Meet Jessica Generoux, Aboriginal Intern

Jessica Generoux has secured an innovative internship while she pursues her Master of Information and Library Science at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Generoux, previously a library assistant at the Regina Public Library’s Albert Branch, is now the University of Saskatchewan’s (U of S) first Aboriginal library intern. The paid internship was established as part of the U of S’s Promise and Potential integrated plan, which includes Aboriginal Engagement as a top component. Over the next three years Generoux will rotate through each of the university library’s branches, gaining experience in academic librarianship and, in turn, offering U of S staff and students a window into her culture and heritage.
Jessica_GenerouxJessica Generoux has secured an innovative internship while she pursues her Master of Information and Library Science at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Generoux, previously a library assistant at the Regina Public Library’s Albert Branch, is now the University of Saskatchewan’s (U of S) first Aboriginal library intern. The paid internship was established as part of the U of S’s Promise and Potential integrated plan, which includes Aboriginal Engagement as a top component. Over the next three years Generoux will rotate through each of the university library’s branches, gaining experience in academic librarianship and, in turn, offering U of S staff and students a window into her culture and heritage. LJ: Can you explain a bit about the internship? Jessica Generoux: The Aboriginal internship is the first of its kind at the University of Saskatchewan. I’ll be participating within the university library branches and departments. I just started in October, and the goal is to move around to different projects within the university. My first placement is at the Education and Music Library, and I’m providing reference and circulation services as well as working on projects with the education and music librarian liaisons. I just found out that my next placement will be at the university Archives and Special Collections department, so that will be a whole new ballgame. But I’ll be at the Education and Music Library through the end of the summer to help wrap up some collection development, some inventory, some projects with acquisitions, little things here and there. How did you get the position? I worked with the Regina Public Library for seven years, and was involved in aboriginal programming. That was an area that was pretty new, and I was basically forging a lot of new ground—incorporating traditional knowledge into public library programming, incorporating elders and traditional knowledge keepers and resource people into the public library setting and into programming processes. So when I applied for this internship I knew right away that this was something I needed to do. I put my application together and the rest is history. Do you feel that your cultural work gets equal time with your more standard academic librarian duties? My cultural input is welcomed. It’s something that [the librarians] want to slowly introduce in different areas, so we’re hashing that out right now, playing around with some ideas and seeing how it works within the university system. For example, with the cultural items and materials I provided for them that [helped give] a visual history of aboriginal music in Saskatchewan, there were some teaching stories and protocol involved that needed to be understood and communicated clearly within the website. [We’re investigating] how the cultural knowledge fits into the system and how the system can be accommodated, and working our way around that. A lot of the internship is project-by-project, based on different needs of departments or projects they want me to participate in—learning opportunities, and collaborative opportunities too. There’s a sort of dual partnership going on at the moment. How did the work you’re doing now evolve over the course of your career? I was very passionate about puppetry, and did puppet shows at the Regina Public Library for many years. I started exploring the legends, the [Dewey Decimal System] Section 398s, because I noticed that those books were never checked out and I was curious. I found a whole bunch of stories from different tribes, in different languages and from different eras, and I started researching the authors and illustrators, who they were, really wanting to understand what the books represented: What does this book mean? What’s going on? I had a lot of questions. After that I [looked at] the history of oral culture versus print culture, the dichotomy between First Nations people who traditionally have oral history—teachings and storytelling—and libraries where everything is written. It’s a very different world. I saw a lot of opportunity for exploring that, challenging it, and participating in it with what I knew from my family history and my teachings growing up. I’ve always been involved with libraries. I kind of float between two different worlds—my family, with very deep cultural roots in Saskatchewan, and the experience of working in libraries for over a decade. I was the kind of kid, when they asked me what I wanted for Christmas I would say encyclopedias, dictionaries. I just liked knowing a lot. And I like helping people.… I grew up being taught how important it is to help people, in a very community-minded family where everybody took care of each other—a big network of people. What is your cultural heritage? I’m Cree, Assiniboine, and Scottish. Our family history traces back into North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota. My grandfather is a Scottish immigrant from the highlands. He came here when he was 22 and met my kohkum—that’s Cree for grandmother. She was part of the residential school system in Canada, and when she was done with school she just ran away. That’s played a huge part in our family because she lost a lot of culture, teachings, and language from that experience, which affected our generation. My parents were affected by the residential school system in that they grew up with a lot of dysfunction. People weren’t proud to be who they were because of how they were treated. In Canada it was basically genocide…. That’s how First Nations people see it. Do you have a professional or network specific to the cultural work you’re doing? I’ve been involved with Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples (LSSAP), a committee based in Saskatoon and Regina. They cover all kinds of library projects that have to do with Aboriginal people or Aboriginal culture all over Saskatchewan. I’m volunteering for them right now—they have a one-day conference on April 21st, Voices of Librarians Serving Indigenous Peoples of Canada: Sharing Sound Practices in Library Services. I’m hoping to learn a lot from the committee and be a part of the process. What are some of your most memorable experiences as an Aboriginal intern? The projects I’ve been able to collaborate with the librarians on have been a huge highlight. Also being afforded some room for creative development, too, so I can pick and choose some topics and I can participate in the best way I know how. One project that I just completed was the Music in Saskatchewan collection launch. I worked with music librarian Carolyn Doi to pull together Aboriginal musical resources of Saskatchewan from the collection, and I contributed some background information on Aboriginal music in Saskatchewan—the history of powwow and round dance, and the teachings and cultural history behind them—as well as some items for display. I’m currently working on a library guide to Aboriginal children’s authors and illustrators directly under the education librarian. Any ideas where you would like to go from here? I want to follow the path of indigenous people and library services. I could be part of that process as an academic librarian or working in public libraries, but maintaining the knowledge and the cultural teachings within library services is one of my core goals. It could be a difficult program. It’s very challenging, and I don’t think it’s for everybody. I’m hoping to make connections, but also to really understand traditional [Aboriginal] knowledge within the library system and how it’s managed, transferred, and organized; and maintained, protected, preserved. I think that’s a lot of the reason I’m here, because I have a lot of questions and I want to figure that out. I truly believe that, besides elders and knowledge keepers, libraries are the next best source of traditional knowledge transfer and management. Just what that looks like, I don’t know. I’ll figure it out along the way.
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Manisha Khetarpal

Jessica Generoux, I like your comment, 'besides elders and knowledge keepers, libraries are the next best source of traditional knowledge transfer and management'.

Posted : Apr 03, 2015 02:09


Pat Elliott

Good for you Jessica! I spent some time working in Special Collections at Fresno State University in California. Even though I worked as a reference librarian in several corporate libraries, I never lost my love of academia. So many possibilities! You are doing some amazing work in many different areas of librarianship. Sounds exciting!

Posted : Mar 24, 2015 08:56


Dawn Pratt

You are so awesome Jessica!

Posted : Mar 20, 2015 09:47


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