The Ontario Library Association (OLA) has honoured U of G librarian Jim Brett with its President’s Award for Exceptional Service. Established in1990, the award isn’t given every year but is used to recognize outstanding contributions to the profession and the association.

The award means a great deal to Brett: “Being recognized by your peers validates your hard work.” It was presented to express OLA’s appreciation for his work in developing mentoring programs to help students in information science graduate programs, new librarians and those making career changes, and immigrants who worked as librarians in their home countries but lack Canadian experience.

Brett’s earliest efforts to mentor new librarians involved working with universities that offered library degrees, setting up mock interview sessions and workshops on resume creation for students. Similar workshops were also available at OLA’s annual conference. He has served as conference co-chair for the last two years.

“I lobbied within OLA to make this a more formal process and to have mentoring activities available throughout the year,” he says. Working with several colleagues, he was able to create a plan and have it officially approved. “The OLA is very willing to try new things, even when there are cost implications.”

Although this program is now established, Brett isn’t done with his goal to help other librarians: “I’d really like to do more to help immigrant library professionals. How do you help someone with a library degree from India who wants to work in Ontario? How do we give them exposure as well as solid, practical experience in the Canadian system?”

Although he’s dedicated to library work today, that wasn’t Brett’s initial career path. He first earned a U of G undergraduate degree in botany and a master’s in plant systematics. “While I was doing my graduate work, I met a really good crew of librarians who helped me with my research, and I began to see that it might be an interesting field for me.” Brett went to Western University to complete a Master’s in Library and Information Sciences and was hired by Guelph in 1984.

As user services librarian, he’s responsible for managing and delivering reference services in an expanding list of methods. “We’ve had a user services review and are working on those recommendations, including some major physical changes in the library’s first floor,” he says. “Students still need information, but they need to get it in different ways than in the past.”

Brett speaks enthusiastically about the changing role of libraries and librarians at all levels. “We understand that we need to evolve, and we are looking at libraries as communities that help students in many different ways.”