Taking Advantage of Your Co-op Work Term

Whether it’s an internship or co-op, students should take advantage of the opportunities available to them during their work term. Recently, @otowncoho wrote a blog post on strategies for those who hire students in government. Being near the end of my own co-op term, I thought I would reflect on advice I would give to students coming into a similar situation.

Before the Term

Be Prepared

Might sound like common sense, but students should remember to ask about procedures for the first day and if they need to bring in anything (typically finance/pay or security related information).

Consider Not Taking Classes

I know students want to finish as soon as they can, but I have heard from a lot of students (and hearsay of supervisor comments) that taking one or more classes while on a full-time co-op term can be very stressful. If tired and/or stressed, you might be likely to underperform, be less enthusiastic, or seem less “present”. Although you might do your work well, it might be hard to leave a really good impression on the employer.

At the Beginning

Orientation

If one isn’t provided, ask your supervisor or a coworker about an orientation guide, which might include student employment policy (including stat pay and hours/overtime), how to set up phone and/or e-mail, use policies, contacting support services (such as IT), facilities, and useful links (like where to eat). I would expect an employer to (have someone) show you around the office and introduce you to coworkers, but if some are absent, remember to introduce yourself when they return.

Paper work

You may not like paper work, but it is a necessity. Make sure that HR/pay forms, tax forms, etc. are all completed on your first day or as soon as possible. Ask to see if direct deposit is available. Most of the time it’s not a problem, but I have heard too many stories about paycheques being lost or missing, which can be a big problem for students trying to meet rent and what not.

Work Plan / Objectives

Many schools and programs require the work or learning objectives are written and discussed with a supervisor. If not, it’s still a great platform to discuss with your supervisor what you want to get out of your co-op term. Topics you might want to cover:

  • Technical skills to acquire/work on
  • Interpersonal skills to learn more about/improve on
  • Weak Skills/Traits to work on
  • Knowledge Areas to learn about
  • Career Areas to learn about
  • Strategy on how to meet your objectives (applies to you and your supervisor)
  • Strengths/Areas where you can contribute
  • Communication frequency and style: set a method of to regularly update your supervisor and discuss your progress

Typically, steps to achieve these objectives might be written for each objective or an overall strategy might be determined, depending on how interrelated they are. Objectives should also be specific and measurable in order to measure your progress and completion of your objectives. For example, “Learn more about information management” is a great goal, but very vague. Many advise using the SMART method, and though not all the questions always apply, it helps to turn a vague goal, into something more specific, such as:

Learn more about information management by reading about one methodology and the policies it puts into practice within the first month of the term.

Regardless, I believe the most important part is discussing objectives with a supervisor so that they might accommodate or at least share information and resources that are of interest.

Work Term Project

Many co-op positions (common in government) allow for an individual project to be completed during the term. You might discuss with your supervisor about the possibilities and set a work plan including how much time you can set aside, working this into your objectives. If you know beforehand that you will have this option available, consider thinking of possible projects ahead of time as not all employers will prepare one for you. If you don’t have any ideas, ask your supervisor if there is anything they have been wanting to do, but just haven’t had time to do. Ideally, the project would be something that you are interested in or an area that you want to explore, and contribute to the team or organization.

Want to convince your supervisor of the benefits? Start with these reasons from the student strategies blog post I mentioned earlier.

By having such a project exists, it serves a number of functions:

  • Something to Show – It gives the student a finished product to add to their portfolio. It’s an actual accomplishment, rather than simply conducting routine functions on a daily basis.
  • Time Management – Depending on your office, sometimes things can get very busy, very fast. It can often be easy to forget about students that you may have working in your office. This project ensures that they always have something to work on.
  • Contribution to the Group – In a busy office, sometimes you lose sight of the bigger picture. The capstone project ideally will fulfil some sort of need in your unit that is a “nice-to-have”, and will contribute to your unit in a positive way.

During and Throughout

Building a Portfolio

If you haven’t started already, begin building a portfolio. You might consider school work that you have done as well as work that you do during your co-op term. Depending on what you want to showcase, this might be digital or in a paper format. The work term project if you have one is a great addition. Remember that it’s not just about the products, but the process or methodology in creating the products that you may want to capture. You will also want to discuss with your supervisor how much can be made public and if not, if it can be used for interviews at the least.

