From early technology to her rare-book reading list, Linda Corman talks about a 35-year career in the Trinity stacks as she prepares for retirement.
by Liz Allemang
You could say it’s the librarian’s Hippocratic Oath to provide answers and impart skills and in speaking with Trinity librarian Linda Corman, you feel an immediate appreciation for why she is such an integral member of the College community. She has an unrivaled breadth of knowledge, a beautiful curiosity and an ability to share her resources and enthusiasms in a manner that is inviting and intimate, friendly but never imposing.
Corman, whose full title is Nicholls Librarian and Director of the John W. Graham Library, is so humble that, if you didn’t know the extent of her contributions, you might not realize just how profound her impact has been. But speak with anybody who has worked with her—whether students, staff, alumni or volunteers—and the reaction is invariably the same: the library would not be what it is today without Linda Corman.
When she was hired as Trinity College’s librarian in 1980, Corman had worked in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education library for six years.
“It was the vanguard of technology at the time,” she recalls. “We would search on telecommunications lines—paying by the minute and by the hit, so the language had to be very specific.”
Students can now do their own searches (without having to pay for each one), and there’s nary an acoustic coupler in sight. But what has remained consistent throughout Corman’s 41-year career is the role of librarian.
“It’s now possibly harder to get the best information, to curate it.Years ago the responsibility manifested in choosing books. My role now is still to help people understand how they can identify the best information—and how to use it ethically,” says Corman. “What I do now doesn’t have a different objective than when I started, but rather a different means.”
Another aspect of her job that has changed is the library itself, its location having moved from the basement of Trinity to the present John W. Graham library, in the Munk School of Global Affairs.
Guy Upjohn ’55, an executive member and former president of the Friends of the Library, the active volunteer group that fundraises for the library, credits Corman for the establishment of a number of special collections over the years, including the Churchill, the G8 and the G20 collections.
A particular highlight for Upjohn is the Upjohn-Waldie history collection, which features the works of artist Eric Gill, incunabula and other rare books from the 15th to mid-20th century donated by Upjohn and his wife, Sandra ’55 (and described as “extraordinary” by Corman).
About the then-proposed new library, “A lot of people said ‘It’s never going to happen.’ But Linda just didn’t quit. I think she was basically the driving force,” says Upjohn, who, while commending the College’s substantial investment, is unstinting in his praise of Corman’s ability to attract interest in the library as well as donors, through her infectious and persuasive enthusiasm, adding, “Now that library is one of the most welcoming spaces on the Trinity campus.”
“Trinity’s library is such a special place,” says Provost Mayo Moran. “As a lover of books I’m a little biased, but I also feel Linda’s influence on every shelf. We are so grateful for her many contributions to building one of Trinity’s most valuable resources.”
Corman’s commitment to and passion for the library can be felt everywhere, from the stacks to the cozy reading nooks, the special exhibitions to the archives. She has helped to create a world-class catalogue in a space that is inclusive, accessible and beloved by academics, students and the broader community.Though she is moving on to pursue a new chapter, her impact on the library and the College will be felt for years to come.
“I’ve just had the best job in the world,” says Corman.