United by books

(Edmonton) A commitment to helping Aboriginal colleges crack the books has earned a coveted honour for the University of Alberta’s libraries team.

Vice-provost Ernie Ingles, director of the U of A’s School of Library and Information Studies, was recently awarded an honorary degree from the Red Crow Community College, commemorating the strong partnership between the two post-secondary institutions.

Presented during the college’s 25th anniversary celebrations on the Kainai reserve in southern Alberta, the honour extended to Ingles reflects the excellent working relationship between the two schools and their respective libraries, notably the First Nations Information Connection

“While I am personally flattered to receive such an honour, it really is on behalf of a tremendous team at the U of A,” Ingles said. “We continue to work closely with our colleagues in Red Crow Community College and other First Nations communities to ensure that members of their communities have access to the tremendous library resources at the U of A and throughout the network.”

First Nations Information Connection, launched in 2008, is a provincial library network developed and administered by the U of A. It gives First Nations colleges across Alberta online access to their own collections and a wide selection of culturally significant academic materials shared by other post-secondary institutions in the province.

The network was built in response to a need to assist Aboriginal colleges access a variety of regularly updated online resources, including digitized photographs and artifacts, historical and scientific information, Aboriginal-themed e-books and other academic research materials. Several partners joined with the U of A to support the project, including the Online Computer Library Centre, Nexen Inc., Alberta Advanced Education and Technology, Sun Microsystems of Canada Inc. and SirsiDynix.

The initiative allows students and faculty in six First Nations colleges to take full advantage of extensive collections such as the Lois Hole Campus Alberta Digital Library and The Alberta Library, a consortium of 290 member libraries that work to promote barrier-free access to information, ideas and culture.

The First Nations Information Connection portal helped connect some of the colleges not only to what was already in their collections, but also added to the wealth of material available beyond their own walls, said Mary-Jo Romaniuk, acting chief librarian for the U of A.

“It doesn’t matter what material you have if you can’t access it, and by helping the colleges build the technological structures and support, they can provide a better experience for their students, including those who transition to the University of Alberta,” Romaniuk said. “We value the contributions of our Aboriginal communities, their students and their ways of knowing and learning, and as a library we are proud to support them.”