Special exhibit celebrates York’s contribution to technological breakthrough

MCM Model 70 Microcomputer designed and built in Canada from 1972-74 (Kingston and Toronto), AC and/or battery power, two tape cassettes for programs and storage, plasma display screen (credit: Nash Gordon/Wikimedia Commons)

A new exhibit at York University’s Steacie Science and Engineering Library celebrates the history of technology and highlights York’s contributions to a milestone innovation more than 50 years ago.

Zbigniew Stachniak
Zbigniew Stachniak

On Sept. 25, 1973, members of the Canadian press gathered at the Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto to witness what would become one of the most significant events in the history of computing in Canada. In the hotel, a Toronto-based electronics company, Micro Computer Machines (MCM), unveiled its MCM/70 computer – noted as the world’s first personal computer, and one of the first microcomputers.

“What MCM introduced that day was not only its portable personal computer but also a new computing paradigm that challenged the domination of massive and expensive mainframe computers requiring the kind of space and financial resources that could only be mustered by large corporations,” says Zbigniew Stachniak, an associate professor at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering and expert on computer history. “Small PCs, claimed MCM, would redefine the relationship between society and computers and make widespread, personal information processing a reality.”

The development of this groundbreaking technology is also traced back to York, with two former employees of the York University Computing Centre (located in the Steacie Science and Engineering Library) among the key software engineers working on the MCM/70 project. Gord Ramer and Dom Genner worked at York University before joining MCM. While at York, they developed the York APL programming language and that proved critical for the writing of software for the MCM/70 computer.

The Sept. 25, 1973 announcement of the MCM/70 in Toronto's Royal York Hotel (from left: Mers Kutt, Gordon Ramer, Edward (Ted) Edwards and Reg Rea with a prototype of the MCM/70. (Photo by Parkway Production courtesy of York University Computer Museum)
The Sept. 25, 1973 announcement of the MCM/70 in Toronto’s Royal York Hotel (from left: Mers Kutt, Gordon Ramer, Edward (Ted) Edwards and Reg Rea with a prototype of the MCM/70. (Photo by Parkway Production courtesy of York University Computer Museum.)

The MCM/70 @ 50 exhibit, organized by the York University Computer Museum and York University Libraries, celebrates the momentous appearance of the MCM/70 computer – a technological marvel that offered an early glimpse of a new digital reality. It pays tribute to the makers of the MCM/70 for their contributions to personal computing.

Curated by Stachniak – who authored a book titled Inventing the PC: The MCM/70 Story – the exhibit features a complete line of MCM computers from the York University Computer Museum’s MCM collection, including an MCM/70 computer and its first prototype. Among the exhibited images are those taken during the unveiling of the computer in Toronto, and those depicting former MCM engineers reunited with the MCM/70 computer, reflecting on the creativity, enthusiasm and dedication it took to realize their personal computer concept and deliver their creation into the new world of personal computing.

The exhibit opens on Tuesday, Nov. 14 with a special event at 4 p.m. in the Steacie Science and Engineering Library at York University’s Keele Campus. To learn more about the MCM70 @ 50 exhibit, visit the online catalog here.

York joins network of ‘open rangers’ to advance open educational resources

York University is among a cohort of educational institutions in the province that will champion the use of open educational resources (OER) through a program led by eCampusOntario.

Charlotte de Araujo, assistant professor, Faculty of Science, and Stephanie Quail, acting director of the Libraries’ Open Scholarship Department, were accepted into eCampusOntario’s Open Educational Resources Ranger (OER Ranger) program, an initiative designed to create and develop a network of OER advocates throughout Ontario’s post-secondary institutions.

Charlotte de Araujo
Charlotte de Araujo
Stephanie Quail
Stephanie Quail

A non-profit organization, eCampusOntario supports technology-enabled teaching, learning and innovation at Ontario’s publicly funded universities, colleges and Indigenous institutes. 

According to eCampusOntario, the OER Rangers will “form a network of educators and practitioners interested in supporting the advancement of open education within their institution and are individuals who are passionate about education as a public good, and who promote OER as a sustainable approach to education.” There will be a total of 84 rangers from 46 Ontario institutions participating in this program.

York University’s engagement with OER continues to expand and grow, helping faculty advance United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education. OER are openly licensed, freely available educational materials that can be used, accessed, adapted and redistributed with no (or limited) restrictions.

