Today’s post comes from the ILN’s Ambassador for Canada, Cate Carlyle. Thanks Cate!
The Curriculum Resource Centre at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax Nova Scotia is my home away from home, 5 days a week, from 8:30am to 4pm. The centre, affectionately known as the “CRC”, is open to all but mainly serves Child & Youth and Education students studying to become teachers, youth workers, and early childhood educators. I oversee both the adjacent computer lab and the larger library side which houses our reference collection, picture books, curriculum documents, kits, fiction and group work spaces. While I have up to 6 part-time student assistants throughout the year, I am a full time staff of one with all that entails. My assistants and I conduct reference and circulation work, shelve materials, trouble shoot computers and printers and photocopiers, while I am solely responsible for ordering, cataloguing, payroll and sitting on various academic committees.
The centre has very distinct seasons based on the school year of the larger university. September to November the CRC is running on turbo jets, bustling with staff and students borrowing materials, working on projects or just hanging out or having lunch. When the Education students go out on practicum and exams start for all other faculties in early December, the CRC enters a much needed quieter period. This allows me to get caught up on processing new materials, ordering and preparing for the holiday break. December is always a fun time of year with staff lunches, charitable initiatives and a festive and relaxed atmosphere. From January to March the CRC gets back to business with only second year Education students out on practicum. While not as crazy and high energy as the fall, the CRC is once again bustling until spring. In late April my assistants leave and the CRC settles in for a slower pace. Shorter professional and continuing education courses are offered in the spring and summer. During these seasons I conduct inventories, weed the collection and work on any more intense projects that are only possible when not tied to the circulation desk. There can be days when the CRC is full of summer students or days where I have no visitors at all; there is no normal day at this point. I take my vacation time in summer, usually a week or two at the cottage, as any other time of the year I would have to close the CRC for vacation. In August I prepare for the fall term, hire new assistants and get displays and fixtures ready for the influx of students.
One of my favourite times of the year is not related to the CRC but is an integral part of my “library life”. During our study break week in February I will travel to Honduras with two other librarians I met through their international library blogs. I use my own money and vacation time and volunteer in very rural libraries and/or learning centres in need, bringing crowd funded Spanish language books to donate and assisting with collections, programming and staff training. Not glamorous or easy, but so rewarding. I have volunteered in rural Guatemala as well and it is one of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of my life, one that I hope I can continue to do more frequently and on into retirement one day. The international contacts, learning experiences and memories made always serve me well when I return to my career here in Canada. I highly recommend breaking out of the traditional librarian comfort zone and giving back in an unconventional way, enriching both your professional practice and making a difference in our big beautiful world.