Joyce Garnett believes change is good. Now, thanks to a $1-million legacy gift to establish the Joyce C. Garnett Innovation Fund, the University Librarian Emeritus will inspire future development and growth in Western Libraries.
Serving as University Librarian from 1998-2013, Garnett has long been an advocate for the need to embrace evolution in libraries, particularly related to digitization, technology and the roles of libraries and librarians in academia and the community.
“During my 15 years as University Librarian, there was quite a significant change in technology, which in turn enabled many developments and changes in libraries. Libraries have always been early adopters of technology. When I started at Western, almost everything was still print. Within five years, the majority was digital. There were big changes in a short period of time.”
Garnett’s love for libraries began early thanks to her mother who took the family’s four girls to the local library in Montreal.
“We would take home so many books every time,” she said. “Then, in high school, I was honoured to be invited to clerk at the local library for the grand sum of 35 cents an hour,” she said with a laugh. “My three sisters and I became known as ‘The Library Ladies.’ For years, we all worked in the library and all the kids knew us. That was my first taste of the behind-the-scenes work in the library and it was quite wonderful.”
Following the completion of her Bachelor of Science and Master of Library Science degrees at McGill University, Garnett worked as a librarian at McGill, Laurentian University and Pratt & Whitney Canada. She also served as Executive Director of Advancement at Laurentian and was responsible for alumni relations, communications, development and leadership for Laurentian’s Capital Campaign.
“I’ve really enjoyed my experiences. I could have gone the advancement route, but I chose libraries because that work is so rewarding for me. When I came to Western, it just clicked. The libraries were so well-regarded and the people were exceptional,” she said.
A key draw of Western was the possibility of continuing to teach, another of her passions and one which she continues to do today at Western.
“I’ve been teaching nearly 40 years and I love it. Right now, I feel it’s even more important because I can pay it forward and share what I’ve learned over my career and help future librarians,” Garnett said. “People don’t always know how much is going on behind the scenes of libraries. Librarians are involved in teaching and scholarly work – much more than just sitting behind a reference desk. When things are done well they just appear seamless.”
She is sure libraries will always be integral to learning, research and preserving knowledge.
“A lot has changed in the way we access resources and in the way many libraries are now more communal and social spaces. But libraries are forever. They are a bridge from the past to the future,” she said. “Giving to libraries is a good investment because investing in libraries is truly investing in the future.”
The Joyce C. Garnett Innovation Fund – which will be utilized at the discretion of the Chief Librarian when realized – is the kind of gift Garnett would have been thrilled to receive.
“It’s the ideal donation for someone who likes change and development. Even libraries with big budgets can’t do everything they want to do. Innovation funds make it possible for you to try something out and experiment. The libraries at Western are extraordinary; the staff are exemplary; it’s nice to have a little ‘mad money’ so you can continue to be extraordinary.”
Having Garnett’s leadership and support over the years has been tremendously beneficial to Western Libraries, said Catherine Steeves, Vice Provost and Chief Librarian of Western Libraries.
“Joyce’s gift is a testament to her enduring commitment to Western Libraries. Support for innovation is critical to fostering strong partnerships and projects that advance research and student success at Western and to delivering relevant and progressive services. On behalf of the future beneficiaries, I am full of gratitude for Joyce’s generosity.”