Reflections on Quality Client Service

Refreshed from my recent Australian travel experience, today I am continuing to blog on the theme of lessons learned. During my travels, I spent a lot of time in hotels and airports, flying 11 flight sectors in 30 days.  That experience reminded me all about the client experience and perceptions, something that we talk a lot about a lot in libraries.  It also reminded me that quality client service truly is in the eye of the beholder. However, all too often those conversations do not draw on experiences from other service industries.  No, the best hotel was not necessarily the most expensive one, but rather the one that made me appreciate value for money, and the extra effort put in by employees to make my stay relaxed and comfortable.

It has been a while since I have travelled on Australian domestic airlines and used the services and facilities of domestic air terminals.  Maybe I am using the experiences of travel over the last decade within North American airlines and airports as my benchmark, but I was pleasantly surprised by the range and diversity of services available, and the overall cleanliness of airport facilities.  Perhaps it is the increase in competition within Australian domestic routes and the experiences across four different carriers that help me to differentiate the levels of quality client service.  I am now quite a fan of Virgin Australia, while the long established and high profile QANTAS brand left me feeling disappointed and longing for the good old days of the QANTAS five-star service!  Overall, it did make me think and reflect on what makes for a quality library service – one that anticipates, exceeds, and delights our clients!

More about EBLIP8

Coming to you this week from Room 156, Murray Building. Yes, I’m back in the office attending to the in-tray and accumulated emails, with the memory of travel to Australia for the International Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Conference in Brisbane now a fading memory. However, I did manage to bring Brisbane’s winter maximum daytime temperatures during the conference of 22º to 24º back for our Saskatchewan summer!

EBLIP8 was a huge success and I was especially pleased and proud to be there in person to hear my colleague Virginia Wilson (Director, Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP) at the University Library) give the opening keynote address of the conference.  Virginia’s outstandingly presented and intellectually challenging presentation was entitled: Poking and Prying with a Purpose: The Librarian Practitioner-Researcher and Evidence Based Library and Information Practice.

Included in the presentation, was the first public release of the results from Virginia’s sabbatical leave research, which provided strong and credible context setting for the entire conference. As if providing the keynote address was not enough, Virginia also co-presented later in the conference with Denise Koufogiannakis (from the U of A) on the topic of Canadian LIS Faculty Research: Linked to Library Practice? and with Lisa Given, ran a workshop on Translating Research into Practice: Strategies for Engagement and Application.  Congratulations all-round, Virginia – you provided very strong evidence of your record of sustained accomplishment in professional practice and scholarship before an international audience, who I know value your established expertise within librarianship in an academic setting, and appreciate you demonstrating leadership in the establishment and the profession.

The day 2 keynote address by Dr. Neil Carrington (CEO, ACT for Kids) on Creating and Sustaining a High Performance Team Culture: Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast was equally inspiring and left me with a personal and professional Ah Ha! moment around his question of: Are you spending your time the way you want?  Dr. Carrington’s direct and engaging delivery style had his audience spellbound for his one hour presentation.

Visit these blog posts for more about EBLIP8:

The 8th International Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Conference (EBLIP8)

Coming to you this week from Brisbane, Australia where EBLIP8 is underway. What a location!  With a population of 2.3 million, Brisbane is Australia’s third largest city in the “sunshine state” of Queensland.  Its subtropical winter temperatures feel like a Saskatoon summer’s day!  The conference is on the city campus of the Queensland University of Technology. 

Our very own Virginia Wilson, Director of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP) is the conference keynote speaker.  Virginia is speaking on the topic of: Poking and Prying with a Purpose: The Librarians Practitioner-Researcher and Evidence Based Library and Information Practice. 

I am enjoying catching up with many conference delegates who attended the EBLIP7 conference which we hosted in Saskatoon just two years ago to coincide with the official opening of C-EBLIP.  Visit the conference website for more information:, or (I cannot believe I’m saying this next thing) follow us on Twitter!



What does tenure represent?

The University Library Standards for Promotion and Tenure states “The award of tenure represents a long-term commitment of the University to a faculty member.  It is a status granted as a result of judgement, by one’s peers, on both the practice of professional skills and the expectation of future accomplishments.” On Monday evening, I joined two librarians, DeDe Dawson and Jo Ann Murphy, at the President’s reception to mark their career milestone of tenure, effective July 1, 2015.  It was, as always, a happy and enjoyable event.

On and off over the years, our professional literature has raised the question of faculty status for librarians – is it a good thing or not?  As you would expect, there are arguments on both sides.  What I like about the U of S situation is that that debate was had and decided some time ago.  The University’s positions to recognize the library as having both an academic and service mission, to appoint the senior leader at the rank of Dean; and to progressively over several collective agreements to bring terms and conditions for librarians in line with faculty in other college sends an important messages to everyone about how the library is viewed at this university.

Not all librarians at Canadian academic libraries have faculty status.  The University Library Standards for Promotion and Tenure are the most stringent in the country, so rest assured that earning tenure under those standards is a rigorous collegial process and meeting those standards is worthy of a celebration.

Congratulations to DeDe Dawson and Jo Ann Murphy.

Expanding the role of libraries in academic research

Some exciting news came this week from our colleagues at The Taylor Family Digital Library at the University of Calgary.  Libraries and Cultural Resources, led by Vice-Provost and University Librarian Tom Hickerson, has been awarded a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to lead a North American study on the role of next-generation libraries in enhancing multidisciplinary collaborations.

