[The following was written by Kai Geddes, currently working for the UBC Archives in the Work Learn student employee programme]

While continuing my academic career at the University of British Columbia (UBC) as a Masters in Library and Information Studies (MLIS) graduate student in September of 2019, from Vancouver Island University (VIU), I had the opportunity to attain a Work Learn position as a digitization student assistant at the UBC Archives.

Having worked as a Work Learn student at the Indigenously rich campus of VIU as a Services for Aboriginal Students Cultural Events Coordinator at the Gathering Place (Shq’apthut), and an Archival Student Assistant (the first at VIU, where I worked on the very extensive Milner Garden fonds), I was eager to start working on UBC campus.  I was not sure which position I would get hired for after I sent in a few employment applications in the middle of August of 2019. Thankfully, I received an email from UBC Archives asking me to come in for an interview in early September for the Digitization Student Assistant position. During my interview I was able to gloss over my Indigenous heritage and my work experience at VIU. Later that day, I received an email that I got hired.

As a Digitization Student Assistant, my hours were spent retrieving photographs and negatives from the UBC Archives vault, scanning them, and then by using Adobe, touching them up with the program’s digitization tools.  The most difficult to touch-up are white spots which appear because of the degradation of film negatives; there are also large wrinkles called “channels,” and discolouration due to the age of the cellulose film that was used.  All of these are problematic, but there are ways to improve the quality of the images through digitization. I also assisted with community order requests, such as photographs for magazines or television shows, digitizing cassette tapes for educational institutions, and photographs such as sports teams and those from yearbooks or magazines.

When COVID-19 led to the closure of most of its facilities and services on campus in Mid-March of 2020, including the Irving K. Barber Library where the UBC Archives is located, my duties as a Digitization Student Assistant changed along with it. However, despite this, I had a very fortunate opportunity presented to me: to look over the UBC Archives’ website and recommend, if any, changes that could be made from an Indigenous perspective. Through the lens of an Indigenous student who has taken several classes on the subject, I was in a unique position to see what might be regarded as problematic for Indigenous Peoples.

One such example is the term First Nations, which has become somewhat outdated due to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which today recommends using Indigenous instead of terms like Indian, Aboriginal, or First Nations. However, of course, there are some exceptions to this recommendation such as Native American for those residing in the United States, and Aborigines for people who first occupied Australia and New Zealand. A rough draft of my findings was sent to the UBC Archivist for feedback and a final report will be sent in October 2020.

After taking classes and working from home over the summer, I was happy to return the UBC Archives and work with archival materials—this time as an Archival Processing Student Assistant. While I have had experience working with fonds, as mentioned above, I have not worked alone on receiving an accrued acquisition from its very beginning. Of course, I did have supervision from the University’s Archivist for my work on this accrual to the Allon Peebles fonds. The process began with sorting the materials into the previous eight categories of the existing fonds (which I extended to nine), which were provided from the work done by previous Work Learn students. After that was done, I added the materials to the finding aid which later needed to be updated with new descriptions, notes, and the number of materials added to the fonds.

At the end of August of 2021, I will be receiving my MLIS graduate degree with a First Nations Curriculum Concentration which in part is due to my Indigenous work at the UBC Archives over the summer of 2020.  My experience working at the UBC Archives has been a very positive one; unfortunately, I have heard from counselors that this is not the case for most Indigenous students in the Work Learn program. I do not know the details of exactly why their experiences have been troublesome, but I can see how fitting into a predominantly colonial educational institution may be uncomfortable for some.

Moving forward, after graduation I hope to continue my studies at UBC in the iSchool’s PhD program in September of 2021. My focus will be on Indigenous issues such as identity and what it means in Canada for those who are bi-racial (those who have one parent who is Indigenous and the other parent who is from a colonial background) – who are “living on the hyphen” (balancing both identities and not considering one to be more dominant than the other).

Kleco! Kleco! [Thank you!]

[The following was written by Manfred Nissley, currently working for the UBC Archives in the Work Learn student employee programme]

A year after starting at the University of British Columbia as an archival science and library science student, a work-learn position opened up in University Archives. I applied for this position because I saw it as an excellent opportunity to put my archival science education into practice.

As an archival processing assistant for the University Archives, my job is to process accessions acquired according to University Records Management schedules or through donations from private parties.  I have discovered the clear differences between these types of accession. These differences mean there is often something unique to consider during processing.

