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Western University SLA Student Group’s Tour of Special Libraries in Toronto

On February 18th, the SLA Student Chapter from the University of Western Ontario visited three special libraries in Toronto and had dinner at the Loose Moose with several SLA members and executives. It was very exciting to see these different libraries and talk to the librarians about their work and their career paths.

Our first stop was the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. John Shoesmith, Outreach Librarian, led the tour and showed us the facilities and collections. As library students, we all felt a sense of awe and excitement, especially when we were permitted to touch old and rare books that John had brought out to show us. We saw Margaret Atwood’s donated notes and correspondence, learned about the donation and accession policies, and about the various librarians and staff who work there. Many of the students spoke one-on-one with John who answered our personal questions about the profession and offered tips on what to do if we wanted a career in a Rare Book Library.

Next we walked to the Parliament Building at Queen’s Park where we visited the Legislative Library and met with Eileen Lewis, the Manager of Library Client Services. As she led us up the grand staircase, and through the marble entrance to the library, she told us of the history of the library, including the fire that destroyed the collection in 1909. Now the collections are housed in fire-resistant steel stacks. The stacks are closed and only the Librarians can access them to get materials that the Members of Parliament may need. The library is non-partisan and so the librarians have to be as well, at least while on the job. Eileen told us about other services the library provides to MPs, including having staff come in at 5 a.m. to curate news articles, and maintaining a collection of leisure reading materials. Many of the students with political science backgrounds were interested in speaking with Eileen and learned various job-hunting tips.

The last library we visited was in the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) theatre. The space was small and the group had to be divided into two. While one group was touring the library the other browsed their magazine collection and spoke with the reference librarian about the collection and the job. The tour was led by Michelle Lovegrove Thomson, Library Manager, who was friendly and knowledgeable about the collection. TIFF is able to house a lot of materials with the use of compact shelving. They also house donated props, including the bear-proof suit from the movie Project Grizzly, and offer various services free to the public, including a room in which you can watch movies 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 current professionals. The students 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 within the community and that SLA is a fantastic way to do that. Student membership for SLA is offered at a discounted price and I think many of us will want to take advantage of that, especially after all we learned on the tour.

—Cassandra Lopes
Western University SLA Student Group, Special Events Coordinator

Posted in V52-N2-Winter 2015Comments (0)

Student Corner: Notes from a Resume Workshop

On November 12th, 2014 the Special Libraries Association Toronto Student group (SLA-TSG) held a Resume Workshop led by Ulla de Stricker. This workshop was the second in a series intended to give current and future information professionals the skills they need to be competitive in their quest for jobs and careers. The previous session covered the art of writing effective cover letters, which tied in nicely with this session’s focus on writing and formatting an impactful resume. The workshops are open to both students and SLA Toronto Chapter members; however, the attendance at the workshops has been mainly students.

The session began by dispelling some common beliefs in resume writing. Ulla went through many of the things people think are standard for writing resumes but could, in fact, be detracting from the professionalism of the final product. Ulla then presented and talked about the five key elements every resume needs and gave tips on how to include each element effectively. In the final part of the session Ulla presented examples of well-formatted resumes to give attendees the opportunity to visualize what a winning resume could look like.

Key ideas from the session included:

  • Always write your resume with another person. We often do not recognize the breadth of our own skills; working with another person can help identify more of our positive attributes.
  • Use a tagline and personal profile at the beginning of your resume to give an employer a snap shot of who you are and what you can do for them.
  • Avoid using ambiguous phrases such as “strong communication skills” and opt for specific skills backed by experience.
  • Accuracy and consistency are paramount, even the smallest spelling or formatting error could derail an otherwise positive resume.

To complete the workshop series two more sessions will take place this winter – one on job interviews and one on coping professionally. If you are interested in attending either of these workshops please contact the SLA-TSG at to reserve a spot.

—Hannah Saunders
Hannah Saunders is a member of the 2014-2015 SLA-TSG

Posted in V52-N2-Winter 2015Comments (0)

Student Corner: UWO SLA Student Chapter visits Toronto during Reading Week!

On October 16th, 2014, the UWO SLA Student Chapter went on a trip to Toronto to visit two libraries and a software development company.

