Circus of Books

Circus of Books is a documentary (available on Netflix as of 2020) about a straight Jewish couple who ran the iconic LA book store, Circus of Books, a “place where people could peruse gay erotica or meet other gay people, hanging out in a place free from homophobia.”  Circus of Books sold gay pornography, but also “obscure novels from LGBTQ authors, as well as science fiction books, foreign newspapers, even Bibles.” (Branson-Potts)

While the documentary discusses a range of LGBTQ issues such as gay rights, the AIDS crisis, and coming out, as a documentary about a gay book store it also features a lot of gay publications, of all sorts.

Spotted on the shelves of Circus of Books were many titles that sit on our very own shelves in the Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity.

Following is a list of just some of the publications that you can find in Circus of Books and the Neil Richards Collection. Follow the links to see their catalogue records. The images are screen captures from the documentary, and their time stamps are included.

Uncommon calling : a gay man’s struggle to serve the ChurchBeyond Acceptance is available in the main stacks of the Murray Library. The Neil Richards Collection also carries an extensive non-fiction selection on topics such as religion, history, politics, art, self-help, health, and more.

Curious Wine: A novel by Katherine V. Forrest   (8:00)The Neil Richards Collection is also home to a wide variety of fiction  – from classics, to contemporary, erotic and non-erotic, popular fiction, pulp fiction, and everything in between – as long it is has ties to LGBTQ issues, whether in it’s themes, characters, or authorship.

Physique Pictorial and Drum   (8:18)Physique magazines were the precursor to modern gay magazines, popular around 1940-1960. Styled as magazines about bodybuilding, health, and fitness, they were a way to try to get around censorship and the cultural taboo of homosexuality.

The Neil Richards Collection has more examples of this type of magazine which has been collected into a kit. Examples of titles include Grecian Guild Pictorial, Male Figure Studies, Iron Boys, and Stallion.

Blueboy (21:30)“Blueboy was one of the first really successful gay publications that was not underground” says Larry Flynt (interviewed in the documentary). Flynt was the publisher of Hustler Magazine, who also took on the distribution of gay publications such as Blueboy, Honcho, and Mandate.

Mandate and Honcho (21:35)


All these and many more books, magazines, and movies are available for viewing in the Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity.


Branson-Potts, Hailey. “These grandparents sold gay porn for decades and almost went to prison. Now, they are calling it quits.” Los Angeles Times, 8 Feb. 2019. Accessed June 2, 2020.

Screen captures from Circus of Books, Netflix, accessed May 2020.

The 12 Days of Archives

One of my favourite times of year has come again! That time of year when we get to dig through our new arrivals and old favourite and showcase some of the neat things we have in these archives of ours. Everyone take a deep breath and sing along…

On the 12th Day of Christmas my Archives gave to me…

12 LGBT Buttons

Neil Richard Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity,  HQ76.96 B88


11 Ceramic Ashtrays

Duff Spafford fonds, MG 281


10 Sask Artist Greeting Cards

Mac and Beth Hone fonds, MG 183


9 Vintage Matchbooks

Don Kerr fonds, MG 169


8 Sledders Sledding (poorly)

Pamphlet Collection, Postcards, Views of Canadian Sports, LXXVII-134


7 U of S Patches

Sylvia Fedoruk fonds, MG 435


6  Frosh Week Students

University Photograph Collection, A-2976


5 Beer Labels

R.L. Sweet fonds, MG 401


4 Chilean Birds

C.S. Houston fonds, MG 164


3 Antique Keys

Allan Cushon fonds, MG 545 & Artifacts Collections, RG 2000


2 Charging Caribou

                                             Zepp/Varga Collection, PV1014.                                                        Jacob Irkok (1937-2009), Arviat Charging Caribou, antler.


1 Explorer’s Letter

Stuart Houston fonds, MG164.


If you would like to experience the 12 Days of Archives in real-time next year, follow us on twitter and facebook! And if you want to see what we featured in our previous years, check out these posts from 2016, 2015, and 2014!

Archival Playlist

Ever feel like working to a beat? Well, have we got the album for you. This is our Songs of the Archives playlist, featuring all the hits that speak to archivists and their day to day struggles and joys. We promise after listening to this playlist, you will find your self humming along to your day-to-day tasks!

Who Are You?

