Acceptance remarks – 2012 Anne Galler Award for Outstanding Library Service

Imageby Christine Jacobs

Thank you so very much for this honour. I had no warning or awareness that I was being considered for the award, and when I received the e-mail from the Committee, I did not open it immediately. When I opened it later in the evening, I had to read it several times, because it simply did not “compute”  – then I started to cry.

And I started to cry, I think primarily because I was so moved at being graced with an award with Anne Galler’s name attached to it.

When I graduated in 1983, Anne was a part of the world into which I graduated. I was quite in awe of her, and when we eventually met over a CLA committee table I was prepared to be somewhat overwhelmed. Anne did not leave space for being overwhelmed, however, and I was very happy to be caught up in her whirlwind. A few years later she “head hunted” me to co-organize the SLA/QLA Christmas benefit with Molly Walsh. I was quite reluctant at first – it was a great cause, but I had young kids, and Anne was looking for a five-year commitment. She was very persuasive, however, and absolutely confident that I could do it – a very difficult combination to which to say no. Anne had the amazing ability to be a down-to-earth visionary, able to inspire while maintaining focus on elemental and essential issues such as education and literacy. To be receiving an award in her name is a truly profound experience.

This is a wild kind of birthday present – I turned 60 last week, and although I have no intention of retiring any time soon and certainly do not feel ready to stop working, the award has made me look back to realize that I have actually had a career, not just a string of jobs. It feels very odd because in many ways I feel like I have just been “doing my thing” for the past 30 years, indulging myself in choosing jobs that I have found demanding and fulfilling. Barring the occasional day when I really felt like staying in bed, I have always looked forward to being at work – whether those crazy Sunday afternoons on Reference at the Cote St Luc Library with students trailing after me like supplicants – or the pleasure I had at the NFB learning PRECIS indexing (an exceedingly complex system) and working on research projects for providing subject access to films.

I never planned to teach – the profession found me. In fact, I did not consider myself at all suited to teaching – too impatient and demanding of myself and others. However, for a number of years after I graduated I was asked to TA the Indexing class at McGill, and it opened a world that I found interesting and challenging.  

I did not get to this point in my career by myself. There are too many people to list in all, but I would particularly like to thank (in order of appearance in my life) Marty Cutler, Miriam Tees, John Leide, Rabab Naqvi, and Carol Greene for their mentorship and guidance at various points in my career. It has been my good luck to work with interesting people whose company I have enjoyed and from whom I have learned much, particularly at the Cote St. Luc Library, the NFB and now at John Abbott.  And I am not forgetting all the colleagues in the various associations in which I have been active – particularly the Indexing Society of Canada, SLA, QLA, and CLA.

In time-honoured fashion, I would also like to thank my family, particularly my sons Brendan and Keelan who tolerated the many evenings I spent working or marking, or in committee meetings, and who have always supported me 100%, even when it meant babysitting the house and looking after my affairs while I lived in Africa for 5 months. They have listened to my ideas and occasional grousing, and even put up with the fact that I insisted their high school projects have bibliographies even when their teachers did not require them!

And last, but not least, I thank my parents – they both taught in their chosen professions of social work and engineering and their mothers before them were school teachers. Except for a few short years when my siblings and I were very young, my mother worked as a social worker, taught at McGill and at Cégep du Vieux Montréal and she helped organize and participated in an on-the-job training program for Cree and Inuit social workers in northern Quebec. Mum was also active in the Home & School, and became the Chair of the founding Board of Directors of Champlain College. She was an amazing role model, not just in what she did, but in the value she placed on people and in her belief in the empowerment of education.

So, perhaps it was inevitable that I end up balancing two professions. And I think that it is at this juncture of two professions that I feel such a kinship with Anne Galler.  Librarianship, with its broad scope, constant change and interesting questions has given me the opportunities to expand my mind, and to care for people and for their needs, and Education has simply multiplied the dimensions of those opportunities.

So, I will end my thank- yous with a plea that we all take seriously the educational issues within our profession.  Let us not get so sidetracked by the technologies, by the GPAs, by the tight budgets, by the rapid change that we lose sight of the basic skills sets and the necessity of encouraging potential in those interested in the profession.  A number of the speakers today referred to the core / foundational values of librarianship and it is these values that must be nurtured, both for their inherent value and for the long-term roles they have in society. Mentoring is a very important way of transferring the values,  knowledge and skills of librarianship, and I encourage you to pay attention to your colleagues– the library technicians, the clerical staff and the professional librarians – as well as to those outside of the profession whom we would welcome into it.  In our day-to-day work lives we may not imagine librarianship as empowering, but it is, and we need to keep a focus on that, as did Anne Galler,  as we move forward in an ever-changing environment.