Update #5: Osler Library of the History of Medicine

Published: 5 August 2019

Background: As a result of the water infiltration and recovery efforts related to McIntyre Medical Building fire in July 2018, the Osler Library space in the McIntyre Medical Building continues to be closed until further notice. The Osler recovery team has restored most materials, and holdings from the Osler collection are now accessible to users in Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room, located on the 4th floor of the McLennan Library Building.

In May 2019, the McGill Library announced that the Osler Library of the History of Medicine will be rebuilt as per pre-fire conditions. Reconstruction work will be coordinated by Facilities Management and Ancillary Services in collaboration with the Library and the Faculty of Medicine. The scope of reconstruction work includes: reinstallation of finishes and components including dismantled woodwork, bookcases and cabinetry as per pre-fire conditions; repairing all damage caused by the dismantling and fire (i.e. water & soot); no changes to room layouts. The timeline and schedule of work is to be determined and subject to change. It includes: completion of remediation work; ingestion of books and other materials into the library.

Space Update: Since the library shelving areas are being restored in a way that adheres to current Quebec building codes regarding accessibility, the library will lose a small amount of shelving space from the area that houses the circulating collection. Consequently, there are some decisions to make re: onsite collections. Here are some examples of the solutions under consideration, though it is important to note that all decisions will be made following a consultation period:

  • The circulating collection is returning to the McIntyre; library staff will work with key users – particularly faculty and associates of the Social Studies of Medicine Department – to develop a plan whereby a certain number of materials will be housed off-site, but available by request. Examples: books that are readily accessible electronically, and journals for which digital editions exist, may be candidates for off-site shelving
  • The library may create additional space for future growth by digitizing and putting into accessible storage certain large-run, recently acquired, collections of 19th century material

Evidence of the progress being made can be seen in photo of the Wellcome Camera. The shelving is being reinstalled, as is the panelling on the walls. Colleagues in Facilities have orchestrated meetings to discuss lighting as well as security cameras that meet much higher standards than did those damaged in the fire. Meanwhile, the Osler Room itself has been thoroughly cleaned and has had new lights installed. The carpet has recently been shampooed and for now the room rests, ready for the day that the books begin to return.

Collection & Staff Update: Osler materials continue to be accessible and Osler staff are available to assist users. To recap:

  • Osler’s Circulating and Rare Collections: Osler materials continue to be accessible. The Osler Library's circulating collection continues to be accessible. Click here for more information regarding opening hours for the Redpath basement. Please note that circulating collection material unavailable on-site can be requested by McGill students, faculty, and staff through Interlibrary Loans. Additional copies of books can be acquired should faculty members require them for teaching purposes. Please direct requests to osler.library [at] Rare Osler items prior to 1840 and Robertson materials, including archives, are currently available for review upon request on the 4th floor of the McLennan Library Building.
  • Osler staff members continue to be based from the 4th floor of the McLennan Library Building (3459 McTavish Street) and are available to handle reference requests when possible. Please send inquiries to the Osler via email at or call 514- 398-4711. Library users can also visit in person. Opening hours are Monday to Friday, 10 am-6 pm. Click here for more information.

Thank you for your patience during this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out for assistance.

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