Farzeen Foda

Senior News Editor


Libraries are no longer storage depots for rows upon rows of books – in modern education, knowledge is increasingly outsourced to the World Wide Web. As the books that were once the essence of libraries become rare commodities, libraries must adapt to change rather than get buried beneath the dust of its bookshelves.

In this mission, Jeff Trzeciak,  University Librarian, has been instrumental in keeping pace with changes in education and how those changes are reflected in the use of library space at McMaster.

Trzeciak will, after 16 years at McMaster, be leaving his position to join Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri as chief librarian.

He came to McMaster in 1996. He has since undertaken numerous projects to revitalize the University’s libraries. He identifies four primary domains to which his efforts have extended: McMaster students, other universities, donors and University faculties.

In close collaboration with students and the McMaster Students Union (MSU), he has worked to maintain the focus on the student experience with every undertaking. “I am proud of the fact that we have been so student-focused,” he said of the recent developments to the libraries, explaining that much of those changes have been in response to student requests.

A strong student-body push for 24-hour library space during the exam period came as MSU president, Matthew Dillon-Leitch kept study space at the top of his agenda. Trzeciak explained that such an effort on behalf of students was the primary driving force behind the funding the McMaster Libraries received from the administration to proceed with the initiative. Thode library is now available 24/7 during the exam period.

Treziack explained that with the renovations to Mills and Thode libraries, the two libraries have become the new “hotspots” and are attracting a more diverse array of students.

Libraries are losing their subject focus and remain prime locations for group as well as individual work through the diverse study spaces available. In 2007, after the construction of the Mills Learning Commons, the McMaster libraries received the Rudy Heinzl Award of Excellence, which was a result of student nomination. The Mills Learning Commons remains a place for collaborative work, while within the same building quiet study space remains available.

McMaster Libraries have also been acknowledged by other universities for its user-focused approach and innovative technologies, which include the digitization of numerous library collections. In 2008, the University’s Libraries received the Excellence in Academic Libraries Award on behalf of the Association of College and Research Libraries. McMaster University was the first Canadian university recipient, noted Treziack.

Approximately 95 per cent of journals are currently online and there are over 400,000 e-books, said Treziack. He further emphasized the student transition to online sources, as evidenced by a dramatic decrease in circulation of books.

It is also not a rare occasion that McMaster is chosen as home to a collection of invaluable literary treasures. This year alone, the McMaster libraries received an extensive Holocaust Archive from the Shaoh Foundation Institute and the commercial archive from Pirate Toronto, the largest collection of its kind.

Monetary donations stand as a testament to the investment value of McMaster’s libraries. The libraries received a $2.5-million gift from the Sherman Foundation to establish the Lewis and Ruth Sherman Foundation Digitization and Preservation Centre. The facility will be located on the first floor of Mills Library.

“A library should be an extension of the classroom,” said Treziack. The McMaster libraries have also been a close partner with faculties in the development of new programs and the support of others, he explained. The libraries played a key role in the development of the Integrated Science program, and worked in partnership with the Department of Arts and Science to support some of their classroom projects.

The next step for McMaster University’s libraries is to build on the student-centered efforts, noted Treziack, explaining that student engagement is critical to maintaining past efforts.

For the first time, the University will be hosting an open review of the libraries on March 26 and 27 in Convocation Hall. Students and faculty are strongly encouraged to attend and voice their views.

“I owe Mac in a lot of ways,” said Treziack, crediting his time at McMaster with the expertise that made him an ideal candidate for his new position. Treziack will end his term with McMaster on June 30 to join Washington University, which ranks within the top 15 universities in the United States, just under many world renowned Ivy League schools. It is a research-oriented, private university with a 50-50 ratio of graduate to undergraduate students.

It is unknown at this time who will be taking over as University Librarian. A candidate search is likely to begin soon.

As a native of Dayton, Ohio, Treziack expressed, “I will be going home in a lot of ways.”

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