Freshly Minted: Merran Carr-Wiggin
September 16, 2019
Research Information System Coordinator, Dalhousie Libraries
Which information studies program did you attend?
I did the first three quarters of my MLIS degree at the University of Alberta, and completed my final semester at Dalhousie University. I moved to Halifax in January of my last year to join my partner who was accepted to law school at Dalhousie. It was very interesting to see two different schools and make connections at both.
What were your courses like? Which was your favorite, and why?
My courses in my first year covered a lot of the basics of library studies: reference work, metadata, and management. But my favourite courses were my directed studies and my practicum. I’d worked in a library for 5 years and so had a pretty good understanding of what I was getting myself into, so it was in my directed study courses that I could really focus my attention on what I wanted to learn.
I did a directed study on Cultural Memory which included a project on corporate archives where I went to London and interviewed the archivist of Fortnum & Mason. I did another directed study on Library and Information Studies in Hospitals where I looked at how libraries could better serve the needs of parents with children with serious illnesses.
For my practicum I went to London and spent my time at four different institutions: the special collections of Senate House Library London, the archives of King’s College London, Fortnum & Mason and the Library and Museum of Freemasonry. As I had already had a job in a public library and mostly on the frontline, I was keen to discover what I called the secret world of libraries, what librarians do behind the scenes – what better way to do that than explore the strong rooms of these famous institutions?
Is there one aspect of the profession that surprised you that you were not expecting when you started the program? What is it?
Having a past really serves you. I worked as a professional actor for many years before going into librarianship and the wealth of knowledge I gained from my previous profession helps me every day in my job. The people I work with too are constantly drawing on their knowledge from other sources or past experiences as well. I think it really serves you to have lived a bit before going to library school.
What was it that initially drove you to librarianship?
While I was completing my BFA in Acting I worked for two summers as a Summer Programmer at Edmonton Public Library (EPL). It was a way to use my acting skills in another setting. I absolutely loved that job and soon after I graduated, I got a part time position as a library assistant at EPL. My love of libraries continued to blossom and eventually I reached a point where I knew I wanted to dedicate more time to librarianship and get my library degree. Librarianship is a wonderful profession in that it can look so different depending on what job you have – you really can make your job your own!
If you could work anywhere, and do anything with information, what would your dream job look like?
I couldn’t pin it down to one dream job at the moment. There are so many things I’d be excited about – working in a beautiful historic or brand-new building, making a difference in the lives of children, doing research about something I’m really interested in, working to make my findings about how LIS can aid hospital services a reality, having an unusual job outside mainstream libraries, being an embedded librarian in a non-library setting, having a role where I could really guide or lead a library. It seems that the options are endless when it comes to exciting opportunities for a career in libraries. It seems impossible to settle on one dream right now.
If someone were considering going to library school, what would you advise them about?
Library school is very different from actually being a librarian. I’d encourage library school students to shadow librarians in different jobs first and to seek out the librarians with unusual jobs. There is a lot you can do with a library degree and it doesn’t necessarily look anything like what you are learning in library school.
What do you think is the most important aspect of being an information professional today?
I think the most important aspect of being an information professional is the relationships that we grow with our colleagues, students and communities. These relationships then continue to influence and enrich our services and research. I think that librarians need to continue to step out of the buildings that house us and reach out into the communities in order to foster new relationships.