Classic song of the 70’s, now commonly associated with that TV hit, CSI (or is that just me?), but anyone who has ever tried to describe a photograph’s scope and contents can appreciate this song. Who among us hasn’t looked at an archival photo and muttered, “Who are you? Who, who? Who, who?”

Can’t Always Get What you Want

It’s hard to admit defeat, but sometimes a researcher comes in looking for something that you just don’t have in your archives. And as much as you want to find it for them, if its not there, its not there. Or they come in with a specific question, but after a reference interview you get to the real crux of their query and “well, you might find you get what you need.”

U Can’t Touch This

Everyone who has handled a research question in an archives and felt that sinking feeling when the item that that patron really wants to see has a big ol’ RESTRICTED label on it. And you have to turn to that patron and say, “I’m sorry, but due to privacy laws U Can’t Touch This”.

A Little Less Conversation

This particular ditty touches the hearts of everyone who works in a library setting. There are some areas that are designated as group study areas, but many libraries still have quiet zones. I’m sure there is not a library professional in the world who hasn’t had to, at one time or other, walk up to patron’s and say, with a stern look, “A Little Less Conversation” please.


You’ve conquered that chunk of backlog that’s been on your list for two years. You’ve found that obscure piece of information for your researcher, in that file that was labelled not-the-greatest. A new order of archival quality folders came in just in time to complete processing that collection for appraisal. Any win, big or small, is worthy of celebration!

We want to hear from you! What would you put on your Library or Archives playlist? Comment down below, or send us a tweet at @sask_uasc

Twelve Days of Archives

Here we are again with another rendition of everyone’s favourite holiday tradition! That’s right, its the 12 Days of Archives! Sing it loud everyone…

One the first day of Christmas my Archives gave to me…

Twelve Christmas Print Blocks

12 Xmas Print Blocks

Eleven Night Club Matchbooks

11nightclubmatchbooksTen Figure Skaters

a-1011Nine USask Pennants

9usaskpennantsEight Aerial Photos

8aerialphotosSeven Christmas Novels

7christmasnovelsSix Sappho Postcards

6sapphopostcardsFive Shiny Plaques

5shinyplaquesFour Halibut

4halibutThree Hot Drinks

3drinksTwo Beer in Love


and a partridge in a library!1partridgePartridge painting, Copyright Kate Hodgson, 1998

You have WHAT in your Special Collections?

A question we are frequently asked at our front desk is why we hold certain things within our special collections.  How are our collection choices made? Is the idea to restrict access? And why oh why are some books that were published as recently as last year considered too ‘special’ to be taken out of our closed stacks?

If we were to play a game of association, and I were to say “special collections library”, what would flash into most peoples’ minds is the image of the centuries-old manuscript, bound in leather, with crumbling pages that smell faintly of vanilla. But that only paints a part of the picture. What a special collections is, and what a special collections can be runs much, much deeper–and may look far different overall.

For example, at the University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections, we have four main collection areas for rare and special books, each with its own distinct collection mandate. Our Rare Books collection contains primarily those things one would expect to find in a special collections library: medieval texts scrawled out in Latin, Victorian novels, first editions. The University Authors collection is just as self-explanatory — we endeavor to collect published works by University Faculty in order to have as complete a collection of the significant research outputs of the University of Saskatchewan as we can.

Readers of this blog will also be familiar with the Neil Richards Collection for Sexual and Gender Diversity. Certainly one of our most interesting book collections (and the second largest overall), the objective of the Richards collection has been to gather LGBTQ2 materials, with a particular focus on popular culture, pulp novels, queer mysteries, and Canadian queer texts. The Richards collection has grown to be the largest of its kind in Western Canada.

All of these collections have some overlap with our largest special collection of books: The Shortt Collection of Canadiana. The mandate for this collection has been looser over the years than those applied to the other collections (the Shortt collection ambitiously attempts to absorb Canadian-themed fiction and non-fiction primarily by Canadian-based authors, with a specific focus on Western Canada and Western Canadian History) In this diverse collection users can find everything from local history books (nearly one from every town in the province) to the novels of Gail Bowen, to church cookbooks, to 18th century explorers’ accounts, to current aboriginal interest newspapers, and more. While some of the items may seem too recent, or too widely or too locally distributed to be considered ‘special,’ it is the collection as a whole that has meaning, and which provides the greatest research value.