“With each semester, students have shared that purchasing textbooks is sometimes beyond their budget,” says de Araujo. “Being able to provide OERs, whether it is a chapter from a textbook or a worksheet to review information, can be a potential solution to help alleviate cost challenges and also enable students to freely review and revisit course material.”

To help support York University’s engagement with OER, de Araujo and Quail will host a live Zoom event, Discovering Open Education at York University, on Thursday, Nov. 23 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. During this event, attendees will learn about the following topics:

  • what are open educational resources;
  • open licensing basics;
  • accessibility considerations and OER; and
  • learning more about H5P and Pressbooks – common OER creation tools.

Faculty who are interested in using, adapting or creating OER are encouraged to attend this webinar, and can register now.

Additionally, faculty who would like to learn about OER in more depth can sign up for the Libraries’ fully asynchronous four-week OER mini-course. This course was initially developed in 2020 for Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) project leads, to help support them in turning a component of their AIF into an OER. Last fall, this course was opened up to all interested faculty and staff at York University.

“I highly recommend taking the OER mini-course because it helps instructors develop the skills they need to find existing high-quality OER. Incorporating OER into your courses helps provide your students with access to course learning materials from the first day of classes,” says Quail.

The online OER mini-course will begin on Monday, Nov. 20 and will wrap up on Monday, Dec.18. The four-module mini-course covers valuable topics such as:

  • OER 101: What is OER? Including examples of OER and how they benefit students and faculty.
  • Copyright and Creative Commons licenses: An exploration of the range of open licenses available to creators and how to choose a licence that makes the most sense for their project.
  • Finding and evaluating OER: How to find OER for your subject area and evaluate them.
  • Create or adapt pre-existing OER: Learn about OER project management techniques, accessibility considerations, and OER tools and platforms.

Quail will teach the Libraries’ OER mini-course this year. Register for the course now.

Libraries presents symposium as part of International Open Access Week

Scott Library Learning Commons on the Keele Campus

A unique symposium organized by York University Libraries (YUL) as part of International Open Access Week will bring together leaders in the fields of open educational resources (OER), archives and special collections.

Hilary Barlow
Hilary Barlow

York’s W.P. Scott Chair for Research in E-Librarianship, Hilary Barlow, will lead the online event on Thursday, Oct. 26 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. via Zoom. The event features two guest presenters – Danielle Manning, outreach officer at the Archives of Ontario, and Carrie Schwier, outreach and public services archivist at Indiana University – with a concluding presentation by Barlow on her current research. 

“This event brings together Archives, Special Collections and open education (OE) in a way that is rarely explored and under-documented,” says Barlow. “While much has been studied and written about making archives and special collections available online, connections to OE and OER are scant. This symposium bridges that connection.”

This year’s Open Access Week theme, “Community vs. Commercialization,” looks at advocating for unrestricted access to knowledge while prioritizing community needs over profit. Archives can play a key role in empowering communities by providing free and open access to a number of resources, which promotes inclusivity and can help democratize information. 

Archives and special collections in academic libraries are a valuable resource for faculty and students and often contain hidden gems such as university records, private papers, rare books, maps and other primary source material that support an array of academic fields.

By enabling these resources to be properly described and in some cases digitized, YUL, like other academic libraries, has been able to engage a broader audience in their use,” says Sarah Coysh, YUL’s associate dean, digital engagement and strategy. “YUL has been looking into how these resources can be accessed globally and has taken inspiration from the open education movement.”

“I began my research by asking if archives and special collections materials could be shared as open educational resources and wondering if anyone in the field was actually doing this,” says Barlow.

The OE movement, and OER specifically, contribute to advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4: Quality Education. By providing free, reusable and remixable digital resources, OE initiatives contribute to removing barriers to education, as they can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.

GLAM institutions (galleries, libraries, archives and museums), and archives and special collections organizations in particular, also contribute to advancing SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, notably the sub-goal 11.4, to “strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.”

Manning will present her work with the Archives of Ontario (AO) and share how her team is building community through GLAM-Wiki. Manning will share case studies on AO’s Wikimedia Commons uploads and how it has impacted community engagement. A second presentation, by Schwier, will examine concrete examples of implementation from an active primary source instruction program that serves over 30 academic departments, ranging from art to science. 

“These presentations by Danielle Manning and Carrie Schwier show that there are practitioners in the field using innovative OE methods to make their collections more accessible online,” says Barlow.

