whatever you want the way C does. For example, it will prevent you from accessing memory memory you shouldn’t, making it safer. These attributes, in addition to its efficiency make it ideal for large applications that still need to run quickly, making it very popular for game engines and cryptocurrency protocols.

Hello World!:



Pros: Easy to read, beginner friendly, very wide range of applications particularly in data science

Cons: Slower than other general-purpose languages, not as scalable for very large projects

Summary: Python is a high-level language that abstracts away much of what is going on in the code, allowing for very fast prototyping and leading to extremely easy to read syntax. This stems from the fact that it does not require explicit type declarations, nor does it require programmers to understand memory management. This is helpful when trying to introduce concepts to beginners, but by ignoring these concepts it can make it more difficult to move to other languages later on. Underneath it’s simple syntax, Python combines many different features and paradigms, making it extremely flexible. For example, it is an interpreted language meaning that each statement is read and translated into machine code at run time, but can also be compiled if desired. This, makes it a popular language at all levels of programming experience. Even it’s notable performance issues can be circumvented in some cases using libraries that allow other languages to run within its code (notably C, the fastest modern language). Python has commonly used versions, 2.7x and 3.x, commonly referred to simply as Python 2 and 3. Python 2.7x is the older version which traditionally has had better library support. However, Python 3 is the future, and has more or less caught up to it’s predecessor. While there are many differences under the hood, practically speaking the syntax differences are fairly minimal.

Hello World!:

Python 2

print “Hello World!”

Python 3

print(“Hello World!”)



Pros: Very portable across different platforms without needing to be compiled multiple times, substantial community support, no need for memory management unlike C++

Cons: Some security issues, purely OOP (literally everything has to be an object) can be difficult to get used to for those coming from mixed paradigms

Summary: Java is the most ubiquitous of the Big Three general purpose languages, being extremely portable and having many features that make it very compatible with web development in addition to app development and general use. It has been the dominant language for two decades, and although it has lost ground to others, it is still enormously popular. It’s as versatile as Python, almost as fast as C++ and more portable than pretty much anything; essentially a jack of all trades. It’s also the main language used to write Android apps, making ‘Java developer’ a very high demand position. However, since everything must be an object, the syntax can get extremely long and unwieldy.

Hello World!



Pros: Hahahaha no…Fine, I’ve been informed that this is supposed to be informative and not a platform for my biases so I’ll try. It is fairly simple, if not very nice, syntactically speaking. It’s fast. Its popularity means there’s a lot of documentation and support for troubleshooting.

Cons: You don’t have a choice if you want to do web development; it’s the primary client-side language used. It is a security nightmare; most web exploits are rooted in JS. It’s not browser agnostic.

Summary: JavaScript is the most popular client-side web language in existence, and is responsible for much of the modern internet’s look and functionality. It handles everything on your computer when you browse, hence why it is ‘client-side’, as opposed to server-side languages such as PHP that handle the back end of web development. Most things that move on a website and anything you can interact with is the result of JavaScript. It is entirely web-focused, but can technically be used more generally. The wide array of frameworks such as jQuery, Angular and React allow for a diverse approach to web and application development. Its prevalence across the web ensure that it isn’t going anywhere, and the variety of frameworks and active community help cover up some of it’s numerous issues. On the topic of its name and relation to other languages: Java is to JavaScript as car is to carpet.

Hello World!:

To print to browser:

alert(“Hello World!”)

To print to console:

console.log(“Hello World!”)



Pros: You can’t get any closer to the metal, very clearly (relatively speaking) corresponds with CPU instructions.

Cons: The metal is cold, hard and frequently shocks you. Made worse if your tears of frustration and despair short out the keyboard.

Summary: This is functionally machine code, where each line or instruction roughly corresponds to an instruction executed by the CPU. Assembly is not an actual language but an umbrella term; each CPU architecture has a different language specific to it. It is typically used for embedded systems, devices with little computing power and need to be absurdly lightweight. It is the interface between hardware and software that eventually, every other language is compiled to or interpreted as. Primarily the realm of hardcore engineering nerds who should get out more, but no judgement if this is your thing.

