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Q&A with Stacy Allison‑Cassin about changing how information and data are managed

Posted by Sonya Jampolsky on September 8, 2022 in News

Describe your background.

I have been a librarian for about 15 years, initially working in the nonprofit sector and then in academic libraries. Before that I studied music and music performance and played the French horn. I have a strong passion and interest in supporting music and the arts in Canada and, through that, a wider interest in thinking about activities that are not well served by dominant ways of information production. I want to connect people with information that's at its most basic level. It's important to me to understand how information is structured and the power in those structures.

I'm a citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario and part of my thinking about Indigenous matters or Indigenous issues is also personal.

And I've been teaching full time at the University of Toronto.

What is your research about?

I know there's been a lot of attention on the intersection between information management and issues like social justice. I’m interested in oral cultures and how we think about non-textual documents and about permanence and impermanence.

There's a problem with non-Indigenous people extracting or using Indigenous culture. How do we in contemporary practice embed practices where we don’t take? What happens with our knowledge? In some cases, yes, this can be recorded or transcribed or promoted, and in some cases it can't. And that again must be embedded in practice as well.

How do we make the world better? Honestly, that is a huge motivation for me.

What makes you proud?

I am really proud of the work I've done with Wikipedia and Wikidata—bringing people from across Canada and the world together to think about their work a bit differently, in terms of libraries, archives and museums. It intersects with work I've been doing for some time on Indigenous issues with knowledge, organization and metadata.

I'm proud of that work, but it's really challenging because it's so hard and so slow. While many institutions talk about wanting reconciliation and wanting to do work that is Indigenizing or supporting Indigenous issues or matters, that doesn't always come with action, sustained action and resources.

Tell me something about yourself that might surprise me.

I served in the Canadian Army reserves for almost three years. I joined the Army reserves band when I was 17 and it was formative in a number of ways. I went to France for the 50th anniversary of D-Day with veterans and had an appreciation for the service. And then there's the other side, like wait a minute, they might say that men and women are equal, but I actually felt very much treated differently.

I'm from Northern Ontario and the first woman in my family to have a university degree.