A native of Cape Breton, I have been in my current role of Associate Vice President, University of New Brunswick (Saint John campus) since 2012, arriving via several career moves, universities and cities that took me from Halifax to Toronto and back to Halifax before landing in Saint John. I wear many hats in my work and have oversight for a number of areas including student affairs, athletics, enrolment management, IT and experiential education. I came to Dalhousie’s MLIS program while I concurrently filled the temporary role of Acting Director, Information Services and Systems (ISS) at UNB (encompassing library services and IT) between 2015-2017. Suddenly finding myself a library director while not a librarian was daunting but deeply gratifying as I worked closely with professional librarians and library staff to understand how I could support them in their mission to assist our faculty, students and staff. It didn’t take long for me to become hooked on learning more, and soon I had started researching MLIS programs in Canada and beyond. Deciding to pursue yet another degree at this stage in my career (I completed my PhD in Medieval Studies at University of Toronto in 1999, and had done two Masters degrees previous to that) was a daunting prospect, not only academically but also logistically. I decided to apply to Dalhousie and the rest is history. I found myself on the journey from lifelong library user and bibliophile to something quite different.
During the winter 2017 semester, while taking INFO 6750, Health Sciences Literature and Information Sources I had the opportunity to explore how my MLIS studies connected with my “day job” in a real and relevant way, as the timeframe aligned with pending legalization of adult-use cannabis in Canada (initially scheduled for July 1). I was chairing a committee at UNB to determine how we would respond to the legislation and how we could educate and inform our students, faculty and staff on the new reality. As we explored how to develop policy for the use of a substance that was not yet legal, we realized there was little public health material available to guide our work, and few other Canadian universities had materials available to consult. This problem, the lack of accessible and reliable information at other universities lead me to the topic for my final research paper for the course, and ultimately to its publication in the Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association (JCHLA/JABSC), appropriately entitled “Cannabis on campus: gateway to student health literacy for academic health science librarians.” I am deeply grateful to the course instructors, Robin Parker and Melissa Helwig (both Dalhousie librarians) for their guidance and support. They exemplify for me what my experience of the MLIS has been thus far – superb instruction, meaningful and relevant content and a genuine desire to see students succeed and prepare us for the future as information professionals.
I also presented on this UNB policy work at a national policy conference on cannabis on campus, and even chaired the conference. The opportunity to explore the challenges of cannabis education in post-secondary environments within the MLIS course helped immensely both in the policy work, and in framing many of the discussions that the conference sparked. It has also opened up new opportunities on our campus to connect non-academic units such as student health services, student affairs and residence life with academic librarians who can work with them to identify resources that supports their work and our students alike.
I find that the MLIS program has provided me with knowledge that not only fulfills my own personal interests (cataloguing!) but has also been directly relevant to my work at UNB. I have greatly enjoyed the variety in curriculum of the MLIS courses I’ve taken thus far, and have benefitted greatly from opportune moments to apply my studies to my day job, in particular the application of Dr. Spiteri’s Records Management course to a complete revisioning of my own professional files. I was also recently appointed to UNB’s Records Management Steering Committee, and I know that I will be applying what I learned to helping UNB develop and implement an effective and sound records management process.
I continue to juggle part time studies (commuting at least one semester per year each week for classes) with my work at UNB, and am looking forward to eventually earning my MLIS degree and continuing to promote the importance of “all things library” to colleagues and friends alike!