Hello World! (NASM x64 assembly):



Where Are They Now? SIS Graduates in the Workforce, Part 2

SIS students have gone on to have a diverse and exciting array of careers. This week, Beyond the Shelf welcomes 2017 grad Rebecca Pothier to talk about her post-graduation experiences.


Tell us a bit about yourself: What’s your educational background, and why did you want to take the MISt degree? What area did you focus on during the program (library, archives, HCI, KM)?
I have a Bachelor’s of Arts in Public History from Concordia. This program had an internship component and after taking quite a few Irish history and Irish studies courses at Concordia I decided I wanted to go to Ireland for my internship. I ended up working at the Glasnevin Cemetery and Museum in Dublin, where I was introduced to archives and this is what inspired me to do Information Studies. I started in 2013 in the archive stream (this was before the streams were dissolved), then I went on a trip to southeast Asia over the summer, decided I was having too much fun and dropped out to move to Australia for a year. Finally when I came back I re-enrolled and after taking a few library courses realized I was more interested in the library side of the program.


Where are you working now? What attracted you to the position, and is it where you thought you would end up when you started the program?
I am currently unemployed and looking for jobs in the library field.


Take me through a regular day at work – what do you get up to on a day-to-day basis?

My previous job was at a non-profit library. I can give you a a run through of my typical day there: I would confirm that I had all my volunteers lined up for the weekly reading activities, reach out to the centres we worked with to make sure everything was running smoothly, research new centres in the area and try to reach out to them and explain our project, oversee the cataloguing process, and meet with my boss to discuss the activity’s progress.


How did you get involved while you were a student, whether with student associations or work experience?

As a student I volunteered with the Jewish Public Library for a couple months doing shelving. I also did the practicum at a public library which was the best experience and I would highly recommend


Do you have any advice for current students or recent graduates?

Advice I have is to try a bunch of different things. I was quite set on being an archivist and after being introduced to some library classes I realized this fit me much better. I am still trying to stay open to things beyond your typical library career. I really enjoyed the ABQLA mentor program, my mentor has been a really helpful resource!


Thank you to Rebecca for sharing with us!
This post has been edited for clarity.

AMIA Symposium 2018

Student presenters, professional panel, and AMIA exec.

The student chapter of the Association of Moving Image Archivists held their annual symposium this past Friday. It featured presentations of current and recent projects by SIS students, as well as a panel discussion with several information professionals working in the audiovisual archival field.

Student Presentations

Our first presenter was Sarah Lake, with “Transitioning to the Cloud: Giving Access to Oral Histories”. Sarah spoke about her experiences working at Concordia’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling; in particular, about the challenges of migrating a large project from hard drive to cloud storage. Sarah spoke about the workflow involved in this process, as well as best practices for future maintenance of the collection and long-term preservation planning.

Next, Kat Barrette spoke on “Mapping Past and Present: Special Collections and Public Outreach”, an overview of engaging the public with material from special collections, in this case maps and photographs. She worked on creating a series of workshops for high school students at LaurenHill Academy using History Pin, an open source web program that lets users pin JPEGs to maps, showing photographs from the past overlaid on current locations. She shared the steps involved in organizing a project like this, as well as recommendations drawn from her experience to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Albe Guiral then presented “From a Mouldy Box to Internet Sensation: The Photographs of the Fonds de l’Aqueduc at the Archives of the City of Montreal”. While working at the archive Albe was involved in digitizing and sharing with the public a collection of glass-plate photographs, and took us through the whole archival process, with a focus on preservation and outreach. She She spoke of the challenges involved in cleaning and scanning such delicate photographs, as well as best practices for dealing with contaminated materials. She also explained the process of digitally restoring them and sharing with the public on social media.

Finally, Rachel Black presented “Preserving Memory: Personal Archive Creation and Management”. Rachel has been working on creating a family archive of photographs, documents, and physical objects, and shared with us some of the lessons learned from this experience. She explained the process from beginning to end, focusing on the importance of planning the workflow of a project like this. she also spoke about the importance of preservation planning and records management in maintaining a personal archive.

