It’s been nearly five years since Anne Lama, Library Conservator, joined the team at UBC Library. At the time, her move from Paris to Vancouver was a big change for her and her family. “We packed everything and decided to move first for one year,” she says. “And in fact, we fell in love with Canada and the people so we stayed.”

Having spent 10 years at the National Archives in France, Anne has brought time-tested experience to UBC Library but remembers the challenge of adapting to a new institution, language and culture, all at once. She noticed, for example, that the atmosphere at UBC—and Vancouver in general—is quite different than what she experienced in France. “It’s about the way people work and the difference, of course, with France. Here it’s very calm, everybody is zen,” she laughs. For new UBC hires, Anne’s advice is simple: “I would say take your time to get to know everybody, the services, and how it works before jumping in to your work.”

While relatively new to Canadian culture then—she did an internship in Toronto in 1999—she also had the unique opportunity to establish preservation-conservation processes at UBC, which, until she arrived, had not had a dedicated Conservator on staff. “National Archives has a big restoration lab with almost 20 people working there,” she recalls, who now works on a team of two with an assistant.

No longer the newcomer, Anne has a strong vision for the future. When asked about her wish list for the next five years, she doesn’t hesitate: “I really want to set up a Preservation Lab.”

“We try to evaluate our needs and to see in which direction we want to go,” she says, noting that the direction they choose would also inform what equipment the lab would house and the kinds of work the lab would specialize in. A balance needs to be struck between preventive conservation work for the general collection and the more specialized work that is required for materials in Rare Books and Special Collections. “We need specific materials to be able to perform reversible conservation work. We need to also use supplies which do not transform the object completely, but preserve the original aspect of the object, like Japanese paper or starch paste.”

As for life in Vancouver, Anne continues to make the most of it, bicycling on weekends and visiting the pool during summer, travelling, and exploring all the art available around the city. Though she doesn’t often get the chance these days, Anne also enjoys book binding in her spare time.

Anne Lama is one of UBC Library’s 2018 Employee Recognition Award winners, receiving the Employee Excellence Award for her outstanding work. Read more about the awards and this year’s recipients.

Three years ago, Wendy Traas moved from Toronto, where she worked as a Liaison Librarian at the University of Toronto Mississauga, to Vancouver to take on the role of Reference Librarian at UBC’s Education Library. “BC is beautiful, and I really wanted to live somewhere beautiful. It was also the perfect role for me. I felt like Education was a great fit for what I had done before, because I’d also worked at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.”

At UBC, she works primarily with the teacher candidates who come through the Faculty of Education, as well as graduate students and educational researchers. “We do a lot of instruction in the library. In the orientation sessions that we run, students come into the library, and we want to get them immersed in our collections and give them a chance to explore what we’ve got.”

One of the most interesting parts of her role, she says, involves working closely with other educators and picking up new instructional strategies and ways to use emerging technologies. “This place is rich for those kinds of experiences and I really get recharged just hearing about other academics’ work and other fun and innovative projects.”

This year, she was able to use augmented reality (AR) as part of the Education Library’s instructional programs by setting up with unique AR targets designed to engage students in key collections and resources. The project was a successful collaboration between the Chapman Learning Commons, iSchool, and the Education Library.

“We’re also excited about community engagement with the library,” says Wendy, referring to innovative programs like the Seed Library and the Young Learner’s Library (YLL).  The Education Library is in process of developing the YLL into a flexible, multi-purpose area that addresses both a need to support joint Library/ Faculty of Education programming as well as a need to have a space that is welcoming and appropriate for local caregivers and kids. As it continues to develop, in both physical features and programming, it will also serve as a model for teacher candidates of what a contemporary school library learning commons could look like, as well as opportunities for rich learning experiences for iSchool GAAs with an interest in Children’s Librarianship as well as alternative practicum placements for Education students.

Although Wendy isn’t new to UBC anymore, she has plenty of helpful advice to any librarians who are just coming on board. “New hires should get in touch with all the other new librarians because they should know that they’re not alone,” she says, adding that she appreciates the support network that exists at UBC.

Learn more about the Education Library’s initiatives.

Wendy Traas is one of UBC Library’s 2018 Employee Recognition Award winners, receiving the Innovation Award for her outstanding work. Read more about the awards and this year’s recipients.

Most of the collections at UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) are kept in what’s known as the Vault. This climate-controlled storage space is one of Hiller Goodspeed’s favourite spots to uncover hidden treasures, as he goes about his job as a Circulation, Copying and Shelving Assistant: “Just in shelving and retrieving items, I often stumble upon books, maps and photographs that I didn’t know that we had. I discover new things in the Vault all the time.”

Hiller came to UBC as a student in the Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) program at UBC iSchool, before taking on a position as a shelving assistant at RBSC in 2015. After graduating the following year, he was hired into his current role.

