York Libraries prototypes curricular offerings for Markham Campus

person holding poster board with the word innovation and related sketches

By Elaine Smith 

With the opening of York University’s Markham Campus less than a year away, the team at York University Libraries is busy bringing to life carefully crafted plans for this hub of innovation. The preparation includes being attuned to the needs of students and faculty, who will be seeking assistance and embarking on experiential learning opportunities. 

“We have been involved since the early days, connecting the common threads on this innovation-oriented campus and collaborating with the teaching faculty,” said Kris Joseph, director of digital scholarship infrastructure for York University Libraries. Those common threads include building the framework to support digital literacy and designing experiential learning opportunities in the library, which requires having the infrastructure and the programs to support them.  

“We are partnering with faculty early to co-design assignments and learning objectives, and to ensure that we have the resources, equipment and tools that students will need to successfully complete their assignments,” said Joseph. “It’s essential that we design assignments so that students can think critically about the technology they are using. We’re prepared to help students achieve a broad and nuanced understanding. In our planning, we also consider the kinds of accommodations that may be needed by students to ensure that our tools and resources are as accessible as possible to all.”  

A large portion of the library space at Markham will be flexible learning space, but there will also be a gaming, extended reality (XR) and data visualization space, media editing suites and a makerspace, building upon the offerings of the Media Creation Lab on the Keele Campus. The spaces allow opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, something that appeals to faculty members like Andrew Sarta

Sarta, an assistant professor of strategy in the School of Administrative Studies, is an expert in organizational adaptation and behavioural strategy within environments undergoing social or technological change, who will be teaching a course about technological creativity and innovation at the Markham Campus. He is one of the future Markham professors who is testing his course design at the Keele Campus to ensure the curriculum will work well. He toured the existing Media Creation Lab spaces at the Scott Library to get a better feel for how to integrate the library facilities and experience into the course. 

York University Libraries has hired a new librarian to oversee the Markham Campus library, and he’ll have the coming year to prepare. Ted Belke joined York University from the Toronto Public Library (TPL) system, where he worked as senior service specialist, innovation.  

“Ted was instrumental in the creation of the TPL Digital Innovation Hubs, so we’re fortunate to have a librarian with experience in setting up leading-edge digital spaces,” said Joseph. “TPL is also a leader in community partnerships, so he’ll bring a lot of that knowledge to the table.” 

Another new addition to the York University Libraries faculty is an experiential education (EE) librarian, Jenna Stidwill, PhD, who has experience with developing experiential education and using innovative and cutting-edge technologies. She will support library-based EE across all campuses, developing a program to ensure students have EE placements across the various York libraries. Many of the Markham courses will be tied to industry partners, and she and Belke will also further the library’s role in supporting industry-sponsored placements.  

“The libraries are at the heart of research and knowledge production at York,” said Joseph. “We help people think critically about information and different forms of media so they can determine what is valuable and how to synthesize it. This is important no matter how many types of technology are involved.”