Student presenters

Panel Discussion

Our panel opened by telling us about themselves and their current jobs. They took us through a typical day of work, the consensus being that there is really no such thing as an information professional. We then discussed the challenges of working with both analog and digital archival materials, and some of the current projects our professional panel members are working on.

Opening the floor to questions from the audience, our panel spoke about their educational backgrounds and gave advice to current students, speaking about useful skills and knowledge to acquire during the program. The most common advice was to try and take a bit of everything in order to have a well-rounded skillset – and you never know what might turn out to be an area of interest!

Finally, our panel gave us the names some free resources for audiovisual archiving. There are may free webinars available and a lot of conferences are livestreamed online. Specific resources recommended include the Digital Library Federation, where students can get involved in online work groups, the Access Tech Conference (which is livestreamed), and large libraries such as Library of Congress and BANQ. Other resources include Bay Area Video Collection, which includes a compendium of common video errors one might run across, and IASA TC-04, which provides a how-to on audio preservation. Finally, Project Naming, which works with identifying indigenous peoples in photographs and then restores those photographs to the communities in which they were taken.

Panel discussion

Professional Panel Members
Bios provided by Kat Barrette, AMIA-McGill Co-President

Sarah Severson, Digital Library Services Coordinator, Digital Initiatives, McGill University Libraries
Sarah is in charge of the McGill digilab, overseeing the digitization of rare books and documents, as well as the creation of digital exhibits of images and 3D objects.

Melissa Pipe, Documentation Technician (Audiovisual Archive), Marvin Duchow Music Library at McGill University
Melissa is responsible for the sound and audiovisual collections at the Marvin Duchow Music Library. This includes accession, preservation, and digitization of various materials.

Louis Rastelli, Administrator and Founder of Archive Montreal
Louis founded Archive Montreal, which houses sound, audiovisual, and various ephemeral materials, mostly dating back to the 1960s. They perform digitization of images, graphic material, sound and moving image in-house in an effort to preserve Montreal’s underground culture.

Molly Bower, recent graduate
Molly co-founded the multimedia archive of the Maagdenhuis occupation, now housed in the Amsterdam City Archive (Amsterdam Stadsarcheif). She also organized Westmount Library’s first Home Movie Day.

Gordon Burr, former Senior Archivist, McGill University Archives
Gordie is the former senior archivist at McGill. He still teaches courses at SIS, and is the AMIA Faculty Rep.


InfoNexus 2018

Guest post by Nicole Gauvreau

Photos by Felicia Pulo and Audrée-Ann Ramacieri-Tremblay


At SIS it can feel like different events are only for people interested in one of libraries, archives, KM, or ICT, be it a 5 à 7, a tour, a workshop, or a webinar. InfoNexus, is the event that has something for SIS students of every interest. It is also a great way to hear about skills you need but may not learn at SIS and offers a chance to network.

Info Nexus began with a presentation from the new archivist for Bell Canada and gave a look into being the lone archivist for one of Canada’s largest companies. From cataloguing documents, photos, and items and putting all the information from the paper master cards created until 1980 into the digital catalogue to helping researchers and gathering items and information for exhibitions, displays, and publication, Janie Théorêt does it all. Théoret also showed how far we still have to go in the world of digital curation, as Bell does not save it’s digital advertisements, only the print ones.


Presenter and SIS PhD student Vera Granikov detailed what it is to be a research-embedded health information specialist, a path she said she likely wouldn’t have found herself on were it not for her practicum. Granikov says her job, and the jobs many SIS students may have in the future, doesn’t fit neatly into one category of librarian, archivist, or knowledge manager. For example, while she conducts searches and literature reviews, Granikov is also part of the research team from the moment an idea is found through applying for funding to publication.

Melissa Rivosecchi was the first librarian of the day, and brought lessons for aspiring academic librarians (or soon to be graduates in general). Rivosecchi emphasised the need to get experience outside classes, both to build your CV and gain skills needed to the do the job. Rivosecchi was also another testament to applying to jobs outside your academic background: she’s a business librarian with no business background, but worked as a Concordia Student librarian and answered questions from just about every field imaginable while doing so. Rivosecchi also gave a healthy dose of reality as she’s on contract, rather than tenure track.

