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In Memory of Lois Gervais

MSLA Outstanding Teacher-Librarian of the Year 

MSLA Outstanding Library Support Staff of the Year 

The MSLA is thrilled to announce that two of their annual awards, Outstanding Teacher-Librarian of the Year and Outstanding Library Support Staff of the Year have a new name and benefactor, Mr. Charles Gervais.   Due to the tremendous generosity of Mr. Gervais, beginning in 2018, both awards will now include the words “in memory of Lois Gervais” and be accompanied by a significant monetary prize.  The newly minted name and monetary prize is Mr Gervais’ way of honouring his late wife, Lois Gervais (nee Peterson) who was an exemplary teacher-librarian in the previous Fort Garry and River East school divisions in the 1980s.   


Before her passing, Lois often spoke fondly to Charles  about her work as a teacher-librarian, her love for school libraries and her belief in the importance of “giving back” to the school library community as a whole so that all school libraries in Manitoba could flourish.  To honour Lois legacy as an exemplary teacher-librarian and her work in the greater school library community, Mr. Gervais approached The Winnipeg Foundation in the fall of 2017 to explore the idea of creating an award in Lois’ memory.   Shortly thereafter, Jennifer Aarhus and Cathy Auld from The Winnipeg Foundation contacted the MSLA Awards Committee to help make Charles’ wish a reality.   


Who was Lois Gervais?  Lois was a well-educated, exemplary teacher-librarian who was on the cutting edge of the relatively new role of a teacher-librarian in the 1980s.  She held degrees from the University of Manitoba and Luther College in the U.S. As such, she was the perfect choice to write a “Dear Donna” advice column for MSLAVA Journal from 1986 to 1989 which she called “T-L Talk.”  Her advice included:

  • The importance of attending professional development sessions such as the “Canadian Images Conference” (1986)

  • How to advocate for the role of teacher-librarian (1987)

  • Understanding the difference between public and school libraries (1987)

  • What competencies teacher-librarians should expect from students in the research process (1987)

  • Viewing the school library as a “A Food for Thought Restaurant” (1987)

  • How to incorporate and teach new technologies including video cameras and storyboards (1988)

  • How teacher-librarians can manage their time more effectively in the library (1988)

  • The importance of those in the Faculty of Education knowing what a teacher-librarian brings to a school and imparting this knowledge to teacher candidates (1988)

  • The importance of developing a School Library Selection Policy (1988)

  • The importance of teacher-librarians participating in the work of professional organizations (1989)


Lois received a lot of feedback on her column about the importance of those in the Faculty of Education knowing the role of the teacher-librarian and passing this knowledge on to teacher candidates.  At least one member of the faculty was critical that Lois stated in her advice column her shock that a faculty member she recently met at a S.A.G. conference did not know that one of the roles of the teacher-librarian was to plan cooperatively with teachers.  


Lois never backed down from this opinion.  She went on to chair MSLAVA’s “School Library Media Program Curriculum Committee.”  Her committee sent a letter to the Manitoba Minister of Education at the time encouraging him to take steps to develop policies and guidelines outlining quality library programming in the province.  Lois pushed for the development of a resource-based learning document that teacher-librarians could use to guide their work in the library. In 1988, the Manitoba Department of Education released Selection of Learning resources Policies and Procedures for Manitoba Schools.  It was sent to all MAST, MASS, MTS, MAP and MSLAVA members.  It was the quintessential document for all teacher-librarians and schools in the province for many years.  


The MSLA would like to thank Mr. Gervais and The Winnipeg Foundation for entrusting the Association to manage such a significant legacy.  Special thanks to Charles’ daughter, Lauren Gervais, for being on hand to present the awards at the 2018 MSLA Annual General Meeting on May 7, 2018.


The criteria and selection for both awards will continue as they have in the past through the MSLA Awards Committee.  Please see the MSLA website under the Awards tab for more information about these and other awards the MSLA presents each year at their AGM.  


Image Credits:

The private collection of Charles Gervais.

Chief Peguis Junior High School Yearbook, 1985

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