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French language and literature collection policy

Liaison librarian

  • robin [dot] canuel [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email) 514-398-4698

Updated June 2011

History of the Collection

McGill has been offering courses in French Language and Literature since its foundation in 1821. Consequently, its collection is endowed with historical strength in criticism and literary biography. Some of the areas of distinction lie in medieval romance and 18th century literature. Thanks to various benefactions, the collection contains an interesting variety of bibliophile editions of the 19th and 20th centuries; these include the complete works of major writers, and, frequently, a variety of different editions (in the original language and in translation).

The University's historic commitment to the humanities is reflected in its substantial backfiles of important scholarly journals and publications.

Current Collection Development

Materials are selected to support the teaching of the Department and to meet the research needs of both faculty and graduate students. As outlined in the Canadiana policy, the acquisition of French-Canadian literature in the original language falls within the mandate of this policy.

Most recently, partially in response to several new faculty members joining the department, we have begun to prioritize the acquisition of French and French Canadian contemporary literature from the 20th and 21st centuries. In addition to this, a particular emphasis has been placed on purchasing works related to poetry, film, and culture, as well as on titles both theoretical and methodological in nature.

The availability of monographs in electronic format is not yet as common in French literature as they are in other disciplines; however we actively purchase electronic copies of books whenever possible.

Academic Programmes and Liaison

The Department offers, in French, a range of courses at the undergraduate level, leading to a B.A., with either a Major (Concentration) or Honours (Specialisation). At the graduate level, it offers courses leading to a M.A. (with or without a thesis), and to a Ph.D.

Collection development is the responsibility of the French literature liaison librarian. Contact with the Department is effected through its library liaison, as well as through personal communication with other faculty members. Regular contact with other liaison librarians is maintained through the sharing of relevant review material.

McGill Resources

The Humanities and Social Sciences Library is the major location for the University's French Language and Literature collections. Extensive backfiles of scholarly publications of the 19th and 20th century allow for historical research. Among the microtexts are the CIHM collection of pre-1900 imprints, and comprehensive backfiles of newspapers.

The Reference Collection in the The Humanities and Social Sciences Library has a basic collection of reference works on French and French-Canadian literature, as well as a rich array of bibliographies and other reference works required for research.

The Library maintains subject guides on both French Literature and French Canadian Literature.

In addition, the following McGill libraries hold materials of interest for the study of French language, French civilization, French and Quebec literature:

The Rare Books and Special Collections of McGill Univesity has an extensive collection of books, prints and pamphlets, many of which are relevant to French literary and cultural studies. The 18th century is worthy of special mention is because of the more than 500 items in the Rousseau collection, as well as important editions of Voltaire, Prévost and Rétif de la Bretonne, the Colgate collection with its comprehensive collection on the history of the Rétif book, the history of printing, publishers' and printers' archives, bibliophiles' collections, etc. The Joubert collection is a rich source of French-Canadian cultural materials. The Lande collection provides a fair sampling of 19th century French-Canadian imprints pertaining to the intellectual life of that era.

As a depository library, Government Documents receives the publications of the Office de la langue française and the specialized lexicons/dictionaries (Bulletin de terminologie) from the Secretary of State Translation Bureau.

The Marvin Duchow Music Library contains works on Renaissance music, audio and visual materials on opera, sound recordings of folksongs and French language music literature.

The Education Library acquires works in the teaching of language and has an extensive collection of children's literature.

Both the Audio-Visual Service of the Humanities and Social Sciences Library and the University's Instructional Communications Centre contain collections of films, film adaptations of literary works and filmed theatrical performances and audio cassettes in support of the teaching programme and research interests of the Département.

ARTFL (American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language Project Database) is a database containing a multiplicity of texts published in France from the17th through the 20th centuries, together with standard reference works, and is available on the A-Z list of E-Indexes and Databases page of the Humanities and Social Sciences (McLennan) Library.

The Language Laboratory provides taped materials for language learning. The "salle de travail" in Peterson Hall provides additional copies of materials for undergraduate courses.

Regional Resources

Concordia University and its Simone de Beauvoir Institute has an extensive collection of primary and secondary materials by and about women writers.

