April 19, 2018

Ryan Deschamps | Movers & Shakers 2011 – Community Buliders

Library Journal March 15, 2011: Ryan Deschamps , Mover & Shaker

The Knitty-Gritty

Say you’re an e-learning manager at a public library system who wants to get the word out to the community that the system is getting a new branch. What do you do? Add a landing page to the library’s website? Tweet about it a lot?

How about knit?

In 2010, Ryan Deschamps, e-learning manager at Nova Scotia’s Halifax Public Libraries (HPL) system, did just that. An avid knitter, he hosted a series of “knit-a-thons” at the 14-branch library and at pubs around the region. The resulting patches—”a yarn bomb”—were stitched together by Deschamps and wrapped around a tree on the site of the new building.

“It became known as the ‘love tree’ as people attached little love notes, aphorisms, and comments to it,” Deschamps says.

This may seem like an unusual approach for the normally high-tech Deschamps, but not so. “Ryan does not automatically try to use new technologies to solve problems,” says Amy Buckland, e-scholarship, e-publishing, and digitization coordinator for Montreal’s McGill University Library.

“Sometimes he uses very old technologies, like a knitting group—of men—in a pub.”

Still, tech does inform Deschamps’s purview. At HPL for more than five years, he is responsible for the system’s website development and policy for public access to technology. He brought wireless services to HPL in 2005, assistive technology in 2006, and social media training for staff in 2007. He’s also involved in the IT planning for two new branches.

Winner of Dalhousie’s Louis Vagiano medal for “combining the capacity for blending originality with practical thinking…to seek solutions…outside the mainstream,” Deschamps notes on his blog, “I like to think that describes me—practical, yet innovative; thinking outside the box, so that the stuff inside the box gets better.”

Deschamps takes his innovations beyond the library and forges connections between the library and its community. In January 2010, he organized PodCampHFX, a user-generated conference in Halifax that focused on blogging, podcasting, and social media. It drew in 170 people who tweeted dispatches from the get-together so enthusiastically that the hashtag for the event was a trending topic on Twitter that day.

“Having a librarian organize PodCampHFX showed the community that librarians are active in many sectors, including the social media scene,” says Buckland, who follows Deschamps’s The Other Librarian blog “because he is so forward thinking.”

“PodCamp Halifax inspired me to see libraries in a new light,” Deschamps says. “The role of the library here is not only to connect people but to shine a huge floodlight on how great they are when working together.”


Ryan Deschamps, Halifax Public Libraries, NS

CURRENT POSITION e-Learning Manager

DEGREE MPA, MLIS, Dalhousie University, 2005

HONOR Dalhousie’s Louis Vagiano Medal

FOLLOW @ryandeschamps; otherlibrarian.wordpress.com