Meet Chris Tomasini, Orillia’s Online Learning Librarian
By Zoe Dhillon, Orillia Bureau Chief
The Argus: So Chris, as the Online Learning Librarian on campus, what does your job entail and what are your responsibilities?
Chris Tomasini: To an extent, I have two jobs. The first is my role as the campus librarian, and the second is my role as one of the administrators who tries to make good decisions for the campus. I have the added quirk of trying to provide library services at both campuses. As a librarian, I try to make sure that we have good resources on hand that help students complete their assignments. At U Avenue, most students are using electronic articles and databases, but at the downtown education campus, I work with my colleague Kim Vallee closely and we try to acquire the print materials (such as Indigenous resources, juvenile books about energy, etc.) that the teacher candidates at that campus rely on quite heavily. In my other role, helping with campus decision making, I have various responsibilities such as being the long time campus representative on Orillia’s Transit Committee, and being one of the representatives on the Student Technology Fund.
A: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
CT: The most rewarding part of the job is sitting down with a student in the Commons for 30 minutes or more and talking through a research question with that student, and then helping him or her discover all the resources we have that will help with their research. Sometimes you get these really fascinating topics that students are working on, which I know absolutely nothing about, and we sit down and go through a trial and error process and eventually we start finding good articles and books. I find that quite rewarding.
A: What is the most challenging part of your job?
CT: The most challenging aspect, though this also makes it interesting, is trying to coordinate my time working with the various “locations” which are part of my life. Providing service to both University Avenue, and Heritage Place, is one challenge, but I also need to work closely with colleagues in Thunder Bay, and then there are projects that I’m a part of with librarians at other Ontario universities. All together it’s a lot of different threads to keep under control.
A: What path did you have to follow to be qualified for your job, and do you have any tips for students who may be interested in completing a similar path?
CT: I have an undergraduate degree in English Literature, and a Masters of Information Studies. I took a break in between my two degrees and taught English as a Second Language in a couple different countries. I was actually working in publishing when I came across a brochure for a Masters of Information Studies program (i.e. a librarian program). The brochure put librarianship into my brain and eventually I went to U of T for my Masters. If anyone was curious about a career in librarianship, the first and most basic step would be to get work as a student assistant at a library, and see what you think.
A: What is your favourite part about working on our campus, specifically?
CT: Because our campus is so small, even when you include both Orillia locations, I get to connect with and network with Student Success, and Education, and residence staff, and even security. The small size of Lakehead Orillia gives you the opportunity to work with people throughout this small community, which is much different from being siloed into one tiny little niche, and one small group of people, as you would at a larger institution.
A: Why did you choose to work in Orillia? What drew you in to our community?
CT: I grew up in Bancroft Ontario, and so central Ontario feels like home to me. I was living in Toronto when I got this job, and while I didn’t mind Toronto, I was ready to move back north again. It’s honestly hard to beat Orillia as a place to live – the two lakes, the trails along the waterfront, the ability to bike and walk across (and all around) the city. Basically we live in cottage country. You just have to have a way to survive the long winters!
A: What advice do you have for student researchers and readers? Within this, what common difficulties do you notice students have in regards to research and reading selection and how can these be remedied?
CT: Well, one basic thing is to start your research early. If a student comes to me for help at the very last minute (their essay is due the next day), I’m somewhat handcuffed in what resources I can provide to them. Starting early also gives you the flexibility to change your topic if you need to. A common difficulty is perhaps understanding that you don’t just search in an article database once. You do one search with one combination of keywords, take a look at your results, and then do a second search with slightly different keywords, and then again, and then again. The more searches you do, with different keywords and search strategies, the better the chance that you’ll find everything available on your topic.