Cat Henderson, who graduated from SIS only last year, focused on the importance of networking and experience outside of class. She got her job because of a person she met at a conference and has discovered the odd skills and facts you know, from reading music to technical knowledge and even customer service, can make all the difference. Henderson also emphasized that you will learn on the job, and you’ll need to stay involved in associations and reading publications so you are both aware of evolving trends and, if you are the only information professional in your organization, don’t feel alone.


Ted Strauss brought in perspective from outside those with a degree in library or information studies but who holds a similar job function. Strauss was also the speaker for the ICT-interested. As a data resources manager he in involved in the entire lifecycle of data storage, evaluates open source software to find what may work best, and supports researching in using that software.

Adrienne Smith works in Ubisoft’s KM group as a taxonomist, and holds the dream job for anyone frustrated by websites and their search functions. For Smith “translating” what different stakeholders say so everyone understands each other in incredibly important; it makes sure everyone knows what is wanted and what has already been done. Smith also emphasized that sometimes you just have to do something if no one else is to get it done and that the user experience is most important.

Finally, Tomasz Neugebauer bridged the worlds of archives, libraries, and ICT with his presentation on open source resources, the need for digital preservation, and aggregating services to make things better. For Neugebauer, having some computer science background is a great asset, if not essential in finding a job and, in his job, effectively doing that job.

Overall, all presenters stressed skills you simply won’t gain at SIS and the need to find out what are considered the essentials to know for what you want to do by looking at job postings and attending conferences, then going out and gaining those proficiencies.

Where Are They Now? SIS Graduates in the Workforce

SIS students have gone on to have a diverse and exciting array of careers, and this new series will showcase some of them. For our first entry in the series, Beyond the Shelf is pleased to welcome Liz Nash (a 2017 grad and our former MISSA president!) to talk about her post-graduation experiences.


Tell us a bit about yourself: What’s your educational background, and why did you want to take the MISt degree? What area did you focus on during the program (library, archives, HCI, KM)?

I did my undergraduate degree at Western in English Language & Literature and French Language & Translation (it’s quite a mouthful!). I really loved my time at Western, but I knew that I wanted to branch out and get my Master’s degree. I was attracted to the MISt program because it’s like a buffet – a little bit of everything is offered! I liked that I wasn’t forced into a particular stream, so I ended up doing libraries and KM.


Where are you working now? What attracted you to the position, and is it where you thought you would end up when you started the program?

I’m currently working as a librarian at Statistics Canada. I had a glimpse of being a federal librarian last year, when I did an FSWEP term at Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada (ISED). I love that every day I get to do something different. It’s also really upped my trivia game, since I’m learning a lot of interesting facts!

When I started the program, I had no idea where I would end up. I was very fortunate to discover the FSWEP program, which gave me an opportunity to experience a dream job that I never even knew existed.


Take me through a regular day at work – what do you get up to on a day-to-day basis?

My regular day involves a lot of research! I primarily research for government employees, but we do get reference questions from the public. Questions range from historical census inquiries to in-depth research on a variety of topics… so a bit of everything!

About twice a week I work on the reference desk, where I do everything from checking in books to performing reference interviews. I’m also on our division’s Social Committee, which is a lot of fun.


How did you get involved while you were a student, whether with student associations or work experience?

In my first year at McGill, I was the VP Internal for MISSA. I shadowed the President, ran events, and communicated news with students. In terms of work experience, I worked for McGill Athletics as part of the Hype Team. I finally fulfilled my life goal of throwing t-shirts into audiences!

In my second year, I was the President of MISSA and the Chair of the Info-Nexus Committee. I also worked part-time in Ottawa for ISED to gain more library experience. It was definitely a balancing act! I’m glad I got so involved, since it helped me network with students, professors, and other information professionals in Montreal and Ottawa.


Do you have any advice for current students or recent graduates?

When you’re in your second year, start looking for jobs around January. The hiring process can take a while, so it’s better to get started early. I’d also recommend checking out the Partnership Job Board, which lists Canadian library jobs.

One last piece of advice: Don’t panic! You can do it 🙂


Many thanks to Liz for sharing her experiences and advice!

