Xaanja Free

Indigenous Canadian identity in children's literature --How can Indigenous voices reclaim identity when it has been formed by 'others' who have publicized and educated the world with derogatory stereotypes and rumours?
Faculty of Arts
Dr. Tess Prendergast
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

After completing my BA in Art History with a Minor in Education from the University of Victoria in 2016, I contemplated what to do with my degree and where to seek a career, and realized I needed skills that would lead directly into a professional position. I didn't feel that my degree in Art History can appropriately define the skills I have to offer employers, so I began to consider what I most enjoy about the work I have done and it all came back to research and library use. It is in that space, a library, where I feel free: to learn, to do, to contemplate, and to be--me. I decided at that point that MLIS is where I needed to focus my study. Where else would a life long learner be than in a library? I realized that with an MLIS degree, I can be a candidate that an employer would say--"Yes, you have the skills I need!"

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I decided to study at UBC for many reasons, not just academic. 1. UBC was recommended by my professors at UVic, they said my grades were really good so I would be able to qualify to apply and that a librarian role would be great for my curious nature. 2. I chose UBC because of its program options--FNCC gives me an option that I didn't see at any other graduate school, to focus my research on Indigenous content/issues. 3. I chose UBC for practical reasons: UBC Vancouver is close to Victoria, so it is not far to travel to. 4. UBC has family housing. 5. UBC supports reconciliation and seeks out Indigenous students.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

The Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) is a professional credential that will prove to an employer that I have the skills to be hired as a librarian; it is job security that first attracted me to this program. In the second semester of my studies, I chose as my specialization First Nations Curriculum Concentration (FNCC), which allows me to focus my research on Indigenous issues related to libraries. I long for a permanent job in a career that is in a helping role, so becoming a librarian is my career and life goal. UBC is world-renowned for our MLIS program, so I am very proud to be accepted and a part of the academic community.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

UBC offers support for students in ways that other schools can't offer, simply because there is more of everything. It is a large school with many services and support networks, if you need support, someone somewhere will find the right program or service that can help, and if it doesn't exist, or there are gaps, the staff are able to find solutions. The best surprise is that the questions you have get answered and then they have questions for you to answer that makes UBC a school that considers what you need and what you have to say. I have to admit, that was the best surprise about UBC I have learned since being here!

UBC offers support for students in ways that other schools can't offer, simply because there is more of everything. It is a large school with many services and support networks, if you need support, someone somewhere will find the right program or service that can help, and if it doesn't exist, or there are gaps, the staff are able to find solutions.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

Research is what I enjoy the most about my graduate program in the MLIS with my focus in First Nations Curriculum Concentration (FNCC). Reconciliation in libraries is what I am looking forward to working toward. There are many ways to consider how this can happen and many forms of action we can take--this is my passion, and it is fascinating to me how much we can do with what libraries do on a day-to-day basis-- ie. information dissemination. I’m interested to learn more about what Canadian authors are saying in order to dig down into the roots of Canadian writings and knowledge we have shared for centuries. I would like to develop an understanding of how the presentation of information can become either obstacles or successes for those who consume it. Basically, I want to see if there are patterns to learning about the ‘other’ that can be changed by altering the already established ideas and break them to benefit society as a whole. Can we create ‘good propaganda’ to illustrate differences as normative versus something one should fear? How do we understand each other (through film, in literature, in media, on social media, from family) and how can that ‘cultural’ understanding become redefined to open conversation and educate? Is it just mass transmission, or are there generations of cultural understanding that are embedded within our understanding? Can one generation make a difference to the centuries of misunderstanding and negative publications?..or has this been something done before? Reconciliation within libraries creates an opportunity to put that research into action.

What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

Sharing how change needs to happen, is a big challenge because many organizations and people, in general, are a little intimidated by change. Reconciliation is just that, change, therefore it becomes a challenge, how to educate the need for the change when you are new to the profession as well as employer at the same time. I will focus on how to apply changes to libraries in ways that support education so that when I get to that future career, the challenge will be less daunting!

How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?

My program is preparing me for those challenges by supporting discussions with librarians from other libraries through guest speakers and events that happen with the FNCC program, with professional experience opportunity, and through mentorship from professors, students, and staff that are open to questions and discussions. Our studies include active discussions with librarians in different fields that share their challenges and solutions to those challenges.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

At the age of twelve, I went to the library to discover who I was--I questioned, what is a foster child? Since then, education has become my mother and father, and the library--my place of refuge. The library is not just a place of learning. To me, a library is a place that has held my hand with my queries and answered my questions at length. In all aspects of my life and career, the library is the one place that has best prepared me for my UBC graduate program.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I create art (paintings, poetry, sculptures,etchings) for relaxation... For fun--I attend heavy metal concerts!

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Keep focused on your passion, this is your time! Graduate studies is an accomplishment, you should be proud to be here, and happy to do the work. This time is meant for you to stretch your wings, and show how you can fly--with the supportive advice of academics who are grounded with experience and expertise.


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