The Friends of the McGill Library wish to pay tribute to Sheila Goldbloom, a true changemaker, who had a deep and lasting impact on the Friends of the Library, McGill University, the community-at-large, and on all of those who were lucky enough to know her.
Originally from Brooklyn, Sheila received her undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke College. She moved to Montreal with her husband, Dr. Victor Goldbloom, in 1949; and earned her Masters of Social Work from the McGill School of Social Work, where she was a professor between 1964 and 1992. Sheila played a key role in developing many organizations, including Meals on Wheels and the YMCA Foundation, and provided leadership to many others, including Red Feather, Vanier College, Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom, l’Abri en Ville, and the Queen Elizabeth Health Complex.
In her autobiography, Opening Doors, published shortly before her 94th birthday, she said “I feel I’ve been a particularly fortunate person, and one of the themes of my book is that I’ve always felt I had a responsibility to give back because of all that was given to me, and I’ve tried my best to do so”.
This concept of giving back was ever-present throughout Sheila’s involvement with the Friends. She was a warm and supportive member of the Board from the 1990’s until today. It was she who first identified the need for a volunteer president of the Board, the first to fill that important role, advocated continuously for the Library, and even established, with the help of the late John Gomery, its first by-laws. An important part of her advocacy was caring for the McGill Library’s rare and special collections. As she was quoted as saying “It’s truly important for the treasures of the past, that have been entrusted to us, to remain with us for future generations of scholars and students.” This dedication resulted in the Preserve a Book programme, which raised funds to help restore many of the Library’s gems, and made them accessible to generations of McGill students, faculty members, and researchers.
As Frances Groen, Trenholme Director of Libraries Emeritus and Friends of the Library board member recently noted: “Along with the many causes that Sheila supported so actively, she found time for the Library. I like to think that it was her belief in the importance of the book as a vehicle for transmitting knowledge and equality… I am privileged to have known Sheila. She wanted to make the world a better place. She succeeded.”
Our condolences go out to Sheila Goldbloom’s family and friends. Her impact was immense. She truly opened doors for so many, and will be truly missed.