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OCAD U Library 2021 Winter

Meet...Tony White

The OCAD University Library is pleased to welcome the new University Librarian Tony White. We asked him about his background in the visual arts, his vision for libraries and what it's like to start such an important managerial position in a remote learning environment. 

You have worked at a number of university libraries and art institutions in the States before joining us here in Toronto. What drew you to OCADU?

I am passionate about connecting students and faculty, at art and design schools, to library research practices. As a former artist myself, I remember using the art library, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago when I was getting my MFA, for inspiration. And it was not until I acquired my master’s degree in library science that I realized the full potential of connecting creative practitioners to library research in support of creative practice. My first job as an art and architecture librarian was at Pratt Institute; since then, I’ve been developing strategies for connecting and meeting faculty and students where they are creating new work, and often this is in their studio of choice. And when I was the Director of Decker Library at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) I visited OCAD University’s Library and Learning Zone and was inspired by what the library was attempting to do here. In fact, after visiting the Learning Zone and seeing the ceiling mounted extension cords, I returned to MICA and had them installed all throughout the library. They were very popular! And I credited OCADU’s Learning Zone in my library newsletter.  

You have a particular interest in Artist Books and teach at the Rare Book School. How do you see that expertise fitting into your new role at OCADU library?

In a real sense I would like to use my knowledge and expertise to support library staff in developing the local collections in these areas through fundraising in support of all special collections in the OCADU library, archives, special collections, the zine library, the Learning Zone, and for projects we’ve not yet conceived of supporting. I also have a background in book and paper conservation and design binding with historical structures. I see my interest in artists’ books as a bridge to supporting teaching and learning on campus, the promotion and use of all library collections, special and general, archival and digital.  

What is it like starting a new job during a pandemic?

The main thing I’ve noticed is that it takes much, much longer to do just about anything administrative or immigration-related. It is also challenging to meet and get to know the library staff, workflows, and systems. The same follows for getting to know the campus community. For example, I’ve met two library staff, and two buildings staff, one dean, and six security staff in person during two campus visits. Then there are the many other things that just take longer, often requiring an appointment, social distancing, etc.: getting a bank account, credit card, SIN, OHIP card, driver’s license, new apartment. Usually when you move to a new place you find an apartment first, then move into it. I flew here and lived out of my carry-on suitcase for two months until I secured an apartment. Most of my time is spend on-line in video meetings or alone in my apartment or walking/bicycling in the city. It is very unusual to get to know a community and a city without in-person social connections.  

What are you most looking forward to when you eventually have in-person access to the library and its collections?

I am most looking forward to working with and supporting the library staff as we all work together to create and adapt the library spaces to provide exceptional services and collections. Returning to working in the library will be new for me, and as we develop plans for on-going work-from-home and work-from-work, I think the entire library staff will also be making adjustments, as we work together in the post-COVID paradigm.  

I normally ask 'what are some of your favourite items in the collection' but you haven't worked directly in the library yet. Do you have any favourite resources so far?

I have actively used the online catalog, Bookings, and the curbside service. This was critical in October and November as I am writing an essay about 1980s photobooks published by women photographers, and an entry on the history of zines for another publication. I highly encourage members of the OCADU community to also take advantage of this service once the campus returns to the RED Zone.

Meet... Ashley Maresch

Ashley Maresch is the new Coordinator, e-Reserves and Circulation for OCAD University Library. We spoke to Ashley about what brought her to OCADU and what it's like starting a new job during a pandemic.

Tell us a bit about what brought you to OCAD.

I've always been interested in fine arts, some of my hobbies include photography, sketching, and watercolour. Coming from Ryerson with a BA in Arts and Contemporary Studies, I had the opportunity to explore the philosophical, ethical, and societal aspects of fine arts. After graduating from Confederation College as a Library Technician, both my education and interests drew me to OCAD!

Can you explain what you do in the library?

I work with faculty to make course materials available to students online. Not having access to the physical collection is an obstacle which requires a lot of problem solving. I am also working on an upcoming event as a part of the library's online book club. This event will feature a screening of the short film Margoland, and will explore ageism, women in film, and LGBTQS2 issues.

What is it like starting a new job during a pandemic?

Challenging! I was hired at the beginning of the second lockdown, so I still have not had the opportunity to visit the library. Working from home has its issues; I've had about four or five different home office set ups. Since I was working unsteady hours for a few months, formulating (and adhering to) a work from home routine, meeting new coworkers virtually, and adjusting to a new position has proven difficult, but it has been extremely rewarding.

Though you haven't worked directly with the collection yet, do you have any favourite digital resources or items you've discovered on our website?

I have stumbled across several interesting articles and books, but my two favourites so far are "Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel: The (Dis)Continuity of Gender Politics" by Neal Curtis [from The Journal of Popular Culture] and Gender Queer: A Memoir, a graphic novel by Maia Kobabe.