Keep Current and Learn

If for whatever reason you have some “free” time, use the time to learn more about the organization or read more on topics related to your work. You might:

  • Attend workshops or information sessions at your organization. For example, library students in the National Capital Region (NCR) should make sure to take part in library tours and socials organized by the CLA Government Section.
  • Ask coworkers about their sources of information.
  • Subscribe to relevant news, blogs, twitter, etc. feeds or mailing lists.

Essentially, keep up to date on the field and organization you’re working in.

Take Part and Get Involved

I wrote about my experiences in this last week, Reflecting on Communities through Collaborative Tools in the Government of Canada. I didn’t join in on communities with networking in mind, but of course it helped. More than anything, I met a lot of great people and had fun doing it.

Find out whether there are any initiatives going on either inside or outside your organization. In large organizations, such as government or universities, there may be interesting interdepartmental initiatives, groups, community of practices, etc. that are not only interesting, but relevant to your work (if perhaps indirectly). If you don’t get work time to participate, find ones that allow you to participate outside of work time. Just one or two can help you meet others, find out what else is happening, and network! Take part in socials too.

Network and Get Bridged

I am sure every student has heard a million times by now that networking is very important. Particularly in more ‘closed’ systems, jobs are rarely externally or publicly posted. People are hired through recommendations, or just good timing. Consider getting business cards to give people (even just your name and contact info with a line or two about yourself), or asking people for theirs. Alternatively, ask if they are on a social media platform like LinkedIn and for their e-mail address to find them.

In particular, the federal government has a student bridging program which expedites hiring of recent graduates who have done a co-op or FSWEP term during the time of their studies. If you do a co-op term in the federal government, find out more about bridging and add yourself to the National Inventory of Bridgeable Students [internal link].

At the End and Afterwards

Thank People

Again, this may seem like common sense, but I’m surprised to hear how many people don’t think of it. Find a way to thank the people who helped you during your co-op term. This might be as simple as a thank you card addressed to everyone on the team you worked with.

Keep in Touch

When networking, you need to continue to network and keep in touch, especially with your supervisor who will be providing your references and possibly recommendations for positions (again, this applies particularly in more ‘closed’ hiring systems). I will admit myself that I haven’t necessarily been the best at this, but I plan to work on it!

Hopefully this post isn’t too much of a rehash of what others have said, but if it’s been heard before, I think it just reemphasizes how important some of these things are.

Reflections on Communities through Collaborative Tools in the Government of Canada

With only two weeks left and after last night’s meetup, I thought I’d reflect a little on some of the Government of Canada (GC) initiatives I’ve been part of over the term that are outside of my assigned projects, most of which are fairly recent or new.

Young Professionals Network Committees

Admittedly, this is a departmental (not GC) group, but it’s worth a mention.

Many departments (if not most) have a Young Professional Network (even if not by that name). YPN has committees to organize events as well as other work to support staff at the department. I sat on and contributed to:

  • Retention and Renewal Report, another survey is going out to validate the results
  • Student Committee, where we’re currently trying to develop a new orientation guide for students in the department
  • Spend a Day with Senior Management, a job shadow event which has been approved by the YPN sponsor ADM

Contributing to the committees has been a good experience. It allowed me to meet other people working in different sectors and has given me a sense of accomplishment and contribution towards the department even if I’m not here to see the results.

Wiki Community of Practice – WikiCoP

My understanding is that my coworker started wikicop about a year ago in order to have people in the GC community meet every 1-3 months and share ideas, knowledge, and experience on their internal wikis as many departments are developing or have them now. Although I only got the chance to attend a couple, it was great to see what other departments were doing with their wikis and to participate in the discussions. I also got a chance to see a couple of the ways Confluence was being used, which was neat.

