McGill University Libraries Collection Policy for Biology
Eleanor MacLean, Head Librarian and Bibliographer
History of the Collection
The Blacker-Wood Library of Biology was formed in 1988 by the merger of the formerBlacker-Wood Library of Zoology and Ornithology and the former Botany-Genetics Library. In 1920 Dr. Casey A. Wood presented to the University, and served as acquisitions curator for the next 22 years, the Emma Shearer Wood Collection in ornithology and the Robert R. Blacker Collection in vertebrate zoology. These two collections were housed together and expanded to cover all areas of natural history except those specifically assigned to other McGill libraries. The Library has developed exceptional strengths in ornithology (especially on raptors), history of biology, wildlife art, ethology, zoology (except for entomology) and evolution. The Library contains the following special collections: Gurney Collection on Crustacea, Ivanow Collection of Persian manuscripts, Casey A. Wood manuscripts, over 10,000 original wildlife drawings and prints, manuscripts, correspondence of 19th and early 20th century naturalists, Woodward Collection of letters, archives of the Montreal Natural History Society and, in part, the Raptor Research Foundation, and a few falconry artifacts. The highly-regarded collection of long runs of serials is being fossilized as a result of budgetary constraints.
The Botany-Genetics Library began in 1970 as an amalgamation of the Botany and Genetics departmental reading rooms and also became McGill's primary collection for cellular development and molecular biology. The collection is particularly strong in genetics and North American botany.
Current Collection Development
The goal is to build and maintain a strong, well-balanced collection in all areas of biology except:
domestic animals, entomology, human genetics, immunology, parasitology, plant pathology and
taxonomy, popular accounts of hunting, fishing and birdwatching and veterinary science (except for
very selective acquisition on diseases of marine organisms and wild animals). Because resources are
currently inadequate to support this aim, the collection tends to focus on: Aquaculture, botany,
cellular, molecular and developmental biology, ecology, ethology, evolution, genetics, history and
philosophy of biology, limnology, marine biology, natural history, neurobiology and vertebrate
zoology. Material is collected much more selectively on: Biochemistry, biology, biometry,
biophysics, biotechnology, comparative physiology, economic botany, paleontology and wildlife art.
The Library does not collect on humans, except where they are included in works on animals,
especially in the areas of comparative behaviour or evolution. For those areas which overlap with the
collections of other McGill Libraries, every effort is made to co-ordinate decisions with the
appropriate selectors so as to ensure that related collections develop along complementary lines.
Because of the physical location of the Macdonald Campus Library, and because many of its
teaching programmes cover the same subject areas as those of the biology department, considerable
duplication is accepted.
Journal titles should be included in subject indexes and abstracts, cover either a new subject field or
one in heavy demand as shown by the use pattern of related journals and fulfil current research and
teaching needs of McGill faculty. Titles needed for individual faculty members will only be
acquired under exceptional circumstances (for example if the individual is donating a subscription of
equal library cost and having a higher user demand). The maintenance of in-depth collections on
zoological, especially ornithological, history and art are supported solely through the Blacker and
Wood endowment funds.
Academic Programmes and Liaison
The Department of Biology, plus the Redpath Museum, offers majors, masters and doctoral
programmes in many areas of biology with a particular emphasis on molecular genetics and
development; neurobiology; human genetics; plant biology; evolutionary biology; behaviourial,
general and applied, and aquatic ecology; marine biology; fisheries; history, philosophy and
sociology of biology; and joint majors in biology and mathematics or environmental studies.
The Collection is also used by researchers from outside McGill, particularly those working on
historical aspects of biology, zoology and natural history. The collection, which is available to the
general public, is of particular value to those interested in birdwatching and animal art. We do not,
however, buy any items specifically for these communities. Collection development is the
responsibility of the Head of the Blacker-Wood Library. Liaison with faculty is maintained through
the Blacker-Wood Library Advisory Committee as well as regular contact with individual faculty
members. Coordination with the bibliographers of cognate fields mentioned above is largely
maintained through the sharing of relevant review material and other information of interest.
The Blacker-Wood Library is the major location for the University's collection on biology and
natural history. The following libraries also hold material of interest for teaching and research in
Health Sciences Library: biochemistry, bioethics, biophysics, biotechnology, cytology,
endocrinology, histology, human genetics, immunology, laboratory animal science, microbiology,
and molecular biology.
Macdonald Campus Library: agriculture, animal husbandry, aquaculture, bacteriology,
biochemistry, botany, cytology, ecology, economic botany, entomology, forestry,genetics,
invertebrate zoology, microscopy, molecular biology, natural history, nature conservation,
parasitology, parks, pests, plant taxonomy, protection of animals, and wildlife management.
Osler Library of the History of Medicine: history of natural sciences, herbals and medicinal
Edward Rosenthal Library of Mathematics and Statistics: biomathematics.
Physical Sciences Engineering Library: biochemistry, biophysics, biotechnology, history and
philosophy of science, invertebrate paleontology, neural networks.
Blackader-Lauterman Library of Art and Architecture: landscape architecture, urban ecology,
and wildlife art history.
Education Library: teaching of biology.
McLennan-Redpath Library: biogeography, environmental sciences, maps, oceanography, biological anthropology, comparative psychology, evolution,
expeditions, geography, and human biology. The audio-visual department houses a collection of
cassettes of animal calls and the Rare Books and Special Collections Department holds the first
(double elephant folio) edition of Audubon's Birds of America, and a substantial collection of
historical and artistic works in botany.
Law Library: environmental and wildlife law.