Université de Montréal has strengths in medieval literature, literary theory and European theatre history.

Université du Québec à Montréal collects intensively in "paralittérature" (detective fiction, science fiction, comic strips).

The Bibliothèque nationale du Québec has as its mandate to conserve the printed Québec heritage; through its legal deposit programme, it acts as a depository for all Quebec publications, including more than 750 livres d'artistes. It also holds collections on literary genres (novel, theatre, short story, poetry, essay), public archives (personal papers of writers), and special collections of rare materials.

The National Theatre School and McGill have a reciprocal borrowing agreement. It has a growing collection of performing arts monographs and unpublished plays.

The Cinémathèque québécoise collects monographs and periodicals on film history, contemporary film studies and the history of television.

The National Film Board maintains specialized materials on film and television and a substantial collection of Canadian film periodicals.

Consortia and Document Delivery

Membership in large research consortia provides access to vast bibliographic databases and to efficient document delivery systems based on the holdings of North America's most eminent research collections.

Journal articles and books not owned by McGill libraries are available free of charge to McGill students and faculty via the Document Delivery Service in the McLennan Library Building. 

The Center for Research Libraries,(CRL) a consortium to which McGill belongs, holds a number of important microform sets relevant to French literary studies: Périodiques clandestins 1939-1945; French Revolution: critical and historical literature; Eighteenth century French literature: fiction and poetry; French drama; Ouvrages sur Voltaire 1788-1826, Les Voltairiens, as well as a historical collection of European dissertations and retrospective journals, the holdings of which may be viewed on their Web site.

General Collection Guidelines

Languages:  The primary language of the collection is French. Primary materials are acquired in French, while critical works and other secondary materials are acquired in both English and French. Translations of medieval French texts into modern French are purchased selectively.

Geographical Coverage: The term "littérature d'expression française" refers to most countries/regions of the Francophonie, but the emphasis is on France and French Canada .

Date of Publication: Emphasis is on current publications. However, should it be necessary to build up a collection in a new field of teaching/research initiated by the Département, then retrospective acquisitions would be made. Reprints are acquired to replace lost or deteriorated items.

Subjects and Levels of Collecting

Definitions of Collection Levels derived from the American Library Association's Guide for Written Collection Policy Statements, 2nd. ed., 1996.

History of the French Language 2 3a
French Linguistics 3a  
French Film 2 3a
History of French Literature 3b  
French civilization, intellectual life: in conjunction with liaison librarians for Comparative Literature, Interdisciplinary Studies, History etc. 3b  
  French Medieval Literature 4  
  French Renaissance 4  
  French 17th Century 3b 4
  French 18th Century 4  
  French 19th Century 3b  
  French 20th Century 3b  
  Literature of Québec and French Canada 3b 4

Coordination and Cooperation

McLennan Reference Department: Recommendations for the purchase of reference works are forwarded to the Liaison Librarian responsible for the Reference collection.

The Rare Books and Special Collections of McGill University: Collaboration with Rare Books concerning the acquisition of publications relevant to research programmes is an essential component of the collection development programme.

Linguistics: General linguistics including the structure, semantics, morphology, and other analytically linguistic features of language are for the consideration of the Linguistics liaison librarian.

Comparative Literature liaison librarian buys general materials in English on the theory of literature, comparative literature, and translations.

Communications: Recommendations for the purchase of publications in the field of Media Studies and Communications are forwarded to the liaison librarian responsible for this subject area.

Education Library acquires primary and secondary material in the area of children's literature. It acquires works written for children selected on the basis of quality and pertinence to the Education Faculty's curriculum. The juvenilia authors whose reputation is not based exclusively on this genre but represents an important or versatile element of the author's oeuvre are purchased for the McLennan-Redpath Collections. Secondary material supporting specific courses and research interests of the Department of English is also acquired.

Marvin Duchow Music Library: There is a significant collection of print and audio-visual materials in the Music Library dealing with musical theatre, (opera, musicals, rock concerts, etc.) and with the aesthetics and cultural impact of popular and classical music.

Descriptions of the Collection

Current author approval plans, serials and standing orders lists are available from the French literature liaison librarian.

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