Each project I have worked on has come with its own unique challenges. These challenges often depended on whether the creator of a fonds had a coherent records management system, a typical situation for university records, or if a private party simply tossed documents and ephemera in a box without a clear order of arrangement. While extra time must be spent with a disorganized fonds, the extra time needed allows the processor to become intimate with the materials. This intimacy would prove to be rather valuable for me during the CoVid-19 pandemic.

I have worked on so many projects that detailing all the projects I have completed is impossible. So, I am only going to highlight some of my favorites and state that my projects ranged from only a few centimetres to several metres. Some of these projects ended up providing opportunities to make personal connections with fonds creators. Others featured random situations that caused me to reflect on the importance of my work preserving records for family members and future researchers.

One such random situation came while I processed the School of Social Work fonds soon after I was hired. The records were from the late 1980’s to the early 2000’s and were rather convoluted. The fonds contained personal identifiable information (PII), deliberately preserved organic material, random coins, and student art that had been distorted due to severe off-gassing. Decisions had to be made throughout the processing about how to best preserve or destroy (especially the PII) these items or their storage containers. Halfway through the project, I became curious about the creators of the records, so I decided to begin my research for the administrative history section of the finding aid by looking into the histories of the administrators. When I researched Elaine Stoler, the department director from 1993-1998, I was surprised to learn she died a few days after I started processing the fonds!

Another favorite project featured several boxes of random ephemera and records belonging to multiple fonds. My task was to research these items, discover to which fonds they belonged, and process any unprocessed fonds. Some of my favorite finds included President Frank Wesbrook’s portfolio case (my all-time favorite find), a box of specimen slides of ocean dwelling microorganisms from the late 19th century, numerous medals and plaques, and the unprocessed accessions of Laurence Meredith and Valerie Haig-Brown. This project is a great reminder of the importance of documenting storage and recovery activities, especially during a crisis. Some of the ephemera had been temporarily misplaced in remote storage after a break-in at the archives many years ago. This misplacement resulted finding aids being updated over time to include notes about missing items.

The processing of the Meredith and Haig-Brown fonds was interesting as well. Both of these UBC Alumni and Ubyssey writers had storied careers. Valerie Haig-Brown, like her father Roderick, is an author and a particularly important conservation activist in the Pacific Northwest. She was a high-school track and field star who joined the Vancouver Olympic Club and was in consideration for the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

Laurence Meredith, also a writer for the Ubyssey, was initially a high school teacher upon graduation. However, he soon moved to London and became a reporter for United Press International, eventually being made head of the Portugal office. He joined the Royal Air Force during WW2 and survived a parachuteless 1000 foot fall that did not end his military career. His fonds was sent around the world to UBC after his death in 1990.

Another project featured Florence McNeil, also a Ubyssey writer. Florence, an author, married Mr. McNeal, but she kept McNeil as her nom de plume. According to a memorial published in Trek magazine, McNeil was known for being evasive about her personal details. To ensure that McNeil can be properly identified in the future by archivists and researchers, statements about her husband’s name and nom de plume were included in the fonds’ Finding Aid.

One of my recent projects featured the fonds of Professor of Creative Writing Keith Maillard, who is also writer by profession. As a genealogist, this project was particularly interesting because the fonds includes a significant amount of family history and genealogical research. It also included a large amount of ephemera of Keith’s estranged father, which is discussed in Keith’s memoir Fatherless. I was curious about Keith’s genealogical story, his anti-war history, and the potential original order of some records. So, I reached out to him. He ended up sending me a signed copy of his memoir Fatherless, which is a must-read in my opinion.

I mentioned earlier that in some cases intimate knowledge of a fonds contents is a benefit. During CoVid-19, I was relegated to working from home. To keep me busy, I was given the main task of creating and editing Wikipedia pages dedicated to the people whose fonds on which I worked. The intimacy allowed me to use memorized information to recall what appropriate search strings and additional sources I needed to use to create and edit those pages according to Wikipedia standards.

One further note. It is rather interesting to me that many of the donated fonds I have processed were created by individuals who were editors and writers for the Ubyssey. As a genealogist, I find this relationship with the Ubyssey as almost a familial bond. It is my belief that that ties like this should be used by archives to promote the facility to those were part of that long standing culture. To that end, if you are reading this blog post and you were an editor or writer for the Ubyssey, please consider donating your papers to the University Archives. Your papers will be preserved and be in good company with other Ubyssey alumni. And don’t worry, if you moved to another nation, we can still take your papers – for example, Laurence Meredith’s archive travelled halfway around the world to get back to UBC.