One recent addition to the Shortt collection which may fall into the “you have WHAT in your special collections?” category is two boxes of:

img613Alpha Flight? Never heard of it? And isn’t Marvel comics American anyway? Surely a sub-mandate of the Shortt Collection of Canadiana cannot be to collect comic books from the 1980’s. Isn’t that an odd fit?

This is true–comic books have not been an area of focus within the Shortt collection. Typically, any incoming comic books have been earmarked for Richards. Perhaps this is because queer comic book heroes are, in this time of the graphic novel, easier to find than Canadian ones (the Canadian comic book golden age ended in 1946, according to John Bell in his book Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe (2006)). Whatever the reason, we have fewer Canadian-centric comic books in the Shortt collection than we might like, and are working to remedy that situation.

Saskatoon bouncer “Puck”img614

So what better place to begin than with Alpha Flight? This team of Canadian superheroes, headed by James Macdonald Hudson (aka Vindicator, aka the Man with the Most Canadian Names), originally appeared in the late seventies as a part of the backstory to Marvel’s most well-known Canadian, Wolverine. The fact that the Alpha Flight team had its own decade long run of books within the Marvel universe is itself significant, given Marvel’s dominant role in the comic book industry, and given the minimal role Canadian superheroes have historically played within that industry.

The Alpha Flight books provide an amusing window on how Canadians were viewed by our American neighbors at this point in time. With characters like the Montreal-born Jean-Paul and sister Jeanne Marie Beaubier (aka Northstar and Aurora), a large hairy Sasquatch named Walter Langowski, and Eugene Judd a roughly puck-shaped bouncer from our own Saskatoon, Alpha Flight makes a caricature of Canadian-ness. Even the heroes’ costumes look like Team Canada’s Winter Olympic speed-skating apparel.

Another interesting point about Alpha Flight is that it features the first instance of a superhero “[coming out] in a blunt and assured fashion, previously unseen in mainstream comics” (Schott, 2010). In 1992’s issue #106 of Alpha Flight, superhero Northstar engages in a fight with Major Mapleleaf, over the course of which as many politically-laden zingers on topics of AIDS and homosexuality are thrown as punches. At the apex of this fight, Northstar admits his own homosexuality, saying : iamgayIt is interesting to consider whether this (at that time relevant, but risky)  discussion about homosexuality and AIDS could only have taken place within the ranks of a Canadian superhero team. If perhaps the separation of nationality made the subjects more “safe” to an American audience.

With Canada experiencing a recent resurgence of acknowledgement on the world stage (according to the New York Times, we’re “hip” now), collecting materials on what it is to be Canadian, what it was to be Canadian, and how Canadians have been viewed over time will become more important than ever. We are a nation that is constantly feeling out its own identity, and collections like the Shortt Collection of Canadiana provide a basis for that understanding.

**Please note that the above images are posted for educational purposes. Any reproduction for other purposes must be cleared with the copyright holder (Marvel Comics).


Alpha Flight. New York, N.Y. : Marvel Comics Group, 1983-1992 vols. 1 and 106 SPECIAL COLLECTIONS-SHORTT PN6728 .A4 1983-1993 v.1 no.1 — v.1 no.120

Bell, John. Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe. Dundurn, 2006.

Schott, Gareth. ” From fan appropriation to industry re-appropriation: the sexual identity of comic superheroes”. Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. v. 1 no. 1, June 2010. pp.17-29.

“With the Rise of Justin Trudeau, Canada Is Suddenly … Hip?.” The New York Times, Jan. 16, 2016

ACA Conference Bites : Stevie, Day 3 – Metamorphosis

Quite possibly the most eclectic session I attended, Metamorphosis: Change and Transformation featured recent U of T grads James Roussain and Emily Sommers talking about the future of archival education; Sara Viinalass-Smith of the LAC speaking on their archives of early maps; and Greg Bak of the U of M whose talk was titled “Playable: Interactive Archive,” and which featured (I’m pretty sure) a 1980’s Transformer toy on the first slide.