“I work for the most part at the circulation desk at Rare Books, and so we get students, scholars, and researchers from all over the world. I have had great conversations with people who are knowledgeable and passionate about their subject of study,” he says. “People come here and do an informal residency, where they will go through a whole collection. They will tell you bits and pieces of what they’re doing each day, as they’re packing up. It’s fascinating.”

His journey to UBC started when he bought a one-way ticket to escape the heat and humidity of Florida, and made a new home in the Pacific Northwest. He lived in Portland, Oregon, working as a designer and illustrator for three years before enrolling at UBC, moving further north. But working at UBC Library hasn’t meant he’s stopped designing—in fact, the Library has become a source of inspiration.

“I do a lot of freelance illustration work, for all kinds of people,” he says. “I think a lot of my ideas for drawings and art in general come from conversations I overhear or have myself, things I observe and, like I said, going through the Vault. Inspiration comes from everywhere and definitely working at the library has an influence on me.”

Recently, Hiller teamed up with Google Hardware Store to design elements of a pop up shop in based in Chicago and New York. “What started out as one email turned into a three-month intensive project. It was a great project to work on, and it’s always a nice complement to library life because it’s quiet here—very orderly and structured—and then at home, my desk is covered with pencils and pencil shavings and I’m drinking coffee and it’s kind of like a disorderly artist studio. The two pair very well together.”

Some of Hiller’s artwork is also currently on display in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre as part of new exhibition, curated by the Music Art and Architecture Library & Rare Books and Special Collections to showcase a selection of their 2018 acquisitions.

Learn more about the exhibition and about RBSC on our website.

Fernando Murillo worked as a Graduate Student Peer for Thesis and Dissertation Support at UBC Library’s Research Commons from September 2017 to July 2018, where he taught workshops and offered one-on-one consults.

He completed his PhD in the Faculty Education at UBC this past summer, and is now looking forward to joining a small, private university in Santiago, Chile, where he will be opening a new line of research on the study of education. From this new position, he will be able to continue the work he started at UBC and have opportunities to collaborate with professors and colleagues from UBC at an official institutional level. 

What were you doing before you came to UBC?

Before I came to UBC I was living in Chile, my home country. There, I worked for the national government in public policy making at the Ministry of Interior. I also worked as a curriculum consultant for a university that was transitioning to a competency-based curriculum. I think that, perhaps, part of that experience helped me in navigating and making decisions about the direction of my doctoral work at UBC.

What has been the most interesting part of your role at UBC Library?

One of the most interesting aspects of my job with UBC library was that it gave me the chance to meet and work with students and faculty from across the university and from so many different fields. You get to hear about work being done in areas you otherwise would have never come across, and one inevitably learns from that exposure.

Did anything surprise you about working for the Library?

Perhaps because of past experiences I always had the image of libraries being very serious and quiet environments. Instead, I felt welcomed into a genuinely caring and thoughtful group of people, and I am thankful that the people at the Research Commons trusted us—sometimes more than we trusted ourselves—to do the job and also try out new ideas.

What advice would you give to new student employees at the Library?

Don´t be afraid to bring your personal experiences to the workshops and one-on-one consultations. One of the reasons why students feel at ease coming to the library for help is because they can ask questions and get answers from their fellow graduate students, without feeling intimidated. Students seeking help can relate a lot better when they see someone approachable and who speaks from personal experience.

Nearing retirement, Eleanore Wellwood is in an interesting position when it comes to reflecting on her time at UBC, especially since that time spans more than fifty years.

Coming on board initially as a student assistant in 1966, then again in the late 1980s, Eleanore tried out a few different career paths before falling into library work. “All my academic career had been heading into international relations until I realized what it was like to be a diplomat, and I knew that wasn’t for me,” she recalls. “I wanted to do something more practical. So when I came back to UBC, it was in nutrition and food science, until I realized that in order to do anything with that, you need to go through to the PhD level.”

Instead, the Library became a welcome alternative and a comfortable fit. “I come from an academic family. Books have always been part of my life, so it wasn’t a big leap.” Starting in the 1990s until 2007, Eleanore worked as a library assistant at Interlibrary Loans and Woodward Library, before moving to Crane Library in Brock Hall, which provides resources for UBC students, faculty and staff who are blind, visually impaired, or have print disabilities.

“When I was at Crane—which I loved as well—I’d reached the point where I was close enough to retirement that I thought I would either stay there until I retired or I would make a change in my life,” she says. “All the retirement books keep saying that the worst thing about retiring is you don’t know what to do with yourself, or you’re not willing to try something new. So I thought it was now or never.”

When the position of Cataloging and Acquisitions Assistant came up at X̱wi7x̱wa Library, she decided to make a move once again. It was a huge learning curve, she remembers. “I’m from Vancouver but not Indigenous, so everything I’m learning is piling on as more and more learning.”

