Science librarian retires after a long and distinguished career




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Colleagues, family and friends gathered on Monday, Dec. 9 to celebrate the career of Leila Fernandez, science librarian at the Steacie Science and Engineering Library on the Keele campus.

Fernandez joined the University in 1988 as a reference/interlibrary loans assistant in Steacie Science Library (as it was then known).  At that point she had an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a master’s of science degree in biology, both from the University of Bombay.  Over the next five years, with encouragement and support from Brian Wilks, the head librarian of Steacie Library at the time, Fernandez pursued a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Toronto, completing it in 1993.  In spring of 1998, Fernandez took on the position of data librarian in Steacie Science Library.  Shortly thereafter, she accepted the role of head librarian, Steacie Science & Engineering Library, a position she held from 2005 through to 2009.

Leila Fernandez
Leila Fernandez

“Leila’s understanding of science and her comprehensive research knowledge made our research so much easier and benefited our graduate and undergraduate students greatly,” said Professor Sylvie Morin, associate dean faculty, Faculty of Science and the library representative for the Department of Chemistry, from 1999 to 2003. “Her countless contributions in the co-curricular and curricular realm are invaluable and speak of her skill set and great assets. Thank you from all of us!”

In a relatively short time,  Fernandez made a difference in a variety of areas. Over the years she worked with numerous faculty members in chemistry, physics and space and atmospheric sciences and helped countless numbers of graduate and undergraduate students.  Faculty members said they have greatly valued her knowledge and capability to address their needs in a professional and efficient way. This is in great part due to her scientific knowledge and her strong understanding of the research process.

Cynthia Archer with Leila Fernandez
University Librarian Cynthia Archer with Leila Fernandez

In addition, Fernandez assisted the members of York’s science community in their transition from print to digital media and the virtual library by providing information and training sessions and by dealing efficiently with issues that arose in the process. She always replied to colleagues request in a very efficient matter and worked extremely hard setting up co-curricular and curricular materials for colleagues. In many instances, she delivered prepared materials herself and followed up with hands-on learning in Steacie Library. She assisted the York University community with a large number of academic program reviews, accreditation and the establishment of new programs and courses.

Leila Fernandez with colleagues past and present
Leila Fernandez with colleagues past and present

“Leila has been very efficient over the years at keeping us informed regarding negotiations with periodical publishers. She has been quick at responding to suggestions for acquisitions and her efforts have helped expand access to research tools such as unlimited access to Scifinder, Reaxys and Scopus,” said Arturo Orellana, library representative for the Department of Chemistry. “Such tools are integrated into the 3rd year laboratory courses (CHEM 3000 and 3001) and have therefore had a positive impact on the undergraduate Chemistry curriculum.”

It was during her term as head of the Steacie Science & Engineering Library that the facility underwent major renovations. A space that had housed the collection of periodicals and books was transformed into an open, vibrant space for students for open learning and direct access to experts.  Fernandez also made important contributions to her profession, most notably, by bringing the Open Access movement to York.  As an early scholar of open access culture, she published several papers in this area and delivered many presentations both to colleagues at York and beyond.

“Leila has assisted us over the years with countless program reviews and accreditation exercises that required detailed reports on the library holdings and the resources that support these various programs. She has always performed these rather tedious tasks with great professionalism and great care,” said Pierre Potvin, undergraduate program director, Department of Chemistry.

Fernandez will retire at the end of the fall academic term.