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Sheridan Curiosities Blog

Irene Sillius, Sheridan Library

From typewriters to desktops and sign-out cards to swipe passes, Sheridan’s library has changed a lot in the past 25 years and Irene Sillius has seen it all. Sillius, in charge of print cataloguing at the Trafalgar Campus library, has been connected to Sheridan for more than a quarter century.

After she graduated from the now-obsolete Library Techniques program in 1977 Sillius found herself back at Sheridan in 1989 working in the Visual Arts and Crafts (VAC) library. “What was really interesting in that library was that we had a stereoscopic collection,” says Sillius. Donated by a photographer who taught at the school, the antique 3D photographs used to be viewed using a special device similar to an old View-Master. The collection remained within the visual arts library for three or four years until the library was relocated to where it remains today.

Sitting across from the gallery in the AA wing the old VAC library was filled with books on the arts and would sometimes be used as part of the gallery. Sillius was in charge of cataloguing slides of students’ work or slides of artwork Sheridan would purchase. The art could be shown using the library’s projector. The project was underway by the time Sillius was hired but she had to continue it – something she says was a lot of fun.

“1997 was the first year of automations for the library” – Irene Sillius

For 14 and a half years Sillus worked in the Davis Campus library as a reference technician and self-proclaimed “Jack of all trades.” “It was a tiny library and they had just finished renovating,” she says. “They expanded it so I was helping with the barcodes. We were also automating at the same time; 1997 was the first year of automations for the library.”

Sillius would commute to Brampton from Oakville until she was finally transferred back to Trafalgar in 2011. “Little things have changed but the biggest disappointment is losing the space and never getting it back,” she says. When the SCAET wing was built, college planners took a chunk from the library to make room for a hallway.

Since her return, the library has decreased in size but has grown in staff and material. “Now we have e-resources, we have more magazines, more databases, journals and electronic journals,” she says. “Joan Sweeney Marsh, Director of Library and Learning Services, has done a really good job of rearranging the library and working with the small space they have.”

There have been a lot of technical changes that Sillius has had to keep up with as well. In her first year Sillius was using a manual typewriter. Over time she shifted to computers, databases and new ways of cataloguing. She is happy with all the advancements in the library though the lack of space is still something she hopes could change. “We’ve made due. We’ve figured it out and we’ve worked really hard with it,” she says.

“We had to come up with so many number of books [for the National Association of Schools of Art and Design accreditation], and I knew what was good and what to keep” – Irene Sillius

Sillius helped work on the project that secured Sheridan’s accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design; only the second institution in Canada to do so. “We had to come up with so many number of books, and I knew what was good and what to keep,” she says. “Because I worked in the art library, I knew even though it was old, it was pertinent.”

Over the years Sheridan has become a family institution for Sillius after she met her husband, Otto, when he was working in the library in 1976. Their son too worked there part-time after getting his library degree. Sillius plans on staying at Sheridan’s Trafalgar library for another six or seven years. She enjoys working with the students and is passionate about what she does.

Pictured at top of page: Irene Sillius, Sheridan Library. Photo by Sheridan Photography Technologist Owen Colborne.

Written by: Brittany McAuley, a Sheridan Journalism student.


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