Barlow will conclude the event with a presentation from her research, “Open Archives: The Intersection Between Open Education, Archives, and Special Collections.” This includes the results of 22 case study interviews with archivists and librarians on the subject of open education, and details of an upcoming larger survey. Earlier in her term as W.P. Scott Chair in E-Librarianship, Barlow worked with other members of YUL’s Open Education Steering Committee to survey York faculty on their familiarity with and use of OER

Register for the symposium here: yorku.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_u-o8pw54TzuW7L7QNMhcTw.

Symposium imagines possibilities of Victorian Studies at York

Aristocratic dining table

The Victorian Studies Network at York (VSNY) is hosting its 15th annual symposium, titled “Imagining the Possibilities,” on Friday, Oct. 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in 305 Founders College on York University’s Keele Campus.

The event’s widely interdisciplinary program includes presentations from York-affiliated faculty members and graduate students, representing a range of units, from English and engineering to fashion, history and the York University Libraries.

The presentations will include the following:

  • “Fathers and Feelings: Sentiment, Family, and Jewish Futures in the Anglo-Jewish Novel” by Asa Brunet-Jailly (English, York);
  • “‘But what have you done for us lately?’: A Decade of Developing Victorian Collections at York University Libraries” by Michael Moir (University archivist, York);
  • “The Scarlet Thread: Crime, Fashion, and Forensic Identification in the Nineteenth Century” by Alison Matthews David (fashion, Toronto Metropolitan University);
  • “Tyros and Practical Men: The Evolution of John Bourne, CE” by Michael Roberts (history, York);
  • “‘Quenched in leaves’: The Poplar Experiments of Hopkins and Monet” by Lesley Higgins (English, York); and
  • “‘While Coopers Hill was wanted, Coopers Hill did its duty’: The Brief Existence of the Royal Indian Engineering College” by Richard Hornsey (engineering, York).

For 15 years, VSNY has been connecting researchers and enhancing connections among graduate students, postdocs and faculty. The network’s goal is to facilitate interdepartmental and interdisciplinary work, to enrich the personal and collective experience of research in the field and to showcase York as a centre for Victorian studies.

All community members are invited to attend. RSVP to Higgins at 19higgins55@gmail.com.

For more information or to view the full program, visit vsny.apps01.yorku.ca/?page_id=51.

Greek Canadian Archives grows, goes digital

Greek Canadian Studies York U
Reg Towers, “Ethnic Groups : Greeks” (image: York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC08803

The Hellenic Heritage Foundation Greek Canadian Archives at York University (HHF GCA) is celebrating a series of significant milestones as part of its ongoing mission to preserve and promote the rich history of Greek Canada.

Thanks to the commitment of donors, partners and the community, the HHF GCA physical collection has seen significant growth over the past year. Hundreds of donated Greek books have been catalogued into the Hellenic Heritage and Michael Vitopoulos Collections within Omni, York Libraries’ search tool. Louise Curtis and Katrina Cohen-Palacios have also worked together to complete the arrangement and description of the George Papadatos fonds, begun by Anna St.Onge, which offers critical insight into the history of Toronto’s Greek community from the late 1960s through to the early 1980s. In addition, The HHF GCA’s new archivist, Maria Paraschos, has begun processing a donation from John Sotos, which features materials describing the activities of several Greek Canadian and Canadian ethnocultural organizations active from the 1980s to the present. The accessioning of these materials by the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections ensures that the memories and artifacts remain safeguarded for future generations.

In response to the increasing need for accessibility, the HHF GCA has also amplified its digitization efforts, digitizing dozens of recordings by George Thaniel, the Chair of the University of Toronto’s Modern Greek Program from 1971 to 1991. These cassettes contain discussions, lectures and performances from prominent 20th-century Greek voices. They cover a range of topics, from poetry to prose and theatre. The archives team is also digitizing a significant photo collection created by Dimitrios Mantalas at his Danforth Avenue photo studio, and a loan of photographs and textual records from former member of Parliament John Cannis, documenting his early life and political career. In the coming year, the team will begin digitizing footage from over 1,000 U-matic video cassettes filmed by Basil Avramis, documenting decades of community events in Toronto, and a collection of mini DV tapes and DVDs of community events and interviews donated by Trifon Haitas. These initiatives will make more of the HHF GCA’s rich historical resources available to a global audience of students and researchers.

Another notable change is the new HHF GCA digital portal, which provides access to a treasure trove of oral history interviews from three research projects: “Greeks in Canada: A Digital Public History,” “Childhood Narratives of Greek Canadians from the 1940s” and “Film as Mediator: Cultivating a Cypriot Canadian Community Audiovisual Media Archive.” In the coming years, the archives team will add to the repository of interviews, complementing them with digitized records, photographs, newspapers and recordings, and making it easier than ever to research Greek Canadian history.

