Featured student: Victoria Elizabeth Baranow
1. Why did you choose the iSchool?
This is a difficult question to answer since I wasn’t choosing between different schools offering the same degree, but rather between law school (Osgoode) and the iSchool. I ended up choosing the iSchool for practical reasons (financial, etc) but also because I felt that the career it would lead to would be a better fit for my career hopes and personality.
2. Did you know what path you would choose before beginning your Masters? Any second thoughts on your planned area of study?
I wanted to be able to pass on the magic of libraries and information to others.
I knew that there were aspects of both ARM and LIS that I was interested in, as I had previously worked in an archives and have had a life-long love of libraries. The library in North Bay – a relatively isolated and homogenous city in northern Ontario – was a place to escape to in order to ‘see’ the outside world. It allowed me to explore places and ideas that, otherwise, I would not have had any exposure. I wanted to be able to pass on the magic of libraries and information to others.
On a similar note, I have always loved research and finding out new information while somewhat dreading having to bring it all together in a cohesive final form, such as an essay or paper.
When I started my MA at U of T, the Art History librarian, Margaret English, said something at our mandatory library orientation workshop that has stuck with me to this day. To paraphrase her, she aptly noted: "I’m a librarian – I love the chase for information and the process of finding specialized information that is hidden away. Then I pass it on to you and other researchers to make something out of it."
While I identified with her statement at that moment, it still took me a little while to realize that I could translate this identification into a career, which eventually led to my choice of path(s) at the iSchool.
I would also be very happy working my way up to management within an academic institution or another sector.
3. What are your career goals?
In the long term I would like to work in management within either a library or archives, preferably an arts or cultures organization such as a museum. I would also be very happy working my way up to management within an academic institution or another sector.
4. What has been your most rewarding moment at the iSchool?
Being involved with my peers in extra curricular activities...while interacting with them on an intellectual and professional level within and outside of the classrooms, has been more productive, stimulating, and enriching than any other program or institution that I’ve been involved with.
It’s quite hard to choose just one rewarding moment at the iSchool. Instead, I’ll choose the amalgamation of many rewarding moments to the overall general sense of community and appreciation of all of the other talented, dedicated, hard-working, and like-minded individuals that I’ve had the privilege of getting to know and working with during my time at the iSchool.
Coursework, while very important, has been only one element in this overall experience that works with many other facets of student life and professional development. Being involved with my peers in extra curricular activities, such as student council and student groups, while interacting with them on an intellectual and professional level within and outside of the classrooms, has been more productive, stimulating, and enriching than any other program or institution that I’ve been involved with – and I’ve participated in quite a few programs, departments, and universities in my academic history.
5. The most challenging?
The most challenging moment at the iSchool has been realizing that despite all of the amazing individuals that I’ve had the opportunity to work with, there will always be someone who focuses on the negative, doesn’t pull their weight, and yet is filled with a sense of entitlement.
Also challenging is knowing that age has nothing to do with it – I’m 29 and I know some very professional and hardworking individuals who are much younger than me, as well as some on the opposite end of the professionalism spectrum who are much older (and younger, for that matter). The contrast between the two groups (question 4 and 5) can be startling, and the reality can come as a shock when you hear the words come out of this minority group’s mouths.
6. What has been your favourite course and why?
Some courses I’ve really enjoyed because the instructor has been amazing and somehow makes really dry material seem palatable, or even exciting.
It’s incredibly difficult to name a favourite course. Some courses I’ve really enjoyed because the instructor has been amazing and somehow makes really dry material seem palatable, or even exciting.
I’m pretty sure, though, that my favourite would have to be INF2312: Art Librarianship in Theory & Practice – the assignments and seminars were practical and intellectually and theoretically stimulating, while our instructor, Daniel Payne, was not only incredibly enthusiastic in conveying the material that he had prepared for us, but also keen to hear from us, leading long discussions and debates on numerous important areas of art librarianship and the information profession at large.
7. Have you been working since starting your studies?
In my first year I worked at Robarts Library as a Student Library Assistant (SLA) in the Reference and Government Publication department, as well as at the Laidlaw Library as a Library Assistant. Both jobs were great in terms of getting a handle of how library works on both the front lines and behind the scenes.
Working or volunteering within some kind of information position while studying really allows for students to draw on their studies in a more practical way, even if a course seems to be steeped in theory.
During the summer I worked at the Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives – a position that was extended part-time into the fall.
For the past academic year I also worked at the Royal Ontario Museum as a Library Student Assistant and had the opportunity to offer reference assistance to users of their library and archives while helping with other projects in the background.
Working or volunteering within some kind of information position while studying really allows for students to draw on their studies in a more practical way, even if a course seems to be steeped in theory. U of T and Toronto offered many opportunities for students to seize in order to further their learning at the iSchool.
8. What about your social life?
I found that my social life greatly overlapped with everyone I had met at the iSchool – we had similar interests and personalities.
In first year, my social life was pretty much the same as previously. In second year, despite being much much busier with extra curricular activities and even more working hours, I also had a more active social life.
I found that my social life greatly overlapped with everyone I had met at the iSchool – we had similar interests and personalities, and many of us would attend networking and other social events related to our new profession and future careers.
9. What have you learned since starting the program that would have been useful to know beforehand?
There’s quite a bit of overlap between the ARM and LIS required courses, though these ‘overlapping’ courses do have their unique aspects. I’m not sure what I might have changed in my decision-making with this hindsight.
I also wish I had taken advantage of a practicum placement to get more in-depth or project experience in a library.
I also wish I had taken advantage of a practicum placement to get more in-depth or project experience in a library. But then, while I know a number of students who were really happy with their placements (and at least one got a job out of it), others were less so, or found them mediocre.
10. As a second year student, what advice would you give a first year student?
There is a mountain of advice that one can give to an incoming student or second year student. I participated in the mentorship program and my lengthy and numerous email exchanges with my mentees are a testament to how much advice one can give.
I think the best advice one could give to any iSchool student is that the experience and skills that you get out of the program are largely determined by how much you’re willing to put into it – get involved!
Ultimately, everyone is different and while advice can help students greatly, especially really practical things like who to talk to about OSAP, or how to waitlist, it’s really up to the student to decide what’s best for them.
I think the best advice one could give to any iSchool student is that the experience and skills that you get out of the program are largely determined by how much you’re willing to put into it – get involved! Volunteer, work, and attend as many possible workshops and events that are offered by student groups, the career officer, the Inforum, and others within the iSchool!
Be the person that puts their hand up and says “I can do that!” or “I can help!” because these are the things that: a) will get onto your resume and impress employers; b) that you’ll learn from greatly; and c) will help you gain friends at the iSchool – your future colleagues who may be in a position to help you get a job or pass on the good word within their own workplace when you interview for a job.
This all said, be very careful about your time management, and don’t get behind.
11. How do you think you’ve changed since last year?
I think I’ve definitely learned how to deal with difficult people and situations while keeping a grain of salt in mind whenever I hear someone say something negative about someone or something else. I’m a bit more cynical, but also inspired by those around me.
I’m also pretty impressed with myself and just how much I accomplished, managed, and juggled over the past year. I think most people don’t realize their potential to handle a full plate until they’ve tried it. I doubt that some people really know what a full plate is – the iSchool can help show you that if you’re willing to step up.
– June 2012