Heading off in new directions

Mar 06, 2003, vol. 26, no. 5
By Julie Ovenell-Carter

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Eric Swanick (left) enjoys heading off in new directions, both personally and professionally.

Before taking up his new post as head of SFU library's special collections in December, Swanick spent three weeks in Yemen - hardly a popular tourist destination these days. “The desert was beautiful, tranquil and hot,” he recalls wistfully. “I came to deeply appreciate the beauty of that part of the world.”

A lifelong collector of rare and antiquarian books, Swanick has now added several Middle Eastern titles to his personal library.

As for his professional library, Swanick has plans to diversify that as well. The former director of New Brunswick's legislative library says he “wants to build on the energetic collections” already held on the 7th floor of the W.A.C Bennett library. “Our special collections define and reflect SFU to the rest of the academic world. We already have some exceptional collections—our collection of Aldines from the 15th and 16th century, our significant collection of political cartoons (see sidebar), and our publishers' archives, to name just a few.

“But it's our job also to anticipate future trends, and the research needs of tomorrow's academics. I would like to expand and collect B.C.-related materials, especially in the areas of environment, political and labour studies, up-and-coming writers, and contemporary arts. I would also like our special collections to better reflect the society we are living in by building up our multicultural materials.”

Swanick says the recent “changing of the professorial guard” at SFU has resulted in a greater focus on interdisciplinary studies. He says he will be “working closely with professors, booksellers and community contacts to build a useful and relevant collection that benefits academics as well as private users.”

Although several professors bring their students to special collections for specific coursework, Swanick acknowledges that for many members of the SFU community special collections is simply off the radar.

He hopes to increase awareness with an on-going series of public readings by celebrated authors and poets such as Governor General award-winners Roy Miki and George Bowering, and Wayde Compton. For those who miss them, the readings will, of course, be archived in special collections.

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