GCPEDIA

The GC wiki, GCPEDIA, is a great place for GC staff to share information GC-wide without making it public. There is a lot of great stuff including draft strategies, guidelines, and start up initiatives surrounding all aspects including social media and web usability. I didn’t actually take part in sharing much information, but I have been helping with maintenance. Most of it is day-to-day stuff like fixing broken/double redirects, categorizing pages/files, and page clean ups, but I have also:

  • participated in a wikibee (essentially you do a big clean up as a group in person) for UXWG (User Experience Working Group)
  • been helping with the migration to a new and much improved National Inventory of Bridgeable Students [internal link]

Doing wiki maintenance has helped me learn more about the different departments and what goes on in GC. I also got to know a few people through doing wiki maintenance and participating in the 2011 Best User Page Contest. It was lots of fun!

I think that’s one of the things that makes GCPEDIA interesting to work on. The very active (more permanent) people have been very encouraging (i.e. @jesgood and C. Au) and people will do little things to increase the sense of community and enjoyment, namely by making fun user boxes. I got a green belt/experienced contributor award (basically it’s a level up system based on how much you contribute to GCPEDIA), the 5th level, which I think is pretty decent for a single summer.

Web 2.0 Practioners – W2P

It’s kind of funny, because I avoided Twitter for the longest time. I didn’t think I’d have much use for it, and it just seemed like another social media platform, especially since I don’t have a phone with internet and lacked a laptop for the longest time, I didn’t see how I’d get involve with any conversation.

I was pushed onto twitter because of work. It helped that I got tweetdeck installed. Regardless, I was somewhat surprised by how much of day-to-day sharing between GC employees involved twitter. I shouldn’t have been, but then I used to work at an agency where you had no internet access.

It’s been a great source of keeping up with GC Web/technology news, finding interesting reads, and resources. But most of all, #w2p really taught me what a great community can be built through twitter. It’s been a rare experience for me to simply show up and be so welcomed into a group of veritable strangers. Being a little nervous about going by myself to my first #w2p meet, I was encouraged by many #w2p members most memorably by @spydergrrl (for various reasons includind the fact that she was a co-host). At the meet, I ended up chatting mostly with @mhellstern who introduced me to lots of other people. It was great.

The proof that #w2p can just suck you in (in a good way) is how involved I got. After only two meetups, I ended up co-hosting last night’s meet up. Thanks to @macjudith and her discussions with a friend, the meetup’s theme was to meet the (bridgeable) students of #w2p and I cohosted with @mhellstern (I didn’t even know she was a bridgeable student!). Each student/recent graduate got a couple of minutes to introduce themselves and “sell” themselves just a little bit. We had a great turn out, plus as always, great conversations and stories. I got to finally put a few more faces to twitter nicknames, especially the ones from my department! Not least of all, it meant I got to add another userbox to my GCPEDIA user page (see the fun?).

I will definitely miss #w2p, because unless I get a position in the area in the future… well, it’s not unknown that getting a group together like this outside the NCR can be difficult since this is where most GC staff work and where a lot of this type of work is done since this is where all the “headquarters” are located.

Sense of Contribution, Engagement, Belonging, and Community

I’ve frequently heard people on contract talk about how they don’t in any way feel connected to their department, or the government, especially as a student when you may conceivably never return in, but I didn’t get that feeling thanks to joining #w2p and other groups. There are of course so many different ways to get involved and to find out what’s going on in the GC world, and these are but a few examples, so I encourage GC staff, especially students to get involved; it doesn’t matter that it’s only for a short time, and newbies are welcomed!

Canadian Police College (RCMP) Library Tour

This week’s tour was to the Canadian Police College Library at the RCMP compound and college campus.

Collections

As you would expect, the collections are focused on law enforcement, particularly the investigative component with only a minor amount of materials on criminology. Other than books and journals, they also have microfiche (most has been weeded though), audio/visual materials, theses, studies, and reports.

Services

Standard services of reference, ILL, specialized bibliographies, training are available. It’s not a very big library, but is specialized in supporting all police agencies and organizations across Canada (and some international) as well as the students attending the college. It’s a nice, quiet space with a reading and working area open 24/7! Reference and A/V are only available during regular hours naturally.

Sorry, no pictures this time. Camera ran out of batteries and out of spares! The website has a Virtual Library Tour though.

