Posted on November 18, 2012.
Every few months, the SLA@SLAIS leads interested students on a “crawl” of special libraries in the Vancouver area. These visits provide library and archives students with insight into the types of library and archival careers that are available, and a chance to ask experienced professionals questions about their work. Of course, what makes the library tours unique are the opportunities to see the libraries’ specialized collections and how they fit into the organization, as well as the chance to take in the design of the libraries and hear about what works and what could, well, work better.
Over the past two months, the SLA@SLAIS has toured four special libraries. In September we visited the Family Support and Resource Centre in the B.C. Children’s Hospital, the Yosef Wosk Library and Resource Centre at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens, and the B.C. Securities Commission library. In October we also took part in an extensive tour of the W.B. and M.H. Chung Library at the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
The Family Support and Resource Centre (FSRC) at B.C. Children’s Hospital is located in a lovely and colourful space, complete with computers, a children’s play area with toys and games, and a reading lounge just outside the door. As we entered the library, we met librarian Andrea Freeman, who showed us around the space and described the library’s collection of consumer health resources and the services she provides to both patients of the Children’s Hospital and patrons from across B.C. In order to reach out to the library’s patrons, Andrea offers a library mailing service, as well as a bookstore stocked with the hospital’s in-house publications and resources recommended by physicians. The FSRC is also the home-base of two health support workers who assist families and patients. The FSRC already offers wide-ranging information services to patients, but Andrea hopes that they can expand their role further by perhaps moving to a more central space during the upcoming hospital renovations.
Like the FSRC, the Yosef Wosk Library and Resource Centre and Resource Centre is an inviting and comfortable space. The Yosef Wosk Library re-opened in a brand new building just this past year, providing librarian Marina Princz with additional, much-needed space. According to Marina, the most challenging part of the move to the new building was making sure that the architects incorporated the special needs of the library, such as lighting and space for shelving, into their design. Marina is currently working on making some improvements to the lighting to make the space more functional and appealing, especially during Vancouver’s darker winter months. Nearly simultaneous with the move to the new space was the transition to an online catalogue after decades of using a traditional card catalog for their 6,000-book collection – an extraordinarily ambitious undertaking for a library with only one staff member! The library is now located in a very central part of the new building, and Marina pointed out that the new space has meant an increase in patrons from the public as the library is now much more accessible from the VanDusen Gardens’ main entrance. See images below from the Yosef Wosk Library and Resource Centre.
At the B.C. Securities Commission, we were met by librarian Helen Mok, who spends most of her time providing research services on financial and legal issues to the staff at the BCSC, and keeping them up-to-date on current issues. Helen told us that the librarians at the BCSC mainly focus on legal research, particularly case law research, legislative tracing, and due diligence and background checks, and that the librarians provide in-depth reference services for staff, often taking days to conduct thorough searches and prepare the results. They also provide document delivery services. Usually special libraries are tucked away in separate rooms, but at the BCSC the library is situated in the main office space. As a result, this small library is highly visible — see image above from the library.
When we visited the W.B. and M.H. Chung Library and archives at the Vancouver Maritime Museum, we also had the opportunity to explore the archives-inspired exhibition, “Don’t Eat the Whale Meat.” Archivist and librarian, Lisa Glandt, was particularly excited about the exhibition because it featured a large amount of archival materials, including food labels from B.C. canneries. The library and archives focuses primarily on the maritime history of Vancouver and B.C., but it also includes a significant collection of books on Arctic exploration and naval history. It was very interesting to hear about how the library and archives support the work of the Museum staff, especially the curatorial staff, as well as the external researchers who seem to be avid users of the library. The library itself is a beautiful space, filled with interesting books and objects. During our visit we also had a chance to tour the archives and the museum storage areas, which provided a sense of just how extensive the Museum’s collections actually are.
Other types of libraries may have larger collections, but I think it would be nearly impossible to find such a diverse range of organizations, collections, and services as you find visiting just a few local special libraries. Thank you to all of the librarians and archivists who take the time to give us tours of their spaces – it is always an intriguing and worthwhile experience!
By Helen Brown, a Dual Masters of Library and Information Studies and Masters of Archival Studies student at the University of British Columbia.
Photo credits: Meghan Whyte