[The following was written by Trang Dang, who worked in UBC Archives in the Work Learn student employee programme from September 2019 to April 2020]

Being a graduate student of the UBC School of Information with an interest in archival processing, the Work Learn position with the UBC Archives provided me significant practical experiences. It helped reinforce my knowledge of archival theory and records management.

Since September 2019, I worked on several fonds and collections, including both institutional and personal records. With little previous working experience in archives, the gradual complexity of the assigned projects certainly helped me to become more proficient with archival arrangement and description.

I found personal archives unique and interesting, but it was not short of challenges, especially when records arrived “loose” with no obvious order, making it difficult to construct the context behind each record.

I started off with the accrued accession of the Joy Coghill fonds, from a Vancouver-based theatre director and actress, and a UBC alumna. It contained personal correspondence, miscellaneous records, and photographs. As the accrual didn’t have an “original” order, and the fonds was already arranged, the challenge came from identifying the records and assigning them to the appropriate existing series.

The photographs, which came in loose with many letters and cards in a black plastic bag, also posed difficulties due to the lack of context. Only a few of the prints had written information on the back such as dates, names and events, whereas the 35mm negatives were very small, making it hard to determine the subject. After consulting with my supervisor, we decided to keep only photographs with Joy Coghill in them, both by herself and with other individuals. Most of those individuals were unidentifiable except for Coghill’s immediate family such as her mother, husband, and daughters. To help with identification of some of the events and people a relative of Coghill had agreed to come to the Archives, and she went through the photographs with us. The prints that she couldn’t identify were then scanned and emailed to Coghill’s daughter for further assistance. Unprocessed and unidentified materials were returned to Coghill’s family.

The small research collection on Sister Mary Gonzaga collected by Barbara Gibson was straight-forward in terms of arrangement and description. Nonetheless, it was fascinating to discover that Sister Gonzaga’s letters were being held at UBC Rare Books and Special Collections. These two collections are closely connected and complement each other.

Eventually, the projects became bigger in size and so did my tasks, including researching historical background, identifying the intellectual order, and compiling the description for the entire fonds. Processing the personal archives of Laurenda Daniells, the first University Archivist, was not too challenging as the majority of records relating to her professional life had already been arranged in series upon accrual. However, similar to the difficulties encountered in Joy Coghill fonds, more time was needed to process the materials recording her personal life.

On the other hand, institutional records also came with its own challenges. For the Division of Industrial Education fonds, I first needed to compile the file list of each box. As the fonds didn’t come in an “original” order, my job was to determine the series and then physically rearrange the records accordingly.

The most challenging project were the records of the Xwi7xwa Library, a sous-fonds of the Library fonds. The difficulty arose from the complicated history of the records creator. Before becoming the official branch of the UBC Library, it was part of the Indian Education Resources Centre, and then the First Nations House of Learning. As it was not easy to determine which records were created by the Xwi7xwa Library itself, we decided to keep all except for duplicate records, and those that contained personal information.

Overall, besides the hands-on experiences in archival processing, my biggest lesson taken from this Work Learn position was the importance of decision-making and its documentation. Sometimes the archivist has to determine the order of the archives, and sometimes it might not be the best arrangement, therefore, it is critical to document any decisions during the process.

The Education Library will be closed until April 30, after which we will assess our ability to reopen.

Librarian help is still available through ed.lib@ubc.ca

The University of British Columbia Archives is now closed to the public until further notice. Archives staff are working remotely and are able to assist with some reference questions. Inquiries can be sent through our contact form.

During this period, be sure to explore digitized materials from the Archives’ collections available on our website and through UBC Library’s Open Collections.

See also UBC Library’s official announcement for further information on Library-wide closures.

Our sincere apologies for the inconvenience.

*** UPDATE: Please also see the Remote Resources and Services Guide for UBC Archives and UBC Rare Books and Special Collections for more details and assistance.

By Wendy Traas and Yvonne Dawydiak

Education Librarians were impressed by the quality of responses from students in the Unlock Library Literacy workshops in LLED 350 and LLED 360. As part of the learning activities during the workshops, teacher education students were asked to consider what questions they had about incorporating digital technology into the classroom, and how to integrate Indigenous perspectives and principles. Especially considering they were in the first few weeks of the teacher education program, the thoughtfulness demonstrated by students in response to these questions was noteworthy.

