Saturday, October 18, 2008

Professional Profile: Laura Warner - CBC Reference Library

Laura Warner is a reference librarian with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Located in the Broadcasting Centre in the heart of downtown Toronto, the reference library is a storehouse of a broad range of topics covered by the CBC on a daily basis. In addition to the in-house book, magazine, and newspaper collections and the production files of the various press releases and reviews of their television and radio programs, the reference library also provides access to various databases and an inter-library loan program to service the employees of the CBC.

I had the pleasure of visiting the Broadcasting Centre and speaking to Laura about her position at the CBC. Throughout the interview process, I found her optimism and genuine interest in her career to be both refreshing and inspiring.

Q: Describe your position here at the CBC.

As a reference librarian, Laura often receives research requests for the various radio and television programs of the CBC. It is her regular task to provide fact checks, legal research, and background research for the producers of a particular program. The information products, which are part of the library, allow Laura to research the various topics that have been requested. Such topics could include a biography of Alanis Morissette, press releases of Sesame Street, or photos of Don Cherry’s latest fashion trends.

The research that Laura and her colleagues provide is an essential part of every program at the CBC. Without these pieces of information, the programs would not hold the fullness and credibility that a media outlet should reflect.

As a side project, Laura has also taken responsibility for promoting the reference library within the CBC environment. She told me that people often do not even realise that there is a reference library within the Broadcasting Centre due to its hidden location in the corner room of the third floor. As part of promoting the library to the CBC employees, there are training sessions and tours of the library in order to familiarise more people with the richness of resources the library provides.

Q: What were some of the early academic and professional experiences of your career?

Her positive memories of being in libraries as a child and her love of learning led Laura into the field of library and information science. When she entered the MLIS program at Dalhousie, the most surprising element for Laura was learning about the field of special libraries. It was a field that she had not considered prior to entering her program, and from her satisfaction with her position now at the CBC, it is one that has suited her well.

Laura’s first job in libraries was at St. Mary’s University in Halifax as a cataloguer. It was through this position that she became familiar with working within an academic library setting as well as learning various database management skills.

Q: Since your first exposure to the library environment, what changes have you seen in libraries?

The most obvious changes, according to Laura, have been a result of the Internet. These changes have been experienced first-hand in the CBC reference library as several sources, such as biography and news clippings, are no longer available in print and have become more readily accessible through their online databases. In addition to the benefits of saving space and allowing for such features as multilingual interfaces, the increased usage of online databases to store information also gives the task of education and training to the reference librarian. One of the services the CBC reference library offers is a training session for anyone who needs advice on how to effectively navigate through their online resources.

Q: As the industry transforms and adapts to technological advancements, what professional qualities of the librarian will endure?

Laura believes that the incorporation of service skills with professional skills will be the most important qualities that will endure despite any advances in technology and accessibility. As a reference librarian, it is important to her that she is providing a "service" to help others find what they need. An essential part of this service is to develop an interpersonal relationship with each patron that requests her help. This requires patience, effective communication, and creativity -qualities that are lacking in a solely technological inquiry. In addition to these interpersonal skills, Laura also sees that with an increasing amount of information readily available through the Internet, the mediation of a professional in the field of information becomes that much more important in filtering out inaccurate and questionable sources for the benefit of the user.

Q: Do you have any other general words of advice for students who are pursuing a career in the field of library and information science?

"Everything’s going to be fine."

Laura sympathises with the anxiety felt by students in this field of study, especially when it comes to the prospect of finding a meaningful career, but she urges everyone to remain optimistic. In Laura’s case, her position at the CBC came as an unexpected surprise. After her initial application to a different position within the CBC was not met with success, Laura later received the good news that she had an offer to work instead in the CBC reference library. Persevere and be positive: these are lessons that Laura has learned throughout her own experiences and encourages students to remember them while embarking on their own careers in libraries.

-Interview By Joan Chung