Name: Daniel Payne
Head, Instructional Services, OCAD University
Adjunct Instructor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto
A description of my unique interest/hobby
I’ve been a cellist since high school and spent part of my early career as a professional musician. Highlights in my past playing experience include being a long-serving member of Arcady Choir and Orchestra, which has led to three recordings and a recorded chamber performance on TVO’s Studio One. As the cellist for Te Deum choir and orchestra throughout the 1990s, I was able to perform a wide array of Baroque choral and chamber pieces many of which were staged at the Glen Gould Studio in the Canadian Broadcasting Centre. Currently, I hold the principal chair for the Counterpoint Community Orchestra, Arcady and perform regularly with Joshua Colucci’s Baroque ensemble Musica Antiqua Toronto.
Playing music has been an essential part of my life; even though I’m not as active musically now that I work as a full time reference librarian, it is a creative outlet that I strive to maintain. It is difficult though; being an active, dynamic musician requires much dedication, daily practice and constant networking with new ensembles and performers. As I have now branched out into librarianship, teach a graduate level course at the University of Toronto and currently hold an executive board member position with the Art Libraries Society of North America, I am not able to maintain fully embed myself in the classical music scene here in Toronto. Sometimes I go to concerts in Toronto—such as those performed by Opera Atelier or Taffelmusik—and see people on stage that I performed with in the past and wonder wistfully what would have happened if I have committed more fully to music as a career.
But when I look at my life that I’ve built for myself in libraries, I could not ask for anything more richly fulfilling. Knowing that I’m so involved building a research collection at OCAD U, contributing at the curricular level to supporting studio-based pedagogy, instructing new generations of librarians and spending much time helping students to find intersections between creative processes and academic research makes up for any regrets over not pursuing a permanent career in music. In fact, the diversity of my life now where I spend my days teaching, researching, learning, questioning, and helping is more satisfying for me creatively. My career in librarianship does not feel like work, but is more like a lifestyle!
What is the most rewarding thing about my hobby?
The ability to have a creative outlet that involves using such an eloquently emotive language. Knowing how to read music opens such a new world of non-verbal communication that can be so powerful. There have been countless times when I’ve played concerts—especially when performing pieces by J.S. Bach—where my breath is taken away and I wonder how a mere human-being can have created such sublime sounds. Being able to share this with others, when performing in ensembles, is truly profound as well; it feels as if you are connecting with people on a much deeper level than through more direct text-based, linguistic or even visual communication. Even though I spend my days researching and supporting artistic production in the visual arts, I have to admit that I find music a more intensely moving creative experience on all levels; intellectually, emotionally, physically.
What is the most rewarding thing about your job?
Being able to combine education and research. I have a bachelor of education and a master’s degree in musicology, but I never really felt fully comfortable in either environment. Teaching in a traditional classroom—whether grade school of post-secondary environments—is rewarding; however, I always feel so confined in my ability to access knowledge-building tools. In a library, I am surrounded by informational learning resources—whether in print, electronic, audio-visual or through the knowledge of my peers—and this level of connectedness cannot be replicated in even the most high-tech, wired, “smart” classroom.
Educators often advocate for reform in pedagogy (e.g. Paulo Friere) through the use of active learning models and empowering learners to discover their own sense-making pathways to knowledge. I truly feel that the reference desk is one of the most powerful learning spaces we currently have in our educational system for fully embodying a more egalitarian, democratic approach to learning in what Friere calls the “practices of freedom.”
How my professional life informs my recreational life
As mentioned above, I really feel as if my career has become a lifestyle. After achieving my masters in library sciences, I realized that I view the world differently and, consequently, was a different person from when I entered the programme. Interestingly, I might add that I didn’t feel this way at all after completing my bachelor of education.
As a librarian, I see the world in a more three dimensional manner: instead of simply taking any newscast, academic publication, popular press book, or social media editorialization as the voice of an individual, I realize all the many layers involved in providing access to the “information object” that intimately shape how we understand and ultimately react to it. All forms of communication are surrounded by a web of influences that can be very powerful. For example, many people envision the internet as a true manifestation of the public sphere and, as such, theorize about the creation of a virtual public library. As a librarian, I am keenly aware of the vested private interests in fiber optic networks, licensing agreements for databases, not to mention the costs of maintaining connectivity. Can a library truly be public when the space within which it exists is not publicly owned?