Happy Holidays from MISSA

Thanks to everybody who came out to the MISSA Holiday Ball! Everybody relax and have fun over the break, and we’ll see you in January.

The Insider’s Guide to Course Selections

So you went to the electives information session last Monday, and now your head is spinning with all of those choices and you’re not sure which ones will suit your needs best. Or, you couldn’t make it to the session and you have no clue where to start with your course selections for the winter. Well, lucky for you, we have suggestions!

We asked the second-year SIS students for their recommendations, and here are their opinions on the essentials and hidden gems this program has to offer:


GLIS 608 Classification & Cataloguing:

Multiple students recommended for this course, and having taken it myself, I will add my name to that list. It’s an extremely practical course for anyone interested in the librarianship side of our program. Even if you don’t want to be a cataloguing librarian, it’s always good to know the basics of how it’s done. Be aware that this course is usually offered every other year.

“I’ve already gotten two jobs because I know RDA and MARC and at least an inkling of BIBFRAME, knowledge I would not have had without that course!” – Quincy

GLIS 611 Research Principles & Analysis:

“This course was a good overview of constructing and conducting a survey and how to write a qualitative/quantitative research paper. It was especially helpful in teaching critical reading and writing skills.” – Heather

GLIS 615 Reference & Information Services:

“For students who want to be academic librarians, learning how to conduct a reference interview is essential. This class focused on how to understand the information needs of the student/patron through a combination of open and closed questions as well as the demeanor necessary for making the student/patron feel welcome in the library. The lectures were split in two parts: In the first half, subject librarians from McGill and Concordia came to talk about reference interviews and the resources they use for their specific subject. The second half was centered on evidence-based best practices for reference librarians.” – Heather

GLIS 616 Information Retrieval:

“I like solving problems and have stuff working. Popular web/marketing topics were interesting too” – Jingwei

GLIS 634 Web Systems Design & Management:

This was another course that received multiple recommendations from students who have taken it.

“I liked the way it was taught; everything was tied into context from a practical point of view, and you’re constantly thinking about websites’ aesthetics and function. Being able to take away a project you can talk about to an potential employer is also quite nice.” – Jingwei

“I enjoyed doing the work and puzzling out why things weren’t working” – Rachel

GLIS 657 Database Design & Development:

This is a tough course for those of us who aren’t used to working with computers, but if you put the effort in the rewards are definitely worth it. I may never take a job that requires me to build a database, but I have a much better understanding of how they work and best practices for using them after taking this course.

“It was a ton of work, so be prepared. That said it is also pretty useful and I can imagine using what we learned later on in my career.” – Elise

GLIS 661 Knowledge Management:

“KM was my favourite – great for non-KM people as well, as it goes over some good management and people-skills type concepts that are great in any professional situation.” – Mark

GLIS 663 Knowledge Taxonomies:

“I enjoyed how the course connected between digital tools and knowledge management, also how it explored both; [the professor] also gave us a lot of freedom and activities…like she would ask us what we want to learn/hear more about every class.” – Jingwei

GLIS 691 Special Topics 1 – Information Search & Evaluation

“So useful… it gave a brief look into searching databases in different fields. Which is good to have as a base, given it’s impossible to take all the special librarian courses.” – Sarah


More information on SIS courses can be found here.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this post. Do you have another course you think should be added to the list? Feel free to let us know in the comments!

Meet Your Student Associations!

Librarians Without Borders Fall Social 2017

This year many of you attended the annual involvement fair to find out more about the SIS student associations. I know from personal experience that it can be a bit overwhelming to remember what all those acronyms stand for and to try and decide which associations you’re interested in joining! With that in mind, here’s a quick summary of what’s out there:



Special Libraries Association (SLA)

The Special Libraries Association is a nonprofit global organization for innovative information professionals in business, government, academic, and other specialized settings. SLA promotes and strengthens its members through learning, networking, and community building initiatives.

SLA provides lots of networking opportunities that can help shape one’s career. They are one of 3 organizations that plan an annual conference for information professionals here in Montreal called the Congrès des professionels de l’information (CPI). As members, we have access to one full day, free of charge. SLA has a growing online community that is more than willing to help out when one’s in need. Also, being a member of SLA gives you potential access to webinars and resources in various domains, such as Taxonomy and Information Technology.