The day started at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Edward P. Taylor Library & Archives, where we went on a small tour of the reading room and stacks with Larry Pfaff, Deputy Librarian. In the reading room, there was a variety of materials pulled from the archive for us to look at. We learned about the materials that are unique to the AGO, like the large collection of Artists papers, with the most popular being Andy Warhol’s.

uwo sla october 2014 AGO

Bibliocommons was the second stop, which is a software developer for the user interface of public library catalogues. This was very interesting because it was not a library or archive but still very library-related. Natasha Hesch, product manager and graduate of the MLIS program at Western University, talked to us about social discovery layers, how it’s all about the ‘in catalogue experience,’ and making the library catalogue work the way patrons think, instead of the patrons learning to use the catalogue.

uwo sla october 2014 bibliocommons

The final tour for the day was the CBC Library and Archives. We visited the News Room Reference Desk, Image Research Library and Reference Library. We were able to talk to Natalie Dominique, Brenda Carroll, Michelle Melady, Karen Tiveron and Nicole Blain, who all work in the different libraries and archives. A theme across all the discussions was the advantages and disadvantages of technology. The libraries and archives at CBC are going through digitization projects, and the complications of only having materials in digital formats.

uwo sla october 2014 cbc

We finished the day by going to Canteen for dinner with some members of the SLA Toronto Chapter, including Christine DeLuca, First Five Years Director, Bernadette Roca, President-Elect, and Erin McDonald, current President. While at dinner we discussed the three tours and asked questions about employment.

The three tours were well-planned and all members had a great time. The people we met answered all our questions and gave insights to the many different positions that can be held by librarians.  Personally, I learned some of the different job titles librarians can have and how transferable the skills you learn though an MLIS degree can be. The trip was fun and educational at the same time.

—Emily Woodcock
Emily is from Sydney, Nova Scotia and in her 3rd semester of the MLIS program at Western University. She is currently a student assistant at the Graduate Resource Centre for the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University. She is interested in special libraries and archives. Read her blog here.

Posted in V52-N1-Fall 2014, Volume 52Comments (0)

Student Corner: Notes from a Cover Letter Workshop

On October 28th, the SLA TSG (Special Libraries Association Toronto Student Group) presented a Cover Letter Workshop in collaboration with Ulla de Stricker. As part of a series of workshops focusing on giving future and current information professionals a competitive edge in the job hunt, this session addressed the best practices for creating a winning cover letter. Although the workshops are open to both students and members of the SLA Toronto Chapter, the event was attended by mostly students.

The session began with Ulla letting us know what the purpose and outcome of a cover letter should be. She then presented us with techniques and tips that we could follow to give our cover letters an edge over others. She also outlined common mistakes that people make when writing cover letters. Armed with this information, we were let loose on some samples of cover letters to catch and find solutions for the mistakes we had just learned about. Ulla ended the session with a gracious offer to provide feedback to anyone that sent a draft cover letter to her, in exchange that she could use it in future presentations (anonymously of course!).

Based on her experiences as an information/ knowledge management consultant and the founder and president of de Stricker Associates, Ulla brought a great deal expertise and practical knowledge to the session. Through the information and techniques Ulla presented, she was able to help us to realize the common mistakes that we were regularly making, and empower us to creatively change those mistakes. Through a presentation that was delivered with confidence and ease, she made us understand cover letters in a different way than we had before, inspiring us to find a new appreciation for them.

Key Ideas I Learned:

  1.  Do not focus on personal desires – emphasize how your qualifications can benefit the organization (what you can do for them, not what they can do for you).
  2. Don’t use phrases like “I believe”- you want to be sure and direct in your writing.
  3. Consider fonts beyond Times New Roman, such as Calibri or Verdana.
  4. Don’t point out redundant information, such as “Please regard this letter as a response to the job ad for…”

Following this session, a Resume Workshop was held in early November, with two more workshops on the job interview and coping professionally being held this coming Winter. If you are interested in attending either of the workshops in the Winter, please contact the SLA-TSG at to reserve a spot.

—Jessica Foott
Jessica is a Master of Information (MI) Candidate at the University of Toronto, and the 2014-2015 co-chair for the SLA TSG.

Posted in V52-N1-Fall 2014, Volume 52Comments (0)

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