Celebrating a new beginning

Recent renovations have successfully transformed the Steacie Science and Engineering Library into a modern, state-of-the-art research and learning environment with a traditional and scholarly ambience.

Left: The newly renovated space offers an airy, spacious environment for research and learning

“Excellent libraries are at the heart of excellent universities,” said Sheila Embleton, vice-president academic, at a recent event held to celebrate the Steacie Science and Engineering Library’s new beginning. “Libraries are no longer just repositories for the written word, they have become an entryway into the world of learning and exploration.”

“Three years ago, we began to develop a vision for renovating the Steacie Science and Engineering Library,” said Cynthia Archer, University librarian. “It used to be overflowing with stacks of books, and while we love books, we wanted to create an environment for people.” The journal stacks have now been moved to the lower level of the library, which has opened up the space and uncovered the windows on the main floor to make way for natural light.

Right: From left to right, Paul Marcus, Abu and Shilu Kibria, Cynthia Archer and Hasanat Syed

Over 150 guests gathered on Nov. 26 to officially commemorate the Steacie Science and Engineering Library’s new appearance. Since the long-awaited renovations were realized this past summer, the library has been filled to capacity. In celebration of these much-needed improvements, members of the York community assembled in the library to mark the occasion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a chemistry demonstration, a martial arts presentation and a flute performance.

The efforts in planning the essential renovations were consciously directed at supporting student learning. Those involved saw the importance of providing a comfortable and inviting environment, explained Embleton. “We recognize that a great deal of learning takes place outside of the classroom and that students learn in a variety of different ways.”

To accommodate the various needs of students, the renovations were planned to encompass group study rooms for students to work on collaborative projects and quiet corners with comfortable chairs for individual studying. Students and faculty can browse print collections, connect to the Internet using laptops or library computers, receive library assistance, work on group assignments or meet with librarians on theses and research projects.

“The renovations have really made the Science and Engineering library an environment that is conducive to learning, ” said Chris Godbut, a fourth-year chemistry student. “The wireless Internet access available throughout the library has been a great addition and the natural light has created a much more welcoming atmosphere. All of the other students I’ve spoken with are also very pleased with the new facility.”

“Finding the resources to provide libraries with the amount of support they need is key, ” said Paul Marcus, president and CEO of the York University Foundation. “That makes it so much more gratifying when individuals come forward and direct their support to the libraries.”

Left: Staff from the Steacie Science and Engineering Library and those involved with making the renovations happen watch the ribbon-cutting ceremony

The event gave the University an opportunity to formally thank a number of generous benefactors who helped make the library renovations possible. Hasanat Syed and Abu and Shilu Kibria focused their support on two group study rooms. In recognition of their gifts, plaques inscribed with their names were installed in the rooms dedicated in their honour.

“There was clearly a need for these rooms, because they are now booked all the time,” said Marcus. “To our donors, I hope you feel very proud of what you’ve helped us accomplish.”

“Students need a good environment to learn in,” said Hasanat Syad, who proudly spoke to the crowd about his reasons for giving. “I saw how this library looked before and I know that the natural light and additional work space has enhanced the learning environment for students.”

Abu and Shilu Kibria immigrated to Canada from Bangladesh over 30 years ago. “We came to Canada for a better life and we are blessed to have received one,” said Abu Kibria. The Kibrias both studied science in Bangladesh and feel particularly proud to be supporting a science facility at York. “We gained a great deal by coming to this country and feel that it is our duty to give back,” said Shilu Kibria.

According to Chris Mesquida, a reference assistant who has been working in Steacie for 23 years, the renovations have also had a tremendous impact on the library staff. “Our work environment has improved a great deal since the renovations,” he said. “Now we have a proper reference desk with a clear view of the circulation desk. The natural light and new computers also make it a much more pleasant atmosphere to work in.”

“The Steacie Science and Engineering Library is now a warm welcoming place,” said Leila Fernandez, head of the library. “We waited a long time for these renovations and they are truly something to celebrate.”

Also in attendance was Brian Wilks, former head of the Steacie Science and Engineering Library who launched his new book, Browsing Science Research at the Federal Level in Canada at the event.

This article was submitted by Allison Berg, communications officer with the York University Foundation.