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Geography (human) collection policy

Liaison librarian

  • Tatiana [dot] Bedjanian [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email) 514-398-7383

2003 - Revision

History of the Collection

Traditionally there has been a conscious division in geography between the physical and human aspects of the subject. This is reflected in the collection which emphasizes the human geography of North America, western Europe and the Third World, especially the Caribbean. Membership of the Shastri Institute has resulted in a representative collection of South Asian material. In addition there has been a fairly high level of acquisition of major monographic series and key geographical journals, including many European journals of narrow regional focus which are unique within Quebec.

The development of collections pertaining to South American human geography has been superficial, excepting the Caribbean area and the Library's reference resources; neither are the collections strong for Asian material, excepting South Asia. African materials are spotty except for the economic geography of the area.

The methodology and history of geography and historical geography is very good. Historians and classicists share an interest in the last.

Physical geography is collected by the Physical Sciences and Engineering Library.

Current Collection Development

Geography is the branch of knowledge which deals with human societies in their spatial and ecological setting. It is a complex subject which has features of both the social and natural sciences and overlaps with many other disciplines.

Academic Programmes and Liaison

The Geography Department offers a full range of courses in human and physical geography, at the undergraduate level awarding either the B.A. or B.Sc.; there is also joint honours with the departments of Anthropology, Economics, History, Philosophy and Political Science. Other interdisciplinary programmes are the minor in Northern Studies in the Faculties of Arts and Sciences. McGill offers an undergraduate diploma in environmental studies for students who have already completed a degree and wish to enrich their training. One of the most popular programmes with rapidly increasing enrollments in the B.Sc. Joint Major in Environmental Sciences , coordinated by the Faculty of Science. Geography offers a graduate diploma in environmental remote sensing, an M.A. or M.Sc. by course and thesis and the Ph.D. Research is oriented to the physical and human geography of Canada and circumpolar regions, Third World development and urban geography.

Collection development is the responsibility of the geography bibliographer. Liaison with the Department is maintained by two departmental coordinators - one for human geography and one for physical geography, as well as through consultation with other faculty when required. Contact ranges from discussing specialized material to a significant exchange of information from published reviews, publishers' catalogues and advance publicity information.

McGill Resources

The Humanities and Social Sciences Library is the major location for the University's collection in human geography.

The Reference Department has a basic collection of reference works on geography, as well as a rich array of bibliographies and other reference works required for research

In addition the following McGill libraries hold materials of interest:

Walter Hitschfeld Geographic Information Centre which grew out of the Map and Air Photo Library houses a collection of over 200,000 maps, large scale aerial photographs of Quebec, many national atlases and a reference collection including monographs on cartography and its history, cartobibliographies, gazetteers, etc. Geographic areas covered to research level needs are Canada, selected parts of the Caribbean and Latin America, circumpolar regions and western and southern Africa. There is very little overlap with the Humanities and Social Sciences Library where thematic atlases are chosen selectively to support humanities and social science subjects. The library also collects titles on geographic information systems.

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections collects early maps and atlases, its particular strengths being North American and Canadian material. The reference collection focuses on the history of cartography. Other material relating to geography includes voyages and travels and tourist literature.

Government Information Services has a significant quantity of Canadian government material, U.N. documents and regional statistical information sources.

Blackader-Lauterman Library: The major area of overlap is in urban planning. Blackader emphasizes housing and the planning of urban areas from the point of view of design or use of space; it also collects histories of individual cities. Topics pertinent to urban geography such as urban sprawl, land use and gentrification are also of  interest to geographers, economists and other social scientists.

Physical Sciences and Engineering Library collects physical geography, which includes geomorphology, oceanography, and climatology.  It also collects remote sensing, the technology of transportation pollution, cold regions, applied mathematics, and computer applications.

Macdonald Campus Library collects in the discipline of agriculture. There is considerable overlap with economic cultural and social geography in the topics of resource management, conservation, ecology, rural settlement, third world development and agriculture, and the history of agricultural technology.

Blacker-Wood Library collects biology and botany. There is some overlap of interests with those of geographers in the fields of resource management, conservation and ecology.

Islamic Studies Library: The broad conception of the collection policy over the years has led to a wealth of information about Islamic societies worldwide.

Education Library collects material on education in geography and leisure studies. Howard Ross Management collects titles on tourism management, and Health Sciences Library collects medical geography.

The Centre for Developing Area Studies Library collects monographic series and serials primarily published in third world countries on social and economic topics.

Regional Resources

The Bibliothèque de gestion of the Université de Montréal has a good collection on urban planning material. INRS Urbanisation has a good urban research library of especial value to geographers.

The map collections of the Bibliothèque national du Québec and of Université du Québec à Montréal complement our holdings of maps, plans and air photos of Quebec.

The Archives nationale du Québec à Montréal and the various municipal archives on the island of Montreal and its environs hold material of interest to urban geographers.