Last year, we saw success with the Ottawa trip organized with ABQLA. We also had fun organizing a Murder Mystery party with ABQLA. We ensure that our events are educational for students and fun!

This year, we’ve invited a Knowledge Management Content Specialist to come talk about the Canadian Association of Law Libraries and how it can help build a career. She will also talk about law librarianship and how to get into it. Because of last year’s success, we were also thinking of planning another Murder Mystery party.

Teresa, President

Contact Teresa at therese.mainville-celso@mail.mcgill.ca


Multilingual Children’s Library (MCL)

Interested in librarianship, children, or children’s librarianship? The Multilingual Children’s Library is a student-run library that does collection development, cataloguing, and storytimes around campus in partnership with SSMU and PGSS. It is the only SIS student group that deals with children’s/youth librarianship, so it is a great opportunity to explore a side of librarianship that’s not covered by the coursework.

MCL is starting fresh this year after a two-year hiatus, so it’s a great time to get involved and help cultivate a new club. This year, we are also hoping to host a social event and meetings with professionals in the field.

Zia, President

Contact Zia at ziazan.davidian@mail.mcgill.ca


Librarians Without Borders (LWB)

Librarians Without Borders is a non-profit organization that strives to improve access to information resources regardless of language, geography, or religion, by forming partnerships with community organizations in developing regions.

By joining LWB, students have the opportunity to not only help the local Montreal community through involvement with the Native Friendship Centre, but also contribute to the national Librarians Without Borders initiatives in Guatemala and Haiti. It has been rewarding to be apart of an international organization that focuses on literacy throughout the world.

The LWB Social at the beginning of the year is always a big success. We also held a bake sale on the second semester that was very successful. Finally, we finished cataloguing the small library of the Kativik school board, which had been an ongoing project for the past years.

The LWB Social is coming up at the end of September. The tentative date is Friday, Sept. 22nd. We are also working on creating a partnership with Cite Soleil in Haiti to assist with the development of a French and Creole book collection.

Antoine & Heather, Co-Presidents

Contact Antoine at antoine.fortin2@mail.mcgill.ca or Heather at heather.rogers2@mail.mcgill.ca

Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians (CAPAL)

Contact Katie at kathryn.burns@mail.mcgill.ca


Association des bibliothècaires de Quebec/Quebec Libraries Association (ABQLA)

ABQLA is about connecting students with the parent chapter and introducing them to the awesome libraries that are present in Quebec. Most specifically its public libraries, but the parent chapter also focuses on, but is not limited to, academic, school and research libraries.

It’s a great opportunity to network! While we don’t host any large colloquiums like ACA and AMIA, we do participate in the parent chapter activities, like the Fall Meet and Greet (Date TBA!) and tours that the chapter hosts. The ABQLA Student Chapter also helps organize the mentorship program which connects students with a professional working in the field who can answer questions or provide advice to the student regarding their career path. I mainly joined because it seemed like a good way to get involved and stay up to date on what was going on in the field.

The Mentorship program was a success! We hosted a Meet and Greet night for mentors and mentees to meet in a relaxed social setting. We had at least 40 people arrived at the SIS Mansion to partake in this evening 5 a 7. We also successfully co-hosted our second annual Murder Mystery Night with SLA in the winter semester. Students signed up and were assigned a fairytale character and had to figure out who had killed off Rose Red before the evening was over.

This year we are planning to continue the success of the mentorship program and murder mystery night but also hope to plan one or two tours to interesting libraries/information centres in the Montreal area. Notably, we are thinking about going over to the Montreal LGBTQ+ Community Centre to talk to them about their library and initiatives.

Rachel, Communications Officer

Contact Alina (President) at denise.ruiz@mail.mcgill.ca or Rachel at rachel.black@mail.mcgill.ca

ABQLA Student Chapter


Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA)

The McGill student chapter of the ACA aims to introduce student archivists to the profession by enhancing educational engagement. This is done by promoting communication between students, student members, regular members, and community professionals as well as by organizing activities and events designed for the development of knowledge and skills.

