A Q&A with Michael Ridley

With news of his upcoming retirement, interviewing Michael Ridley was a must. As a longtime member of the University of Guelph community and contributor many advancements on campus, Ridley has a lot to share with folks. Continue reading to learn a bit more about Ridley’s experience here and some words of wisdom for those who call U of G home in some capacity. 

When did you first arrive at U of G?

May 1972. To start an undergraduate degree. In those days you could leave high school early with a U of G acceptance. Summer semesters at Guelph are the best. And I hated high school.

Tell us a bit about your time here...

I suppose I've had many roles at Guelph: student, alumnus, librarian, administrator, instructor, donor. And I've had many jobs here: Science Librarian, Cataloguing Librarian, Systems Librarian, Chief Librarian, CIO. The great thing about longevity is perspective. I've seen U of G grow from a modest university with big ambitions to a comprehensive university with an international reputation. To be a small part of that was a wonderful privilege. 

What is the most memorable moment of your time at U of G?

Yikes. Just one? Well, two to begin with. Both our daughters graduated from Guelph and I had the very special honour of hooding them at their convocation. Another memorable (!) moment is when working as a Systems Librarian deleted the entire library databasewith no backup. Why did I keep my job? Good question. 

In relation to work, what are you most proud of? Why?

In roles like Chief Librarian and CIO you tend to be involved in the long term. Not a lot of instant gratification. While I'm certainly proud of all the services and resources we were able to put in place and sustain, I think what I'm most gratified about is my role in creating opportunities for students and staff to learn, develop, and contribute. That sort of stuff doesn't show up in annual reports or KPIs, but it does show up in people's lives.

Tell us a bit about your work moving forward—what are you studying? Why is it a passion of yours?

I'm enrolled in a PhD program at the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University. My interests are around artificial intelligence (AI) and information behaviour. While the hype about AI is overwhelming, I do believe it is one of the most profound developments in libraries and information science. As for the PhD, I call it a race against senility.

What is some advice you'd like to give people who work here? 

I know it sounds cliché, but Guelph truly is a special place. The strong sense of community that pervades all things at U of G is unusual for a university. We walk the talk. So, my advice is to nurture and sustain that community spirit. Do the work, sometimes hard work, that makes it so. It turns out to be wonderfully rewarding.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Since announcing my retirement (what a strange word to say!), I've been thanking people. As you think back on your time in a job it is quite apparent that so many people were so important to your success and satisfaction. So, with deep sincerity, thank you.