Top Stories of 2018

Exterior of McPherson Library

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On June 20, UVic Libraries launched the Holiff Family archives with a physical exhibition and reception, and a new online resource: “Volatile Attractions: Saul Holiff, Johnny Cash, and Managing a Music Legend.” The research resource focuses on Holiff’s management years as Cash’s manager and features photographs, contracts, correspondence, and concert swag representing not only the meticulous nature and immense energy that Holiff dedicated to successfully managing Cash for 13 years, but also illustrating the professional disappointment and personal costs it exacted on Holiff.  The collection itself consists of thousands of physical items including letters, diaries, journals, and audio recordings of phone conversations, as well as extraordinary photographs of Cash and gold records awarded to Holiff, with several terabytes in total of digital material. Holiff managed Cash’s career from 1961 to 1973. He is responsible for pivotal moments in the life of Cash, which include iconic performances at Folsom and San Quentin prisons, and the pairing of country singer June Carter with Cash’s shows in the 1960s.


Principal Investigators: History Professor John Lutz, with Stewart Arneil and Martin Holmes of Humanities Computing and Media Centre (HCMC); UVic Libraries

As the only digital archive of the correspondence between British authorities and the governors of Vancouver Island and British Columbia from 1846-1871, the Colonial Despatches contain many historically significant records about the settling of Victoria and Vancouver Island. This ongoing project has been a partnership between UVic Libraries, the Faculty of Humanities, and many other supporters and contributors over the past decades.  The free, online database contains many historically significant records about the settling of Victoria and Vancouver Island. However, most of these documents are largely inaccessible to researchers and particularly Indigenous peoples. In mid-December, UVic Libraries was the recipient of a substantial grant by the Victoria Foundation (matched dollar for dollar by an internal programme) to help us decolonize the “Colonial Despatches.”  Through this Victoria Foundation grant we will, in collaboration and consultation with the First People's Cultural Council and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, begin work to decolonize the archive by developing enhanced and revised search terms, along with a newly engineered search interface. 


Open. Engaged. Enduring.  These three principles of UVic Libraries new strategic directions will guide us in the coming years and align us with the University’s new Strategic Framework that aspires to establish UVic as Canada’s leading research university that “best integrates outstanding scholarship, engaged learning, and real-life involvement."

UVic Libraries navigates a higher education environment that continues to experience significant global change and disruption driven by multiple factors, the most important of which is the transition to a digital knowledge economy. Within rapidly shifting contexts full of ambiguity and necessitating much flexibility, academic libraries are becoming increasingly valued interdisciplinary collaborators and research partners furthering the mission of their institutions.”  For more information see: {The Library as Partner}


University Librarian Jonathan Bengtson was instrumental in bringing together Canada’s two largest research content national library organizations.  As President of, Bengtson led a two-year process to merge with the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN).   One of the immediate impacts of the merger has been to begin to remove the pay wall and make Canadiana’s tens of millions of archival documents free and open to researchers and the public across the globe.


The preservation of digital research data is an increasingly pressing issue for scholars around the world. In 2018, UVic Libraries conducted the most comprehensive investigation of research data management practices in a Canadian university to date, and produced a report, The Enduring Potential of Data. Dr. Jacqueline Quinless, our Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Postdoctoral Library Fellow, held in-depth faculty interviews and focus groups to complement over 400 responses to an online survey of data management practices and challenges of UVic faculty and graduate students. The resulting information will help guide UVic Libraries in providing data curation support for our researchers.


University Librarian Jonathan Bengtson signed a new agreement on October 16, on behalf of the University of Victoria, with Library and Archives Canada (LAC) that will strengthen existing engagements between the two institutions and lead to new endeavours to facilitate the sharing of expertise and knowledge.  “The University of Victoria is delighted to be the latest university to enter into a partnership with Library and Archives Canada to work on topics of mutual interest and share expertise and knowledge,” said Bengtson. “UVic faculty, staff, and students already work closely on projects with LAC, and this new agreement will help us expand these opportunities more broadly across the community in Victoria and the local region."  The Memorandum of Understanding will provide a framework of collaboration for UVic faculty and students, supporting academic advancement, research practices, technological developments, and proactively facilitate community outreach to promote the broad value of Canadian documentary heritage.


