iSchoolers Journey North, Hit BC Literary Hot Spots -- UBC & Vancouver Public
By Jeff Winter, MLIS
By Stella Shafer, MLIS
Ivy Henderickson, Photo

MLIS iSchoolers headed north over Veterans Day weekend last November to visit colleagues at SLAIS (the University of British Columbia School of Library, Archival and Information Studies SLAIS) The UW's Student Chapter of SALA (Student American Library Association) organized the trip on the U.S. end, and we were warmly received by the BCLA (British Columbia Library Association) Student Representative, Natalie Catto, a third year student, at SLAIS’ temporary home, Technology Enterprise Facility, on the UBC campus. Its new permanent home, the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, is partially constructed, and the hope is the move in will be soon (more on that later).

During lunch in their conference room, we met a number of other students. This year’s incoming class totaled a few under 40. The school runs on a two term academic year, and applicants not admitted in Fall can be placed on a wait list for January the following calendar year. On a tour of their temporary facility, we all noted one thing—their students have lockers! Many students come from western Canada and the U.S, but they receive interest from around the world, as shown by the link on their home page Who is visiting the SLAIS Site?

After lunch, we were introduced to Edie Rasmussen, director of SLAIS for the past three and a half years. She outlined the program, which is both ALA and CLA accredited, and described the various degree paths. Their major emphases are public librarianship and archival services.

Teacher librarians earn library endorsements only through education programs and do not have the opportunity, like we do, to add an endorsement to a teaching certificate through the MLIS program. Canadian public schools do not hire those having only MLIS degrees. While they do not train teacher librarians at SLAIS, they do offer at least twenty courses in youth services. These courses include specific classes in both children’s and youth services and both children’s and youth materials, as well as unique classes such as “Writing, Publishing and the Book Trade for Children,” and “Family Literacy and Early Years Intervention.”

Sharing a meal--or maybe just a beer?! L-R: Bethany; BCLA Student Rep, Natalie Catto; Linda; Stella; Naomi; Rebecca; Lisa; Jeff; Esther, and in front on the right bottom--Ivy!

Their main degree paths are: Master of Archival Studies, Master of Library and Information Studies, a joint MAS/MLIS program, and a multi-disciplinary Master of Arts Program in Children's Literature. These are two year programs, with the joint MAS/MLIS program being three and a half years. SLAIS is also in the process of developing a joint MACL/MLIS program which, if all goes well, should be offered within two years. The MACL program is composed of courses from five different programs. Another option is for students to declare a “First Nations Curriculum Concentration,” which is intended for those who would like to serve Native Canadian communities. Some classes are offered in distance mode, but there is no distance degree program. Students in the MAS, MLIS and the joint programs are able to participate in a co-op program (similar to our DFW program), but these co-op jobs run either four or eight months, do not earn credits and pay professional-level wages. One final difference between the two programs is that SLAIS regularly offers one-credit classes, some of which only last one weekend!

Our next stop was the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, where the largest Automatic Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) in North America is located. This is a mechanized system for housing books and other items that are in low demand. It also acts as a regional repository for archival materials. The ASRS room is a restricted access, environmentally controlled area with a two-stage fire suppression system. However, it is not intended for rare or fragile materials. The facility entrance is at the top level, and once in, looks down on a series of stacked shelves more than three stories deep. Each pair of stacks has a robotic arm between them, which moves to retrieve and replace the bins in which the items are kept. These shelves hold 19,032 bins of four different sizes with a total storage capacity of 1.8 million items! Bins can be divided into as many as nine compartments for the most efficient storage of books, maps, folios, etc. Bin contents are determined by format and size, not subject, call number, etc. All items are bar-coded. When a user requests an item on-line, the computer instructs the correct arm to retrieve the bin that holds the item with the related bar code. That arm then brings the bin to the area where a library staff person removes the item and takes it to the circulation desk. When the item is returned, the whole process runs in reverse. The system in operation looks like something out of “The Matrix.”

The building where the ASRS is located will eventually house a library with a capacity of 500,000 volumes in open stacks and will be the new home for SLAIS once completed. Later in the afternoon, Natalie and a few of her colleagues took us to the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library We took an hour-long tour of the building, conducted by Heather Scoular, manager of the Science and Business Division. It is a beautiful, seven-story facility in the center of downtown, which looks like the Roman Coliseum from the outside and has great interior views all around and a sustainable design rooftop garden. The building is partially wireless enabled, with plans to expand coverage. According to the VPL website, the library holds over 1.3 million items and had over 2.3 million visitors in 2005. One of the most surprising statistics Scoular provided was that 50% of the library’s users speak Chinese. Scoular was encouraging when it came to discussing a subject we are all interested in--jobs! She welcomed graduates of our program to apply at VPL, especially those who speak Chinese.

The visiting group included Linda Barton, Esther Benson, Ivy Hendrickson, Bethany Klassen, Rebecca Paul, Lisa Pirlot, Stella Shafer, Naomi Smith, and Jeff Winter.


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Page last updated: February 7, 2007