Posted on February 3, 2015.
Stephen Carney joined the Canadian Museum for Human Rights as Librarian in May, 2011. He has also worked as a Metadata Librarian with Alberta Education, and an Academic Librarian at University of Alberta’s Bibliothèque St. Jean. He earned his MLIS at the School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta in 2002, and he also has an MA in Political Science, from York University (Ontario).
The Museum’s library collection currently consists of approximately 2500 volumes. The majority of these are physical monographs, with a small but growing e-book collection. The scope of the collection is primarily academic, bringing together material that speaks broadly to current human rights issues, theory, history, and practice. The collection also includes material accessible to a variety of age and reading levels and interests, including children’s literature, graphic novels and comics, art and media, and fiction. The library collection will be accessible in the Museum’s Reference Centre, which is also the space in which the Museum’s archival collections will be accessed.
What is (or what has been) your collection management process as you developed the library?
When I started at the Museum, we had around 400 titles in the collection, most of which had been donated to us by the Human Rights Research and Education Centre at the University of Ottawa, so I really was starting from scratch. Collection development to date has served to meet the needs of Museum employees as they worked towards developing exhibit and program content, alongside the anticipated needs and interests of Museum visitors. The library collection is multilingual, with a focus on materials in French or English. However, relevant materials in any language are considered for inclusion.
The Museum’s mandate, to explore the concept of human rights with a special, but not exclusive, reference to Canada, serves as one of the guiding principles in the development of the Museum’s library collection; a second element is a commitment to attempting to ensure that marginal voices and seldom heard stories are included in the collection; and a third element is striving to achieve true balance the inclusion of multiple, and at times competing, perspectives.
What was the biggest challenge in developing the collection?
Determining whether a particular topic or story has a human rights focus can at times depend on a subjective analysis, so the decision to include or exclude such material can be quite challenging. Material that may, on the surface, seem like it doesn’t fit within our collecting mandate can actually turn out to be quite relevant once you’ve examine it more closely, or looked at it from a different perspective.
Why did you want to become an information professional?
I was listening to the radio one afternoon in the mid to late 1990s and heard a story about a Winnipeg librarian dealing with a book challenge, and the role she played in keeping the book on the library’s shelves. At the time, I was studying Political Science and focussing on civil liberties, in particular freedom of expression. The story drew the connection for me, on how librarians play an active and integral role in the fight against censorship and ensuring that people have access to information. From that moment on I knew I wanted to be a librarian.
What is the most fun thing about your job?
Working with such a fantastic team in the Collections Dept., with Heather Bidzinski (Head of Collections) and Lisa Snider (Archivist) is definitely one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. Working in this incredible building cannot be overlooked, too.
A hero who has inspired you in your career?
Dr. Toni Samek from the University of Alberta, whose commitment to intellectual freedom, social justice and human rights continues to inspire and influence me. I recommend her book Librarianship and human rights : a twenty-first century guide to anyone interested in a critical and practical analysis of the connection between our profession and human rights.
For more information about the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, visit their website – https://humanrights.ca/
Samek, Toni. Librarianship and human rights : a twenty-first century. Chandos information professional series, 2007.