COLUMN: View from the other side

Checking out Check This Out

Showing someone what you do in your workday has led to some new insights for us all, but on top of that, it’s been a real pleasure to have practicum student Elliot Robins in our midst these past three weeks. Here’s what he has to say about it. ~ Anne DeGrace

My friend Yohann frowned when I told him where I was doing my second year Library and Information Technology practicum.

“Nelson? Really? How come?”

For Yohann and other library students born in cities like Vancouver, Nelson isn’t exactly at the top of the list of preferred practicum placements. They go for well-known institutions, big players like UBC and the Museum of Anthropology. But for me Nelson was the obvious choice, given that I lived here for 15 years before I moved to Vancouver to go to school. Neither my girlfriend nor I are city people, and we figured if I did my practicum in Nelson, it would be the most effective way to bring our dream of moving back one step closer to reality. It also gave me the distinction of being the first practicum student at the Nelson Public Library in 15 years.

Unable to find electrical work after I completed Selkirk’s Electrical Foundation Program in 2015, I went to the other end of the spectrum and decided to pursue a career in libraries. Things progressed quickly: I applied to Langara College’s Library and Information Technology Program in June 2016, was accepted, and moved to Vancouver that September.

I’ve worked in Nelson as a journalist, which made sense given my makeup and character, and as a realtor, which made no sense at all. I wasn’t a salesman. Anyone who knows me can attest that it makes complete sense for me to work in a library.

I went into the Library Program with stereotypes about libraries and librarians imbedded in my brain, and my experiences at Langara and the Nelson Public Library have helped me see them in a new light.

1. In the educational sense of the term, Librarians have a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. Library Technicians have a 2-year Library and Information Science Technology Diploma. Many library workers have degrees in other areas and are highly trained and educated.

2. There was an equal number of male in female students in the Langara library program. The stereotype of the librarian as an old woman with superior “shush!” skills is rapidly fading. The age range of students was from 18 to 60. Interesting tidbit: Librarians have among the highest life expectancy of any profession and some go on to work for data gathering and spy agencies.

3. Libraries are busier than ever. The assumption is that libraries aren’t used as much as in the past because no one reads books any more, and books are all libraries have. However, in addition to books, libraries have vast collections of e-books, databases, streamable movies and music, downloadable movies and music, DVDs, CDs and Playaways. You can also use computers and surf the Internet for free, print, scan, and attend programs for kids, teens and adults.

I’m coming up to the end of Library and Information Technology Program and will have my Diploma by August. The only thing left to do will be to find a job. If that happens to be at a library in the West Kootenays, I hope you’ll drop in and say hi.

Special thanks to the Nelson Public Library Board and Chief Librarian Tracey Therrien, who organized and scheduled my practicum, to Anne DeGrace, who suggested I write this column, and to all the friendly and encouraging staff.

Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Her regular column returns on May 31.

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