Roussain and Sommers’ talk had the most resonance with me as a (sort-of) recent MLIS grad. The notion of (conflict between?) theory and practice in Information Studies is one that seems to recur again and again in my day-to-day work, and was something of which I was keenly aware as a student. The in-class theory taught only revealed a fragment of the nature of the work that goes on in an Archives and Special Collections. I was lucky enough to have a work-study placement, as well as a practicum, but not all students had those opportunities to get elbows-deep in boxes. Untitled

Roussain and Sommers argued for the implementation of a practical approach to teaching in Information Studies, and suggested that all students should be, at the very least, encouraged to seek out practical experience during their period of study. I can see the necessity in this approach if graduates who have a realistic-ish notion of what they are getting into are to be produced. Each archives and special collections has unique holdings, and so faces a unique set of challenges in preserving those holdings, and making them accessible. Because of this, there isn’t and cannot be a tidy textbook of theory which will tell you all you need to know about archival work.  Much of the learning must be done on the fly in an environment of multiple tasks and drastically shifting user needs–and quite frequently, theory goes out the window altogether (along with things like sanity). Stubborn adherence to what is theoretically the best practice while ignoring the specific needs of your collection, of your institution, could prove disastrous.

Sara Viinalass’s talk struck a lighter note in her discussion of the evolution of LAC’s handling of early maps. It was interesting to see early pictures of their map storage and reading rooms — places with very little light, and large tables often used for staff gatherings (with candles for the centerpieces!). What stood out for me, though, was the notion that our audiences want “bite sized history” — along the line of a facebook post or a Pinterest image, not giving the entire history on the subject, but rather presenting a small and intriguing peek into it (as with Viinalass’ sharing of a Toronto bicycle route map– a subject not typically thought of).

Bak’s talk veered off in yet another direction, as he discussed the need to preserve interactivity and playability in archives. He was speaking in relation to electronic records, and the medium that produce them. Here again the notion of “the medium is the message” was introduced, with the medium now being the antiquated hardware and software from which electronic records are born. Bak argued for the need to preserve, or at least closely simulate the functioning (and dysfunctioning) of those systems, right down to the last “bug” (what he called a “feature”). His argument was that the hardware and software–obsolete though it may be– tells a part of the story of the record, as much (if not more) than the contents of the record itself. Certainly, 200 3.5″ floppies containing a novel are bound to say something about the way the author wrote, in the way the floppies are used, reused, and sorted. Transferring all of those files to brand new media and disposing of the original discs would destroy some of that context.

As was hinted at in Allana Mayer’s talk on conference day one, there is a great deal of lag in the proper treatment of electronic records in the archival profession (and, I suppose, any profession). Only recently are electronic records coming to be viewed as real and “reliable” (and lets face it, they’ve been around for fifty years and more), and so, it is only relatively recently that we have begun bending our minds to how to preserve electronic records, and even more abstractly, what original_nintendo_accessories-200x200elements of the electronic record need to be preserved. Interestingly, work on archiving video games tends to stand at the forefront of this debate — the question of how to preserve the playability of a game after its hardware has been vanquished by time is one of increasing importance in the ever-evolving and always nostalgic gaming world. Bak argues that the same degree of careful thought on how to preserve interactivity and playability needs to go in to our handling of other record types as well. Migrating to another format is not enough–something is always lost in that translation. But are the alternatives : emulation, or keeping working hardware and software on site, viable options for most heritage institutions?

ACA Conference Bites, Stevie : Day 3 – Poster Session

Finally! The poster session. This was a new format for the ACA this year. Where normally a very few posters would be shown out in the hall with the vendors during breaks on one of the days, this year more posters were presented, and each presenter (or group of presenters) were allotted five minutes to explain their work. This was a great idea, as it gave people an idea of what was on our poster before actually reading our poster, which in turn made them more interested in reading the poster, and asking questions.poster5b

Our five minute lightning talk was on the work UASC has been doing with the Courtney Milne collection, digitizing a selection of the 486,000 35mm slides donated and making them available online.

Other topics included: Preservation, other digitization projects, the portrayal of archivists in movies, human rights and archives, Lululemon(!) and much more. It was a great session with great people, and I am happy to have had the chance to meet and work, however briefly, alongside them all!

After speaking, we went over to where our actual posters were on display, and answered questions over the next two break sessions. I really appreciated everyone who came over to discuss the project!


ACA Conference Bites : Stevie, Day 2 – Extending Our Reach

Sandwiches are great. Complimentary sandwiches are even better. Sandwiches are what we were given for our first lunch at the ACA conference. Lest you experience envy at their marbled-rye and thick egg-salady goodness, I will neglect to post a picture here. (Also, I forgot to take a picture.)

