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!

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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