Strengthening research collections

For many students, the Library is a home away from home throughout the academic year.

McGill students, scholars and members of the community at large pore over millions of research articles and tens of thousands of books every year. As the digital future evolves, and research and learning methods change with it, the need to maintain great library collections, in print and online, must remain a priority for a truly great university.

The McGill Library – for many, the heart of McGill University – boasts a world class range of collections and holdings. It is no wonder that visits to the Library have increased three-fold in the last decade, up to nearly 7 million visits a year. With resources available in both traditional and digital formats, the collections support all facets of McGill’s programs of teaching and research.

Technological change is influencing how the Library curates information, and, for users, the means of accessing that information. The needs of Library users have changed, according to Colleen Cook, Trenholme Dean of Libraries. “Students who have grown up with the Internet want things where they are, when they want it, and in the easiest format to serve their needs,” she says.

Enhancements to the Library’s collections, such as revamping space, acquiring e-journals and reconfiguring the storing of books, all improve its function as a “space of the mind,” says Dean Cook, who adds, “the role of the McGill Library is not to hold onto knowledge, but to protect its cohesiveness, and make it available.”

All of this is being done through philanthropic support. Recent gifts from Michael Peers BCom’53, and John H. Gomery BA’53, BCL’56, as well as generous financial support from Dr. Richard Mackler through the Harold Mackler and Nellie Rader Mackler McGill Library Fund, are enriching collections in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Donations from the Joan and Clifford Hatch Family Foundation have allowed the Library to build on its special collections in Shakespeare, an important area of study at McGill, purchasing printed works, databases, films and audio recordings. “It goes beyond just owning the materials”, says Dean Cook. McGill’s collections are “internationally important,” and so the Library has a duty to make them available through digitization.

“Studies indicate that 25% of our collections are really unique materials that need to be put into the public domain,” she explains. “Philanthropic dollars have allowed us to pull our weight in what is huge a global exercise in trying to get this kind of material out there.”