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The last word: Access to information, knowledge and ideas

The last word: Access to information, knowledge and ideas

[photo of Sharon Murphy]
Photo by Greg Black

Sharon Murphy, Head, Academic Services, Queen's Library

I arrived at Queen’s 11 years ago. Since that time, I have enjoyed three different librarian positions. I cut my librarian teeth working with engineering and applied science, first at the Technical University of Nova Scotia, then at Dalhousie University and on to Queen’s where I started as the integrated learning librarian. After that I became head of the Engineering & Science Library before taking my current position as head of Academic Services.

Throughout my years as a librarian, I have seen a lot of change. Back when I was in library school (MLIS, Dalhousie), we witnessed the beginning of the internet. This was before there were graphical browsers, well before Google. We knew that the internet could change everything, especially for those of us who work in information.

Over the years I have also seen the price of information (journals especially) skyrocket, squeezing our resources and making good quality research ­inaccessible for many. Advocating for open access is a natural fit for me. Libraries are at the forefront of this movement, because of those cost pressures and, most importantly, because access is at the core of what we do. Access to information, knowledge and ideas really is the heart of librarianship.

In that same spirit, making Queen’s scholarly output available worldwide can help improve ­communities, policy, business, and people’s lives. The library has teamed up with University Research Services on many such initiatives. For ­example, we co-organized a panel discussion in ­October as part of Open Access Week and will be soon planning our third annual Data Day, together with IT Services.

Our partnership has been so successful that we have even taken it on the road. ­Karina McInnis (Executive Director, University ­Research Services), Bo Wandschneider (Associate Vice-Principal, ­Information Technology), and I gave a presentation on data management planning at The Consortia ­Advancing Standards in Research Administration Information (CASRAI) last year in Ottawa. I also ­presented our work to the LIBER (European ­Research Libraries) conference in London, U.K., this past summer, and as a result they have asked Karina and me to do some blogging for them so we can share our experiences as a case study.

This is one of the things I really love about my job: I get to work with people from all across the university. We have forged a number of similar ­partnerships. For example, we also work with the provost’s office and the Centre for Teaching and Learning. We have learned a lot from each other.

Another thing that sustains me in librarianship is the variety. I get to work in an environment that changes constantly – everything about it – most notably the research fields themselves. Students and faculty always tackling new problems, raising new questions. We have the privilege of exploring those paths with them, advising on literature ­reviews, recommending resources, advising on ­research data management, and teaching in the ­classroom (on campus and online). Every day, I have the opportunity to work on a whole variety of things. Every day – no, every hour – is different, and usually in unexpected ways.

The most important thing about my work is that it is always about our community. My responsibility is to this great team of people I work with, and all of us are here to work with the students and the faculty. It is all about the Queen’s community of learning, teaching and research. That’s the key, and also a true joy, the sense that you have taken part in something that really changes the world.

 Sharon Murphy is currently reading ­Innocence by Penelope Fitzgerald. 

[Queen's Alumni Review 2015 Issue 4 cover]