The history of the Religious Studies collection at McGill began as a co-operative venture in 1912 when the Joint Board of Theological Colleges affiliated to McGill University was established, and the participants made available their various library holdings. Later the Montreal Diocesan Theological College and the United Theological College continued this affiliation with McGill University. In 1948 the library became the Divinity Hall Library, and in 1970, was renamed the Religious Studies Library.
In 1996, the reference, research and serial collections from the Religious Studies Library in the William and Henry Birks Building were moved to Humanities and Social Sciences, McLennan Library Building. The remaining volumes supporting the teaching program in the Faculty of Religious Studies are the core of the Birks collection.
The Birks Reading Room supports the teaching program in religious studies, and is part of the Humanities and Social Sciences Library. The reference, serials, and research collections for religious studies are in the McLennan Library Building.
The collection of over 20,000 monographs in Birks Reading Room is strong in biblical studies, comparative religions, modern theology, Hinduism and Buddhism. New titles in religious studies which support the undergraduate teaching program, and those pertaining to Eastern studies, e.g. Buddhism, Sanskrit, etc. are kept in Birks.