Born in Austria, Apollonia Steele attended the University of Windsor and the University of Toronto's Library School. She was a member of the cataloguing department at the University of Western Ontario library before accepting a position with the University of Calgary in 1972.
After several years working with rare books, she became the head of Special Collections in 1979. Over the next thirty years, she developed Special Collections into a literary archives powerhouse, which includes among its holdings the records of Mordecai Richler, Hugh MacLennan, Rudy Wiebe, Robert Kroetsch, Alice Munro, and many other authors of regional and national renown.
She has shared her knowledge of the holdings and of archival practice through numerous publications and presentations to conferences, university classes, and the archival community.
She was also the recipient of the Order of the University of Calgary in 2003 and became a Fellow of the Association of Canadian Archivists in 2010. She retired from the University of Calgary in 2009.