(a salad)

We also had a salad.( I didn’t take a picture of that either.) But both were very good, and lunch provided a great opportunity for all of us poster-presenters to get together and make our plan of action for the next day. It was wonderful to meet the other presenters and put faces to names (and posters). Two of the presenters I knew from my previous life in Montreal, but most of them were new to me. I won’t drop too many spoilers about the actual poster session here — that will get its own post (and there WILL be pictures)–but eating lunch with the people we would be presenting alongside helped a lot with the nerves. They were all super-nice people.

The next session we went to was titled “Extending Our Reach — Engaging the Public with New Media and Old.” Being someone who does a lot of social media work for the University Library’s University Archives and Special Collections (and even some blogging on the side . . .) this was one of the sessions I was most excited for.

First up was Brett Lougheed from the University of Winnipeg who had some interesting and useful observations on the social media employed both at the U of W and at the U of M. He cracked open the discussion with the adage “the medium is the message.” While in many areas this can be a controversial statement, I think nowhere is it truer than with social media. Different social media platforms shape the way in which we share our thoughts–what we say on a subject on Facebook may be very different from the way we cram it into 140 Twitter characters. How we group and share images on a blog will be different from how we do it on Pinterest (I’m thinking the University Archives and Special Collections needs Pinterest in its life–is this madness?).

Some of Lougheed’s tips, tricks, and observations, as based on his years of experience working with social media in two separate institutions are as follows:

  • Be Unobtrusive – Posts should be informative and fun, spaced evenly enough apart that the user is neither over nor underwhelmed.
  • Facebook – Should not just be a place where you share your Twitter posts. There is room for exposition. Use it.
  • Fun Ideas for Facebook
    • Create an institutional timeline using old photographs and   Facebook’s timeline feature << Definitely something I’ll look into doing for the U of S!
    • Actually make use of the photo album feature (Derp. not sure why we’re not doing this).
  • Image Posts Are King
  • Play Off of the Now – If it is Valentines Day, post Valentines Day content. If the Riders are in the Grey Cup, post Grey Cup stuff (if the Riders are not in the Grey Cup, ignore the Grey Cup stuff — it will just make everyone sad).
  • Twitter Audience – Is mostly going to be people with some sort of pre-existing background in archives and special collections, be they contemporaries, or advanced researchers. This makes Twitter a less-than-ideal platform to engage with new users.
  • Youtube – Is good!
  • Blogs – Should be interactive spaces for discussion, and above all, fun!

Some of these are perhaps self-evident, but all were good points to keep in mind, and I definitely came away with some fun ideas for ways to extend our own online presence. Six months, already! It has been over six months since our Twitter feed and Facebook page and blog were born. I’m a proud Momma.

Next up Andrea Martin and Tyyne Petrowski from the University of Manitoba (interestingly, this was a very Central-Western centric panel. Are we really doing more outreach out here, or just more inclined to talk about it?) who shared their experiences using Tumblr to showcase a collection of letters sent home by Frederick D. Baragar during the Great War. I was intrigued enough by Tumblr as an interface for this sort of project that I put together my own Tumblr blog when I got home, just to get my hands in it. Rather than re-hashing their presentation, I will invite you to take a look at From the Somewhere , which is a truly fabulous example of an easy-to-use, easy-to-maintain-and-update blog that allows non-traditional (and traditional) archival users to engage with primary source materials. in a familiar format.

Last to speak was Saskatoon’s own City Archivist, Jeff O’Brien, who was introduced as having been raised in a culvert by a family of gophers. Which sort of set the tone, as such statements will. gopher_wiki Jeff is such an engaging and amusing speaker, and it is always a treat to listen to him talk about pretty much anything (the gophers taught him well.) On this occasion he was talking about his work with local media (and in particular his CTV news segment Saskatoon Stories) , encouraging those working in archives and special collections to make media relations a priority. Requests from the media tend to be highly time sensitive, and so archives and special collections need to make requests coming in from any news organ a “drop everything request.” We should also attempt to anticipate the needs of news entities (if there’s an election coming up, dig up our stuff on elections before they even ask), and never turn down an interview. He reminded us that “everyone likes a good story” and that archives and special collections, being places filled with good stories, are ideally suited for partnership with news outlets whose goal it is to share good stories.