Stables Tour

As part of our tour of the library and campus, we got to go on the stables tour. Having seen the musical ride, it was interesting to learn about how things work behind the scenes. Sadly, they only tour Saskatchewan and east of it. The most interesting part was learning that they have 8 months to train (that includes learning how to ride if they have no experience!) and then get to stay for (usually) 2 years. No touching the horses unfortunately, but for anyone who has any interest in horses and/or the ride, I would encourage them to go. It’s a public and free tour.

Industry Canada Library and Knowledge Centre

This week’s tour was to Industry Canada‘s Library and Knowledge Centre. The library at Industry Canada focuses on meeting the needs of their users through partnerships, providing easy access to content, and providing a space for collaboration and sharing of information.

Services

Much like any library, they provide:

  • reference services through e-mail, telephone, and in-person at the desk
  • in-depth reference services  provided by portfolio (subject) librarians
  • online resources, such as subject and research guides
  • current awareness, such as weekly Radar (news), news in departmental newsletter, blog (events, resources, news)
  • access to print (via catalogue) books and serials (in-house and interlibrary loans), subscription databases, etc.
  • training and learning (which helps employees fulfill their personal learning plans), such as orientations for the library and research, viewing and participation of external webinars

Much of the development of their services is based on feedback and the needs of their users, focusing on the subjects you would expect at Industry Canada (business, economics, statistics, management, etc.) and information that is very current. For example, one area they focus on for new articles and resources are what they refer to as ThinkTanks, information coming out of organizations such as universities and research councils, since this is an area that people are generally unfamiliar with and perhaps where alert tools are not as readily available.

Library Space

The library has also just moved to a new physical space (last May). Library staff worked with a designer to improve on the old space based on staff comments and feedback. The focus with the new design was on creating an information commons, and more areas for people to use the space rather than having it taken up by shelving. As a result, the library has a mix of compact and regular shelving, but much less of it. An estimated 29% of the print material was weeded.

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When you enter, you are immediately greeted with promotional materials on the side and the front desk always staffed by a librarian. It is amusingly dubbed the “hotel desk” as it was purposely designed with a different set of lights and lettered wallpaper to make it feel more approachable and welcoming.

The new space also has an additional training area so that more than one training session can be done at once, and a few study carrels were added based on user feedback. A nice reading area includes cushy chairs, magazines, journals, new books, and a couple of TVs on news channels.

Personally, the best part of the tour really was seeing the difference between the old space (which we got to see pictures of in a video) and the new one, and hearing about the considerations that were put into why and how design considerations were made.

Recordkeeping Methodology Day (RKM Overview)

At the 5th RK Day hosted by Library and Archives Canada (LAC), speakers from LAC and the consulting firm OSTA (On Second Thought Advisory) gave an overview of the methodology including some background, why it’s being done, and some of the benefits. I’ve provided here a brief summary and some thoughts.

Disclaimer: Please note that this is a personal explanation and may sometimes involve interpretation based on my own understanding and experiences. This is not an authoritative guide in any way. Links used here are not necessarily the most detailed or most authoritative links, but are used here because most documentation is internal to the Government of Canada. As always, opinions expressed are my own.

Recordkeeping Methodology

Trends and Shifts

LAC speakers spoke much on the shifts and trends happening in and outside the government that helped to push forward this initiative:

  • renewal and modernization of the office
  • culture change to convergence of policy, technology, etc.
  • rapid technology development
  • increasing difficulty in finding and accessing (definitive version of) information
  • reducing dependencies on paper

Policy

The initiative goes hand in hand with the policy that has been created. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) put into effect the Directive on Recordkeeping a couple of years ago mandating that all government departments need to be compliant by 2014.

The methodology is also to help departments align themselves with various frameworks and structures, such as:

New Approach

LAC is also taking a new approach to recordkeeping with this methodology. A few key differences:

  • New terminology: Information Resources (IR) to encompass everything instead of just records.
  • Focus on value: Business Value (BV) and Enduring Value (EV, what is more or less equivalent to archival value) instead of by format or medium.
  • Valuation is at time of creation not at the time of disposition or later.
  • Prioritization at a high level based on existing plans and structures of the department means that it is risk informed.
  • General valuation disposition tools (GVDT) that allow LAC to apply a disposition authority (RDA) to multiple institutions as a template with flexibility to ‘customize’ it for departments that need it. e.g. 60+ RDAs to 8? GVDTs to cover the same amount of IRs (don’t quote me on these numbers though).