During national Science Literacy WeekE. (September 17-23), the Mearns Centre for Learning - McPherson Library held a wide array of exhibits, lectures, and social events for students to attend to celebrate science:

  • E. Paul Zehr lecture Science & the Superhero in You explored the use of superheroes as metaphors for understanding human abilities, limits, and the potential for performance.
  • Ian McTaggart Cowan online exhibit celebrated the life of former Chancellor and champion of Canadian and BC ecology.
  • Nyoka Light Wand demo by student Paige Whitehead that is a compostable, carbon sequestering glow stick that is powered with bioluminescence, partly designed in our Digital Scholarship Commons space.
  • Special Collections exhibit Botanical BC and Beyond showed visually appealing publications and archives about BC botany, and featured historical texts on botany and the social and medicinal uses of plants.
  • Grad Student Mixer for science students to mingle and meet science librarians.


Orange Shirt Day

On September 28, UVic faculty, staff, and students were encouraged to wear orange shirts to show respect for residential school survivors and their families. We partnered in the work of reconciliation by attending events, listening, learning, and taking part in discussions that promote mutual understanding and respect.  UVic Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest and artist Carey Newman (Coast Salish/Kwagiulth) designed the UVic orange shirt.

Native Friendship Centre Library

University of Victoria Libraries continues to provide support for collection management at the Bruce Parisian Library in the Victoria Native Friendship Centre (VNFC). This includes cataloguing material collected by the Parisian Library and providing support in other areas. This partnership, which also includes the Greater Victoria Public Library, will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre’s active and growing community. The VNFC is the only Friendship Centre in Canada that has a library.


Graduate Student Study Space

On March 5, UVic Provost Dr. Valerie Kuehne formally opened the renovated Graduate Student Study space on the third floor of the Mearns Centre for Learning – McPherson Library. Based on graduate student feedback, seating increased significantly to include 151 comfortable chairs, long study tables, eight study pods, 114 graduate student assigned lockers, power outlets for every seat, better lighting, refreshed paint, and new flooring.  Building on concepts of community, fluidity, and well-being, the new area provides more openness to allow increased light, and a linear layout to improve visual impact of space.

Curriculum Move

The Curriculum Library merged with the Mearns Centre for Learning - McPherson Library in order to bring our education materials (necessarily interdisciplinary) into a single collection.  Student access to materials formerly housed in the small Curriculum Library space was significantly enhanced as the opening hours at the Mearns Centre for Learning – McPherson Library are nearly twice that of the former Curriculum Library.  The Libraries also benefited from less duplication of resources, services, collections, as well as allowing us to reallocate staff to areas of growth and demand. In addition, the Faculty of Education had the opportunity to revision the Curriculum Library space to support their growing needs.


UVic Libraries acquired a rare copy of Livres de Prieres Tissé d’après les enluminures des manuscrits du XIV au XVIe siècle.  This unique Book of Hours is neither a manuscript nor a printed book, but instead, was machine-woven with gray and black silk.  It was produced in Lyon between 1886 and 1887 using a system of punched cards developed by Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752-1834).  Made to look like a medieval Book of Hours, the volume represents a melding of old and new artistry.  Created with roughly 200,000 to 500,000 cards – it is a surviving copy of one of only 50-60 that used the innovative technology that inspired Charles Babbage’s “Analytical Engine,” a precursor to the modern computer.  A copy was displayed in the 1889 Lyon Pavilion at the Universal Exposition where its manufacturer, J.A. Henry, won grand prix.  With this acquisition through our donor endowment funds, the University of Victoria Libraries joins the few libraries who possess one of these remarkable volumes.  UVic’s acquisition is from the private library of collector Jacques Levy (Istanbul 1905-New York 1980). 


UVic Libraries launched a new publication to commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Malahat Review as part of its award-winning series.  The limited-edition publication features full-colour spreads detailing the magazine's fifty-year history, its role in the lives of prominent Canadian writers, and its cultural and literary legacy.  Available as a free, open access PDF, The Malahat Review at Fifty: Canada's Iconic Literary Journal features essays, critical commentaries, and memoirs from past and present editors, contributors, and editorial board members, as well as notable literary and broadcast figures such as Yann Martel, John Barton, and UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers.