Unsung Heroes of the McGill Library

As part of McGill’s Bicentennial Celebrations, faculties, central units, associations, and unions were asked to nominate Unsung Heroes in their department who have greatly helped shape the community. In addition to being featured on the University’s Unsung Heroes page, the Library’s Unsung Heroes will be added here as they’re announced. Their amazing work has a profound impact on the McGill community, past, present, and future!

Helene Koonjbeharrydass

Helene Koonjbeharrydass at a laptop looking at the camera.

1987 – Present

Helene leads and supervises a team of 5 Library Assistants- handling new acquisitions, new materials, cataloguing and processing, and database maintenance. She monitors the activities of the department ensuring that tight timelines are met.

She mentors staff and keeps documentation up to date, and is always patient with questions. She suggests and works on special projects and her contributions to CS managers meetings are always helpful.

Helene’s success is due in large part to leading by example, working hard and staying late if necessary to meet deadlines. She gives her best to everything she does. Her organizational skills are outstanding: every book truck and shelf is labelled so everyone knows what is on it (e.g, rare books for processing) and what needs to be done!

Her flexibility is greatly appreciated by her colleagues- if projects change due to unforeseen circumstances Helene is unfazed and applies herself to the variation on the theme, or a new theme altogether.

Her staff appreciates her patience and generosity and being thanked individually and collectively for their work, often not just verbally but also with her homemade treats for coffee breaks.

Cathy Martin

2008 – Present

Cathy Martin is a liaison librarian and the Coordinator of Music Library Access Services at McGill’s Marvin Duchow Music Library. Over the last 14 years, Cathy has provided research assistance, contributed to building and managing collections, and striven to enhance services to users from the Schulich School of Music and the larger McGill University community.

Cathy serves users with diverse and specialized information needs, and she has worked to forge stronger ties between the Library and its user communities at McGill and beyond. Cathy’s passion in bringing music information to life and her dedication to collaborative approaches have enabled her Music Library colleagues to better understand their users and respond with relevant measures.

Cathy gives back to the academic community in numerous ways. For 10 years, she was the primary editor of CAML Review, the official publication of the Canadian Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres. Her research interests include topics such as student workers in music libraries and music information literacy. Cathy served a 2-year term on the Library’s Search Committee and during this time her contributions on the committee were impactful. Cathy’s diligence and attention to detail are to be commended. She thoroughly evaluated dossiers and her engagement, feedback, and sense of judgement during both the interview process and the discussions that followed was always insightful. Her positive contributions to the recruitment of McGill librarians should not go unnoticed.

Lucy Frenette

Lucy Frenette smiling at the camera.

Years of service: 1980 – present

Lucy Frenette has served McGill University for over 40 years. As Administrative Coordinator at Macdonald Campus Library, Lucy’s proactive, diligent approach to addressing the library’s needs, both internally with staff and externally with users, inspires great confidence and trust. In 2011-2012, Lucy was tasked with being the Macdonald Campus Library liaison with ICS, Ancillary Services and Xerox around the UPrint initiative. Drawing on her attention to detail and reliability, Lucy spent countless hours communicating with all parties involved in order to keep updated on new developments and directives. She produced new Library protocols, found solutions to technical problems all while steadily assisting students, faculty and her colleagues with the transition. Lucy also reorganized work and equipment space configuration for maximum efficiency. She holds a high regard for the work environment, safety and sustainability. Constant improvements are paramount, and she handles all space-related projects with rigour – from beginning to end.

Over her years at McGill, Lucy has also served as the in-house expert – the person staff and faculty members turn to for advice in a multitude of areas. She is gifted at identifying the most relevant information and communicating it concisely to her colleagues. In addition, Lucy’s breadth of experience in logistics and event planning has ensured the smooth functioning of everyday activities alongside special events and meetings.

Jennifer Innes

Jennifer Innes smiling at the camera

Years of service: 1990 – present

Jennifer is an Unsung Hero because of the invisible, highly impactful work she does for the McGill research community, supporting the distribution of their open access research to a worldwide audience. As the repository manager for McGill’s institutional repository eScholarship, she is instrumental in making faculty and students’ work open access. She goes above and beyond to improve our repository service; for example, she initiated and led a project to digitize missing theses from eScholarship, thus making new works discoverable and increasing the outreach of McGill’s research.

Jennifer also manages the support of McGill Library’s scholarly journal publishing program. The Library hosts faculty and student-led journals such as the McGill Journal of Education. Jennifer leads journal editors in using the Library’s publishing system, answering technical questions and directing them to Library resources to further support their needs. Her outstanding behind-the-scenes work ensures these publications are successful and promotes the distribution of open access research.

