Letter to Rector of Saint Paul University Regarding the Termination of the Only Librarian Currently on Your Payroll

Dear Rector Beauvais,

I am shocked and disappointed by your administration’s decision to terminate Alice Constantinou. As you know, the St. Paul University library has a world reputation for its collections. There are professors and scholars who visit or choose to live in Ottawa because of access to the St. Paul library – specialists in patristics, classics and late antiquity for example. Without librarians, scholarly access to the collection will be diminished, as will the collection itself.

Five years ago, St. Paul hosted the American TheologicalLibraries Association (ATLA) conference here in Ottawa. It was only the fourth Canadian institution to do so – by this measure, St. Paul ranked in the company of Trinity College and the Toronto School of Theology at the University of Toronto. This is quite stunning for a university the size of St. Paul. This coming June, I will be attending the ATLA conference in Charlotte, N.C. where I will deliver a paper detailing how both St. Paul and University of Ottawa faculty and students collaborated in building a demand-driven collection of e-books in religious studies and theology. I will also be making a public announcement to your peer institutions and the representatives of international theological libraries that St. Paul University has terminated one of the last two librarians on the payroll although technically the other librarian is no longer on the payroll either right now as she is on parental leave. I’m fairly certain that this will make you unique among your peers.

As librarian for Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa, I have worked very closely with the staff of your library to develop services and collections that support professors and programs because St. Paul’s budget had been declining and staffing had been an issue. As an example, I have, in every year since 2006, offered Masters and PhD students in the Faculty of Theology library research courses. I had also more recently extended collection development to areas that were exclusively the domain of St. Paul University such as pastoral studies, theology, religious counselling, ecumenism and so on.

In light of your decision to terminate Alice, I am putting a full stop on all support to your institution, including its professors and students, effective immediately. Should members of St. Paul contact me, I will be obligated to inform them that I will not be functioning in a way that enables you to cut your librarian staff and create a reliance on the University of Ottawa that is detrimental to the community and library at St. Paul University.

It is unfortunate that I have to withdraw my support for your community. I have received scores of thanks over the years – far more than I would have ever expected or imagined – indicating that your professors and students value my role. Each time I refuse to assist someone from St. Paul, rest assured that you will be notified and requested to reinstate Alice Constantinou.

Jennifer Dekker, Librarian

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