APLA Merit Award 2021 Winner - Tanja Harrison

APLA Merit Award 2021

Tanja Harrison, Mount Saint Vincent University Library

Halifax, Nova Scotia

“While I am writing this letter, it is on behalf of our entire staff. You will note on the signature page that all Mount Librarians and library assistants are signatories. (There are 16 signatures!) Tanja is not only the heart of our library, but a strong beating pulse of the Atlantic library community. …

It is one thing to join a committee, but for Tanja a membership is an invitation to be involved. She works tirelessly to support and advocate for libraries in all forms. Her enthusiasm is contagious; no project is too small to be done, and to be done well – nor too large to manage through careful thought and planning. Tanja is generous with her time. She is proud of the work all libraries do to advance access to information, advocate for literacy and make space for learners – especially as it relates to Indigenous, nontraditional, marginalized or vulnerable groups.

Tanja Harrison embodies the qualities sought in the APLA Merit Award.  She works with passion and integrity, and our community is so much the better for her full participation. “

  • Meg Raven, Collections Librarian & Liaison Librarian for the Sciences, MSVU Library

Ms. Harrison has a long and rich history of serving the Atlantic Provinces library community. A member of APLA since 2001, Tanja was the Program Chair for the 2012 APLA Conference. She chaired the Memorial Awards Committee between 2005-2008, and she was an active member of the Grow-a-Library Committee between 2008-2012.  Tanja has also served with the Halifax Library Association, as Vice-President, President and Past-President between 2009-2012.  She has co-Chaired Libraries Nova Scotia (now LAMNS) from 2014-2016. Tanja has been a member of the Nova Scotia Library Association, and served as the PR& Communications Convener, and Web Manager.

Not one to limit her activities to the local realm, Tanja has been an active member in the Canadian Library Association (CLA)/Canadian Federation of Library Associations (CFLA/FCAB) with her volunteer work as a member of the Library History Interest Group/Network, the Information Literacy Interest Group, and the Canadian Association of College & University Libraries (CAUL).  Tanja was the Public Relations Coordinator and Secretary for the joint APLA/CLA conference held in 2002.  She was the co-chair of the 2002 Access Conference, and the 2004 WILU Conference hosted by Acadia University. Tanja has been involved with the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) as a member of the Art Libraries Section (2009-2012).  She was also involved with the Halifax conference arrangements and program for the International Association of University Libraries (IATUL) 2016 Conference and has since presented at IATUL 2017 and 2019. She is also an active supporter of the Ex Libris Association for retired librarians, author since 2010 of the Maritime news column for the biannual newsletter.

Her work for the Atlantic academic library community has been expressed through her work with the Council of Atlantic University Libraries (CAUL-CBUA), Novanet, and the Dalhousie School of Information Management Associate Alumni.  Through CAUL, Tanja has served as a Board Member (2009 to present), Treasurer (2012-2015), Chair – Atlantic Scholarly Information Network Steering Committee (2011-2012), Digital Preservation and Stewardship Committee (2010-2012), Research Grant Ad Hoc Committee (2010-2013), and Communication Committee (2009-2015). 

Tanja has worked tirelessly for Novanet, taking on the Board roles of Vice-Chair, Chair and Past Chair between 2012-2018. She is also a past Treasurer and has served on various committees. More recently, Tanja was an elected representative for the Atlantic Region on the Content Strategy Committee (2017-2019) for the Canadian Knowledge Research Network (CKRN). This is vital work that improves access to scholarly resources for all Canadian academics.

“Tanja has served on enumerable committees and working groups, and is always counted on to provide considered, thoughtful contributions.  … This willingness to give back to our library community illustrates Tanja’s commitment to all that libraries do for us.”

  • Bill Slauenwhite, Manager, Novanet Consortium of Libraries

Tanja is an invited lifetime member of the Beta Phi Mu International Library and Information Science Honor Society. In addition, in July 2020 Tanja began a PhD in Educational Studies focusing her research on a critical history of early 20th century library school education in Canada with a focus on the Atlantic region. To begin such an endeavor speaks of her commitment to lifelong learning and her love of libraries and our profession.  Her enthusiasm for her studies is boundless and yet her commitment to her practice of librarianship has never been stronger.

In one area of her research, Tanja has embraced discovering the local history of libraries and library associations. She was particularly intrigued with the strong women represented in the founding of APLA and the HLA. Though she read and wrote, serious and studious research about Mary Kinley Ingraham, resulting in the 2012 lengthy peer-reviewed paper entitled: “The Courage to Connect:  Mary Kinley Ingraham and the Development of Libraries in the Maritimes”, she also made this history come to life with her signature enthusiasm including once helping to coordinate a group historical re-enactment as a conference presentation.

In addition to managing an academic library and her service to the library community, Tanja has also maintained an active research profile through the publication of book chapters, journal articles and online resources, and via conference presentations. Tanja actively supports alumni, students, faculty and librarians in pursuing their programs of study and research.  She is always available to discuss any library or information need - and shines the light of recognition on to others.

Ms. Harrison has contributed to her profession – and continues to, locally, provincially, regionally, national and internationally. She has worked at four universities in Nova Scotia. She started her career at Dalhousie University, then moved to a nine-year career at Acadia University as an academic librarian. While at Acadia University, she developed strong ties to the University Art Gallery, in the promotion of public spaces (such as the library) for encouraging the public accessibility to visual art.  During her tenure at Acadia University, Tanja led an online tutorial project and co-authored the “You Quote It, You Note It” peer-reviewed plagiarism module which won a CAUBO Award and the Acadia President’s Award for Innovation. This tutorial has been linked and adapted by thousands of libraries world-wide. It was the first of a series of 5 tutorials, that to date are the most used resources in Acadia University Library’s history, with hundreds of thousands of hits each year.

In 2009, she became the University Librarian at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and is now in her second term as the University Librarian at Mount Saint Vincent University. Ms. Harrison is highly collaborative and supportive of her colleagues and staff, and has worked tirelessly to support excellence in library work and achievement, including the reclassification of staff positions with the MSVU Library. Tanja has continued to build a strong relationship with the MSVU Art Gallery and was instrumental in building and improving the physical infrastructure of the MSVU Library and Learning Commons – to the benefit of the MSVU community.

“There simply aren’t enough words, or the correct words to describe Tanja’s level of dedication and enthusiasm for this profession.  Tanja has boundless energy, which is remarkable, ...  Always working, always thinking about libraries, students, art, experiences, colleagues and staff, research, and library history …”

  • Jennifer Richard, Interim University Librarian - Acadia University, and colleague


“Thank you for this wonderful news. It is truly unexpected but such an honour to receive. Sincere thanks to the adjudication committee and to Meg Raven for leading the nomination effort. To see the MSVU Library & Archives team's names on the nomination, and to read the kind words in your letter, as well as those from my close colleagues Jennifer and Bill, has given me a warm feeling I will not forget. 

My library roles over the past twenty-five years have been ever-changing. What remains steadfast is the experience I have been provided by APLA, the network through which I have met close colleagues and hold some of my fondest memories of working in libraries. I commend the perseverance of the local Acadia and APLA conference organizing teams for their dedication to bring this virtual event to fruition, extending the reach of the program to so many.

Wishing you all a rich and interactive conference experience! Take care and thank you again.”  

Tanja Harrison, APLA 2021 Merit Award winner.