With the help of the Hellenic Heritage Foundation, York University and many donors, the HHF GCA is rewriting the narrative of Greek-Canadian history by telling more nuanced stories of the community’s past and highlighting the many triumphs, blemishes and contradictions within it.

To watch the HHF GCA’s Fall 2023 update video, visit youtube.com/watch?v=ABw9ifkaNtE.

For more information about the Hellenic Heritage Foundation Greek Canadian Archives at York University, follow along on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or X. To donate materials or explore the archive first-hand, contact Vasilis (Bill) Molos, director and research lead at the HHF GCA, at vmolos@yorku.ca.

Libraries makes accessing electronic articles quicker, easier

Libraries atrium

York University Libraries (YUL) has acquired a time-saving tool to connect users to electronic articles with one simple click to the verified version of record. 

This tool is called LibKey, and it interacts with Omni, YUL’s state-of-the-art library catalogue. Omni was launched early in 2020, with the goal of making it easier for all users to discover and access articles. LibKey works behind the scenes in Omni and is enabled at all times. 

How does LibKey work in the Omni catalogue? 
The Libraries subscribe to full-text journal content from many platforms, often with an article being available from five or more different providers. Sometimes having so many options can lead to confusion: Which platform is best? What will get users to content with the fewest clicks? Can users quickly snag the PDF? Is this link going to take users to a complicated website or even a dead end? LibKey answers all of these questions.

Here’s how: 

  • LibKey only highlights full-text options that are closely monitored to help avoid dead links; 
  • LibKey always prefers the version of record for articles but will also get users to a freely available manuscript when no version of record is immediately available; and 
  • LibKey provides convenient options, the most frequent being: 
    • Download PDF: downloads a PDF of the article to a computer; 
    • Read Online: links users to a web version of an article, which is more compatible with adaptive software and great for taking a quick look; and 
    • Manuscript PDF: if no version of record is available via LibKey, links users to the submitted manuscript openly available in a repository. If needed, the Libraries’ Resource Sharing Department can assist in getting the version of record through Omni Interlibrary Loan

All full text options remain available in the full record for an article in the same way they always have.

“We’re always seeking new ways to give our researchers an edge,” says Andrea Kosavic, interim dean of Libraries. “This product saves time by connecting researchers to electronic content more directly than ever before, including global open-access content, which in the past required multiple clicks to view the full text.”

LibKey Nomad connects users seamlessly to YUL content while browsing the web 
A common challenge of discovering scholarly content on the open web is connecting easily to the Libraries’ subscription content. LibKey Nomad is designed to be sensitive to citation information on platforms like Wikipedia, PubMed and scholarly publisher websites, and to easily connect to full-text content for journal articles and even ebooks.

To install LibKey Nomad in a browser, go to Third Iron and download the version for the preferred browser(s) and watch the brief video for a quick overview of Nomad’s features. Installation is easy and is only required once. 

Those with questions about LibKey can contact the Libraries using one of the Ask & Services options. 

Teaching Commons offers fresh content, new perspectives 

Artificial intelligence giphy

By Elaine Smith

The team of teaching and learning experts at York University’s Teaching Commons (TC) has a full slate of offerings to unveil as the new academic year gets underway, including some new opportunities. Each year, the Teaching Commons team assists faculty and graduate students in pursuing engaged teaching practices centred on the student learning experience, helping them to stay up to date on the latest pedagogical innovations. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to be a focus for TC in 2023-24, says Geneviève Maheux-Pelletier, director of the Teaching Commons.

Geneviève Maheux-Pelletier
Geneviève Maheux-Pelletier

“We’re building on the work from last year, because faculty are interested in AI and continue to grapple with academic integration,” Maheux-Pelletier said. “We held an event in February on the York experience with AI and its implications for education that was broadly attended. Since then, our educational developers have launched a course addressing AI and education that ran in the spring and summer and will be back again in October. It’s a sought-after topic and is top of mind for many educators.” 

Robin Sutherland-Harris, a TC educational developer, has collected ideas and strategies from participants in various York AI sessions on how to adapt to AI in the teaching and learning space. She will turn them into a series of tip sheet-style resources that will be developed and housed on the TC website. 

