Reflecting on a career at FIMS

GloriaEarly in her professional career, Gloria Leckie didn’t imagine that administration would be an area in which she would have much interest.

But whether she foresaw it or not, Leckie will retire from FIMS highly respected as both a scholar and an administrator.

“Well initially when I came into it, the interesting thing was I left librarianship because I didn’t want a career in administration,” explains Leckie, who officially retires from FIMS as of June 30, 2011.

At various points in her career, Leckie has served as Undergraduate Chair, Library and Information Science Program Coordinator, Associate Dean and Acting Dean, to go along with her many years of teaching and research as a professor. The winding road to her retirement is marked by her academic accomplishments, as well as being a key cog in the growth of a new Faculty.

Originally a graduate of the Master of Information and Library Science program in 1974, Leckie returned to school in 1985, leaving professional librarianship to complete an MA and PhD in Geography at Western. She says her intention was to conduct research in the field of agricultural geography. But circumstance would dictate that she instead stepped directly into a tenure-track position teaching cataloguing in the library school in 1991.

Leckie was then on-hand in 1996, when FIMS first became an independent Faculty, merging the Graduate School of Journalism, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science and the Faculty of Part-Time and Continuing Education. She served on the Steering Committee that helped direct and define the new Faculty, and was a key player in establishing a new undergraduate degree option.

“Because in those days we were thinking, well, what we would do is we would make use of the faculty we had in journalism and the skills in journalism, and the skills in library and information science and we would do some sort of undergraduate degree that blended both of those,” she explains.

“And so we dreamed up this program called Media, Information & Technoculture and it just went gangbusters right from the beginning.”

MIT began its first year with 40 students. Currently there are approximately 800 students enrolled, and the program is in high demand.

In the mid ‘90s, Leckie made a significant contribution to research with her paper “Desperately Seeking Citations.” The article, which Leckie explains explores the mismatch between what faculty expect undergraduates to produce in their courses and what they are actually capable of with regards to finding information for their essays, was well-received. The paper won an award and went on to be heavily cited and was even the basis for some training workshops.

In 1998, Leckie moved into the position of Undergraduate Chair, and was conducting research in academic librarianship and information literacy, winning a number of awards for her publications. She remained Chair until 1999, when she stepped into the Associate Dean role. It was then she found she had a knack for administrative business.

“I have a facility for keeping things organized and on track, and I have no difficulty making hard decisions which is what administration is,” she says, noting that she also discovered a talent for writing policy documents – something for which the young Faculty had a need.

Close friend and colleague Rosanne Greene (Manager, Graduate Student Services), says that as Associate Dean, Leckie was able to draw out the best in everyone she worked with.

“You wanted to do your best because you knew that she was putting her heart and soul into her job. And so you bought into her vision and you just wanted to produce and do good work because you saw how hard she was working. And she always had the good of the Faculty in mind, it was always about the Faculty and the health of the Faculty,” says Greene.

Towards the end of her time as Associate Dean in 2007, Leckie was able to devote more time to her research once again. Melding her background in geography with her knowledge and experience in library science, she began looking at the idea of ‘library-as-place’.

‘Library-as-place’ has become a hot topic in academia, in no small part thanks to Leckie’s pioneering work in the field. Along with geography colleague Jeff Hopkins, she conducted some initial research that seemed to kick start interest in the issue.

“We did a study of the Toronto Central Reference Library and the new Vancouver Public Central Library, and we looked at them as places, in a geographical sense, and how they functioned as places. And that sort of started the whole ‘library-as-place’ revolution in the discipline, which is now huge,” says Leckie.

She would go on to produce three books, all with colleague John Buschman of Georgetown University in Washington, addressing ‘library-as-place’, critical approaches to information technology and critical theory for library and information science.

After having been involved with different aspects of research, teaching and administration for so many years, Leckie says that she wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what she did without help from colleagues across the Faculty, and support from many friends.

“So I’ve had some really, really great faculty colleagues over the years and I hope to be able to keep in touch and do things with them, and I don’t want to lose those friendships that I’ve had with faculty, and with staff too. Because a lot of the staff are more than just staff to me, they’re my friends,” she says, adding, “As with many things in life, a lot of times it’s the people that make the journey better. So that’s certainly been true of my time at both the original library school and FIMS".

Leckie doesn’t plan on slowing down much after retirement. She already has numerous activities in her sights. She says she will be working on projects with the Teaching Support Centre at Western, and she will soon be moving from Vice Chair to Chair of the London Public Library Board. She thinks she might get involved in some volunteer work, possibly ESL teaching/tutoring, or wildlife rehabilitation and animal rescue. She also runs her own hand-made jewellery business, called “Black Cat Jewellery”.

To FIMS, she’ll be leaving a legacy of hard-work, growth and success. And her absence will be felt, says friend Rosanne Greene, concluding, “What I think is we’re going to miss her organizational skills, her administrative skills, and we’re going to miss her big personality.”