The Methodology

The RK methodology focuses on using what the department already knows and has, and implementing everything based on existing knowledge, resources, and tools while filling in any gaps. So, if a department already has everything more or less in place, the project should take a relatively short time.

The methodology itself has 3 phases and 7 steps as shown in the diagram:

Recordkeeping MethodologyI’ll give a brief overview at a very high level just to give people an idea of what it’s all bout. There are a lot of documents, questionnaires, spreadsheets, etc. related to each stuff which they talked about at the presentation, but I won’t go through all of them here.

Phase 1 & Step 1: Planning

High level analysis is done at the department level to see where the department stands in terms of recordkeeping. There is an Initiation Survey, which is supposed to be a quick (approximately 15 yes/no type questions) assessment of the department’s current practices. A more in-depth Diagnostic Tool allows an analysis of the readiness and complexity of the project for the particular department as well as an initial evaluation of time and resources requirements. More questionnaires and reports build on these in looking at the current state of things, prioritization, building a project plan, and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with LAC.

Phase 2 & Steps 2-5: One Time Effort Phase

If the diagram confuses you at this stage, it is essentially supposed to show that the steps are non-linear as things go back and forth and an organization can be in multiple steps at once. Allow me to explain.

Step 2 mentions engagement and of course, the department will begin the project, and with LAC’s assistance, focus on the highest priorities. Communications and presentations will be made to the department. Along with awareness and training throughout this process, obviously, documents to help staff on identifying information resources that have value and what to do will be created.

Once into Step 3 (Data Collection Exercise), more in-depth questionnaires are done at the sector level focusing on value, controls, risk, and capacity. Particularly for large organizations, those working on the project will have to engage each sector to collect information, and depending on how quickly one sector is completed at this step, they may move forward to the next before another sector.

Step 4 build reports and essentially an inventory of repositories, records, information resources, and what controls are in place to manage the information. Supporting documentation is also created with rationale on how to identify what information resources are of business and/or enduring value.

Step 5 puts it all together into one spreadsheet (Recordkeeping Accountability Instrument) listing program sub activities and outcomes, whether it has (or likely to have) business and/or enduring value, which disposition authority applies and how, and who holds responsibility among other things like security and risk (but I have listed the essentials to give the general ideas).  This spreadsheet would become a reference document for all staff, particularly those involved with information management (in any way, not necessarily in the IM branch only).

Other documents are also created at this stage to identify any gaps and actions to address these gaps.  Recordkeeping roles are also identified and committed to by the department. Plans are also created for the final phase.

Phase 3 & Steps 6-7: Ongoing

Finally, the department is to maintain the reference materials and follow through on the action plan. Results are reported, information is managed, change is monitored, and things are revised as needed.

The Benefits to the Department

I think benefits to the department should be fairly obvious, but here are a few:

  • compliance to the TBS Directive, Policy on Information Management, and LAC policies
  • (almost definitely) compliance with internal policies on information and records management
  • alignment with Management Accountability Framework (though I believe this is still in the works)
  • decrease in storage and management of unnecessary information
  • increase findability of authoritative information, including fulfilling Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) requests
  • (likely) support of clean up and disposition of legacy records

There are others, mostly surrounding information and records management, and some which are more related to the archival side, such as preventing lost of information with enduring value.

Benefits to Government

Other than the myriad benefits related to information management within a department and compliance by all government departments, I believe that applying this methodology to the government as a whole has some added benefits. For the most part, these benefits stem from collaboration:

  • reuse of documentation, tools, reports, etc. including training and awareness tools
  • development and refinement of the methodology such that the process should go faster for those implementing the project later
  • development of general disposition authorities (versus institution specific) means quicker roll out of authorities

Timeline

Certainly for anyone in the Canadian government who was not already aware of all this would be most interested in the expected timeline.

