CLA 2012–Ottawa

Itinerary for 2012 Canadian Library Association Conference:
Thursday, May 31 – CollectionHQ event
Friday, June 1 – exhibits
Saturday, June 2:
1) Libraries & Heritage: New Research in Library History
2) Turning the Corner: Public Libraries Connecting with at Risk Youth
3) The Benefits of RDA for Library Users

Looking north from the Laurier Street bridge over the Rideau Canal, the Ottawa Convention Centre is to the right (the curved glass building). Further back are the Château Laurier Hotel and the Parliament Buildings.

Angus Mowat, Inspector of Libraries, also fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Attending a session called Libraries & Heritage: New Research in Library History I learned about Angus Mowat, Inspector of Libraries in Ontario, 1938-1960. He was the father of Farley Mowat.

As Inspector of Libraries, Mowat travelled to the many small towns in Ontario.

Photograph of Elizabeth Dafoe
Another important subject of research in this session was Elizabeth Dafoe, 1900-1960, who helped to define the mandate of the National Library of Canada. She was Chief Librarian at the University of Manitoba and played a role in the formation of the Canadian Library Association.

Moving from history, my next session was about contemporary issues – troubled teens in Brantford. The Brantford Public Library hired a child and youth worker to assist teens in the community. The library became a drop-in centre, where teens can play games and talk about issues affecting them. Check out the teens page on the library website:

The sad state of Brantford’s downtown appears to be on the mend. The boarded up stores made a perfect setting for the 2006 movie “Silent Hill” starring Sean Bean.


The presentation from the Brantford Public Library was called “Turning the Corner.” The programs developed have helped teen parents with nutrition information and other parenting assistance, as well as at-risk youth with group discussions about life choices and teen health. The response has been very positive—“turning the corner” for an individual means developing self-esteem and a sense of empowerment in making positive choices. These programs demonstrated the public library’s role as more than literature and information—the public library is a place of social inclusion. The public library is about improving quality of life and helping people reach their potential.

The session in which I gave a presentation, on RDA (Resource Description and Access – the successor to the cataloguing rules, AACR2), was about how RDA benefits users. Integrated into each section in RDA are the principles and objectives that put users and user tasks front and centre.

In the development leading up to RDA, data elements of bibliographic significance have been evaluated against how they serve users in resource discovery. Whether it’s helping users disambiguate between entities (like Wikipedia’s disambiguate function), or select resources based upon certain characteristics, or obtain resources (and know the terms of availability and usage), each element feeds into the pool that helps define entities of interest (such as works, or authors, or subjects) or helps establish relationships between entities.

It’s the database-focused, machine-centred approach in RDA that ultimately makes for a user-centred approach. There’s more controlled vocabulary, more expectation that data will be found in contexts other than traditional bibliographical ones. Right from the beginning, RDA puts resource discovery and the user at the centre of attention. In AACR2’s introduction, the focus was on “the construction of catalogues”; in RDA, the focus is on what the user wants to do– resource discovery:

RDA Instruction 0.0 – Purpose and Scope

RDA provides a set of guidelines and instructions on formulating data to support resource discovery. The data created using RDA to describe a resource are designed to assist users performing the following tasks:

find—i.e., to find resources that correspond to the user’s stated search criteria

identify—i.e., to confirm that the resource described corresponds to the resource sought, or to distinguish between two or more resources with similar characteristics

select—i.e., to select a resource that is appropriate to the user’s needs

obtain—i.e., to acquire or access the resource described.

The data created using RDA to describe an entity associated with a resource (a person, family, corporate body, concept, etc.) are designed to assist users performing the following tasks:

find—i.e., to find information on that entity and on resources associated with the entity

identify—i.e., to confirm that the entity described corresponds to the entity sought, or to distinguish between two or more entities with similar names, etc.

clarify—i.e., to clarify the relationship between two or more such entities, or to clarify the relationship between the entity described and a name by which that entity is known

understand—i.e., to understand why a particular name or title, or form of name or title, has been chosen as the preferred name or title for the entity.

RDA in Canada – the pan-Canadian efforts in training can be found here:

On the Haunted Walk in Ottawa – to the right is the Ottawa Convention Centre, overlooking the Rideau Canal.

View of the Parliament Buildings from the National Gallery of Canada.

On this rainy day, I found the Van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada a great opportunity to get into the mind of the artist. Wearing the headsets that offer voices expounding on the paintings, I found myself immersed in the landscape of 19th century France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The exhibit also featured some 19th century photographs and Japanese art that inspired Van Gogh.

There were frequent quotes from his letters – the highlight for me was his first impression of the Impressionists in Paris, as well as the painting depicted below. Almond Blossom was composed to celebrate the birth of his nephew, and it shows the influence of Japanese prints. Van Gogh’s health began to decline shortly after it was painted.


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