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Career Spotlight: What I do as Copyright and Reserves Supervisor

Career Spotlight: What I do as Copyright and Reserves Supervisor

July 9, 2018

Lauren Bourdages
Copyright and Reserves Supervisor at the Wilfrid Laurier University Library

First of all, tell us a bit about your current work and how long you’ve been at it.

I’m currently the Copyright and Reserves Supervisor at the Wilfrid Laurier University Library. I celebrated my first anniversary in this position on May 1. I’ve been at Laurier since August 2014. I started off as one of two Reserves and User Services Associates working under the former Supervisor. On a day to day basis what I do changes depending on what comes up, but my two areas of purview are: assisting my boss with copyright management and education, and overseeing every aspect of the course reserves process.

What drove you to choose your career path and how did you go about getting your job? What kind of education and experience did you need?

Before coming to Laurier I had never held a full-time position. I had been working in a donor information management position, but I knew libraries were where my heart was. I hadn’t yet settled on what kind of library specifically. I had previous experience in public, special, and school libraries, but I soon realised that academic libraries were where I wanted to be. I love working at Laurier. Getting the job as Reserves and User Services Associate was a pretty standard process. I found the job on Laurier’s website, I applied via their application portal, and interviewed with a four-person committee. My committee was made up of the two hiring managers, the library’s administrative manager and an HR rep. The position required a Bachelor’s degree, of which I have two; a BA and a BEd both from Laurier. Both hiring managers were really pleased to see that I also had a Library and Information Technician diploma even though it wasn’t required.The diploma gave me the technical chops needed for the position. The job was interesting because it was a split role with half of it being in the reserves office and the other half on the public facing User Services desk. It needed someone who had solid technical experience and someone who was good with people.

How I progressed from that role to my current role of Copyright and Reserves Supervisor is interesting. The previous Reserves Supervisor retired in 2016. As the most senior person on the team at that point I stepped up and took on the responsibilities of the supervisor in the interim including managing the workflow of the team and supervising our student assistants. There was a round of hiring for the revamped Copyright and Reserves Supervisor position in August/September of 2016, so I applied and interviewed. Both my boss and her boss agreed that they liked me for the position, but didn’t think I was quite ready at the time. Taking that feedback to heart, I signed up for the Certificate in Canadian Copyright Law offered by Lesley Ellen Harris, and continued picking up the duties I’d already been covering. They didn’t find an external hire for the position, so we continued through the whole academic year before the position was re-posted in April 2017. I re-applied and they decided I was ready. I was offered the position and I happily accepted and started on May 1 officially.

What kinds of things do you do beyond what most people see? What do you actually spend the majority of your time doing?

Most people just see the finished product – the actual items that are on reserve. People don’t see all of the work that goes into making each of those items available. During our rush periods, I can process close to 1,000 item requests a month. That’s from start to finish. An item request comes in by either a web form or as a reading list submitted by the faculty member. For each item we have to look at the citation, create an individual item record, and then start looking for the item. That can be a fast or slow process depending on the accuracy of the citation. Once we have the item, there are a variety of other processes. With book chapters, for example, we have to make sure we’ve got the correct book and edition. Then it goes into the scanning queue. Once it’s scanned by one of our student assistants, we then have to remediate it so that it’s AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) compliant, clear its copyright, and then finally upload it for the students.

What misconceptions do people often have about your job?

Aside from people being unaware of the many different roles within a library, I think the biggest misconception is in terms of there just not being an understanding of how long it can actually take to fully process each item from start to finish. Even a seemingly simple request like “I want to put Fight Club on reserve for my English class,” can take anywhere from 1 day to 2 weeks to fulfill depending on certain circumstances, especially during our rush periods right before the start of a term.

What are your average work hours? Typical 9-5 thing or not?

My standard day is 8-4, but I’m really lucky to have a boss who gives me the flexibility to start and end later if I want/need to.

What personal tips and shortcuts made your job easier?

I know it will seem like a simple thing that is a tip you hear everywhere, but I really think that’s because it works. I started keeping a daily to-do list in a planner that sits on my desk in front of my monitor. Every morning while I’m waiting for my computer to load I write out the day’s tasks/meetings and the student schedule for that day. During our rush periods it’s a lot of repetition from day to day, but having that check list there makes it much easier to ensure that I don’t miss something that seems small but is actually very important, like checking the newly created course IDs. Task delegation has definitely made my job easier, especially during our rush periods. We delegate a lot of the more time consuming tasks, like searching the stacks, and actually scanning to our student assistants so that we can focus on the actual processing of requests and scans. We’re always thinking about ways to make our jobs more efficient.

What do you do differently from your peers in the same profession?

I haven’t had the chance to sit down with many of my counterparts from other institutions. One thing I know is different about my position specifically versus those who handle reserves at other institutions is that Laurier is under an Access Copyright license. So in that regard, I have a different process for copyright clearance than my peers at institutions who don’t fall under that license.

What’s the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?

The hardest part of my job is related to patrons. I mentioned our rush periods; there’s a real crunch time right before the start of a term, so we ask faculty to get us their requests 6-8 weeks out from a term. There are always those who don’t submit things until 2-4 weeks before, and some who will even submit them on the first day of a term. Everyone wants the readings to be available for the first day of classes. I deal with frustrations and expectations by staying calm and explaining our volume, timelines, and processes to them.

What’s the most enjoyable part of the job?

I love all the parts of my job! I know I’m really lucky in that. The most enjoyable part though is when you finally finish an item request that has just been frustrating for some reason. Or when we clear the last request from a start of term rush. That’s always a good feeling. I also really enjoy the look on a professor’s face when I explain our full-service reserves process to them and they just light up when they realise all they have to do is send me their list of citations.

Is there a way to “move up” in your field?

Well, I started as an Associate and have moved up to Supervisor myself. To move up any further at Laurier would, I think, require them to add another layer to our department or to expand my role. I know at other institutions there are dedicated Copyright Librarians, so that’s an option that exists.

What advice would you give to those aspiring to join your profession?

If you’re interested in working in copyright take a class on it, or, at the very least, start reading blogs like Michael Geist’s or Meera Nair’s Fair Duty. Learn about the Creative Commons and OER movements. Reserves is similar to resource sharing, you need good technical skills and you need to know how to search for things.

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