Summer 2011 – Preparation

Initiation surveys have been sent out with the diagnostic tool available this month. Selected departments will be contacted to be early adopters and begin the project. LAC will also be training their staff and certifying consultants.

Fall 2011 – Phase 1 for GC

LAC will be getting all departments through phase 1 by the end of the year with early adopters moving into phase 2.

Winter 2012 – GC Wide Implementation

Projects will begin in clusters of institutions (presumably similar ones will be grouped together). LAC hopes to finish by June 2014 in order for all departments to be compliant with the directive by the ‘due date’.

Sounds very ambitious, but it also sounds like they thought it through. One can only see if it works out, I hope it does!

Some Thoughts and Reflections

The Event

The event itself was well organized for the most part. There was definitely a good turn out. I think there’s room for improvement for the next time they do something similar though.

Considering the audience and that most people will not have been exposed to the methodology before, I thought the presentation went into a bit too much detail at times, overwhelming some. Talking about the tools at a high level is great, but showing people unfamiliar with the project an actual spreadsheet struck me as something that would simply confuse people.

The presentations were also done in both English and French. I understand the importance of having the presentations in both languages, but considering that most people are bilingual, hearing each slide done first in English and then in French is repetitive to most. If the presenters are worried about presenting in someone’s primary language, is it not common practice to simply have two presentations, one in English and one in French separately? On the upside, I got to learn some of the French vocabulary related to the project, which I had not been previously exposed to.

Some things were simply logistical in nature, but I think made a difference:

  • if you are going to advertise a twitter hashtag, make sure your presenter knows what it is (and advertise it before hand)
  • if you have a twitter hashtag, have it projected somewhere so people can see the conversation
  • either make people hold extra questions until later or allow more time for questions so as not to go overtime
  • have the event in the afternoon so that people west of Ontario can participate at a reasonable time (it was a morning half day)

Nevertheless, overall, I think the presentations were well organized, and the presentations on presenting the rationale for the project and the timeline were definitely well done, giving people a good sense of why the initiative is happening and how LAC will lead the departments into compliance.

Personal Value

Attending the session really helped me get an overview of the methodology and to put my work into context. Having entered the RK Project in the middle of the pilot made it so that I had to do a lot of catch up work, and unfortunately, I will not see the department complete phase 2 either. The overview gave me the big picture of the project as well as informed me on the status with the rest of the government, which was great. I also go to report back to our team with the information that the presentations were done in both languages, which I think will be of use to us.

National Resources Canada (NRCan) Libraries – Booth Complex

I actually went to tour the NRCan libraries 2 and 3 weeks ago, but haven’t gotten around to getting pictures off my camera. After the other two tour posts though, I don’t feel like there’s much to say. Still, some neat things, especially at 615. Hopefully I got it all correct. I forgot to take notes, and two of them were on the same day…

555 Booth

The library at 555 takes care of Minerals and Metals sector, namely CANMET (and related areas). Since there’s a new CANMET facility out in Hamilton though, a chunk of their collection went over there. They also sport a “dungeon” (the basement) with lots of compact shelving. They have a few different numbering systems though depending on whether it’s a report, serial, etc. (Sorry, no pictures because I didn’t have my camera with me.)

580 Booth

580 takes care of Energy, and Policy and Management. Not much to say beyond that. Standard compact shelving with a small meeting area and some nice art. It has a nice reading area with cushy chairs!

601 Booth

Half of Earth Sciences resides at 601. They do have a large collection of physical materials, particularly serials, with different numbering systems as well for material catalogued before and after Library of Congress was in use.

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615 Booth

In terms of things to show off, the 615 Booth Library probably has the most. As the other half of the Earth Sciences collection, they have all the Geomatics related material, the maps collection, the photo collection, and the books archive. They have some great photos going back to the first photographically documented geological surveys. There also a ton of maps as well as some interesting globes, including a tectonic plate globe with moveable pieces! The books archive has a number of pieces written by Logan himself.

All the NRCan libraries are open to the public, so feel free to visit and browse the collections physically or virtually!

