Fiat Lux: Reimagining the McGill Library

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Dear Friends,

The McGill University Library and Archives is not a mere storeroom for books, but rather a pillar of the McGill community, serving as a place to work and a home away from home. It serves as the physical and virtual repository for generations of accumulated knowledge that sits at the centre of the teaching, research and learning enterprise that is the core of the McGill University’s mission. The Library plays a crucial role in providing the content, resources and services that cultivate curiosity, inspire ideas and stimulate research in the digital age.

It is now at a pivotal point in its history, sitting atop a cresting wave of technological revolution that has radically altered the long-accepted mandate of a library. To continue its central role in the University’s Academic Mission and ensure McGill continues to attract and retain the finest students from Quebec, Canada and around the world, the Library must physically transform its facilities to meet the evolving needs of the 21st century student.

This nine-month planning exercise, spearheaded by dedicated McGill staff members and the EKM and Shepley Bulfinch architectural firms, allowed for a clear understanding of space needs and opportunities. The McGill community (staff, students, faculty and community members at large) were engaged throughout the effort, and in an outstanding gesture of support, this study received generous contributions from McGill’s Friends of the Library, for which I am extremely grateful.

This proposed vision strives to exceed the highest international standards, creating a building complex that will unite all faculties, firmly entrench the Library at the edge of a bold new frontier and establish McGill as a guiding light throughout the 21st century.

Yours always,

Colleen Cook

Trenholme Dean of Libraries


When Redpath Hall, McGill’s first dedicated library, was originally built, the words “FIAT LUX” adorned the entablature above the entrance. These words, Latin for “let there be light,” embody the concept of illumination as knowledge, a motto as timely today on the cusp of McGill’s bicentennial anniversary as it was when the words were first carved into the limestone of Redpath Hall.

Now, those words have once again come to symbolize the scholarly significance of the Library as it evolves to meet the evolving needs of 21st century students. Technological advancements have radically altered the mandate of libraries, and as user needs undergo a radical shift, the McGill Library and Archives is facing a severe seating and space crunch, jeopardizing the academic potential of the University’s world-class students.

Generously supported by the Friends of the Library, Fiat Lux: Let There Be Light is the culmination of an exhaustive planning process to match McGill’s 21st century needs. It proposes a newly reimagined McLennan-Redpath complex, a prudent but ambitious, flexible but flowing facility that will allow the students, faculty and researchers to meet their scholarly potential. Following the best practices of peer institutions, this redesigned site features an Automated Storage and Retrieval System installed under McGill’s lower field, allowing critical floor space to be rededicated to student solo and group study areas.

The Feasibility Study also features the rebuilding of the Redpath Library Building, recreating it as a jewel of McGill’s downtown campus. The entire building would be linked by a generous grand staircase, spanning from the Cyberthèque and café on the street level; through bustling 24/7 teaching, learning, collaboration and study spaces adjacent to the popular outdoor terraces; past a stepped forum where lectures and projections would punctuate a McGill day; and up to an iconic reading room with views to Redpath Hall, the campus and Mount Royal.

In matching McGill’s international reputation, the reimagined Library embraces the architectural beauty of the past, integrates the evolving needs of today and prepares for the technological advancements of the future.

Let There Be Light!




































Renderings by Shepley Bulfinch and EKM. Drawing by Shepley Bulfinch.

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