Photo from Robertson Library
Keri McCaffrey wasn’t the type to know what career she wanted at age seven.
She wasn’t even sure in her third year of university. She started an English degree, but switched into history. She was fortunate enough to pursue what she was interested in, and she found Atlantic and P.E.I. history particularly appealing.
As she got to her fourth year, she began thinking about what to do with an arts degree. The archival side of history studies stood out.
So she enrolled in a masters program of library and information studies. But she changed her mind when she began.
“Screw archives. I want to be an academic librarian,” she thought.
She was also interested in health sciences but decided on the academic environment.
“Academic libraries are awesome and I guess I just wanted to be in school forever,” she said.
Today, McCaffrey is a librarian at UPEI’s Robertson Library, which opened to the public this month after coronavirus shutdowns.
Working there isn’t quite the same as staying in school forever, but she does find some of the same benefits, she said.
“I really enjoyed the community of being at UPEI, I really enjoyed it when I was here, so it’s nice to come back to that community in a different way.”
The community, though, looks a bit different this year because of Covid-19, she said.
“It’s pretty dead. It feels like summertime, where there’s just a couple people floating around.”
Still, people need and use the library, she said.
Some things just work differently. Librarian haves to retrieve books for readers and the hours are shortened, she said.
“You have to basically book a space if you want to come into the library, if you want to sit and do anything.”
This makes for a weird year, she said.
It also makes the work of library staff more complex.
“You’re tied between, you want to be there for the students, but you also have to be safe,” she said.
While library staff were preparing for unhappy clients, people have been far more patient than expected, she said.
“Just as someone who worked in customer service a lot as a teenager, I was definitely expecting the worst.”
The details of the job may have changed, but McCaffrey’s sense of her own role is the same.
“To me, at least, it’s about making sure people are critical about the information they are seeing and educating them on how to do that,” she said.
“It’s basically like teaching critical thinking and that’s a lifelong thing to learn.”