Librarian Donna Canevari de Paredes is the longest-serving active female employee at the University of Saskatchewan, with 45 years on campus. (Photo: James Shewaga)

Love of collections keeps long-time USask librarian inspired

When Donna Canevari de Paredes began her career as a librarian at the University of Saskatchewan (USask), she didn’t actively set out to work at the same institution for decades, let alone live so far away from Connecticut where she grew up. But life rarely follows a carefully crafted plan.

By Sean Conroy

“In the beginning, of course, I never intended to be either in Saskatchewan or at USask for this long,” she said. “But, as with most of life, it just happens.”

Now the head of the Murray Library, Canevari de Paredes came to campus in 1974 after completing her master’s degree in library and information science at Columbia University in New York. Forty-five years later, after decades of advancements and enhancements in the University Library, and libraries in general, she is not only the longest-serving library employee, but the longest-serving female employee at USask.

Canevari de Paredes was inspired to pursue librarianship by the familiar factors that move so many: a love of reading, books, and research.

“My first degree was in history. It was during my undergraduate years that I considered and learned more about the possibility of librarianship as a profession,” she said. “But the start was actually in my childhood, during which I was already an avid fiction and non-fiction reader and public library user.”

Throughout her 45 years with the University Library, Canevari de Paredes has made a number of significant contributions. She has helped develop the library’s humanities collections, especially in support of English, Slavic and history programs; worked as founding editor for a journal highlighting selected University Library collections; established partnerships with faculty to support undergraduate, graduate, and research programs; and served on multiple university committees as well as with the faculty association.

USask also holds a special place for Canevari de Paredes personally. It is here that she met her husband, Eudoxio Paredes-Ruiz, who is now librarian emeritus. Years later, she had the opportunity to work closely with her son, Felipe, a USask alumnus who earned degrees in law and classical, medieval, and renaissance studies.

“It was special for me to be a research support resource for him during his university years here, and to be able to mentor him in navigating university library research in his studies beyond USask,” she said.

As the role of the library and the librarian has changed through the years, Canevari de Paredes firmly believes that the importance of the library has expanded, along with the demands of supporting USask students and researchers.

“We have many employees and all are skilled in what they do: IT specialists, library assistants with various educational backgrounds, student learning specialists, and librarians,” she said. “For librarians, our professional practice is the key component of our position, as well as our involvement in research and scholarship.”

After decades of service to the library and to the campus community, Canevari de Paredes has many motivating factors that continue to make her work rewarding.

“There are so many reasons why my position at the library is still a positive part of my life,” she said. “Those very much include the key components of what was important to me in the beginning: continued ability to use my professional judgement in many ways, and a continued role in the development and management of our collections, both traditional print collections and digital resources of all types, specifically in support of the humanities.”