All that being said, I’m afraid I don’t personally quite have O’Brien’s gift for gab, and I am convinced that propping me up in front of a camera for any length of time could only end badly for everyone involved.

After all, I wasn’t raised by gophers.

Dinner that night was catered by Merv’s pitchfork fondue. This is a picture of Merv. With his pitchfork. SO GOOD!


ACA Conference Bites : Stevie, Day 2 – Gail Bowen

Anyone who loves books and lives in Saskatchewan is bound to have read, or at least heard of the detective fiction of Regina-based author Gail Bowen. On the first morning of the conference the plenary was delivered by this mistress of intrigue who, true to form, kept the ballroom spellbound with her tales of serendipity, working with archives, and meeting royalty.

I think her best line (and twitter seemed to agree) was the notion that “archivists are alchemists.” Aside from the obvious ways in which this analogy would resonate with a group of document-loving history buffs, it was adept in its comparison between the disorganized haystack that our documents often arrive in, and the golden order we transmute them into. It is often the task of the archival worker to take what seems like an impossible mess of highly valuable research materials, and convert it into something that will be clean, tidy, well-documented, and–above-all–accessible to researchers.

img520Heavily present in Gail’s talk was the notion of serendipity–a sort of stumble-across-good-luck which has, she claimed, played a huge role in her life and in her writing. She gave as an example the first book to which she had been invited to contribute: The Easterners’ Guide to Western Canada / The Westerners’ Guide to Eastern Canada (1985).  A random request from a friend to write a small chapter in a little-known “airplane book” sparked a writing career that would span three decades and over twenty novels.  (Interestingly, I myself had serendipitously found this book in our holdings a few months back and enjoyed a few moments reading Bowen’s segment “A Letter from British Columbia.”) In many ways, Bowen credits the success of her career to serendipity. The right person standing by the right fax machine at the right time has culminated in the adaptation of her novels into movies ; the right people becoming interested in the right play has led to her taking lunch with Prince Charles (who, as it turns out, isn’t much a fan of lunch–in Gail’s words “Clean your plate, boy!”).

Bowen’s focus on the power of serendipity was interesting given the loaded nature of the term within archives and libraries, and perhaps an unintentional nod to a major topic of discussion in information theory. In a recent C-EBLIP article, Frank Winter discusses the (perceived) conflict between the desire to maintain serendipitous information discovery (as by reading shelves) and the need for more efficient resource allocation in the academic library (as by moving resources off-site to provide better student study spaces, or relying upon electronic copies) (Winter, 2015).

The struggle to allow for serendipitous discovery in any type of research in which the user is not handling the material from shelf-to-table is a familiar one in the world of archives and special collections. Archives and special collections, being spaces where the bulk of information is kept behind locked (or at least heavy) doors may seem singularly unsuited to the coincidental uncovering of information–however, this is not the case. Serendipity can and frequently does occur within the archival context. In her 2011 essay “Serendipity in the Archive,” Nancy Lusignan Schultz names two elements essential to fostering serendipity in archival research : “good sleuthing” on the part of the researcher (Bowen would love that) and “the expert guidance of a willing archivist” (Schultz, 2011). Here, the reference assistant must become an active accessory to serendipity–providing the user not just with what they ask for, but with a few shots in the dark besides.

Serendipity, then, takes a different form in archives and special collections than it does within the library stacks, being reliant not only on the keen eyes of the user as she rifles through files, but also upon the initial decision made by reference staff regarding which finding aids she may find on-topic.  The reference staff must have a broad enough understanding of the unit’s holdings to provide guidance, yet be unfamiliar enough with the specific contents of each fonds to allow coincidental discoveries to occur. In many ways, each file within an archival fonds presents an ideal vehicle for serendipitous discovery, as its contents can be as varied as the interests of the person that created it.

In his article, Winter acknowledges the value of serendipity in research, but ultimately concludes that  there are “so many variables that determine whether a user stumbles across something relevant that they are almost impossible to identify,” and therefore serendipity should perhaps not be invoked as an “operating principle when deciding how to manage down print collections”  (Winter, 2015). His assertion about the nature of serendipity is in line with the vast difference between the kind of serendipitous discovery we see in the library stacks, and that which is found in archives and special collections. Serendipity is the result of a near-infinite chain of coincidences, and therefore can take a on near-infinite number of forms. Perhaps with the changing library landscape will come a shifting in the nature of serendipitous discovery in libraries themselves. As print collections shrink and move, we may lose the thrill of being accidentally (and literally) struck  with a relevant top-shelf book as we reach for another. The question is, what other form of coincidental discovery will take its place?