Many responses to these questions would make for great inquiry questions to explore throughout the year so we are sharing them with you here. We teamed up with Yvonne Dawydiak to think about how to move some of this learning forward. In this post we describe some of the feedback students submitted, and point to opportunities and resources to support further inquiry on the topics.

Digital Technology Integration

Working in small groups, students were asked to consider the following question as part of the Coding and Computational Thinking station:

What questions do you have about working with digital technology in the classroom?

Responses to this prompt included practical considerations of accessing and managing digital technology in the classroom, designing cross curricular connections, ensuring equitable access to technology, finding educator resources and strategies to improve knowledge of computational thinking, and how to balance engagement with distraction. A selection of student responses are listed below:

  • How can we keep students on task and not distracted by the really cool digital technology that facilitates the learning?
  • How would we integrate an activity like coding into an ELA classroom?
  • How do we make these kinds of learning opportunities more accessible for lower income school districts?
  • How do we choose what tech to invest in within budget limitations?
  • How do you incorporate full class participation when you only have access to limited devices?
  • How do we find balance between being a part of the digital world and not let it take over?
  • How to teach kids to be digitally literate and safe online?
  • How do we teach healthy relationships with an reliance on technology?
  • What are some adaptations for visually impaired students?
  • How do you work with a technology you’ve never used before? What resources do teachers use to keep up with technological advances?
  • From what age is it appropriate to introduce digital technology?

Further Learning Opportunities

Teacher Candidates will find information to support some of the above questions on the Scarfe Digital Sandbox. Resource posts include information about Assistive technologies, teaching digital citizenship, coding, multimedia creation and much more. Blog posts are more comprehensive descriptions of pedagogical approaches that might integrate digital technologies to support authentic learning opportunities. https://scarfedigitalsandbox.teach.educ.ubc.ca/

In addition to this online resource, Teacher Candidates are invited to bring their questions and ideas to some drop-in opportunities this year:

Scarfe Tea Party:
Mondays, 4:00-5:30 in Scarfe 155, Education Library
Please RSVP https://scarfedigitalsandbox.teach.educ.ubc.ca/events/event/scarfe-tea-party/

  • Create, Make Innovate: hands on STEAM activities
    Every Tuesday this Fall, 12:00 – 1:00 in the Scarfe Foyer
  • Drop in learning design: Scarfe Sandbox Support.
    Weekly topics include coding, making, multimedia creation, lesson planning foundations, hooks and activating prior knowledge
    Every Wednesday this Fall, 11:00 – 1:30 in Scarfe 1007

These events are hosted by Yvonne Dawydiak, Learning Design Manager, Teacher Education and are intended to allow opportunities for TCs to have hands on experiences to develop their understandings as well as providing time for TCs to bring their questions about any aspect of planning and preparation during their BEd year.

Another excellent Canadian source of information about digital citizenship including helping your students grapple with many of the weighty questions we saw in the Teacher Candidate’s responses to our question, can be found on the MediaSmarts website: http://mediasmarts.ca/

Incorporating Indigenous Perspectives

Working in small groups, students were asked to consider the following question as part of the Critical Literacy and Indigenous Perspectives station:

What questions do you have about selecting and integrating Indigenous perspectives and principles into the classroom?

Students raised questions about how to determine authenticity in texts, how non-Indigenous educators can respectfully teach Indigenous ways of knowing, finding local resources and information, designing appropriate activities, interdisciplinary connections, understanding protocols around knowledge sharing, and finding age-appropriate ways to engage with the legacy of colonization in Canada. A selection of student responses are listed below:

  • What are some ways we can ensure that the material we are selecting is authentic and appropriate? How can we ensure authenticity and avoid cultural appropriation?
  • How do I know when I’ve selected the right piece of literature?
  • What avenues are there for finding Indigenous voices in youth literature?
  • As non Indigenous educators, how can we be sure that Indigenous resources that we want to use in class is authentic and true? How do we approach this without overstepping boundaries?
  • How do we navigate such a politically charged subject and teach the principles respectfully, but with confidence?
  • Is it worth sharing cultural appropriation texts as a way to educate students about Indigenous people and colonization?
  • How can we be inclusive of the multiple identities that fall under the Indigenous umbrella term? How can we connect learners to their own ancestry?
  • How do we connect with the nation whose land we’re taching on and what are the protocols?
  • What consultation should we do if we want to do Indigenous projects in our classrooms?
  • Are there resources we can use to facilitate collaboration with Indigenous educators in relation to incorporating these perspectives and principles into all areas of studies?
  • How to approach difficult topics with younger children and is there an age appropriate way to discuss racism and false representation and appropriation?
  • What is the best way to integrate Indigenous perspectives and principles into STEM classes?

