Librarian teaching students

Librarian Julie Mitchell helps students with their research skills.


In this digital age, one of UBC Library’s priorities is continual support to staff who serve a growing international base of new faculty and students.

Library staff have benefited from career development in the areas of public service training and leadership programs, and have access to annual professional development awards programs. Helping staff hone their intercultural knowledge, attitudes, and skills is another integral part of the Library work environment.

Understanding intercultural differences

All library staff were invited to participate in an intercultural fluency training program during Summer 2015, led by Alden Habacon, Director of Intercultural Understanding Strategy Development at UBC. Sponsored by the Library’s Diversity Inclusion Team (DIT), Habacon distinguished the need for all Library staff to communicate and act intentionally as they work with culturally sensitive collections and distinct communities, within and beyond the campus. An understanding of differences, empathy and compassion are a focus of the program. “The emphasis needs to be on not just doing good, but doing more good – effectively and appropriately,” he notes.

Creating opportunities

The Library acknowledges that individual employees and teams have unique ways in which they learn, contribute, and thrive. These diverse perspectives and backgrounds ultimately enrich our environment when growing and collaborating together. Members of DIT underscore that “our commitment to making UBC Library a campus leader on diversity means actively creating diversity-focused opportunities for engagement.”

Setting a precedence

The program’s curriculum will be used in training other service-oriented campus units, including UBC REC and Security. Putting an academic library at the forefront of intercultural fluency training sets a baseline standard for the University and signifies shifts into the civic realm. Our future sees people gravitating to libraries as a public square, Habacon says, a realm for human touch and dialogue. Staff training in intercultural fluency, therefore, is key to building positive experiences for users as diverse as at UBC Library’s.

More than 50 Library staff across all branches participated in this training program, which consisted of presentations, interactive break-out sessions, and open discussions. More workshops are planned for Fall 2015.

Image of a Cuneiform tablets

Receipt by a temple official of “one sheep and one lamb on the thirteenth day of the month” for rent.

When I introduce folks to our collections here at RBSC, I love to pull out some materials that might be considered more obscure or outside of our usual collecting area, just to hear people say, “I can’t believe we have that right here at UBC!” Possibly the objects that get the biggest reaction are our cuneiform tablets. That’s right, we have five cuneiform tablets, each one small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Recently, our good friends over at UBC Library’s Digitization Centre, in collaboration with the From Stone to Screen project, have digitized our tablets so that they can be studied from anywhere in the world. DI has also published a very interesting blog post about the history of the tablets and the complicated matter of determining their provenance. Enjoy, and the next time you stick a receipt in your wallet, think about what people 4,000 years in the future might make of it!

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