Alumnus Nick Ruest (MLIS '07) is Digital Assets Librarian at York University in Toronto, Ontario. He has a particular interest in web archiving and has led many timely and important archival projects, including the collection of millions of #WomensMarch tweets in January 2017.
Q: What’s your name? What degree did you receive? When did you graduate?
Nick Ruest, MLIS, 2007
Q: What other degrees do you have and where are they from?
BA, Political Science, University of Michigan, Dearborn
Q. Why did you choose Wayne State School of Library and Information Science?
I had been planning on going to law school, and a colleague suggested I should investigate library school. I had worked as a systems tech and sysadmin at Detroit Public Library in the late 90s and early 2000s, and I really liked my time there, so I pursued it. My colleague was a student in the Wayne State program at the time, so I applied there.
Q: What was your area of concentration? Why?
I was selected to be a part of the initial cohort of the IMLS Laura Bush 21st Century Digital Librarians in 2005. The focus was on digital librarianship at the time.
Q: What class format (in-person, online, hybrid) did you use for most of your classes? Why?
In 2005 the online program was just starting so the majority of our classes were in-person, except one hybrid if I recall correctly. Given the nature of our cohort, we did not have a choice in class options.
Q: Are you active in any student/professional organizations?
I’m not very active in associations any more, mostly active in a couple GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) open source projects; Islandora and Fedora. In those communities, I’m heavily involved in the governance of both projects as well as contributing code. In the Islandora community, I am a member of the Board of Directors, serve as Treasurer to the foundation, a member of the Roadmap Committee, Project Director of the Islandora CLAW project, release manager, and am a Committer on Islandora 7.x and Islandora CLAW. In the Fedora community, I am a member of the Fedora Leadership team, occasional release manager, and a committer.
I’m also very involved the web archiving community, and a couple of open source projects there.
In the past, I was active in the Ontario Library Association and Code4Lib community. I served as the President of Ontario Library Information Technical Association, as well as a member on the Ontario Library Association Board of Directors. I also served as the founding Vice-President and the second President of the McMaster University Academic Librarians Association, and co-organized the second Code4Lib North at McMaster University.
Q: How has your involvement in student/professional organizations impacted your SLIS and professional experience?
My involvement in professional organizations and open source communities has had a very large impact on my career. Communicating and collaborating with a number of colleagues from a wide variety of locations, backgrounds, and perspectives has been extremely rewarding. Working in these spaces are a great place to observe and work on leadership skills. The relationships I’ve formed over the years have been a privilege.
Q: Are you currently doing any library related work? If so, how has the program prepared you for it?
Yes. I’m the Digital Assets Librarian at York University. The cohort provided work experience that gave me invaluable exposure to an archival and academic library environments.
Q: What were you most proud of in library school? What are you most proud of now that you are in the profession?The project I was most proud of in graduate school was the Reuther 100 site that I worked on; digitization, development, and deployment. It was definitely a learning process, and the experience I gained was extremely valuable.
Post-graduate school, I’d have to say my work in web archives has been extremely rewarding. Out of all the projects I’ve worked on, this work has the most interdisciplinary so far. The range of backgrounds and knowledge that is brought to the table is pretty amazing. We’re able to build some really great infrastructure.
Q: Was there a professor who really impacted your journey into librarianship?
Dr. Joseph Mika and Mike Smith. I’ve always felt like they treated you as a peer at the same time as being a student. I really admired that, as well as the ability to communicate with them in a variety of ways.
Q: Since graduating from this program, what do you feel is the most important or surprising thing you’ve learned about the library and information science profession?
Labour politics. I learned a lot of hard lessons about this in my time at McMaster University. My only advice to get to know your collective agreement, and get involved with your union if you have one.
Q: Do you feel you were well-prepared for a career in the library and information profession?
Definitely. As mentioned above, our cohort had the opportunity to rotate through a couple GLAM institutions as interns during the two-year program. Combining the classroom experience with the on-the-ground experience in each institution was invaluable.
Q: What professional accomplishments have you achieved since graduating from the program?
Three relatively recent accomplishments that I’m proud of are:
The #freedaleaskey Collection was a collaboration with a colleague, Anna St.Onge, that was done under the banner of the Progressive Librarians Guild, Toronto Chapter. It consists of a collection of web archives and letters of support, as well as a finding aid, around the lawsuit filed against a Dale Askey by publisher Herbert W. Richardson and the Edwin Mellen Press in June 2012.
The SSHRC Insight Grant and Compute Canada Resource Allocation are two related grant-funded projects by the Web Archives for Historical Research group.
“A Longitudinal Analysis of the Canadian World Wide Web as a Historical Resource” enlists a team to investigate and document how to track, visualize, and analyze change from Internet Archive files. With the increasingly widespread availability of large web archives, historians and Internet scholars are now in a position to find new ways to track, explore, and visualize changes that have taken place within the first two decades of the Web. The project is among the first attempts to harness data in ways that will enable present and future historians to usefully access, interpret, and curate the masses of born-digital primary sources that document our recent past. Our main goal is the development of a project website that allows the keyword-based searching of the Canadian World Wide Web from 1996 onward, drawing on multiple web scrapes, as well as specific visualizations.
“Web Archives for Longitudinal Knowledge” leverages Compute Canada computing power and cloud storage to facilitate researcher engagement with the web archive collections being built by Canadian universities in partnership with the Internet Archive and their Archive-It subscription service.
Q: What advice would you give to someone considering [Wayne’s] SLIS as their library school?
I’d definitely say you get out of it what you put into it. Make connections, network, and do what you’re passionate about.