A Year in Review (2014/2015)

The 2014/2015 academic year was the first year of existence for the CAPAL Dalhousie Student Chapter (affectionately referred to as Dal CAPAL by its members). While this was a year of firsts for our team, it was also a year of accomplishments.

In the summer of 2014, our founding members assessed the needs of students studying at Dalhousie’s School of Information Management. We are a relatively small program (averaging about 35 students per academic year), with a multitude of student associations. Students in this program are tasked with the difficult decision of what opportunities to pursue through associations. Because there are so few of us, students who get involved are often involved in multiple organizations. Sometimes students suffer from “associations fatigue”. In light of this, we wanted to offer our fellow students something different to entice them to join and participate in events organized by Dal CAPAL.

We decided to focus our event planning on workshops, where students could continue to develop practical skills related to the field of academic librarianship outside of the classroom. We set a modest, but attainable goal of two workshops per semester: one in the first month of the semester, and one in the second month. This timeline allowed us to offer events before the student body became too bogged down with school work in the latter half of the semester.

Our first event was an informal Round-Table Discussion with current library interns, held at “The Grad House” (one of Dalhousie’s campus pubs). This event was designed to allow the incoming year of students to talk to outgoing students about employment opportunities in academic libraries in and around Halifax. The turnout for this event was excellent, and positive connections were developed between the incoming and outgoing students.

Our second event was a “Databases Workshop”, designed to complement the curriculum for the class INFO 5530 Information Sources & Retrieval. This workshop offered students the opportunity to further develop their expert searching skills in specialized databases such as the ABI/INFORM Business Database. Five students attended this event and feedback was positive.

Our third “event” was the development of a web resource, designed to teach students how to brand themselves as professionals, and create their own business cards using Adobe Creative Suite. This resource was circulated freely for all students through the MLIS Facebook Page & list-serv. We intend to post this resource on the Dal CAPAL website, for future use.

Our fourth and final event was another workshop on how to develop “LibGuides”. This workshop focused on how academic librarians go about building and maintaining specialized subject guides. This was perhaps the most successful of all our events, and turnout was high.

In addition to these four events, incoming Dal CAPAL members bravely pursued a research project on the Status of Canadian Academic Library Internships. This project was undertaken in the context of the Research Methods course, and revealed many interesting insights into the academic library work experience for LIS students in Canada. The students involved in this project are currently revising the resulting paper according to faculty & peer feedback, and look forward to sharing the results with the rest of CAPAL, soon. Dal CAPAL hopes that these students will consider presenting this project at next year’s CAPAL conference in Calgary!

One area where our chapter has room for improvement is our web presence and social media. While we started off the academic year strong, communications through these channels dropped off as the school year took off. We primarily communicated with each other through email, and with our fellow students through the MLIS Facebook page and list-serv. However, future development of a sustained web-based communications could help to raise our profile.

Our chapter is also on the lookout for a local working LIS professionals who can act as a point of contact to CAPAL organization as a whole, and also act as a mentor to aspiring academic librarians. This past year, no known CAPAL members were available locally. In lieu of a local member, Dal CAPAL may choose to connect with members at a distance through digital means.

In summary, the 2014/2015 academic year was a very positive first year for a student organization seeking to establish itself. The development of attainable goals contributed to this success, and has provided a good framework for the chapter’s future plans. In addition, our chapter has identified areas where we can build and improve for an even better second year. If you are a MLIS student at Dalhousie, and you are interested in getting involved, don’t hesitate to contact us at dalhousie.capal@gmail.com. We are always looking for students who can bring their skills and enthusiasm to Dal CAPAL!