Click here for more information.

2015 Dean’s Research Lecture – Save the Date

The Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP) in association with the University Library will host the 2015 Dean’s Research Lecture on September 16 at 2:30 p.m. in Convocation Hall.

I am pleased to announce that our 2015 Dean’s Research Lecturer will be Dr. Laura Mandell. Dr. Mandell is a Professor in the Department of English, and Director, of the Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture at Texas A&M University.

Professor Mandell will give a presentation entitled “New Modes of Humanities Research: How Libraries Can Help”

In 2005, Jerome McGann first started NINES, or the Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-century Electronic Scholarship, as a way to “bring scholars to the table” of discussions about how digital media might change our research environment. This has been a push-me pull-you operation: traditional scholars do not want it to change at all, begrudgingly using new digital finding aids provided by libraries and their vendors rather than directly contributing to how these resources might be organized. Mandell discusses how the Advanced Research Consortium or ARC ( has tried to remedy this situation, discussing as well faculty usability testing and outreach programs conducted by vendors such as JSTOR, Gale, and EBSCO. She presents new research into data visualization techniques: these approaches are least congenial to textual scholars, but most necessary as we enter into an era of big literary and historical textual data.

Dr. Mandell is the author of Misogynous Economies: The Business of Literature in Eighteenth-Century Britain (1999), a Longman Cultural Edition of The Castle of Otranto and Man of Feeling, and numerous articles primarily about eighteenth-century women writers. An article in New Literary History, “What Is the Matter? What Literary History Neither Hears Nor Sees,” describes how digital work can be used to conduct research into conceptions informing the writing and printing of eighteenth-century poetry. She is Project Director of the Poetess Archive, an online scholarly edition and database of women poets, 1750-1900 (,  Director of 18thConnect (, and Director of ARC, the Advanced Research Consortium overseeing NINES, 18thConnect, and MESA. Her current research involves developing new methods for visualizing poetry, developing software that will allow all scholars to deep-code documents for data-mining, and improving OCR software for early modern and 18th-c. texts via high performance and cluster computing.

I hope you will join us on September 16 for what is sure to be a timely and interesting lecture.

2015 Dean’s Award for Excellence

At this week’s annual library employee recognition event, we took time out to appreciate and celebrate the many and varied contributions made by all library employees over the last academic year.  Appreciate & Celebrate is one of four core people strategies in the University Library People Plan. We value and celebrate the contributions, innovations, and achievements of individuals and teams by recognizing, appreciating, and respecting one another and our diversity.  It is also an occasion for me to say a very big public thank you to all employees.

This year, we acknowledged two long-serving library employees who have reached their 20 years of service milestone – congratulations to Susan Murphy (Leslie and Irene Dubé Health Sciences Library) and Darryl Friesen (Library Systems & Information Technology).

We recognized and celebrated the career milestone for librarians Jo Ann Murphy and DeDe Dawson, who have been awarded tenure.  Congratulations also to Crystal Hampson, who has had her probationary appointment renewed.

I was very pleased to acknowledge all of those individuals and teams who were nominated for this year’s Dean’s Award for Excellence.  We had a record number of nominations this year.  A nomination from peers and colleagues, internal and external to the library, is a significant honour.  Recipients of the 2015 Dean’s Award for Excellence are:

  • The Team Award: The Library Researcher Series Team – Angie Gerrard, DeDe Dawson, Tasha Maddison, Vicky Duncan, Carolyn Doi, and Maha Kumaran.  This team demonstrates the library’s leadership philosophy, where leadership is not about position but about using behaviour to influence others to willingly follow an idea for the common good.  They have been, and continue to be, leaders in their collaborative approach to teaching, program design, and effective teamwork.
  • The Individual Award: Lara O’Grady.  Lara, who is based in the Murray Library, played a key role in two library-wide projects – the LibGuide2 and the AskUs projects, where she lived the library’s values and made a major contribution to the success of both projects.

Our annual employee recognition event is always a reminder to me of our people vision: We pursue excellence by learning through discovery and inquiry; being exceptional practitioners and scholars; embracing creativity, innovation and risk taking; and demonstrating outstanding leadership.

Resources to help understand the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy

Our library colleagues at McMaster University recently shared the resources they have developed to help researchers meet the requirement of the recently released Tri-Agency Open Access Policy.  Check out this informational video:


Back to reality

With the memory of Paris behind me, and a very, very full and busy schedule this week, my focus returns to a number of operational issues within the University Library and the broader local community.

Many of those issues are linked to our Paris discussions and focussed around the changing role of the research library.  For example, with increased inquiries coming to our liaison librarians regarding what researchers need to do in response to the recently released Tri-Agency funding policy, we are asking ourselves: What is our position? How can we help? How do we best redirect resources to this new institutional priority?  What is the context for our direction and decision making on this matter, especially given there remains no institutional policy at the U of S on Open Access (OA)?

Unlike many universities world-wide and many library-related professional institutions, the U of S is not among those institutions who have legislated and approved OA policies and institutional commitments.  At the University Library we have done what we can over the years to advocate and support OA, but in the absence of a clear institutional policy, it is difficult to find the appropriate balance and reconcile between the services, support, and resources we offer and that policy vacuum.