Behind the Brand: Celine Gareau-Brennan

Libraries make an impact far beyond books.


When you watch Céline Gareau-Brennan pluck a book purposefully from its shelf at the Rutherford Library in a scene from the University of Alberta’s brand story video, Leading with Purpose, you know it’s exactly the one she was looking for.

But from the librarian’s mouth to our ears, she says libraries aren’t just about books anymore.

“Librarians do more than guide you to the information you need for your projects and research,” she says. “They’re also there to teach you to critically evaluate information to make sure it’s valuable, correct and relevant.”

As an academic librarian, Gareau-Brennan supports and works with faculty and students from the Alberta School of Business to elevate their learning, teaching and research. She also co-leads the library’s newly formed Entrepreneurship and Innovation Team, a group of librarians across campus who will connect entrepreneurs with the information they need, often from other areas of study, to get their businesses up and running.

“In libraries, we have a role to maintain information. But people often see innovation and maintenance as opposites,” she says. 

But she points out that maintaining a library’s resources — whether it’s a recently published paper or a centuries-old manuscript — is the foundation of innovation. “You can’t move forward and create new things without the ability to learn from existing knowledge and past discoveries.”

Because libraries are home to all areas of study, she says, librarians can connect people who will work well with each other and make sure everyone has equal access to the resources they need. She hopes her work helps position libraries as accessible tool kits self-starters can use to reach their goals.

Tell me, what inspires you to do this work? 

My first career was in theatre, and I still look to theatre practice to inform my world view. I completed a bachelor of arts in theatre at the University of Alberta. All of my professors and classmates during my BA really shaped the way I see the world, the way I interact with people and the way relationships are so central to all the work I do. My Franco-Albertan and Edmonton background also put me in the centre of tightly knit communities and their stories.

It’s amazing how our communities shape the way we see the world. Does that influence your job now? 

Yes, my interest in our history and stories has influenced my concept of librarianship. And people are the most important part of it. It’s all about creating relationships with the communities we serve in order to collaborate with them the best we possibly can.

How do our libraries create those connections?

The staff are the heart of the library. You can chat with library staff at our service desk and online or book a time to consult with a librarian about whatever project you’re working on, and they’ll lead you to the best information. It’s a great service that not everyone knows about. As an undergrad, I had no idea about it, and I definitely missed out.

You appear in the U of A brand story video.  What was it like?

I saw my scene as a metaphor for what libraries are today. I was filmed finding a book for someone I would be helping. To me, that book stands in for the information, resources and real-world connections that people seek out at the library.

At one point, we had this magic moment in Rutherford South’s Reading Room, where a beam of light fell on a table perfectly, and it was gorgeous. So there’s a metaphorical element to my section of the video. We still have books, and books are still important, but we are so much more.