Donna Bourne‑Tyson


Donna Bourne Tyson joined Dalhousie in 2011. As university librarian and copyright officer, Donna serves on the deans’ council and provides leadership for Dalhousie’s network of five libraries. She comes to Dalhousie from a similar position at Mount Saint Vincent University.

Donna has provided strong leadership in the conception and implementation of several innovative additions to Dalhousie’s library service offering. Embracing new technologies and guided by a user-focused philosophy, Donna has helped Dal’s libraries meet the needs of students, faculty and staff.

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Donna Bourne-Tyson took on the role of university librarian at Dalhousie in November of 2011 after serving in the same capacity at Mount Saint Vincent University. In her short time at Dal, she has already initiated an exciting transformation in the university’s library system.

“There’s an opportunity there to knit initiatives together and achieve economies of scale, while still honouring the uniqueness of each library and the distinct needs of different users,” says Donna of Dal’s five-library network.

Donna and her team have taken the opportunity to implement technological innovation, one element of which is the cultivation of the libraries website she describes as a “sixth branch.”

Among the online services that have been added or upgraded in her time at Dal are live chats and tutorials, and the electronic reserve system.

“Libraries are changing, but they’re not changing in a vacuum,” she says. “We’re changing because our users’ needs are changing."

The electronic reserve system has been particularly useful for faculty members who use library and copyright services – Donna also serves as Dalhousie’s copyright officer – to design course offerings. Faculty can submit a reading list to library services and work with staff to ensure copyright clearance for materials, which are then reserved for the library’s physical collection and/or made available online in Blackboard or moodle.

For students who’ve been asked to do advance reading and come to class prepared to discuss the material, online access is essential. Donna’s library services group further serves students’ needs by going into classrooms and teaching information literacy skills.

“This suite of core competencies or twenty-first century fluencies helps people teach themselves new areas of knowledge as they need to change careers and for personal growth throughout their lives,” Donna says.

Donna has also led Dal’s library services team in meeting the needs of researchers, including the development of a research data management planning service.

“DalSpace is our institutional repository, run by the library. It contains all the e-theses for any Dal grad, and it also contains digital collections and faculty publications,” Donna says. “We’re now making it possible to deposit data sets as well, and working with researchers to write the data management plan to go into grant proposals.”

Donna and her team continue to guide Dalhousie’s libraries into new technological frontiers, among them the introduction of 3-D scanners and printers for student use. It’s a first for an academic library in Canada, and evidence of Donna’s desire to create a “technological playground or electronic petting zoo.”

“A library should really be an inspiring space where serendipitous discovery takes place,” she says. “Unexpected things should happen in libraries.”

Donna’s vision blends the traditional mission of the library with technological advancement and an emphasis on serving users. Her philosophy owes in part to an occasion when, as a student, she was kicked out of a library for eating.

“That stuck with me, and I’ve always tried to create welcoming spaces where users could do everything they needed to do, whether it be eat their lunch while doing research or collaborating with another student and talking a little louder than people used to,” Donna says.

“What’s notable to me about library services is how often we used to say no and how hard we try now to say yes.”

Quick facts

  • Received her Master of Library and Information Science degree from Dalhousie
  • Was once kicked out of a library for eating lunch
  • Knows the words to all the songs in the Rocky Horror Picture Show