The Centre du Tourisme du Québec has a core collection of tourism journals and reports pertinent to tourism in Quebec.

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 Building.  The Center for Research Libraries in Chicago, a consortium to which McGill belongs, includes a number of collections on microform which are of potential interest to human geographers, such as U.S. city directories up to 1881, London directories 16771900 and the Sanborn Fire Insurance Plans for the United States, the holdings of which may be viewed on their Web site

OCLC memberships provide access to vast bibliographic datbases and to efficient document delivery systems based on the holdings of North America's most eminent research collections.

General Collection Guidelines

Languages: English is the primary language of the collection, but works published in other Western European Languages, primarily French and German, are purchased on an extremely selective basis. Spanish and Portuguese material relating to Latin America is purchased on an extremely selective basis.

Chronological Coverage: Primary emphasis is on contemporary material with a selection of classic historic studies.

Geographical Coverage: North American (Canada, U.S.A.) western Europe, Soviet Union, Australia, circumpolar regions, Third World are all of particular interest.

Date of Publication: Emphasis is on current publications. Whenever possible, retrospective acquisitions are made to upgrade specific areas of the collection and to supply replacements of important books which have deteriorated or disappeared.

Subjects and Levels of Collecting

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

History, Philosophy Methodology of Geography 3b 4
Theoretical and Applied Geography 0 3a
 Field Survey Techniques 0 3a
 Cartography and Map Analysis 0 4
 Air Photo Interpretation 0 3a
 Quantitative Methods 0 3b      
 Qualitative Methods 0 3b      
 Historical Geography 4 2
Social Geography 3a 4
Behavioral Studies    
 Urban Spatial Behaviour 3a 3a
 Environmental behaviour 3a 3a
Cultural Geography 3a 4
Political Geography 3a 3a
Tourism and Recreational Geography 3a 2
Economic Geography   2
 Natural Resources 3b 3b
 Location Theory and Location Analysis 3b 3b
 Agricultural Geography 3a 2
 Industrial Location 3a 3a
 Regional Economic Development 4 4
Urban Geography    
 Urbanization 3b 4
 Social Geography of cities 3b 4
 Urban-rural Fringe 3b 4
Medical Geography collected by Health Sciences Library
Health Geography 0 3b
Population Geography 3a 3a
Regional Priorities    
 North America - Canada, U.S.A. 4 4
 Caribbean 3b 3a
 Latin America 2 3a
 Western Europe 3b 3a
 Soviet Union, Eastern and Central Europe 2 2
 Circulpolar North   3a
 South East Asia 3a 4
 Middle and Near East 2 2
 Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands 3a 3a
 Sub-Saharan Africa 3b

Coordination and Cooperation

Within the Humanities and Social Sciences Library:

McLennan Reference Department: Recommendations for the purchase of reference works are forwarded to Reference.

Economics: There is frequent consultation with the economics bibliographer on area of common concern, e.g. regional economic development and environmental topics.

Management: Occasionally there is overlap with Management e.g. industrial location, tourism. Management selects material which approaches these topics from a management perspective.

Political Science: Consultation on territorial sea and maritime boundaries. Public policy as applied to the environment requires consultation.

Sociology: There is common interest in social problems in western and third world countries.

History: Historical geography is the domain of geography. Travels, exploration and topography overlap and require consultation.

Anthropology: Of common interest are Third World development, women in development and cultural geography. Occasional consultation required.

Canadiana: A fair amount of material of interest to geographers is purchased by the very nature of the subject i.e. the regional emphasis in Canada.

Problem Areas

Transportation: The subject can be approached from an engineering, urban design or regional planning perspective. Urban transportation including the technical aspects, is collected to level 2 in Blackader-Lauterman. Very little is being selected for geography except for sustainable development e.g. bicycling. Consultation with faculty and among bibliographers is required.

Environment:  Some areas of overlap are: environmental policy, environmental ethics, environmental economics, environmental resource development and conservation, environmentally sensitive or critical zones, environmental technology. Bibliographers from Macdonald, Blacker Wood, Physical Sciences and Engineering, Government Documents, Hitschfeld and McLennan frequently consult on these issues, an indication that further refinement of policies, if possible, is desirable.

Priorities for Further Development

Complete review of serials and standing orders.

Further progress in coordination of policies concerning collection development with other bibliographers including the clarification of borderlines and regional priorities and location of reference materials.

Checklists describing the Collection

Geoabstracts list of periodicals checked against McGill holdings

Island Press Bibliography of Environmental Literature (Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies 1992) checked against McGill holdings.

Descriptions of the Collection

Marley, Carol. Geography: A Guide to Reference Sources. Montreal, McLennan Library Reference Department, McGill University, 1988. 27pp.

Marley, Carol. Environmental Maps and Atlases. Montreal, Hitschfeld Environmental Earth Sciences Library, McGill University, 1990. 10pp.

Serials and Standing Order lists available from bibliographer.

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