Jennifer also creates an exceptionally positive and cheerful work environment. She seeks out opportunities to make the office friendly, welcoming, and because of her warm and approachable manner, acts an informal mentor and resource to all staff and students in our department.

Jennifer has been with McGill for over 27 years and she has always been eager to take on new challenges and help her fellow employees. Her amazing attitude and generosity of spirit alongside the hidden work she provides for two important Library services makes her an Unsung Hero at McGill.

Anaïs Salamon

Anaïs Salamon smiling.

Years of service: 2010 – present

As the Head Librarian at the Islamic Studies Library, Anaïs manages a diverse collection, including reference materials in ten languages and a small body of rare books and materials. She is the only librarian in the McGill Library system who manages a broad range of materials that cover the entirety of the Islamic cultural world. 

Anaïs leads numerous projects that foster outreach and innovation at the Library. These include providing access for and leading curation and digitization efforts of Islamic materials for scholars from around the world to discover including: Islamic Studies Library Internet Archives collection; Islamic Lithographs digital collection; Institute of Islamic Studies Tehran Branch Publications; Islamic Calligraphy digital exhibit; Ibrahim Muteferrika Incunabula and Theses from the Institute of Islamic Studies. Anaïs’ work on creating and editing bibliographic records for Islamic materials include rare items and manuscripts in Arabic and Persian. Her work provides priceless global access to unique research materials that have been hidden from view for too long.

Anaïs’ dedication to users goes beyond her daily work of delivering library and information services to ISL patrons. In 2011 she launched a film screening series at the Islamic Studies Library that included faculty-led/expert discussions on topics related to the Islamic world. She also astutely manages a growing, international online community of dedicated followers on the ISL’s blog and social media networks.

Anaïs’ service to the profession is unparalleled – she serves on eleven Library committees. Year after year, she plays a leadership role in the Library’s Centraide committee. This committee, made up of Library staff, is tasked with organizing fundraising events and initiatives for the duration of the campaign. Anais is an ambassador for the Library through and through. She organizes special events with ease and aplomb. Her generosity, positivity, grace and enthusiasm are infectious and inspire others to give back.

Susan Fabrizi

Susan Fabrizi smiling at the camera.

Years of service: 2000 – present

In addition to performing her job at an exemplary level, Susan Fabrizi demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to the McGill Library community as well as to the general public. As the front line of the Dean’s Office, she quickly discerns visitors’ individual needs and moves efficiently to provide key information, recommendations or direction.

Susan is a wonderful ambassador for the University as a whole, assisting faculty, students and staff and warmly greeting visitors and guests. “If she did not exist we would try to invent her,” said one of Susan’s former supervisors.

Susan is the kind of person who gives to give. She receives calls daily from offices throughout the University, students, and parents who look to her experience and know-how for information and advice. She is helpful, caring, resourceful, and happy to offer service no matter the task.

Susan always stays upbeat, looks for positive outcomes or compromises in difficult circumstances, and focuses on the good. A senior manager from the Office of the Dean of Libraries described Susan in this way: “Over the last 7 years I have known Susan to be a fantastic teammate, always cheerful and exceptional in everything she does. Her quick wit, attention to detail, and loyalty to the library have endeared her to her colleagues.”

Francisco Oliva

Years of service: 2007 – present

Francisco has been a vital part of McGill University for close to 14 years, first in his role as Financial Administrator and now as the Senior Finance, Planning & Resources Manager for the libraries.

Bringing his international work experience and financial acumen to the table, he not only leads this crucial team but also manages the $40M library budget. Francisco takes a keen interest in running finances for all the library branches on both campuses, and for taking part in library renovations and mergers.

In 2019, he was a recipient of the Principal’s Award for Administrative and Support Staff in the Team Category due to his leadership in the Osler Recovery Team after the McIntyre fire. Always keen to advance his skills, he is currently in the last phase of a doctoral (DBA) dissertation with the University of Liverpool in the UK, which focuses on the importance of investing in the professional development of university staff.

Christopher Lyons

Chris Lyons in front of a grandfather clock.

Years of service: 2004 – present

Chris Lyons has been an integral part of the Osler Library of the History of Medicine for over a decade — joining as a Liaison Librarian in 2004 before being appointed as the library’s head in 2012. In December 2015, after a unanimous vote of endorsement by the Board of Curators, Chris received the prestigious title of Osler Librarian. In 2017, Chris was appointed the Head of Rare Books and Special Collections.

