KPU Library’s ‘invisible’ department recognized for excellence

Wed, Jun 26, 2024

When entering the Technical Services office at the KPU Library, the first thing that catches the eye is how surprisingly airy and spacious the room is. 

"We're not all librarians," says Judy Taylor, the Technical Services and Archives Coordinator who recently celebrated 25 years with KPU. "People assume that we're all librarians, but it's simply not true. There are about 18 librarians and over 60 library technicians that work at KPU." 

Recently acknowledged with the KPU Distinguished Team Service Award, the Technical Services Department is a team of six employees within the KPU Library – Cleire Lauron, Leona Wei Li, Brigette Liang, Judy Taylor, Nicole Von Kledtke and Jen Adams, former Acquisitions and Collections Assessment Librarian. They manage over one million print and digital items, which students and faculty can use for research, course preparation and assignments. 

"We're the ones who make sure that an impassioned instructor, who needed a book yesterday for students to use yesterday, gets it as quickly as possible," jokes Judy. 

Once an ordered item arrives, it is first reviewed and processed by Nicole, the Acquisition Cataloguing Technician. The item then goes to Brigette, the Cataloguing and Metadata Technician, who registers it in the system and enhances metadata to make the item easily searchable online. While Judy manages the invoicing, the item returns to Nicole, ready to be sent to the appropriate campus library. In addition, academic journals, government documents, and serials publications are ordered and maintained by Leona, the Acquisitions Serials Technician.

KPU Technical Services Department
From left to right: Todd Mundle, Brigette Liang, Nicole Von Kledtke , Cleire Lauron, Leona Wei Li, Judy Taylor, Dr. Alan Davis. 

"Our process is a little different when it's an e-book, streaming video, or database collection," says Judy.

The library is, indeed, much more than a collection of books. 

"The library is a safe space for students to study and simply be in," says Nicole. "Many students who don't have a computer, a space at home, or a strong Wi-Fi connection can come and use computers and the library’s resources. People are here open-to-close."

"The library is also a space to come together," adds Cleire Lauron, the Metadata and Discovery Librarian, who provides leadership for metadata creation. "We host many classes, tours and other events in the library space." 

The team believes their true calling is to serve the KPU community, a task that brings them joy and fulfillment. 

"While their work takes place outside of the public's eye, if they didn't do their job, no library user would be able to borrow a book, stream a film, or access the millions of carefully curated materials," says Todd Mundle, the University Librarian, who presented the team with its Distinguished Service Award at KPU Day April 26.

The Technical Services team played a crucial role during the pandemic. Within weeks, the library shifted its focus to digital resources over physical materials. The team ensured that the KPU community had access to necessary resources.

Cleire says the nature of a library technicians' job has evolved a great deal. 

"Over time, the skillset has shifted from traditional library card cataloguing to digital cataloguing. Now, in Technical Services, basic programming skills are necessary to input everything into the system and ensure students and other users can locate it."

Embracing change is an important aspect of modern libraries, adds Nicole.

"Everyone thinks that libraries are outdated and stuck in our ways. But the reality is that it's all about innovation and being open to what's new." 

The Technical Services team plays a pivotal role in furthering the university's truth and reconciliation efforts. Together with Rachel Chong, the Indigenous, EDIA and Anthropology Liaison Librarian, the team has introduced an Indigenous collection, χʷƏχʷeỷƏm, at all four campus libraries. It features Indigenous authors and creators and utilizes the Brian Deer Classification System.

Deer's classification system reflects the hierarchy of knowledge within Indigenous communities, starting with the most important to Indigenous Peoples — information about the relationships between the Nations, communities and languages — and ending with materials that reflect the interactions of Indigenous Peoples to the colonial world. This system reflects the Indigenous ways of knowing and decolonizes names and subject terms, ensuring the preferred names by the Nations are accurately represented in the library catalogue.

"In the Indigenous worldview, how things are related to each other matters, including relations with the land, nature and neighbouring nations," says Cleire. 

To give back to the community, the team has also broadened the library’s vendor options to include Indigenous-owned businesses. It now purchases directly from Indigenous authors, booksellers and publishers. 

"This ordering process takes more time and effort, but it's an important step in economic reconciliation and channeling the money back into the community," says Judy. 

In addition to receiving an award from KPU, the British Columbia Library Association recently acknowledged Technical Services with the BCCATS J. McRee Elrod Leadership Award for their contributions to users and colleagues in B.C. Among their significant inputs are the distribution of catalogue records to libraries worldwide and contributing to the cross-provincial open textbook collection, which helps students in B.C. save on textbook costs.

"We're pretty invisible. Our efforts may go unnoticed until something goes wrong," says Cleire. "We are honoured that we've been recognized for our work."