The ACA offers a ton of extra-curricular activities that help you gain skills, make network connections, or build up your CV! We will be hosting a series of activities and events this year, including tours (such as Artexte, which will be on September 23 @2pm) which we are hoping to host at least 4 of this year, and our annual student Colloquium in the winter. If you decide to also register with the parent chapter, they host a mentor-ship program that joins student archivist with working professionals.

Last winter we hosted our 10th Annual Student Colloquium titled “First People, First Records, First Voices”, which featured professional presenters from Michelle Smith a First Nation Film maker, Sonia Smith from The Truth and Reconciliation Library Committee, and Beth Greenhorn and Alexandra Haggert from Library and Archives Canada Project Naming.

We have a series of tours planned for this year at local Montreal Archives (Artexte on Sept 23 @ 2pm), for students to learn about different archives, and types of material holdings, as well as meet professionals and start developing their network connections. We will be hosting our 11th Annual Colloquium this year, and by becoming a member you can help us choose this year’s theme.

Kat, Co-President

Contact Kat at kathleen.barrette@mail.mcgill.ca or Karly (Co-President) at karly.leonard@mail.mcgill.ca


Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA)

The Association of Moving Image Archivists McGill Student chapter seeks to familiarize student members with the most urgent issues of conservation, preservation, and access for image, audio, and moving image archival holdings, while also helping them create connections and contacts with scholars, other students, and professionals.

AMIA offers a ton of extra-curricular activities that help you gain skills, make network connections, or build up your CV! We will be hosting tours this year to archives with image, audio, and moving image holdings. We will also be airing webinars on important topics hosted by our parent chapter, as well as setting up workshops to learn practical skills such as how to set up a reel-to-reel projector. We screen films and movies at our meetings, which can be a fun break from school work.

Our annual Symposium is held in the winter semester, and features student and professional speakers on topics related to archival practices of image, audio, and moving image. Our 2017 Symposium was a huge success! We had seven students present on a variety of topics from Digitizing Areal Photographs to Preserving Memes for Digital Folklore. An excellent professional panel was assembled and featured guests from McGill Library and Archives, Archive Montreal, Canada’s National History Society, and Radio Canada.

We are setting up tours to Cinemathique Canadienne, and the Audio Visual Archive at Marvin Duchow Music Library. We will be hosting a workshop on loading reel-to-reel projectors, as well as set up a group to volunteer at Family Movie Day hosted by Archive Montreal (ArcMtl), which is a day to air home movies for people who don’t own the playback equipment needed to watch on their own.

Kat, Co-President

Contact Kat at kathleen.barrette@mail.mcgill.ca or Elyse (Co-President) at elyse.fillion@mail.mcgill.ca

AMIA at the 2017 Involvement Fair



Our mandate is simply collaboration and learning centered around information technology

Students should join if they’re interested in tech in any way, regardless of experience or education. We’re looking to learn and teach together to become more comfortable and effective with how we use technology.

Last year, we had a few workshops or guest speakers, as well as movie bingo for the 1995 film “Hackers”.

We’re looking to do some coding workshops around Python and several members of MISTech will be directing the 617 tutorials. We’re hoping that potential events and projects will be generated by curious members and we’ll act as a support and learning network to help make those a reality.

Tyler, President

Contact Tyler at tyler.kolody@mail.mcgill.ca




InfoNexus is a conference organized by MISt students that gives the chance to students to hear about professionals in the field and about the various types of careers that our degree may lead to. It is an opportunity for students to ask questions to professionals that have been in our shoes.

Students should volunteer for InfoNexus because it offers many networking opportunities. It also gives students experience in management, grant writing, and web design.

Last year, we had a great turnout with over 70 attendees. In addition to McGill, we had students from John Abbott as well as from UdeM listen to the enthusiastic speakers from various domains. It was refreshing to see so many people participate and ask their burning questions.

This year, we intend on finding speakers who can introduce our students to job opportunities we wouldn’t necessarily think of. Information professionals can find jobs in many different areas, and it is for this reason that we intend on finding out what other career opportunities are out there.