Bowen, Gail. “25 Years of Writing Joanne.” ACA 2015 “Perspectives on the Archival Horizon”.
(June 11, 2015).

Schultz, Nancy Lusignan. “Serendipity in the Archive.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 57.37 (2011). Canadian Periodicals Index Quarterly. Web. 17 June 2015.

Winter, Frank. “Serendipity, Algorithms, and Managing Down the Collective Print Collection.” Brain Work.  (March 2015). Last accessed: 17 June 2015.

ACA Conference Bites: Stevie, Day 1

From the 10th to the 13th, co-worker Laurie Wing and myself had the opportunity to attend the Association of Canadian Archivists Conference in the exotic locale of Regina, Saskatchewan.

Over the next several days you, dear readers, will be regaled with tales of our adventures in that far and distant land and (more importantly) will be made privy to some of the professional insights shared by the conference presenters.

For now, Day 1:

June 10, 2015

I arose early this morning to a blue sky and the sound of birds singing their morning aubades to the heavens (well, crows cawing, anyway). All had been put (frenetically) into readiness the evening before, and so I loaded my suitcase and purse and non-laptop sized laptop bag into my trusty blue RAV and puttered out in quest of my traveling companion.

My traveling companion, it quickly became apparent, lived in a complex labyrinth of new developments where Google maps was hesitant to guide me and the four way stop was King. After a few wrong turns and a couple of meditative pull-over stops I was greeted with Laurie’s smiling face and we were ready to hit the road. 

And hit the road we did, pulling into Regina around noon with (I thought) plenty of time to get to the Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists Annual General Meeting downtown at 1:00. The impenetrable fortress-like nature of the building the AGM was being held in slowed us down somewhat, but we arrived just as a representative from Sask Culture was starting his talk on some of the incredible cultural initiatives they have going on (with the potential for funding for archives and other heritage institutions). One major Sask Culture initiative in which the SCAA is becoming involved is the Multicultural Inclusiveness Strategy which aims at engaging emerging demographics in Saskatchewan’s population, with a particular focus on its rapidly growing aboriginal population.

In many ways, the existence of the SCAA is largely made possible through the support of Sask Culture, and Saskatchewan Lotteries. The mission of the SCAA is to foster the development, cooperation and advancement of Saskatchewan’s archives and archivists through leadership, support, education and promotion. It is an invaluable resource for “developing a cooperative and successful archival network in Saskatchewan, encouraging the establishment of new archives in Saskatchewan, promoting and developing standard archival policies and practices, and promoting public understanding and use of archives and historical resources in Saskatchewan.” Under the guidance of the SCAA board and the indefatigable efforts of the province’s archival adviser Cameron Hart, the SCAA provides advice and assistance to archives, sponsors outreach events, and maintains the Saskatchewan Archival Information Network, a network of information about archival holdings in Saskatchewan, including a photo database.

IMG_0829After the Sask Culture talk there was a brief intermission during which Laurie and I filled our plates with cabbage rolls, perogie, salad, and watermelon (a true Saskatchewan spread), and we likewise filled our stomachs while listening in on the meeting. As a new-ish member, this was my first opportunity to exercise my right to vote, which was exciting. Also, my efforts in helping to revive the SCAA newsletter were applauded, and I was voted in as Member-At-Large (1 year term). They even gave me a nifty “Director” pin. Which makes me sound much more important than I am (but I won’t complain). I am looking forward to becoming further involved in the SCAA as the year unfolds.

Following the meeting Laurie and I were able to check-in to our rooms at the Hotel IMG_0830Sask (where the conference was being held), and also registered for the conference–receiving our swag bags, which included the typical array of writing implements, along with a USB car adapter (surprise! not a jump drive!), and this cute stylus and notepad from the SCAA and the SAB.

After a delicious dinner in downtown Regina (pulled pork and vegetable poutine, anyone?) we put our road-weary and food-heavy bodies to bed in preparation  for the first full day of conference presentations.

Swag bag on a fancy couch