On February 18th, 2015, the SLA Student Chapter from the University of Western Ontario visited three special libraries in Toronto and then had dinner at the Loose Moose with several SLA members and executives. We visited the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, the Legislative Library at Queen’s Park, and the library in the Toronto International Film Festival Theatre (TIFF). It was very exciting to see these very different libraries and talk to the librarians about their work and their career paths.
Our first stop was the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. The Outreach Librarian, John Shoesmith, led the tour and showed us the facilities and collections. It was an amazing atmosphere, and as library students, we all felt a sense of awe and excitement especially when we were permitted to touch the old and rare books that John had brought out to show us. We also got to see Margaret Atwood’s notes and correspondences that she donated to the library. It was very interesting to learn about the donations and accession policies for a Rare Book Library, and about all the different Librarians and positions that are staffed there. Many of the students talked one on one with John and he answered our personal questions about the profession and tips on what we could do if we wanted a career like his.
Next we walked to the Parliament Building at Queen’s Park where we visited the Legislative Library. We meet with the Manager of Library Clients Services, Eileen Lewis. As she led us up the grand staircase and through the marble entrance way to the library, she told us of the history of the library, including the fire that destroyed the collection. Now the collections are housed in steel stacks that are resistant to fire. The stacks are closed and only the Librarians can access them to get materials that the Members of Parliament may need. Eileen also told us about other services the library provides to the Members of Parliament; they have staff that comes in at 5 a.m. to create a compilation of articles from the front pages of the important newspapers in Toronto and Canada. There is also a collection of leisure reading materials for the members to read between sessions. Many of the students with political science backgrounds were interested in talking with Eileen and learning various job hunting tips. It was also interesting to learn that the library was non-partisan and so the librarians had to be as well, at least while on the job.
The last library we visited was the one in the TIFF theatre. The space was small and the group had to be divided into two tour groups. While one group was touring the library the other got to browse their magazine collection and speak with the reference librarian about the collection and the job. The tour was led by Michelle Lovegrove Thomson and she was very friendly and knowledgeable about the collection. They were able to house a lot of materials in the small space with the use of compact shelving. They also house props that have been donated, including the bear-proof suit from the movie Project Grizzly. We learned about the various services they offer free to the public, including a room in which you can watch a movie from their collection.
We ended the day with a dinner at the Loose Moose with several members of the SLA Toronto Chapter. It was a fantastic opportunity for the group to network and get job hunting tips from professionals currently in the field. The students on the trip really enjoyed the tours and the chance to speak with so many librarians and information professionals. We learned that it is important to create connections with the community and that SLA is a fantastic way to do that. The student membership for SLA is offered at a discounted price and I think that many of us will want to take advantage of it, especially after all we learned on the tour.