David Waddell

UBC taught me to plan my own learning, anticipate shortfalls in my own knowledge, and know how to go out of my comfort zones to do so.
Vancouver Public Library
Community Digital Initiatives Librarian
Calgary, Canada
Vancouver, Canada
Faculty of Arts

Where and what is your current position?

I connect community members with creative technologies and with each other. In my work, that means designing information repositories, tools, and structures (both front- and back- end), and then meeting with people and hearing about their passions/needs. My job is to see how the library could support community member projects with technology and library resources, assist in empowering their learning, and then building additional digital tools and resources to assist them whenever possible.

Is your current career path as you originally intended?

I moved across different departments and tried to stay flexible. There are lots of things I like about public libraries which allowed me to remain open to many departments and types of work. My goal was to work in a public library.

How does this job relate to your graduate degree?

It relates completely. I need to be able to research the broad implications that technological changes bring to society and Vancouver. This is the social science side of librarianship. I also need to be able to understand social contexts and be sensitive that this learning is ongoing through in-person interactions, research, and even reading stories relevant to a community. This is the humanities side of librarianship. Lastly, I need the technical expertise to know good information design practice and the ability to pick up skills/software on the fly. Database design, information design, and programming-specific courses helped with this – the IT side of librarianship.

What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?

UBC has a good reputation, and I knew that it was near some of my desired employers.

What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?

It gave me the skills and discipline to pursue my own training/education long after leaving school.

What are key things you did that contributed to your success?

Do not monumentalize your schoolwork, even the hard projects. It will just stress you out and slow you down. Good efficient work does not need 100 hours of time, nor does it always necessarily need to be perfect (nor do your grades need to be A+ all the time). Keep high standards, absolutely. You should always be proud of something with your name on it. However, learn when to put something to bed and move on.

What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?

Consciously build your degree for the jobs you want. Choose courses that will give you the skills you want and that let you work on projects that are similar to projects you would do in the working world. Propose tweaks to school projects so that they are more meaningful to you and can be used in a conversation during interviews. Many instructors are open to this if you give good rationale.

Did you have any breaks in your education?

No, but I did work part-time jobs and contracts during my education. I remained a full-time student, with lighter course loads during periods where I had contract work.

What challenges did you face in your graduate degree, or in launching your career?

Precarity in employment environments is stressful, and it took me many attempts across multiple interviews to get a full-time position. I recommend following a personal budget and realizing that it really does take many contracts (and many interviews) to finally land a full-time position. I recommend staying passionate and having conversations with supervisors and managers about the needs/problems unique to that work site. If they see you actually care about the challenges, they will feel like you will work hard to help fix them if given the chance.

What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?

The position is about process as much as a single deliverable. There is no one skill (hard or soft) that will totally prepare me for tomorrow's work. UBC taught me to plan my own learning, anticipate shortfalls in my own knowledge, and know how to go out of my comfort zones to do so. I like that my job helps people learn, create, and experience a vivid intellectual life without needing to spend money. These values matter and they demand you stay sharp.