Thursday, 13 March 2014

Diversity in Three Special Libraries in Toronto

On February 20th, a group of MLIS students were fortunate enough to attend tours of three special libraries in Toronto.
I really enjoy tours: Getting to experience the physical space and talk to an information professional in their natural habitat is more tactile and practical to me than just exchanging emails. I jumped at the chance to tour these information organizations and delve into the world of special libraries. Here are some of the things I learned on the journey:

  • Legislature libraries are non-partisan: This is a big deal. The library staff cannot be political in order to retain library neutrality.
  • It is closed stacks, and most of their questions are virtual or over the phone.
  • Their users are members of parliament, their staff, journalists, and the public.
  • They are open until the house closes which could, potentially, be very late.
  • They capture party websites during elections. This is something not many libraries do and it is an interesting evolution in digital collections.
  • HANSARD is the official record of the debates of legislature and standing committees. It is published by the legislature and available online in PDF and HTML. There are several librarians devoted to running this massive publication. You can learn more about how it works at the HANSARD Society.
Thank you to Wendy and all the other library staff who spoke about their roles in the legislature.

  • I had never heard of competitive intelligence before this tour and now I am fascinated. If you do not know what it is, look it up because it is a growing LIS field.
  • It is a fast paced environment and their practice encompasses so many different areas that it is never boring. Reference questions could be about anything and answers are needed right away.
  • They have a plethora of business and law databases that I have never heard of! So if you are interested in working in a library like this, it is time to get better acquainted with SEDAR, Capital IQ, Bloomberg, QuickLaw, and MergerMarket.
  • Marketing yourself within the law firm is important, make sure they know you are unique and have a good value.
Thank you to Christine and the other librarians who were able to shed some light on how corporate librarianship works.

  • Staff in many departments work in LIS related roles. Librarians fill roles in tax law, website management, marketing, and knowledge management.
  • Some staff work on the internal intranet site for employees. They ensure clear navigation, functionality, do content management, content editing, and aid in file sharing. Pretty different than your average reference library jobs.
  • PWC has it is own social media platform. That is definitely an interesting feature to me, and I think is a great way of creating employee participation and interaction among each other to build strong teams. 
  • They train other staff in the company on how to do their own research. Did not expect to see much teaching in the corporate environment, so this was of interest to me. 
Thank you to Erin and all the librarians who gave us a peek into this international corporation. 

I felt like these tours gave me insider knowledge into the role information plays in corporations. In fact, writing this article felt like sharing secrets that I probably shouldn’t even be privy to. However, the biggest takeaway for me was learning how diverse each of these special library roles are. There is so much potential for non-traditional library jobs and these companies are just a small fraction of what is out there waiting for MLIS students and graduates who are interested in trying special libraries.

As a final thank you, I wanted to thank SLA Toronto and all the SLA members who organized the trip! 

Click this link to view more in-depth notes about our Toronto Trip!

Christine Pinkney is originally from Calgary, Alberta, and started the MLIS program through online courses via the University of Alberta's School of Library and Information Studies. She is now working to finish off her degree at the University of Western Ontario as an aspiring information professional in digital and metadata-oriented librarianship.


  1. This was a great and informative article! Thanks for all your work, Christine :)

  2. Thanks for filling us in on how the trip went, Christine!