Michael Ridley: Professional Librarian

By Jessica Fried

Michael's hometown: Guelph, Ontario

Mature PhD student thrives in research program with 40 years of previous work experience.


At the age of 65, Michael Ridley did the unexpected. While most people his age would be gearing up for retirement or planning their dream vacation, Michael decided to go back to school.

The ‘average’ student follows a common trajectory of completing their undergraduate degree, graduate degree, PhD and then career; but according to Michael he isn’t like most students.

At the end of a gratifying 40-year career in librarianship, Michael decided he needed to fulfill a personal goal of his. According to Michael, his PhD is really about “satisfying an intellectual itch to explore something and feel satisfied with the contribution to the literature and the field.”

A part of Michael always wanted to do his PhD, but the timing was just never right. “It was kind of eating away at me that I wanted to have the experience,” he said. “I wanted to delve into something on a deep level and hopefully contribute something as a result of the research.”

Michael researches in an area called “autonomous information behaviour.” The research consists of how artificial intelligence gathers and uses information, synthesizes it, then uses the data in decision making – and how people interact with the process.

"I'm probably the most atypical PhD student you're going to find."

After completing three years of research, Michael says it’s all about the journey and that he’s not done quite yet. He explained it isn’t just about learning but contributing a new perspective or knowledge – a new insight for a specific area, in his case artificial intelligence.

His research helps him “to see the world differently and [gain] a new experience in learning from other PhD students,” said Michael.

Fun Fact

Michael Ridley describes his PhD journey as a race against senility.

Although a part-time student and living in his hometown of Guelph, FIMS was the perfect place for Michael to pursue his passion of learning and school. “It’s definitely a community… it’s impressive, the nature of the program itself and who I get to interact with,” said Ridley. “I get to meet a lot of people who are uniformly interested, engaged, concerned and helpful.”

Michael sometimes wishes he would’ve started his PhD earlier in his life, but then decided that bringing his long career as a librarian to the table would set him apart from the rest of his classmates.

While Michael’s experience is unusual, he hopes it’s not unique. “I hope more people in my situation are encouraged to do the same thing [I did],” he said. “It’s very rewarding.”


Profiles in the Meet Our Students section are written by students in the Master of Media in Journalism & Communication program, who are enrolled in MMJC 9604 - Professional Writing.