This interview is over 1 year old and may no longer be up to date or reflect the interviewee/interviewees’ positions
by Lauren Bourdages, Head Editor, INALJ Ontario
Talking about Technicians – with Michael David Reansbury
I got in touch with Michael David Reansbury, the current President of the Ontario Association of Library Technicians (OALT/ABO) and the Circulation Desk Administrator at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine to find out how he got where he is and what he has to say about and to LIbrary Technicians as a collective whole.
INALJ-ON What stage are you in your career? When did you graduate (and what from what program), and how many years of experience do you have?
MDR I am in the beginning state of my career. I graduated from the Seneca accelerated program in 2010. I had no previous library experience.
INALJ-ON What made you choose the Library & Information Technician career path versus that of a Librarian?
MDR I chose to pursue the Library & Information Technician program for two reasons. The first was a personal preference to be engaged in actually doing something. I had had my fill of theorizing during my undergraduate studies. Once I graduated I was prepared to actually start doing more hand on work. In researching the difference between a masters and diploma I realized that the diploma offered me the best chance to do, rather than theorize. The second reason was advice I received from a professor. When I was considering library education the economy had just begun to enter recession. The professor rightly identified that many recent graduates would delay entering the work place (in 2009), by continuing their education, ultimately leading to a significant number of over qualified graduates applying for a reduced number of available jobs when the economy recovered (assuming it did). As such the professor suggested I take a course of study that was short in duration and would allow me to enter the workforce before potential competition.
INALJ-ON Why did your current job pique your interest?
MDR I applied for my current position at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, as a result of my having begun naturopathic treatment, during my library education, to treat an ailment that plagued me for much of my adult life.
INALJ-ON How did you get your current job? Networking, applying, etc.
MDR I found out about this position through a job posting on Charity Village. I am still amazed that I did get the job, as I had to cancel my first interview as the GO bus I was taking to the college had broken down en route. When I phoned to inform the college I would not be making it to the interview I never expected for them to schedule another interview. But they did, and here I am.
INALJ-ON Outside of work how are you involved in the LIS industry?
MDR I am currently the president of the Ontario Association of Library Technicians/Association des bibliotechniciens de l’Ontario. Since graduating I have sat on the Board of Directors of the association. I have learned a great deal about the library industry, as well as the not-for-profit world. This will be my last year on the Board of the association. I also am a member of the Program Advisory Committee for the Legal Research and Information Management Program at Durham College.
INALJ-ON What advice do you have for other library technicians about getting involved in the LIS industry outside of work?
MDR To be frank, I don’t believe that library technicians should focus on only being involved in the LIS industry. Many of us are involved in the industry in our work, and through our work which means that outside of work I would champion library technicians being involved in other industries. The best way to advocate for library workers is to demonstrate to those outside the library industry the impact a library worker can have in any given industry. I would not want a library technician to narrow themselves exclusively to only the library industry. The greatest impact a library technician can have on the LIS industry is by involving themselves in a field completely outside of the library world.
INALJ-ON What would you like to say to Canadian employers about why they should consider hiring library technicians?
MDR I have, and always will champion employers to hire the individual, and not the qualification. A library technician diploma, like any other form of institutionalized education, represents only the basic skills an employer can expect of individual. Employers need to take the time to research and interview potential employees to determine if they are an actual fit to not only the job, but also to the workplace. I would caution employers from only hiring an individual with x qualification, or not hiring an individual because they have y qualification.
INALJ-ON How do you think Library Technicians can best compete in the realities of today’s job market?
MDR The notion of Library Technicians as a group is not a useful concept in today’s job market. The only useful concept is as you an individual; as a commodity in and of yourself. All those with a library technician education need to market themselves as an individual. Present yourself as a unique commodity to potential employers, and to current employers. If you market yourself as a library technician, a potential employer or current employer is not invested in you, and thus you are interchangeable, and replaceable. However, if you market yourself as your own brand, then you are you; no one else can be you. Thus you are not interchangeable, nor are you replaceable.
INALJ-ON What are your thoughts on Library Technicians in ‘non-traditional’ information centred roles? Like Prospect Research, Information Management and Database Management to name a few examples.
MDR The concept of traditional and non-traditional as applied to the job market generally, and the library industry specifically are no longer relevant terms. Even those jobs in the traditional library are no longer themselves traditional. You will be tasked with doing things, and looking at the library in new ways. The work done has not changed at its most basic: library workers have and continue to connect people with information resources. However, what form the information resource takes, and how we connect people to those sources, has and will continue to change. So in that respect the information role is still traditional: you are connecting person(s) x with information y. The non-traditional aspect of information work is that we are now task with the correlation and synthesis of existing information, into what ultimately becomes new information.
MDR My favorite thing about libraries, and library technologies, are the people that use them. I don’t do what I do because of the information resources. I am not one of those who would lock information away to protect it from people. Information has no use if it not consumed, digested, and passed on to people.
INALJ-ON Anything else you’d like to say to the INALJ readers?
MDR I would like to leave the INALJ readers with a quote from a novel by a Canadian author who I have always admired. I would task the INALJ reader to think about how the use of, and apparent race to obtain the status of, words like profession are a hindrance and not an aid. I caution the reader not to come hung up on words, on categories, on labels, and headings.
“Excuse me, Elspeth,’ said Ridley, ‘but I don’t like to hear it called a profession. That word has been worked to death. There are people in the newspaper business who like to call it a profession, but in general we try not to cant about ourselves. We try not to join the modern rush to ennoble our ordinary, necessary work. We see too much of that in our job. Banking and insurance have managed to raise themselves almost to the level or religions; medicine and the law are priesthoods, against which no whisper must be heard; teachers insist they do their job for the good of mankind, without any thought of getting a living. And all this self-praise, all this dense fog of respectability which has been created around ordinary, necessary work is choking our honesty about ourselves.“ Robertson Davies, Leaven of Malice
This interview will hopefully be the first in a series. I want to talk to all types of LIS professionals from all over Canada to find out their thoughts and feelings about Library Technicians. If you’d be interested in answering my questions drop me a line, you can get in touch with me via the contact form at the bottom of the Ontario jobs page.