Ryan Deschamps

Postdoctoral Fellow (University of Waterloo); Lead Developer, Agile Humanities

Favourite aspect of your job? Most exciting part of your job?  Most rewarding part of your job? Proudest moment so far? Participating in the Library Consultation Process with the Halifax Public Libraries was the most rewarding part of my job. A close second has been watching Podcamp Halifax grow over the years. In each of these cases, I feel the library did its best not only to listen to the public and respond to their ever-adapting needs, but to leave room for citizens to participate in their own learning, set priorities and influence decision-making at a fairly high level. I even recall witnessing citizens be a little uncomfortable with the level of decision-making power they had in those processes, which I consider to be a measure of the right level of influence they should have, when the environment is right for it.

Have you followed a circuitous path to your current position, or a straightforward path? A little of both.  I started as a shelver and worked my way up the public library system. Eventually, I wanted the ability to influence policy, so I applied to the program with a combined MLIS/MPA degree. After seven years working as a public library manager, I decided to look into the academic world and embarked on my PhD in Public Policy.

In your professional life, do you consider yourself to be a systems thinker? Someone who thinks outside the box? Does this carry over into your personal life? Dynamic systems thinker. Sometimes you jump outside the box to find yourself inside a new box. Then you realize that the old box was the more innovative way to go all along.  It's important to realize that we all have ways of thinking about what is "useful," "novel" or "same old, same old."  That's why it's important to have a network of people who both support and challenge your thinking. The science is beginning to show that inside a profession, it is the environment that decides how innovative you are. Maybe being innovative only feels that way because you have a network of people telling you so. It's a constantly fought battle.

What skill is most in-demand for people entering the field today? Right now, the challenge is critical thinking in a highly mediatized and politicized environment. Finding that balance between "speaking truth to power" and "this is not my hill to die on" is extraordinarily difficult for everyone. Both sides of the coin have their strengths and weaknesses. You can't criticize everything and expect people to be passionate about their work. Nor do you want to cheer-lead people to an extent that they never question their own ideas or worse, bully others for thinking differently.