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Changes in SAIT’s Library Information Technology (LIT) program reflect the changing role of public libraries.
In 1967, SAIT’s Senator Burns Building opens, housing Canada’s largest technical school library and allowing for seven new programs.
One new program is the Library Arts program, introduced in Fall 1967. The Academic Calendar explains the “information explosion” places “an increasing burden of responsibility and work on professional librarians.” The Library Arts program is intended to “help free professional librarians from some of their workload.” While not qualifying students as professional librarians, the program gives them “knowledge of the daily procedures of a library” and “the basic philosophy of librarianship.”
As graduates from the new programs join the workforce, SAIT adjusts its curricula in the early 1970s based on feedback from alumni and industry. Library Arts courses include business and technical skills for efficient library operations, including Human Relations and Public Relations. The program gives graduates an “awareness of the overall dimensions of library service … fundamental library skills and practical knowledge of more specialized library procedures.”
The program changes its name to Library and Information Technology in the mid-1980s.
Training in electronic searching intensifies and in 1990 SAIT’s own library card catalogue is replaced with an online catalogue. The early 1990s are the last years students are trained to thread film into projectors, thanks to the introduction of VHS cassettes and players. LIT students study extensively how to use printed bibliographies and indexes as search tools.
In 1993, SAIT’s library has just one computer with internet access and patrons need special permission to use it.
By the early 2010s, there is less focus on learning traditional cataloguing because the growing numbers of digital resources come with their own electronic records. Still, cataloguing is a core library technician job that remains important today for cataloguing items like SAIT’s board game collection or troubleshooting when electronic records are lost or incorrect.
Since LIT launched in 1967, libraries have shifted from a gatekeeper providing access to information to a service helping people parse unlimited resources for information.
“In the past, libraries didn’t feel the need to prove their value. Today we’re much more open to the idea of going out and meeting people in their space,” says Kristian McInnis (LIT ’02).
SAIT’s library moved to its current location in 2001 and was renamed the Reg Erhardt Library in 2011.
Thanks to Kristian McInnis, Dave Weber, AnneMarie de Groot (LIT ’93) and Alison Hart (LIT ’94) for sharing their memories of the LIT program over the years.
Video: The Inner Tome was filmed in 1974 in SAIT’s Learning Resources Centre, located in the Senator Burns Building. This educational film about accessing library resources offers fascinating glimpses of the library and library technology more than four decades ago.