Teresa, President

Contact Teresa at therese.mainville-celso@mail.mcgill.ca




Welcome and Welcome Back

Now that we’ve all started to settle back into university life, I think it’s time for some introductions. My name is Coady Sidley, and I’m your new MISSA Publications Chairperson. I’m entering my second year in the MISt program with a focus on librarianship. This will be my first time taking over responsibility for this blog, and I’m excited to take on the challenge.

Personally, I’m hoping to write about student association activities and events, crowdsourced advice from other students, and hopefully some interviews with professionals in the field. Most of all, I would like to make this blog a collaborative space for SIS students to share information about the topics and events that they’re passionate about.

Call for Submissions

Do you have a burning desire to share your thoughts on any topic in the realm of information studies? Have you attended a conference or event that you think others should know about? Do you just want to see your name in print and are looking for a place to show off your work? Here’s your chance!

One of my main goals for the blog this year is to turn it into more of a community project, which is where you come in. This is an open invitation for students to write a guest post (or several, if you want!) for the blog. Posts can be on any subject related to our field.

Interested? Send me an email at coady.sidley@mail.mcgill.ca for more information or to propose a topic.

A Few Awesome Job Hunt Resources

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!

ACA Colloquium 2016

by Ben Wrubel and Annelise Dowd


On February 12th, students and faculty gathered at the School of Information Studies for the Association of Canadian Archivists’ McGill Student Chapter’s 9th Annual Winter Colloquium. The audience heard from a host of local archivists and librarians contending with the preservation of textual records, rare books, digital records, graphic materials, and sound recordings,and learned about the unique challenges that different formats and institutional settings bring to the field.

The first speaker was Shannon Hodge, Director of Archives at the Jewish Public Library Archives. Her presentation discussed the challenges of storing archival collections in a mixed use building. Stemming from her experiences of facing issues of mold and flooding at the JPL, she stressed the importance of communicating preservation concerns with facilities management and forming a comprehensive disaster plan before any of these “worst case scenarios” develop.

Ann Marie Holland, History of Printing Collections and Canadiana Collections/Liaison Librarian at McGill’s Rare Books and Special Collections, provided an overview of rare books preservation issues. Examples ranged from outsourcing material conservation to donor outreach for funding conservation projects. She left the audience with several websites to visit for more information regarding rare books conservation: http://www.nedcc.org, http://www.cool.conservation-us.org, http://www.cci-icc.gc.ca, http://www.rbms.info, and http://www.ifla.org/preservation-and-conservation.


 Tim Walsh, Archivist in the Digital Archives at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, detailed the legal, cultural, and technological challenges of born-digital bit preservation. Walsh spoke of how the CCA’s digital archival holdings often consist of proprietary 3-D modeling file formats, making software preservation, emulation, and user access major concerns.

Greg Houston, Digitization and New Media Administrator at McGill Library Digital Initiatives, walked the audience through the criteria for digitization and outlined the process of facilitating user access to digitized items via McGill Library’s catalog, the Internet Archive, and HathiTrust. Greg also shared a link to a Google Maps photosphere view of Digital Initiatives, which can be viewed here: https://goo.gl/maps/VcAs2UdFcxr.


Offering a user’s perspective, Catherine Nygren, Research Assistant at the Burney Centre at McGill University, discussed the value of accurate and comprehensive metadata for facilitating researchers’ access to archives. In particular, she emphasized the financial and time limitations that many researchers face, and thus the high importance of digitized resources to be made accessible online.

The final speaker was Melissa Pipe, Documentation Technician at the Audiovisual Archives at McGill’s Marvin Duchow Music Library. Her presentation addressed the collaborative efforts of her department and McGill’s Sound Recording Program to preserve a collection of 78 rpm jazz records. From physical preservation and storage, to digitization and metadata creation, Melissa described the numerous informed decisions required of archivists for the preservation of sound recordings.

The students who were among those in the full School of Information Studies ballroom were privileged to hear the illuminating and diverse experiences of professionals in the archival field. The 2016 Winter Colloquium could not have been such a success without the professionals who took the time to present and the McGill ACA chapter’s tireless work organizing the event. Until next year!


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