In addition, TC is hosting an online summit Oct. 18 to 20, in collaboration with the Institute for Research on Digital Literacies, on AI and academic integrity in higher education. It will include a faculty showcase on ways to integrate AI into the teaching practice; a panel of experts from both within the University and elsewhere discussing critical perspectives on generative AI; and student voices about how generative AI affects their learning journey. 

“It’s a matter of understanding the role of AI in education and bringing everyone on board with how to ethically use it,” Maheux-Pelletier said. 

Bringing decolonization, equity, diversity and inclusion strategies to life, the Teaching Commons, in partnership with the Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion, will introduce a new online workshop series about trauma-informed pedagogies, led by Ameera Ali, a TC educational developer. It’s a 10-part series with five sessions scheduled for the fall term and five for the winter. Participants who complete seven sessions are eligible for a letter of completion. 

The series will introduce participants to the topic of trauma-informed teaching and offer practical strategies for supporting students and themselves while developing a trauma-informed classroom. Sessions will focus on topics such as racial and cultural justice and dis/ableism, access and accommodations.  

A new initiative for 2023-24 is supporting faculty in applying for teaching awards. 

“Part of our role is to elevate teaching and learning,” said Maheux-Pelletier, “and one way to do that is to nurture a culture where effective instructors feel comfortable applying for awards. 

“I know there are many faculty members who are eligible for external awards, but unless they have a plan, applications don’t always happen. We can support them in thinking through the narrative of what they do as instructors, where their innovation lies and how to describe innovations.”

TC will host a series of events focused on informing and encouraging York faculty to apply for awards, drawing on the support of educational developers, including a Sept. 26 workshop about teaching application dossiers. 

“When we’ve had the capacity to support nominees in the past, we’ve experienced some success, such as faculty winning 3M Teaching Awards,” Maheux-Pelletier said. “There is so much extraordinary work happening in the classroom, but to be recognized takes intention and that’s what we’re trying to encourage.” 

The Teaching Commons is also preparing to use a space redesigned and upgraded to include HyFlex capability, which translates to the ability to provide an equitable experience for people in the classroom and those accessing the class remotely. 

“We’re looking forward to seeing what is possible,” said Maheux-Pelletier. “When we hold workshops there, they’ll be available to others outside the classroom. It will be a new chapter for us learning to use the classroom and its digital technology.” 

This year, TC is shining a light on graduate students – teaching assistants and others – and working with them to develop sound teaching skills.  

“We’ve seen that those who engage with us early in their graduate careers get the most return on investment in terms of acquiring new skills and becoming effective teachers.” 

An ongoing program, Reading for Teaching, returns this fall in a slightly different shape. Reading for Teaching is an informal, collegial opportunity to engage with colleagues from across campus interested in reading and talking about teaching; it is a collaborative program between the Teaching Commons and York University Libraries. Participants meet a few times each term to discuss specific reading material. This fall, York’s participants will be collaborating with those at the University of Guelph who have a similar reading program.

Lisa Endersby
Lisa Endersby

“They reached out to us after we chatted about Reading for Teaching at a conference,” said Lisa Endersby, an educational developer and one of the program’s organizers. “We’re exploring new ways of collaborating with colleagues outside York on professional development activities. We’ll all read the same book this fall and converse asynchronously in September. In December, we’ll meet synchronously to share our reflections. 

“With teaching, some conversations are very contextual, but others are broader, so it seems like a natural next step. It’s always so interesting to get new perspectives on something you’ve done for a long time.” 

TC has its usual full calendar of workshops and events to support all aspects of teaching, and its educational developers are always available for consultation

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.” 

C4 students turn gaze toward York University Libraries, SDGs


By Elaine Smith 

Summer 2023 saw the C4 (Cross-Campus Capstone Course) team turn its gaze to a challenge issued by York University Libraries (YUL). 

The C4 course, inaugurated in 2019 by co-founding faculty members Franz Newland (Lassonde) and Danielle Robinson (School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design), provides students with an opportunity to work effectively in interdisciplinary teams on real-world challenges with social impact. Since C4’s inception, YUL faculty have collaborated on the design and development of this initiative, offering important interdisciplinary wisdom and insights along the way.

Dana Craig
Dana Craig

The relationship changed this summer as YUL became a C4 project partner for an entire class of C4 students, searching for insights into how its own programs could more directly support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). After four years of contributing to the C4 initiative, Dana Craig, director of student learning and academic success for YUL, was seconded to the C4 leadership team in 2022-23. In this new role, she began to explore new and deeper ways that C4 and YUL could collaborate. She pitched a challenge to C4 students that focused on SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals): how can a university library be reimagined as a platform for local and global community engagement, knowledge mobility and sharing economies? 

