Haines proves librarians really can do it all

Margaret Haines

Someone once told Margaret Haines that librarians can do anything – and it’s something that has stuck with her throughout her distinguished career.

Haines, Carleton’s head librarian, was recently renewed for a second five-year term.

Her vision for the university’s library was shaped by a mentor many years ago, when Haines took her a job in the U.K. as the National Health Service’s (NHS) director of research and knowledge management.

“She took a chance and said: ‘I think this job is about research knowledge management and I’m going to put a librarian in charge.’ You can imagine how the medical community felt about that because I was a librarian not a medical researcher,” recalls Haines.

From there, Haines took a job at King’s College in London, England where she was the director of information systems and services for about three years.

The Carleton alumna and Ottawa native always knew she’d return to her hometown but thought that would happen when she retired.

But life rarely unfolds as planned and in the fall of 2005, the head librarian’s job at Carleton became available.

“I remember saying to myself: ‘I’d like to go back to Ottawa and really the only job I really want is one at Carleton.’ So I was thinking of this and then a job came up.”

“I went to Carleton so I’ve always had a loyalty to my Alma Mater,” says Haines, who graduated with a BA in psychology in 1970.

“I wanted to stay in university libraries because I really enjoyed the challenges that environment presented to me.”

Her extensive background as a library information in government, in charities and in research was something she wanted to use to benefit Carleton.

“One of the things I really wanted to bring into the job was a focus on research. That’s never changed. I really wanted to get the library involved in research process and to get librarians much more involved in research themselves,” she says.

During her time as president of the U.K.-based Chartered Institute of Library Information Professionals, Haines drew upon her health sciences library background and stressed evidence-based practices – introducing it to the mainstream library profession. It’s a philosophy she brought to Carleton.


“I wanted my librarians to be very comfortable with research methodologies so they could critique research in their own area, but also so they could be very involved and supported.”

Professional development for her staff is a top priority for Haines and so is forging partnerships – on campus with faculties and departments and in the community, with other libraries.

“I’m particularly proud that, with the appointment of Pat Moore, we have really solidified our partnerships with Computing and Communication Services (CCS) and we do a lot of joint work with them.”

The library has developed new partnerships with the Museum of Science and Technology and the Aviation Museum. And there are collaborations with the Museum of Civilization.

These partnerships have also allowed Haines to support and encourage the acquisition of more collections that enhance various programs Carleton – like the donation from renowned architect Douglas Cardinal. She points to this as an example of a collection that will benefit Carleton architecture students and faculty.

“When I came, I guess I was a bit disappointed to find that special collections here had been kind of left, no real budget given to it, no professional staff focusing on it,” she says. Enter Patti Harper, who now heads archives and research collections – making Carleton a Canadian leader in this field.

Part of Haines’ mandate was to raise the profile of the library and to map out a specific strategic plan. When she arrived, the library hadn’t had a strategic plan for a while. One was drafted in 2007 and another for 2008-2010.

The university’s 2009 five-year strategic plan, Defining Dreams, and the academic plan assist in shaping the library’s goals, says Haines. But there are always areas that aren’t specifically covered in the first two plans – including staff training and succession planning.

“Some of these people have been in a library for 30 or 40 years and libraries are a very different place (now) with much more of a focus on digital and virtual. I’ve got really great staff but I needed to think about how to best support them and find the new skills,” explains Haines.

Over the last five years, budgeting has also become more challenging. So Haines and her senior staff have had to get creative.

“We buy through two different consortia. The larges one being the Canadian Research Knowledge Network, where 75 … university libraries collectively pool their resources and negotiate a deal with a publisher,” she says. “Because there’s so many of us, we get a very good discount and that means that each of us saves more money than if we tried to negotiate on our own.”

Haines credits Anita Hui, her head of collections, as being a “master” negotiator and who has saved the library thousands of dollars.

Another project for Haines is “knowledge management,” which focuses on harnessing available intellectual assets  – tangible and intangible.

“It’s not just harnessing the databases that you have or the printed resources that you have, it’s thinking about what knowledge exists in your community and how do you take advantage of that knowledge and make yourself a better organization,” she says.

“In the next five years, I’d like to see if we couldn’t do a bit more in the way of a knowledge strategy for Carleton and looking how my department in the library and maybe others could help .”

As if all of that weren’t enough, there’s the excitement around the planned library expansion to add two more floors and extend the front of the building. The new design will double the seating capacity and give the library a fabulous new face on the Quad.

“Our proposal is to add two more floors to the extension because we’ve got five in the front and only three in the back. If we got that, it would be great,” says Haines. “It would increase our study space, it would allow us to develop a new space for special collections and archives, for digital media. We don’t have a room to use our games at the moment, we can have a gaming room.”

Meanwhile, when Haines is asked about her plans when her term is up in 2016, she concedes that some form of “retirement” is in order to do the things she doesn’t have a lot of time for now – travel, charity work and gardening. Or maybe a part-time job at her favourite store, Lee Valley Tools.

But that seems like a lifetime from now.

Over the next five years, Haines and her team will be working on building on their successes by expanding their services, examining the use of social media, forging new partnerships and exploring new ways of doing business.

That’s because librarians can do anything.



This entry was written by Maria McClintock and posted in the issue. Tags applied to this article are: . Leave a comment, bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media: http://carletonnow.carleton.ca/?p=7499

Maria McClintock

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