Overseeing a Club at the iSchool

By Samantha Summers (LIS, ARM, CDP)

Like many of you, when I started at the iSchool (back in 2018!) I wanted to dive right in and get as involved as possible. When a call for executives for the Special Libraries Association—Toronto Student Group (SLA-TSG) dropped into my inbox a month before school started, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved in a unique student group. 

The Special Libraries Association (SLA) represents the interests of librarians who work in “special” libraries, which is the industry term for libraries which are not academic, public, or in schools. Librarians are at work in every sector, and this international professional group brings these librarians together to share resources, discuss issues facing the field of librarianship, and network. The SLA is broken down into increasingly smaller regional groups, such as the Western Canada chapter, which oversees the Toronto chapter, which oversees the SLA-TSG. Having a specific group for students ensures that students are aware of their career options beyond the traditional library vocations, and provides unique and tailored networking opportunities for students. 

This image was taken on a tour of the CBC Archives in 2019.

I was ready to get involved, but little did I know my involvement would very quickly get very intense indeed. Due to some mismanagement a few years before I arrived at the iSchool, the SLA-TSG did not have enough executive members when I joined. Despite applying to serve as a First Year Chair, I soon found myself President of the SLA-TSG. This meant that I was planning tours at special libraries around the city, hosting events, and connecting with students and professionals every month. 

Being involved in a club at the iSchool means expanding your network and broadening your career horizons. Every person you meet will have a unique perspective on the field, which can in turn inform your perspective and make you consider your career options in ways you hadn’t before. For example, prior to my involvement in the SLA-TSG I had never considered the possibility of working as a librarian at TIFF or in a bank. 

This year, like so many other club executives, I am focused on redesigning my usual club activities so we can operate online. This means rethinking how we deliver material, what knowledge is now relevant in a mainly-virtual world, and more. For example, I am currently planning a practitioner panel to help students learn about special libraries and the skills required to work in them. As other club executives will tell you, moving our clubs online is an exciting but also difficult task. Another major concern for clubs this year will be recruiting new members despite not being able to meet with other students in-person. 

To this end, MISC will be hosting a virtual Clubs Fair on Thursday, September 10 from 12:00-1:30pm. Make sure to stop by this event and meet some of the great clubs and student groups here at the iSchool! The SLA-TSG will definitely be there. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the SLA-TSG or getting involved in this amazing community of special librarians, contact me at samantha.summers@mail.utoronto.ca. Also keep an eye out for our upcoming Professional Panel, which will take place sometime later this term. Otherwise, we look forward to seeing you at the virtual clubs fair in September! 

Until then, join us on Facebook and on Twitter to keep in touch. 

Photos supplied by the Special Libraries Association—Toronto Student Group.

Featured image from a ledger held in the library at the Royal Ontario Museum, which the SLA—TSG was able to see during a tour.

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