Chris’ enthusiasm, knowledge and appreciation of the materials and their beauty is infectious. With his help, the Osler Library and Rare Books and Special Collections have grown to be much more than simple collections of rare books and material. Over the years, Chris has initiated some of the most innovative digitization projects, including a collaboration with the United States National Library of Medicine and the Chesney Archives of Johns Hopkins University, to digitize material by and about William Osler for the National Library of Medicine’s “Profiles in Science” project. Chris’ tireless outreach efforts are paying off — McGill’s unique and rare collections are now being viewed by thousands of people each month and are a treasure trove to scholars, practitioners and students. 

Chris has also been instrumental in developing and managing numerous outreach projects that bring the international scholarly community to Osler, and now Rare Books. From the Dr. Dimitrije Pivnicki Award in Neuro-History to the Osler Library Travel Grant program, and most recently the Michelle Larose-Osler Library Artist-in-Residence Programme, Chris made it his mission to promote McGill as a world-class centre for the study of primary materials. Osler once said, “We are here to add what we can to, not to get what we can from, life.” Chris Lyons has embodied this motto from day one, adding a breadth of passion and experience, and breathing life into McGill’s unique treasures. 

Steven Spodek

Steven Spodek in the Library

Years of service: 2000 – present

To say that Steven Spodek is an unsung hero of the McGill Library is an understatement. Working predominately behind-the-scenes, he inspires confidence and trust in library supporters, donors and alumni with his warmth, generosity, and thoughtfulness. Like a juggler with multiple balls in the air, Steven never fails to remember a donor’s birthday or to send them links to articles or event listings that he thinks might be of interest.

Over the years, he has been instrumental in securing support for the library, which goes beyond the raising of funds. He is a champion of the organization in the truest sense of the word. Steven has also been integral to the organizing of three annual lectures hosted by the Friends of the Library, from securing funding, to helping coordinate speakers. Currently, he is working tirelessly to help Fiat Lux, the Library’s vision for the future, become a reality.

Not one for the spotlight, Steven takes pride in building long-term relationships with donors and nurturing them over the years. In short, his work touches all aspects of the McGill Library – from enhancing unparalleled rare collections, to creating dynamic new spaces and funding unique services and lively events.

April Colosimo

Years of service: 2006 – present

Since 2006, April Colosimo has served library users with expertise, enthusiasm and excellence. Her skill and dedication have made her one of the most sought-after leaders within the library landscape. One colleague describes April as “a resourceful, innovative thinker [who] constantly contributes to initiatives for new library services and the improvement of existing ones.”

From performing expert patent searches for McGill’s Office of Sponsored Research to founding a best paper competition for “CCOM 206 Communication in Engineering” students to being an active member of the inter-departmental team that developed the first MOOC at McGill, April inspires users to uncover unbeaten paths to discovery. Students, scholars, fellow staff members, online learners – they all respond with excitement and wonder, as well as appreciation.

Faculty are similarly appreciative – past initiatives including April’s work in partnering to spearhead the E-Science Institute @McGill effort, which involved developing a strategic agenda for e-research support, specifically in the sciences. In addition, as co-coordinator of the MyResearch graduate seminar series, April’s vision for information literacy has helped thousands of students navigate the worlds of scholarly publishing, concept mapping, citation metrics and more.

Steve Blaise

Steve Blaise in front of bookshelves.

Years of service: 1980 – present

Steve Blaise is a true “Unsung Hero”. Steve has been serving the McGill community faithfully for almost 40 years in his role as Customer Service Coordinator in the McGill Humanities and Social Sciences Library. He started at McGill in 1980 as Shipping and Receiving Clerk, but his role has been much larger than the title implies. He is the first person in the library every day at 6:30 a.m., ensuring that the deliveries and workmen can gain access to the McLennan-Redpath complex, the busiest building on campus.

Steve quietly and efficiently provides facilities support. He is the “go-to” guy for all building issues, spots problems before they become big issues, manages the Canada Post, couriers and delivery personnel and ensures that material is picked up and delivered to exact rooms throughout the complex and the library system. He handles the day-to-day organization of all student and staff seating, ensuring that our students have a well-organized and pleasant environment in which to work. No job is too small or too large for him to tackle. Nothing is a problem. He is a gentleman and is truly dedicated to our staff and students. Without Steve in his role, quietly getting the job done, the Library would be a lesser place. 

Steve Blaise deserves to be recognized as one of McGill’s “Unsung Heroes”.

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