McLennan: Upstairs/Downstairs

Special blog post by Robin Clark, Student Marketing Projects Assistant, McGill Library & Archives

McLennan: Upstairs/Downstairs, by Robin Clark

McLennan: Upstairs/Downstairs, designed by Robin Clark

Working in the library as a McGill Work Study student has been a very interesting experience. To be perfectly honest, I did not know what to expect from the experience. “Student Marketing Projects Assistant” does, to be fair, sound rather impressive to a lowly student looking to fill free time with something productive and lucrative, but it doesn’t really offer much insight into what daily tasks would be involved. Adding to the mounting mystery, the interview and the job itself would take place in the Office of the Dean of Libraries located in the McLennan Library Building, which was behind a door often seen but rarely opened as a student.

Prior to coming to work in the library, my experience was strictly as a student. My work experience in the Dean’s Office has revealed itself to be an interesting opposite to my role as a student. Having been here at McGill for some years now, my experience of the library had been as a student of history, sifting through shelves to gather as much information as I could to inform my work. As such, I have become acutely familiar with the McLennan Library Building’s top floor. Dozens of hours have been spent there throughout the years. From day one, I picked out a desk. It has become my own fortress of solitude when the going gets tough. However, now that I have a job in the same building, I am afforded a new perspective both mentally and physically, in a field I did not expect, and using skills I had not considered or tapped into as a student.

Just as I have a desk on the top floor, I now have a desk on the ground floor.  However, the work that takes place there is very different. On the top floor, I use my analytical skills to write papers and study class material. On the ground floor, I use my creative skills to develop promotional material on content related to library events. While the student desk that I have attached myself to for years can be constrictive with frosted glass on either side, my work desk is large and open – offering plenty of space to think and spread ideas in a way that seems like an odd luxury.

Over time, creating marketing materials for the library fostered in me a personal desire to avoid repetition. Having each promotional piece stand out on its own meant that I have had to learn how to use all the elements at my disposal. If an event requires a promotional slide or poster, I arm myself with the necessary information and imagery and proceed to the software that will do the job: Photoshop, Illustrator, or even InDesign – when times are truly desperate. Photoshop has moved from a passing acquaintance to a close friend. This job placement has also given me a great opportunity to bring in some knowledge from my hobby as a photographer.  I can now look back on my four month placement and be happy in the knowledge that I can now do the same work in less than half the time.

At times I must admit, I felt like I was cheating. I found myself sitting in the closest thing I have ever come to my own office, with almost complete creative freedom, working on promotional material for upcoming film screenings or lectures from prominent figures. On top of that, I worked with some of the nicest group of people I have ever met. I doubt that ‘work’ is the appropriate word for my time on the main floor. Certainly this has been a learning experience, and has been an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the workings within a building I had thought so familiar but still offering surprises – whether it be upstairs or downstairs.

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