In her day-to-day work, she is involved in record enhancing, investigating, teaching and supervising graduate academic assistants. “We have the privilege and pleasure of enhancing the standard records so that they better reflect Indigenous approaches to knowledge.”

Now, after nearly a decade at X̱wi7x̱wa Library, Eleanore is faced with a new dilemma. “My problem is that I really love my job, so it’s hard to say that I am retiring,” she says. “It’s never the same, it’s always interesting.”

She recalls one project in particular that began shortly after she arrived at X̱wi7x̱wa, which put her cataloguing skills to the test. “When the library changed from DRA to Voyager, all our subject headings became ‘unsearchable’,” she says. “In terms of the project, it meant retyping every subject heading. But it also gave us the opportunity to examine them.” Luckily, she didn’t have to do most of the retyping, but got to dive into the examining.

When asked what has surprised her the most about UBC Library, she laughs. “When working for the library comes upon you gradually, nothing is surprising.”

Learn more about the programs and collections at X̱wi7x̱wa Library.

Eleanore Wellwood is one of UBC Library’s 2018 Employee Recognition Award winners, receiving the Unsung Hero Award for her outstanding work. Read more about the awards and this year’s recipients.

If you’ve ventured out to visit the UBC Library Map Collection in Walter C. Koerner Library recently, you will likely have met Evan Thornberry, who joined UBC Library as the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Librarian in July.

In his day-to-day, Evan answers reference questions, plans workshops, and gives class presentations, in an effort to provide support to researchers and students across campus in their spatial research. “GIS Librarians are the face of the library for all kinds of place-based or spatial research,” he explains. “I work most closely with our GIS Analyst, Paul Lesack. We tackle all of the map and GIS-related reference.”

Given UBC Library’s extensive print map and atlas collection, Evan also gets to handle plenty of paper maps. “UBC has done a really good job of retaining their paper map collection, and a lot of libraries haven’t done that. It’s likely going to grow in value to researchers,” he says.

These days, spatial research isn’t limited to the forestry and geography departments, with whom Evan often collaborates. Advances in technology have made map data more accessible. “Researchers in other departments are interested in mapping because they’re starting to see more maps out there available in digital format. They’re getting ideas about how to apply a spatial component to their research.”

To mark this transition, Evan started the GIS speaker series, Visualizing the World, which hosts talks by selected cartographers and other geo-spatial researchers. The first talk, which was held in October, featured cartographer Anton Thomas, who specializes in hand-drawn maps, while the second showcased research from medical geographer Emily Acheson, currently enrolled as a PhD candidate in Geography at UBC. “Anything can be analyzed in a spatial sense. I want the speakers’ series to illustrate that,” says Evan.

Talking about his own geographic moves, Evan relocated to Vancouver from Boston, where he looked after Boston Public library’s map collection through the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, a nonprofit organization. However, as a Western Washington University graduate, he isn’t new to the West Coast and is happy to be back in a city with a vibrant bicycling culture. He’s also started brushing up on his illustration skills: “I come from a family of artists, and I think making digitally hand-drawn maps would be fun. I appreciate the artistic value that cartographers give to their product.”

Learn more about the UBC Library Map Collection by visiting the GIS Lab at Koerner Library  

 

If you’re a fan of children’s books, you won’t want to miss From Apple Pies to Astronauts, A Chronology of Alphabet Books with Aphorisms, Amusements, and Anecdotes! at UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections. The exhibit offers a selection of English language alphabet books from the late 18th century to the present day. These books illustrate the changes in alphabetic education for young children in England, the United States, and Canada. The exhibition is curated by UBC Master of Library and Information Studies candidates Sarah Bagshaw and Laura Quintana, under the supervision of Professor Kathie Shoemaker.  We chatted with Laura and Sarah about their curation process.

What inspired you to create an exhibit around Alphabet Books? 

Sarah:  The books themselves were the inspiration.  Once Kathie Shoemaker suggested the idea, I got to search for alphabet books in the Rare Books and Special Collection catalogue.  Then I got to go and look at them and was amazed by all the different styles through time, all the differences and similarities to alphabet books now.  In discussing what I was looking at with my husband, he suggested displaying them in chronological order as well as going through the alphabet from A to Z.  This turned out to be an excellent way to showcase the books and the changes in illustration, the way they were written, and their educational purpose over time.

Laura: It was Sarah’s idea, actually. I got into the project in a later stage and helped her with everything I could. I have to say that I found the project really interesting. I did not grow up with Alphabet books and during our research we found out that in countries with languages other than English it is not as common as it is here to use alphabet books as an introduction to literacy.

What intrigues you about children’s books? 

