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Madame la chancelier, monsieur le recteur, academic colleagues, graduates and families, I accept this great honour with gratitude and a heartfelt thank you to the University of Ottawa.
I am also very proud to acknowledge my own family members who are here today: my husband Mark, my daughter Milena and my son Louis-Martin. All three of them are graduates of the University of Ottawa. Which makes me the odd person out! So I am very pleased that this honour today brings me into the U of O fold.
I feel very privileged, not only for receiving this marvellous personal recognition of accomplishment, but equally in recognizing all the graduates today in celebrating their great academic achievements. And so I offer a “Splendidly well done!” to all of you. This is one of but many milestones you will experience in your lives. But it is a key one - so I encourage you to rest on your laurels – but only for a few hours or so!
Because I am the University Librarian of the University of British Columbia and the President-elect of IFLA, I hope you won’t mind me letting my librarian pride show a little when I offer special acknowledgement to the first graduating class of the Master of Information Studiesprogram. I am delighted that the University of Ottawa has embarked on this specialized area of academic endeavour. It will take on increasing relevance as a specialized field of study as libraries of the 21st century embrace an ever more important role—not only as repositories of information, but as leaders in the democratization of information access in a rapidly evolving knowledge society.
Incidentally, in that regard, let me also offer my congratulations to the University for hosting the International Conference on Digital Libraries in a few days’ time. I can tell you that the digital library is a constant source of dialogue the world over for those of us in the information business. I literally just got back from Monza, Italy, where I participated in a three day UNESCO conference where the topic of the Digital Library was the central focus.
It is now abundantly clear that communication technologies will continue to develop at an increasing pace. Institutions such as libraries are in a unique position to respond—by meeting user needs and expectations to information access and by improving information literacy. That is why at IFLA I have chosen as my presidential theme that libraries are a critical and central force for positive change in the knowledge economy.
But embedded in that theme is the continuing commitment of librarians all around the globe to hold firm to their values, to provide a path to equitable access to information, freedom of expression, service to all irrespective of background or beliefs, and collaboration. I know all of you, to get where you are today, have made the library a central focus of your studies, whether physically or virtually, and how important that human connection with librarians became over the years.
All in all, it is an exciting time for universities and libraries—as well as all of you—as we collectively operate in a world where information increasingly has no borders. I am particularly passionate about encouraging international partnerships and ensuring, among other things, access to the world’s information. Just imagine, as we work on digitizing our own cultural heritage collections, we can share those with the whole world.
Now of course a borderless information world has profound consequences on all aspects of information creation and dissemination. Not to mention major public policy and political impacts that continue to reverberate around the world. This same borderless world has significant implications for all of you.
The historian and diplomat Joseph Nye has talked about this in terms of an information power shift away from institutions to individuals. Nowhere has the information power shift been made more evident than by the recent events in the Middle East and North Africa, where a potent combination of youth and social networking was able to bypass governments’ ability to control the information agenda.
I mention this only to emphasize the fact that, as individuals, you now have more potential power to bring about change to your world than any other generation in history.
So even though one aspect of your studies is finished, you are now on a life-long course of learning, made infinitely easier by the instant access you have to knowledge, simply by walking through the doors of your nearest library, or through your computer screen or mobile device.
As graduates of the arts and humanities, you are also uniquely well placed to make sense of a world where information overload is the order of the day. You are equally well positioned to take on any number of career paths because—perhaps unlike few other academic disciplines—your choices will be almost limitless. I suspect that for many of you, you will have not one but two or three distinct careers over your lifetimes. That is a very exciting prospect that I know you will take full advantage of.
When all is said and done, the great challenge in life is not finding a career to embark on. Rather it is finding the path to a career—or careers—that we feel passionate about. Finding your passion, and acting on it, will be your ticket to a very rewarding life. With the world of information now literally at your fingertips, your options for finding that path are almost limitless.
I wish you a wonderful journey.
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