During her one-year residency at the School of Information Studies beginning in August 2017, Amy Tector has had a highly positive role in the lives of Information Studies students at the University of Ottawa. Some of Amy’s accomplishments this year include connecting students to work opportunities, bridging the gap between students and her colleagues at Libraries and Archives Canada (LAC), serving as a guest lecturer, teaching special topics courses, conducting research on socially inclusive archival descriptions, inviting LAC staff to meet with uOttawa student, and providing insightful advice and career tips to ESIS students. The School of Information Studies regularly welcomes Public Servants-in-Residence, much like Amy, to foster the learning experience of Information Studies students while providing them with the necessary skills and connections that will help jumpstart their careers.
Q: Why did you choose the School of Information Studies at the University of Ottawa for your residency program?
A: I already had a relationship with uOttawa since I am an adjunct professor at the School and have been for a number of years. Another reason is that LAC hires a lot of the graduates from the School of Information Studies so we’re very familiar with how things work here.
Q: What were some of the highlights of your year at the School?
A: Definitely teaching. I taught one course that was looking at archives and digital humanities so I had some of the students from ESIS help digitize and describe some of the records that we have at LAC in the DigiLab. The DigiLab is a new service that the LAC offers where the public can come and use our equipment to digitize material. The students were able to use that in the class to experience what it’s like from the archivist’s point of view, in the process of trying to make information available. The other class that I co-taught with Hélène Carrier, the School’s Director, was called Capstone Experience and it’s a required course for students graduating from the master of information studies’ program. The course is problem based. The students are given a challenge and then they have the full semester to resolve it using everything that they’ve learned from their two years at the school.
“Hélène and I decided to use real world issues for the course. She brought two real world problems that exist right now at the Morriset library and I was able to bring in three real world problems that LAC is having. The students got to go to LAC and meet with my colleagues and acted as consultants.”
At the end, they wrote a report making recommendations about what LAC should do to resolve these issues. It was really interesting to see how enthusiastic the students were about applying what they’ve learnt to real world issues.
Q: What are some real-world issues the students were faced with?
A: One issue was around social media. I manage the Online Content section at LAC so I’m in charge of making our social media known, specifically blogs, podcast, Flickr and our Project Naming. I asked the students to suggest what other platforms we could use to highlight our content. Students also went into detail about the ways in which we could use these platforms and what kind of audience we could reach. They also analyzed the platforms we are currently using and how we could better exploit them. It was a great project that was really useful for us and it was useful for the students because the task is not as simple as starting up a new social media account. Social media use with the government is more complex and it’s got to meet all sorts of different requirements and policies. The students thought through all of that and, in the end, provided us with a very rich project.
Q: In what way did the LAC profit from students acting as consultants?
A: They definitely brought new ideas to the table and all of my colleagues who participated thought the students were fantastic. Sometimes you get so busy with your day job and these are challenges that we haven’t been able to resolve ourselves. It was nice to know somebody else was spending time on it, and of course students bring fresh ideas so it worked out well.
Q: What should future students know about The School of Information Studies?
A:“One thing I didn’t know about the School was how high the rate of employment after graduation is.”
Graduate students, especially in Ottawa, have a really high employment rate after they finish the MIS program because there is such a demand from the government to hire people who know how to manage information. Every student that I know that has graduated is employed now. There is also the COOP program which I think really helps with gaining experience and landing a career. It was nice to see how interested and passionate the students were in archives.
The MIS CO-OP option and eight month paid work placement are available to full time students. Interested students should visit the uOttawa Cooperative Programs department for more details about important deadlines and how to apply.
Q: What are some of the topics you discussed as a guest lecturer?
A: I had worked for a year as the archivist at the International Criminal Tribunal for War Crimes in Yugoslavia in The Hague so I talked about that experience. I talked about how LAC is revamping our search systems which is really complex so I talked a bit about the technology aspect of what we’re doing, how we’re managing and how we’re taking information that’s on paper and making it available in ways that are interactive and interesting.
Q: How do you go about making a document interactive?
A: It involves taking our material and finding interesting stories and putting it on social media where people are. For example, a couple years ago we had the diary of a photographer, Rosemary Gilliat Eaton. In 1954, she and her friends drove from Ottawa all the way to BC in this Plymoth Station Wagon. For the duration of this road trip she took photographs and kept a diary. For the summer of that year (2016) we would post on Facebook these beautiful photographs she had taken and would include little excerpts from her diary to tell her story. That ended up being a super popular series that we put out which was really effective. Making documents interactive involves finding stuff in our collections that are interesting and thinking of innovative ways to package them and catch other people’s attention.
Below are some photos from the Road trip – Summer ’54 series by LAC
Q: What advice would you give to a student who wishes to pursue a career at LAC?
A: Well, the ESIS program is a great program for students wishing to pursue a career at LAC because it gives you that ALA accredited degree which you need to work anywhere in the Federal Government as a librarian. Of course, that’s not the only path because the two big professions at LAC are librarians and archivists, and the path to becoming an archivist is a bit more fluid, but a Master of Information Studies from ESIS is certainly helpful for that. Bilingualism is also huge, and that’s for anyone who wants to work in the federal government. That’s a giant asset, so uOttawa students have a real advantage because you’re so supported in being bilingual if that’s what you want to pursue.