National Research Council Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (NRC-CISTI)

Yesterday (Wednesday), we got not only a tour, but also a big talk on the various services and projects that NRC Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) is working on. For those who don’t know who they are, most people would know them as the National Science Library.

The Library

The library itself is fairly standard, except that it’s not open even to staff. They have three floors of closed stacks (which are fairly narrow to save space), so only library staff are generally allowed in. Any access is done through digital scanning of articles or by providing an electronic source. Generally, what they have in print is the older material, and newer material is electronic only (that’s my understanding anyway).

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The artwork in the building was nice. One wall on the ground floor is a 365 plexiglass boxes wall (sorry, no picture, it turned out blurry). The other notable piece is the waves design (by a Japanese artist), one which is turbulent (picture in slideshow), the other which is calm. So, depending on your mood, you might go and look at one or the other.

Services

They provide a lot of services to both internal and external clients. Mostly through document delivery. Interestingly, they currently have a partnership with Infotrieve, whereby Infotrieve can use the facilities in return for doing the day-to-day operational services, such as circulation and document delivery (including scanning). This has allowed CISTI to provide better, faster access to their information, and its more financially sustainable. They also have partnerships with other libraries, such as Health Canada, and they are participating in many national initiatives. Obviously, they provide reference services as well, mostly in terms of more complex questions with a focus on “actionable” information.

Data Services

Staff members also provide analysis and reports on trends based on text and data mining (using VantagePoint and TouchGraph) among many other data services, including:

CISTI Labs

Maybe because I’m a techie, but I think some of the coolest stuff they’re doing at CISTI is shown on CISTI Labs. The recommendation search (Sarkanto) is pretty neat, and so is the coloured cluster searching (Ensemble). The problem, of course, is the uptake and getting people to use it. Still cool.

Recently, they also launched their mobile site. The number of GC sites that have a mobile version are few and far between, so it was great to see. They even have a parred down version of their link resolver page for their internal mobile users. Great job!

Library of Parliament – Parliament Block (Part 2)

So I briefly talked about the Library of Parliament in my Doors Open (Part 2) post, but Tuesday, I got to go on a private tour (it was just me and my coworker) getting more history and information on the library.

Services

The library provides a lot of services, primarily reference and news collation, but the research department also create internal reports, briefs, and publications for House and Senate members. More on their services can be found on their website.

Collections

As to be expected, a large portion of their collection are legislative and legal in nature for federal and provincial, as well as other commonwealth nations, particularly the UK. Obviously, there are also a lot of parlimentary documents including committee decision and evidence, and copies of MPs’ Questions and Answers. However, since they don’t have a lot of space, in terms of more contemporary reference material, they only have a specific range (E-L? I thought) with the rest in storage or at other locations (which apparently total 8).

Most of it was kept on the main library floor or in the basement using compact shelving. Most of it was pretty standard, but they had some neat shelving for microfilm.

You will also notice that some books have new binding and some old. We were told that that’s because they are focused on preserving content and not necessary the book itself, so if the book is brittle (especially if it was printed on pulp paper), they might even photocopy the pages and bind them into a new book.

Rare books are probably exception to this. The library has some really interesting pieces including old books about Canada printed in Europe in the 19th century, and early copies of exploration books. Their rare books has very restricted access though so we unfortunately didn’t get to see it.

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The Library

I previously mentioned that the library is the only surviving part of the original building, but on this tour, we got much more information on some of the smaller details. Due to remodelling, renovations, and whatever else over the years, the library was changed a few times. However, in most recent years, they have been trying to restore the library to the original look.

The railing was painted almost all black in the 50’s, but they now sport a bit more colour. The glass floors and on the tower-looking structures were also ‘put back in’ so to speak since in the 50’s they had made them all wood. Can you also imagine how bland the ceiling would look if it was all beige? Well in the 50’s it was, so they repainted it with the blues. The library also has square wood cuts along the walls, each of which is unique (100+). The reading room is an addition though, since the original reading room is now the largest party’s gathering room.