Religious Studies Library: creationist theory.
Université de Montréal libraries have good collections in biology, especially in botany.
Université Laval libraries have good collections in marine biology and collections in zoology.
Canada Institute for Science and Technical Information, Environment Canada, Agriculture
Canada and Cornell University have good collections in biology.
Consortia and Document Delivery
The Center for Research Libraries, a consortium to which McGill belongs, holds considerable
material of interest to Biology, particularly in the areas of long runs of European and Russian
Research Libraries Group and OCLC memberships provide access to vast bibliographic databases
and to efficient document delivery systems based on the holdings of North America's most eminent
General Collection Guidelines
Languages: English is the primary language material of the collection. French language titles are
acquired selectively, with emphasis on material which is unavailable in English or is specifically
Canadian in interest or origin. Major research journals, faunal checklists and historically important
zoological monographs may be acquired in other languages - particularly German, Russian, Latin,
Japanese and other European or South American languages.
Chronological Coverage: All time periods are covered. The Library contains an excellent
historical collection of both primary and secondary works although current coverage of the historical
aspects is weak.
Geographical Coverage: Preference is given to material from Canadian, U.S., British and western
European publishers. General botanical surveys of any locale may be acquired but the emphasis is
on northeastern North America. There are no geographical restrictions on the selection of zoological
Date of publication: Current material is emphasized. Older works of historical importance in
natural history, zoology and, especially, ornithology are acquired as special funds permit.
Other factors taken into account are:
- Currency of the material and number of other recent titles on the same subject.
- Circulation history of previous editions
- Reserve needs
- Faculty requests
- Intellectual level
- Originality of the material
- Other McGill locations
- Physical format and quality
- Reputation of the authors and/or publisher
Factors related to specific types of material
Government documents are obtained on the same basis as regular books and serials. Special
attention is paid to Quebec and Canada but documents are obtained from other Canadian provinces
and from the U.S. and U.K. United States state level documents are occasionally acquired.
Laboratory manuals are not normally acquired. Acquisition of loose leaf publications is
discouraged due to the high maintenance cost and the difficulty of knowing if the publication is
complete. Manuscripts and original drawings are acquired in zoology, especially ornithology, as
gifts, when special endowment funds permit, or through outside funding. Programmed texts are not
acquired. With the exception of those from Scientific American, reprints of selected journal articles
are collected only if there is an obvious demand for the material and the Library does not own most
of the originals. Reprints of monographs are acquired only if there is a current need for them, they
are established classics not held at McGill or because the physical condition of the original edition is
unsatisfactory for use. Technical reports are acquired only when specifically requested.
The Library welcomes gifts of books and journals. Criteria relating to language and subject
coverage are broader than for purchased material. We would, for example, accept collections of
gift materials on horticulture, hunting, fishing and domestic animals. Older material is welcomed.
The Library System's gift policy is used for journals, appraisal of materials and the issuance of tax
Where possible, monographs are purchased soft bound and are usually sent for binding or
plasticization, at the discretion of the Library Supervisor and/or Central Processing Unit, McLennan
Library. Pamphlets are usually placed in covers, or occasionally plasticized, at the discretion of the
Central Processing Unit. Reference books are usually bound or plasticized. Most journals being
retained are bound. Volumes requiring repair are given to the Library Supervisor to decide on the
need to repair or rebind. Items needing a decision on replacement or discarding are given to the
selector. The decision is made by balancing the current usefulness and uniqueness of the item
against the cost and difficulty of replacement. Attention is also paid to the historic value of the
item and the likelihood of another copy being received as a gift.
Co-ordination and Co-operation
The Blacker-Wood Library shares certain topics with other McGill Libraries, mainly the Macdonald
Campus Library, Health Sciences Library, Physical Sciences-Engineering Library, and the McLennan Library. Items in overlapping subject
areas are purchased after consultation only and if they are not already on order or held elsewhere on
the downtown campus. Items held at Macdonald which are needed for teaching and student use may
Priorities for Further Development
To continue to weed duplicate copies of monograph titles resulting from the merger of the
Botany-Genetics and Zoology collections and the incorporation of the relevant portions of the
now-closed Undergraduate, Oceanography and Northern Studies collections.
To continue studying journal costs and use to identify titles for cancellation so as not to put our
serial funds into deficit.
To consult with the faculty to refine the areas of in-depth development of the monograph collection.
To monitor the field of electronic publications and add those which we believe necessary and which
we can afford.
Descriptions of the Collection
A Dictionary-Catalogue of the Blacker-Wood Library of Zoology and Ornithology. Boston, G. K.
Hall, 1966. 9 vols.
Wood, Casey A. An Introduction to the Literature of Vertebrate Zoology, based chiefly on the titles
in the Blacker Library of Zoology, the Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology, the Bibliotheca
Osleriana and other libraries of McGill University, Montreal. London, Oxford University Press,
Gacek, Adam. Arabic manuscripts in the libraries of McGill University: union catalogue.
Montreal, McGill University Libraries, 1991
Un bestiario barocca: quadri di piume del seicento milanese, catalogo della mostra. Milano,
Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, 1988
Wolf, Joseph. Pheasant drawings by Joseph Wolf: reproductions of the original sketches and the
coloured plates of Elliot's "Monograph of the Phasianidae or family of the pheasants" (1872),
introduction by David P. Lank. Kingston upon Hull, Allen Publishing Co., 1988
Walkinshaw, Allen. Elizabeth Gwillim: artist and naturalist, 1763-1807. Oshawa, Robert
McLaughlin Gallery, 1980