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Graham Lavender

Introducing Graham Lavender: message from the OCULA President

By Graham Lavender

Photo by Aleksandr Eremin on Unsplash

Hello, everyone! It’s officially summer, and I hope you have the opportunity to relax a little and recharge from what was surely another challenging year. My name is Graham, and I’m your 2023 OCULA President.

As a Project Officer at CARL, the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, I work with folks from university and government libraries across the country on a wide variety of collaborative projects. Each week, along with my colleagues, I curate the latest news relevant to academic libraries for our weekly newsletter, the E-lert. If you haven’t already received it, I highly recommend you go to the CARL website and sign up in the bottom right corner of the page. I’m also responsible for supporting the Advancing Teaching and Learning Committee, which is a brand-new committee I’m very excited about.

However, when I made the transition from President-Elect to President at the beginning of this year, I wasn’t yet in my role at CARL. In fact, I didn’t have a job at all. Last summer, I left my position of over seven years as an academic health librarian at the Michener Institute and moved with my family from Toronto to Québec. My wife, Amanda Halfpenny, a fellow librarian, had landed an amazing opportunity as Manager for two branches of the Saint-Jérôme Public Library. I spent most of the fall taking full-time French classes while keeping an eye out for job postings, but by the time Super Conference rolled around, I was still out of work.

As you know (or could have guessed), OCULA primarily serves the community of folks who work in academic libraries in Ontario. At the time of becoming OCULA President, not only did I not work in an academic library, but I was not even in the relevant province! To be clear, this did not affect my commitment to my work with OLA, but I felt like a bit of a fraud. I hesitantly discussed the situation with my colleagues on OCULA Council, as well as with OLA leadership. Would an unemployed, out-of-province individual be allowed to serve as President? Could someone realistically serve a community from the outside? Would the Council and the OCULA membership at large support it? Fortunately, the answer to these questions was “yes.” I’m grateful to the community for all the support you’ve shown me.

I tell you this story partly to introduce myself but also to encourage you to take on new challenges even when you feel uncertain about what your situation will look like in six months or a year. Positions on divisional councils at OLA are typically a commitment of three years, regardless of whether you’re stepping into a President-Elect or Councillor-at-Large role, and making that kind of commitment can feel overwhelming. You may be working in a contract position, or you may be planning a job change in the near future, but I want to encourage you to volunteer for association work even if your current job ends before the end of your volunteer commitment. And if you’re still unsure, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask. I’m always happy to have a conversation about OCULA, or about OLA in general.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be working with such a great team on OCULA Council this year. I’ll discuss further in a future article the important projects we’re working on, but for now, I’ll just tell you that better engagement with our members is my priority for the year. So if you have any feedback on how we’re doing, or any ideas for what we could be doing better, please email me at Once again, I wish you all the best for the summer, and I hope you’ll be in touch.

Graham Lavender is a Project Officer at CARL, the Canadian Association of Research Libraries. and President of OCULA, 2023. You can reach him at

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