“The question was perfectly aligned with both our Keele Campus and our Casita Azul library project on the Las Nubes Campus in Costa Rica,” said Craig, “but that’s the beauty of C4. The students take a look and break the question down into what they think it’s all about. These students – five groups of 10 – wanted to apply the question in a variety of spaces. 

Casita Azul
Casita Azul

“It became a beautiful opportunity to get students to shake us up a bit by telling us what they need and how they want us to operate. The library should not just be viewed as a support – we are constantly innovating in different ways, too. What else can we do to benefit students and our communities?” 

Each of the groups decided on a topic to explore. They were also required to establish a budget, do research, determine how to promote their idea and think about how to make it sustainable. Craig connected them to the library personnel and resources most suited to their research. She also introduced them to the Media Creation Lab, where they could work with digital technology to create a podcast, borrow a 360-degree camera or learn how to edit a video, among other possibilities.  

The student teams presented their solutions to the leadership team. One group suggested connecting with the community by offering skills workshops that focused on topics that would appeal to 18-to-25-year-olds, such as financial literacy or how to assess the validity of online information. A second team reimagined the library’s website, designing a simpler gateway to make it more user-friendly. A third group created an artificial intelligence (AI) bot to make it easier to search for open-access resources in any language. A fourth team envisioned a platform where authors could publish open-source material and converse with other authors on the same topic, while the final group designed a book exchange where students could bring a book and take a book in return. 

“I could see every single one of these projects being explored by the library, with us working towards some implementation based on the students’ final projects,” Craig said. 

Robinson was delighted to have YUL take a project partnership role this summer. 

“York University Libraries have been a strong partner of C4 from the very beginning,” Robinson said. “Libraries foster vital interdisciplinary spaces on campus, just like C4, so our values are in direct alignment and energize our collaboration. I am glad the project partnership this summer gave us a chance to give back to the libraries. 

“Now, Dana has a 360-degree view of C4 – she has supported students in the classroom and as a member of our leadership team. She has seen, close up, what the students can do and their extraordinarily creative problem solving. Being inside C4 in this way provides a unique perspective; it allows you to see the power of a York degree in action and the unique talents our students bring to the challenges the world is facing.” 

For her part, Craig had nothing but compliments for the C4 course and its impact. 

“I’m quite impressed by C4’s way of teaching and involving students,” Craig said. “Students love it, and I can see them learning to apply skills, such as compromises about work and having respectful conversations. They are learning through doing and it’s a fantastic experiential education opportunity.” 

She was also pleased to have the students brainstorm ideas for the library to consider. 

“We don’t know what we don’t know, and additional lenses on how students see and experience their learning and research environments are always valuable and welcome as additional avenues for us to explore.” 

Archives of Ontario at York offering free tours

Archives of Ontario

The Archives of Ontario, located at 134 Ian MacDonald Blvd. at York University’s Keele Campus, has been collecting, preserving and making available the history and documentary heritage of Ontario and its people since 1903.

Free one-hour tours of the Archives will be offered every Wednesday at 11 a.m., between Sept. 13 and Oct. 25.

Tours of up to 15 people will be led by the Archives’ staff through one of the largest archival facilities in Canada. Collections consist of a wide variety of records, including unique, multifaceted records donated by individuals, businesses and organizations that illustrate the province’s history and development. These date back to the 16th century and include everything from hand-written letters and diaries to books, maps, architectural drawings, city plans, photographs, films, sound recordings, electronic documents and more.

The Archives are also home to the eclectic Government of Ontario Art Collection, which has over 2,800 original works of art and antique furnishings that can be found in legislative buildings in Toronto and in government offices throughout the province.

The tour will include a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the Archive’s vaults, preservation lab and reading room, as well as a personal tour of the exhibit ANIMALIA, which features fascinating records from the Archives’ collections that explore humankind’s changing relationships with animals.

Faculty and students who take the tour will also have the opportunity to learn more about applying for a researcher card, using the microfilm and digital collections, and getting started on research with the assistance and expertise of the reference staff.

Register for a tour online by visiting outlook.office365.com/owa/calendar/ArchivesofOntarioFreeTour@Ontariogov.onmicrosoft.com/bookings.

For more information, contact Danielle Manning, outreach officer, at danielle.manning@ontario.ca or visit archives.gov.on.ca/en/about/index.aspx.