Reference Interview – Christine Brown, Head, Humanities & Social Sciences Library and J.A. Weir Memorial Law Library, University of Alberta, Canada
16 November 2015
Name: Christine Brown
Title: Head, Humanities & Social Sciences Library and J.A. Weir Memorial Law Library
Institution: University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
How long have you been at your current library and what do you do there?
I joined the University of Alberta Libraries in May 2009. You will see that I manage two libraries on the campus so that keeps me busy and exposes me to a variety of concerns with regard to service demands from students and faculty. I work with a large team of librarians and support staff to plan and deliver services. I often work on special projects, plan and monitor progress on unit goals and strategic initiatives, and even take on some liaison work. I am currently the liaison to our Humanities Computing program.
Why did you decide to become a librarian?
I became interested in library work when I was doing undergraduate work at Queen’s University. During my studies I worked in the Music Library and ran the Information Bank at our student services building. Upon graduation I took a job working in the University of Toronto Libraries and decided to pursue my MLIS degree. I have worked in a number of academic libraries over the years and was also a director of a public library. I have a Ph.D. in Library and Information Science which allowed me to delve into my interests in information seeking behavior. I really like working in an environment that involves people, technology and change so libraries are a perfect fit.
Tell us a bit about reference and information services at your library.
The University of Alberta Libraries serve a large research institution serving about 35,000 fulltime students and 15,000 faculty and staff. The Humanities and Social Sciences Library and the J.A. Weir Memorial Law Library are two libraries among 8 at the U of A. The Humanities & Social Sciences collection contains about 1.25 million print items and many more are in our remote storage facility that currently houses 3.25 million items. Our electronic resources are some of the best in North America as we have now moved to an e-preferred collections policy. We offer reference, instruction, and consultation services and collaborate with our Digital Initiatives Team to offer faculty and students assistance with digitization services, data management, and deposit into our institutional repository. Librarians in the Humanities and Social Sciences Library and Law Library are constantly engaged in personal or system based projects or research.
What do you think is the most important issue in reference and information services right now?
I think that reference services will be challenged to help patrons access needed information in a landscape that is changing rapidly. The move to e-preferred collection models and discovery-based retrieval systems will present opportunities and challenges. As we harness the innovations in technology that help us to improve access to information, we need to stay true to our values of why access to information is important. It is important to the development of knowledge and is a democratizing force within society.