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Indigenous student librarians: 'A step in the right direction’

A new Concordia collaboration offers on-the-job learning
December 4, 2017
By Meagan Boisse

Earlier this year, the Concordia Library teamed up with McGill University and Université de Montréal to create a new program for Indigenous students in the field of library and information studies.

The program would offer a First Nations, Metis or Inuit student from McGill or U de M a two-year paid position at the Webster or Vanier Library locations.

Guylaine Beaudry, vice-provost of Digital Strategy and university librarian, says the move represents a first step in the right direction.

“We are just beginning to decolonize our libraries, our spaces, our catalogues — there is so much yet to be done,” she explains. The idea for the program came to her one morning, and by the afternoon she was conversing with officials from the partner schools.

“This is an issue of great importance to our profession. There is a lack of diversity within our libraries that needs to be addressed,” she adds, noting that Montreal is the only city in Canada that has two schools that teach library and information studies.

The process of creating the program involved meetings between the three post-secondary institutions, as well as guidance from Charmaine Lyn, special advisor to the provost on Indigenous Directions, and input from the Office of the Dean of Students.

Beaudry thinks more projects like this should be happening in the city, which benefits from having a number of universities so close to each other.

“It’s a wonderful example of collaboration between three Montreal institutions, of coming together to move forward and take positive action.”

A chance to gain hands-on experience

The program itself will offer the Indigenous student a chance to work on a range of activities in an academic library setting, under the mentorship of professional librarians, while completing their master’s degree.

From special collections and projects to reference and instruction, the student will get a chance to contribute to the library and the wider Concordia community while bolstering their professional skill set. They will also get funding to attend one conference related to Indigenous librarianship, and receive support from the Aboriginal Student Resource Centre.

“By working as a student librarian, alongside those who have been in the profession for years, they will gain firsthand, on-the-job knowledge, which is vital,” says Lorie Kloda, associate university librarian, Planning and Community Relations. 

“Our hope is that when their time with us ends, and they graduate, they will have the necessary experience to begin a long and successful career in academic librarianship or archives.”

‘It’s important to do this right’

The student may choose to stay within a university setting afterwards or they may go off to work in public schools or cultural centres in their own communities. In this regard, the program is about more than diversifying Concordia’s library.

“It’s about Indigenous people having an active role to play within the library profession in Quebec and Canada,” Beaudry says.

“It’s just the first step in terms of the Indigenous directions the library wants to take. We want to do more and we need to learn in order to do so. It’s important to do this right.”


To apply, students must be accepted into the Master of Information Studies Program at McGill or the Maîtrise en sciences de l’information at U de M, and begin their studies in the fall term. The application process opens January 8, 2018 and closes on February 16, 2018 at 5 p.m.

The position guarantees 15 hours of work per week from September to April and 30 hours per week from May to August, for two years. Tuition and student fees will also be waived by the host university.

Applications may be submitted in either English or French.

For more information, please visit the Indigenous Student Librarian Program page


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