vancouver special libraries tour

On Friday our school’s Special Library Association student group organized a tour of a variety of special libraries around the city. Here’s where we went.

The College of Registered Nurses Library is small and friendly. They gave us coffee and cookies, so we got off on the right foot. This was kind of interesting because they’re very focused on the practical nature of nursing, not the theoretical you might get in a more academic setting. They had a small staff but quite a few shelves of books plus historical displays put on by other groups. Since this library’s in the building for the registered nurses one of the ways they entice people to come in is by having a bunch of shelves for non-nursing bookswapping.

Teck Resources had hands-down the best view. It’s downtown on the 30th floor looking north out over the harbour. I could have lived in that office. Teck does mining in Canada and elsewhere globally, and the library there is mostly to support the upper management in terms of competitive intelligence and that kind of thing. The questions sounded very detailed (“how does this company deal with this kind of issue in this kind of environment and how much does it cost them?” kind of things).

At Environment Canada the librarian talked about the challenges of the bureaucracy of working for the federal government, but also about working with scientists. Like the previous libraries things are getting more digital but he stressed the importance of the role they’re playing. They’ve taken co-op students in the past and I’ll be keeping them in mind if I end up doing that.

The BC Courthouse Library is publicly accessible, though they do tend to assist mostly lawyers. Since so many lawyers don’t work in big law firms with their own libraries, this is a busy place. They also had a bunch of web content that’s very leading edge in lawyer education type stuff. The director was very forthright about how librarians have to network all the time and make our skills known, and fail boldly.

The Vancouver Art Gallery Library and Archives was the saddest stop on the tour. This is because they had so much stuff and their staffing is being cut and they store things in old holding cells from when the building was a courthouse. But it had super cool books, so many catalogues from exhibitions all over the world.

The tour was well organized and diverse, and we heard similar things from all the special librarians we met: network, you don’t need a background in whatever weird thing your library specializes in, take cataloguing courses because you’ll be doing a little bit of everything. All good stuff to know, early in my library school career.

And then afterwards we went for drinks.

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