A frat house is no place for a kitty

For ten years, I worked in a turkey-shaped concrete building that took up the whole block and sank two stories into the ground. The majority of the library’s entrances are on the second floor, suggesting those uninitiated to the institution should probably just keep walking instead of figuring out how to get in. Two slight slopes, enough to satisfy ball-fetching dogs, curve down to meet the bottom of the windows on the first floor. As he returned from his break, my colleague informed me that there was a cat downstairs in the tiny valley, understandably anxious because he didn’t know how to get around the building. He bounced off angled exterior slabs and wide staircase rails, posed for several photographs, and eventually I caught a long enough look at the tag on his collar to punch it into my phone. “Ugh, everyone keeps calling. It’s my boyfriend’s cat,” the sleepy voice on the other end replied, “he’ll come back.”

I went up back upstairs to open the department for the day, and one of the student workers learned from Facebook that a cat managed to enter the building through the revolving doors and was presently evading capture in the library.

A small tabby cat with white legs walks across a stone patio in front of a concrete wall.
Frat house cat, December 2013
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Centre of attention

An orange cat walks through a garden towards the camera.
Smooch outside the Tranzac, May 2016.

One of the perks of my old job that I genuinely miss was the spring-through-fall walks through downtown Toronto, which got increasingly longer the closer I got to the end. As much as I love the UW campus for its groundhogs and the time I saw over one hundred ducks in the pond, it doesn’t have campus cats. My previous library, a behemoth at the edge of downtown, was within minutes of Rufflecat, Smooch, the white one on Dalton, the fluffy beast who lived in the front yard on Brunswick, and the frat house cat who came in through the revolving doors. Kerry Clare knows all of these cats, and I am writing this post because I signed up for My Blog School, through which I hope to get better at short-form writing.

I feel like I am very good at writing emails to elsewhere on campus, firm but empathetic. I feel safer when I think I know my audience. When it happens, I am happy with my academic writing. I accidentally let my Twitter account lapse in deactivation mode, sending a few thoughts other people seemed to like into the ether. I have not posted to this site in 18 months. I want to get better at writing in public.

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New digs

Last Friday marked my last day at the University of Toronto’s Map & Data Library, my second home for the last decade. I am delighted and honoured to announce that I’m the new Digital Repositories Librarian at the University of Waterloo, beginning July 9. I’m taking two weeks off to explore various places in southern Ontario by bike and by car, and hope to see my first oriole.

I am lucky as hell to have landed a full-time indefinite-term job within two hours of my home, though I know I was a top-notch candidate who brought a decade of relevant work and interest to the interview process. I couldn’t help but think through this entire process: what about the hundreds of MLIS graduates from UofT’s iSchool each year who don’t have ten years of academic library experience under their belt? My unpopular opinion: close down library schools, architecture schools, and most other professional faculties until there are legitimate labour shortages.

Before I received the topic for my candidate presentation, I hoped to run a free-form lecture about the most important lessons I have learned about library and archival work, and only mention QTBIPOC folks. It would have been incredibly hard to put that into 20 minutes, because there are so many who have framed the work I am bringing to digital repository work and scholarly communications. I was asked to present on my digital repository outreach strategy, which was a respectful, relevant, and totally doable question for a candidate to handle, but I noticed that by the end of the day, I was referring to the work of all the same people I wanted to talk about. I am going to get around to uploading my talk and slides here soon.

I am now, almost by accident, a scholarly communications librarian, and now I commit myself to helping develop technological approaches to “various shades of open”. If I trust my instincts and be kind I will do just fine.

All done

I finished my Master of Information coursework today! This semester taught me a lot about audiovisual research data management, library logistics systems, narratology, and writing for long stretches without getting up from my desk. I didn’t get to write any more about Deep Space Nine, but I did begin a paper with a Seinfeld quote. In any case, if you’re looking for a special collections cataloguing librarian – extra points if I get to work with film and video – please get in touch!

Library responses to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action: my little contribution

This was my third year presenting at the TRY+ Conference, after presenting the (to be resurrected!) Toronto Film Map and my thoughts on using linked open data in map classification in 2015 and 2016, respectively. This year, Jane and I finally got to share our Little Free Libraries® research to our colleagues together, which was the only thing I was planning on participating in, but I’m thankful that UofT librarian Sara McDowell urged me to reconsider. I gave a short talk on one of two panels dedicated to library responses (page 115) to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Here, I suggest how map cataloguers can better acknowledge Indigenous lands in our collections – a crucial duty for those of us working in libraries dedicated to territory – without placing additional burdens on our Indigenous colleagues. (I was so surprised to meet another map cataloguer right before I presented it, which made it extra important!)

If you work in an academic library and are reading this, please check out co-panelist Jamie Lee Morin’s incredible writing and research guides for Indigenous students at Ryerson University. THIS is what universities need to do – hire brilliant young Indigenous minds and fund their work to develop resources like these and keep them around.

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