Sarah: Children’s books are amazing.  There are so many wonderful books being published for children today.  Picture books are particularly fascinating as they tell stories with both text and pictures.  The types and styles of illustration we see now in picture books is incredible.  They are a window into the cultural context of the time period they come from as well as an entertainment piece for both adults and children.  Picture books are not easy to create.  They have to tell a story well and the text cannot fall down on the job – it has to work being read out loud.  Current writers could take a page or two from the writers of the past!  The rhyming text in the old alphabet books in the exhibit was a joy to read.

Laura: There is a common misconception that understands children’s literature as a second class kind of literature, as if authors and publishers were lowering their scales to produce books that appeal to children but are not good enough to engage adults. And it often happens that adults who read children’s literature are seen as infantile. Children’s literature has a specific audience, and that audience is the most demanding and honest of all. Authors need to really address a particular need and satisfy very high expectations. Children know what is good and what is not, and they won’t read a book that does not give them what they are asking for. Another important think to highlight is that children are still able to see the marvels of the world. Children’s books authors need to honor the splendour of that point of view and produce books that fully satisfy the children’s need for beauty, and that is not an easy thing to do. Alphabet books address a learning expectation, but they also appeal to children through illustrations, text, reading rhythm and originality. They are a learning tool and also a source for enjoyment. Alphabet books these days can be simply amazing.

How did the two of you come to work on this project?   

Sarah: Kathie Shoemaker approached me last summer while I was taking her Illustrated Materials for Children course about possibly putting together an exhibit of alphabet books in the Rare Books reading room.  This sounded like such a cool idea!  Everyone in the West who speaks English is familiar with alphabet books, we all grew up with them and there are so many different kinds.  To be able to look at old alphabet books as well as find beautifully illustrated new ones was so much fun. 

Laura: Sarah had already created the concept, and her enthusiasm and passion was contagious.

 

How did you select the books displayed in the exhibit? 

Sarah: Once we had the idea for a chronological tour, we selected books that best represented different eras or decades in the development of early childhood learning and alphabet books.  Some of the more recent alphabet books are very well known, but we felt that they should be included as they represented either specific ideas about children and learning, or a change in illustrative style.  Everyone knows Dr. Seuss, so did we need to have him in this exhibit?  Yes!!  He represents a big shift in the thinking about children, learning, and books.  Each book has a reason for being in the cases even if we didn’t create a lengthy item label for it. We were really lucky that Kathie has an extensive library of alphabet books to choose from and I also asked friends and family to search their libraries.

 Laura: We looked for the most appealing materials, and also for the ones that best represented a particular moment in time and in the evolution of Alphabet books.

Do you have a favourite alphabet book? 

Sarah: That’s hard.  There are certain books that have a nostalgia for me, like Cecily Mary Barker’s Flower Fairy Alphabet because I grew up with it, as well as Dr. Seuss.  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom  because we read that to our daughter and the rhythm in it is so spot on.  However, now that I have seen all these old alphabet books, I find the Battledoor fascinating for what it is and for showcasing street vendors from the early 19th century.  Wanda Gag’s ABC Bunny is such a good example of picture and text working together to tell a story.  The old alphabet books I got the most excited about are the ones illustrated by Walter Crane, who was part of the Arts and Crafts movement.  He worked with William Morris.  So many interesting things to read about him and his art!

 Laura: I fell in love with several of them, but if I have to choose it would be Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, with all its rhythm and freshness. I also love The Neverending Story since I was young, and until now I have never thought about the fact that it was written as an alphabet book, with chapters that start with a letter of the alphabet, in order. I found that very interesting.

What was your favourite children’s book as a child? 

Sarah: Another hard question!  My family is British and so I grew up with books from England.  I still have the copy my Granny sent me of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree.  I blame this book for my love of fantasy and my fascination with doorways to other places.  I also have a soft spot for Wind in the Willows, original Winnie the Pooh, and A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.  I pinched the family copy of The Real Mother Goose illustrated by Blanch Fisher Wright to use with our daughter and love looking into the history of weird and obscure nursery rhymes.  Clearly the rhyming and rhythm of text read out loud is important to me!

Laura: My favourite book as a child was Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. I’m still in love with this concept of Peter Pan as a newborn child who can fly, who used to have wings and is able to fly because he does not know that that is impossible. In this book he does not need fairy dust or the help of Tinker Bell to be able to flyI felt so sad when I first read it: to think about a child who flies away from his mother and finds out later, when he wants to come back, that the windows have been barred and that his mother has a new baby that has taken his place. I think that it is a wonderful book with an extraordinary, powerful and heartwarming main character.

From Apple Pies to Astronauts is on display at UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections on the first floor of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre from February 27 through April 30, 2017, and can be viewed Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 12-5 p.m. The exhibition is free and open to the public, and people of all ages are encouraged to attend. For more information, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections at (604) 822-2521 or rare.books@ubc.ca.

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