Further Learning Opportunities

Check out the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) website (www.fnesc.ca) , especially:

Explore the Education Library themed booklists, especially these ones:

The Education Library collection includes resources that support a number of activities, including educational research and teaching–both in the Faculty of Education and in K-12 schools. On our shelves, you will find picture books and curriculum items alongside scholarly works. Our hope is that you approach and evaluate all materials in our collection, and those you encounter in other libraries and classrooms, with a critically literate disposition.


What is Critical Literacy?

McNicol (2016) describes critical literacy in the following way: “critical literacy is concerned with the social and cultural contexts in which texts (including not simply written texts, but digital texts, multimedia, visual materials and so forth) are both created and read….The approach taken in critical literacy is not to read texts in isolation, but to develop an understanding of the cultural, ideological and sociolinguistic contexts in which they are created and read” (p. xi). Critical literacy requires us to go beyond what we read on the page to consider the larger narrative in which a text is situated, asking questions about who created a text and why.

Watch educator Dr. Allen Luke further discuss critical literacy, and the role of teaching in developing a critically literate approach to texts, in the following video:

The Learning Exchange. (2018). Allen Luke: Critical literacy.
Retrieved from https://thelearningexchange.ca/videos/allan-luke-critical-literacy-2/
Note that closed captions are available.


Indigenous Materials in the Education Library

The texts by and about Indigenous peoples in the Library collection have been added to our shelves (both physical and virtual) over the course of decades and, together, offer multiple representations of Indigenous peoples. In some cases, those representations are inauthentic, problematic, and inaccurate. Those materials remain in the collection to support current and future research but may be unsuitable for use in K-12 schools, at least without properly contextualizing and carefully considering the purpose behind their use. We encourage teacher candidates to apply a critically literate approach to selecting materials from the Library to support their teaching about Indigenous peoples, perspectives, and principles of learning, seeking authenticity in the texts they choose.

According to the First Nations Education Steering Committee (2016), authentic texts are “historical or contemporary texts that:

  • present authentic First Peoples voices (i.e., are created by First Peoples or through the substantial contributions of First Peoples);
  • depict themes and issues that are important within First Peoples cultures…;
  • incorporate First Peoples story-telling techniques and features as applicable….” (“What are Authentic First Peoples Texts?”)

To get a sense of the varying representations of Indigenous peoples found in our collection, have a look at some of the problematic titles we’ve pulled for the display. Then, compare them with the authentic alternatives. What differences do you see?



McNicol, S. (2016). Critical literacy for information professionals. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/yyoaoxoz

The Learning Exchange. (2018). Allen Luke: Critical literacy. Retrieved from https://thelearningexchange.ca/videos/allan-luke-critical-literacy-2/

First Nations Education Steering Committee. (2016). Authentic First Peoples resources k-9. Retrieved from http://www.fnesc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/PUBLICATION-61502-updated-FNESC-Authentic-Resources-Guide-October-2016.pdf

Teaching Through Telling: The RavenSpace Publishing Project

Date and time: June 4 from 9 am – 3:30 pm

Location: UBC Education Library, 2125 Main Mall (inside Neville Scarfe Education Building)

This multimodal event showcases stories – oral, visual, and virtual storytelling on display all day! Come hear stories, and learn about how to use storytelling in the classroom. From 9-11 learn about Musqueam culture through a blend of storytelling and animation with “Musqueam Stories Transformed.” From 1:30-3, learn how to use storytelling in the classroom with a multimodal display in “Teachings for the Classroom – Connecting the BC New Curriculum to As I Remember It.”

Throughout the day, browse the exhibition of Indigenous children’s literature and take a break with some refreshments.

Speakers include:

  • Elsie Paul (lead author As I Remember It)
  • Paige Raibmon (UBC History Department and co-author of As I Remember It)
  • Liz Krieg (Aboriginal education specialist contributing to As I Remember It)
  • Dave Shott (Lantern Films producer collaborating with author groups to create animations for Musqueam Stories Transformed and As I Remember It)



Where: Scarfe 155 – Education Library
When: January 24, 12:00-2:00 Drop-in

Join us in Scarfe 155 for some calming and creative activities! Unwind with some colouring, try your hand at blackout poetry, craft your own puppet, or take a picture in our green screen photo booth.

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

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