As well, the spatial organization within information environments can encode subliminal power discourses that send out definitive messages. Libraries are definitely not immune from these issues: many problematic moral or ethical signals can be conveyed in the way we organize books. Libraries using LC Subject Headings place books about gender and sexuality (HQ) between HN (social problems) and HV (social pathology). What message does this send out to our users? Imagine a LGBT youth looking to a library to learn more about his/her sexuality or community and having to access such publications placed among titles exploring criminality, social and psychological pathologies!
So now, I’m always asking questions about everything I see, hear or read: who produced the information and for what reasons, who is disseminating it and why. I ask about where information is situated and how this spatial arrangement impacts my ability to access and understand it.
Although such a critical approach to our world of communication could lead to paralysis, I really feel it is liberating. I am better able now to understand my society and culture in more lucid, integrative way and, thus, am better able to engage, critique or help change it.
What do librarians/you do all day?
Build communities through fostering communication. The reason that librarians build collections, evaluate research methodologies, manage data or teach our users how to become information literate is so that people can become active members of a knowledge community. Not only do we teach people how to ask questions, but—perhaps more importantly—we suggest effective pathways for answering them.
So in short, I spend my days enacting the CLA’s “statement of Intellectual Freedom.”
How often do you shelve books?
Technically in my work as a librarian, I do not ever have to re-shelve a book, but I make a point of doing it at least once a week. Why? Because if I work solely out of my office or on the reference desk, I am removed from the “print network.” Internet access provides a gateway to the online network, but if I do not force myself to get into the stacks to interact in a tangible, tactile manner with the print network—as arranged in Library of Congress subject ordering—then I feel as if I’m offline.
Without fail, every time I wander through the stacks I see how interconnected subjects are within the grand scope of knowledge. This sense of relatedness, or of a meta-narrative of knowledge, somehow does not occur as meaningfully when navigating the online information environment. I read an article by Polly Frank (1999) in the Journal of Academic Librarianship 25(6), where she claimed that when students found information online, they talked about what they found, yet when they located information in a library’s print collection, they described in detail about how they found it. In Frank’s survey of student users of the art library, one commentary stood out for me particularly: one respondent quite profoundly described the act of browsing a library collection as “the creative process” made manifest.
How boring is your job?
I hope by now, you are getting the idea that I do not find my job boring on any level! The minute a librarian feels bored, he/she is not doing their job properly.
Are you so bored that you have to find a crazy hobby to keep your life interesting?
I’ll rephrase the question for my response: Classical music—which is often termed in pop culture as “boring”—is an ideal hobby because my work in the library environment can be a little to “crazy” at times. My extensive exertions on the reference desk, teaching in-class information literacy seminars, managing the web page and database license agreements, supervising our physical space, participating in professional organizations, contributing to academic curricular committees, etc., etc. can actually be overwhelming. So having a “boring” hobby is my way of keeping a balance with the “craziness” of my work.
Are librarians private about everything?
NO! We spend our days downloading our professional knowledge onto our users. Most knowledge-based professionals jealously guard and protect their specialized skills, whereas we spend our working lives giving it away for free.
Do you love reading?
YES! I almost solely read fiction, especially books written be Victorian and pre-modern authors. I’m a true believer in narrative theories which contend that we learn to negotiate our world through the telling of stories. So for me, dedicating an entire summer to reading Anthony Trollope’s six novels in the Chronicles of Barsetshire was akin to completing an interdisciplinary course in sociology, psychology, history and political sciences.
Why are all librarians women?
Well, I guess I’m not, so this does tend to disprove the above assertion. I am, however, actually relieved that librarianship is seen as a “feminized” profession. As a man working in this field, I find it liberating in that there are no gender-based/gender-biased expectations placed on me. Thus, I feel I am more able to define my profession using my own terms, given that there are no testosterone-laden mythologies around my role as a librarian!