Additions were also made to make sure the building was following building codes and to help with overall maintenance/survival of the library and its books. So, brass windows were custom made for all 100+. Apparently in the past, the windows didn’t always keep out the rain especially during high winds, so they had to use tarps to keep the water off books! Some of them have evidence of water damage now. Ventilation and fire sprinklers were also added, but in an inconspicuous way so that they aren’t really noticeable (took me 2 minutes to spot a sprinkler even when it was pointed out to me).

The one thing that was removed was the card catalogue along with one wall of drawers in each area, which is a bit strange though since they left the side walls intact.

It was a great tour and if people get a chance, I would highly recommend it!

National Public Service Week

I had a fairly eventful National Public Service Week last week.

Kick-Off
To begin with, there was a ‘kick-off’ event here with a video in honour of public servants. It was interesting to watch, because although I realized that the government does a lot for the country, it helped me realize that literally all sectors of our country likely have a related government department or agency (beyond finance/taxes).

Appreciation Wiki
To celebrate NPSW, our communications branch (I believe) set up wiki pages (via yours truly and coworkers) for people to add comments thanking other people’s hard work. I am proud to say that I added a comment as well thanking everyone, particularly the team, in helping me get settled in. I also greatly appreciate my coworkers putting up with my newbie questions.

W2P Event
For some context:

w2p stands for Web 2.0 Practitioners of the Government of Canada, a “community [which] focuses on sharing, identifying, helping and providing best practices within the Government of Canada, and share those leading examples across the public service.” You can follow the discussion on twitter: #w2p

Wednesdays of last week was a #w2p event and it was great. My first meetup with the group (since I missed the last one at the War Museum). I didn’t know anyone there, but the hosts were really friendly and so were all the other people I met. It was nice putting faces to names. I found it funny that half the people there either work or worked at NRCan at some point. A lot of good discussions and finding out what other people are doing. In particular, the accessibility web work that’s happening is quite interesting. I was also introduced to the @UXWG which is a government working group coming up with web guidelines. See Laura Wesley’s blog post summarizes UXWG.

Young Professionals Network Mixer
YPN organized an interdepartment mixer to encourage people to meet with young professionals in other departments. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a little more structured. They basically provided a place and time, but that was it. No introductory remarks, no ice breaker games, nothing to encourage people to actually mix. I was happy that I met new people from another department, but they were essentially coworkers of acquaintances. Still, it was great fun meeting other co-op students I hadn’t met before.

So, that was my NPSW. I’m glad I took the opportunity to go out to as many events as I could manage. It makes me all the more thankful that I had the opportunity in the first place. Thanks GC!

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Preservation Centre

So our group actually went on this tour back on May 18th, but I somewhat forgot to write about it.

I apologize for lack of pictures. We weren’t really allowed to take anything in with us, so the best I can do is describe it. Click on the image below though, they have a few pictures on their own site.

Library and Archives Canada Preservation Centre

The architecture is really interesting since it’s inspired by the Prairies. The towers look like oil rigs, and the various connected buildings in and outside look like barns or silos. The Centre itself is also separated into two sections. The inside vault is basically in a big cement block and then there’s a large hallway space with a glass building surrounding it. To give you perspective on the size, it’s two football fields big and could fit 2 boeing 747s if the vault wasn’t in it.

The inside has 4 floors of vault and then an open floor above for work areas. Each vault floor has numerous vaults separated into rectangular rooms much like most places that store materials. Humidity and temperature is different depending on the format of the material inside as to be expected. Audio/video is of course as challenge due to the shifts in format/technology. The paintings are pretty neat. There were a number of Laurier portraits, the Churchill one was nice, and copies of the original Proclamation of the Constitution Act. The original we’ve been told is in a top secret vault (no kidding).

Proclamation of the Constitution Act

The top floor is the “village” where they have little huts with all the equipment they need to do restoration, preservation, and format transfers. They’re considered huts since they can be reconfigured (I imagine they don’t do it all that often though). Particularly neat was the page remaking process where they remake and fill in what’s missing of each page from a book, and also the cover remaking/rebinding. We got to watch a short video on the comparison between before and after a film restoration which was pretty cool.

It was a very cool tour. It’s definitely worth going if you have time!