• OISE

Borrowing research knowledge from your personal librarian

*This post was written by Viel Tolentino, a MEd student studying Adult Education & Community Development.

“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” ― Neil Gaiman


There’s an app for that. Just Google it. Did you look on Wikipedia already?


Here are some of the common suggestions when you ask about something—people always tend to lead you towards the internet. These are probably some of things you do on a regular basis and it’s something that I do on the daily. Our reliance on technology doesn’t always allow us to get the right answers though. In fact, if you were to think about when our parents or grandparents were writing their university papers, they probably had to manually look things up in the library system or look something up alphabetically in an encyclopedia. Nowadays, accessing information is quite simple…all you need to do is just Google it.


So, what do you do when your professors ask you for a credible source? What if they ask you about empirical evidence for your theses and not just giving away facts? Where do you need to go to get this help?


Have no fear—Desmond is here! Desmond is part of OISE’s library and not only that, he’s also my personal librarian. Sounds pretty special, right?  But don’t worry, it’s not just for me! This program is available to you too, once you become an OISE student.

Desmond Wong, OISE Librarian

The University of Toronto piloted the Personal Librarian Program (PLP) 6 years ago. All the universities’ colleges have the ability to voluntarily run this program within their libraries, depending on the resources available to them. In fact, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has made the Personal Librarian Program available to all their first year students.

OISE signed up for the PLP 4 years ago to help support grad students. This program is only available to first year grad students, who may be new to the area of research and writing papers, but you can certainly keep in touch with them afterwards. OISE’s librarians all come from different backgrounds —Desmond’s primary research is in both Social Justice Education and Indigenous Studies. The PLP usually matches you with a specific librarian who can help you in a general field of study. They try to check in with you at certain points in the year, such as the beginning of the year and when it usually starts to get busy with assignments. You can basically book an appointment with them or talk to them via email so that they can help you with your research, citations, creating bibliographies, the Dos and Don’ts of Wikipedia and Google Scholar, as well as knowing how to access the various databases found on our library system.


Believe it or not, UofT belongs to the top 10 largest library systems in North America, while OISE is the largest Education Library! Just think about your access to all these resources—the books, digital media, databases, journals, curricula—it’s boundless! And the best thing is that your Personal Librarian can help you find the resources that are tailored to your research interests!


Still not convinced about the wonders of University of Toronto libraries? Here are some interesting facts about the libraries you may not know about:

1. UofT has 44 libraries in total and Robarts, our main library, houses about 8, including the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library.

2. Bored? Maybe rent out a board game or an old PlayStation console and some old-school video games from Media Commons found in the Robarts Library and play it during your free time!

3. Our library system isn’t just home to books and journals—they offer digital archives, old films, DVDs, and CDs!

4. The UofT Library is home to the Internet Archive Canada Headquarters—an amazing collection of old websites, videos, which is in itself, like a digital library!

5. You can borrow anything from all the libraries—except teaching material (only for Master of Teaching Students) and some items from other colleges that might be restricted, but in general, your access is unlimited.

Robarts Library

Overall, I think that your time at OISE and at UofT in general is valuable—especially in terms of your research goals and your research interests! Only looking to Google Scholar or Wikipedia, discredits the hard work of our librarians in collecting and researching resources for all the students! I would highly recommend you pop by and say hello once you are at OISE! Getting to know your librarian not only enhances your OISE experience, but it also gives you access to things you may not know about if you didn’t ask. You can also meet the OISE librarians in your classes, when they hold research workshops that your professor organizes!


My advice: Don’t take your library for granted—they are so knowledgeable in what they do and are great resources to help you cultivate those researching skills. So, get to know your librarians and make the library your go-to place for all your research needs!


*Special Thanks* to Desmond from OISE’s library for taking the time out of his busy schedule to enlighten me about UofT’s extensive library system and services, as well as allowing me to learn about the Personal Librarian Program!