Monday, 5 December 2011

Ou est la bibliothèque?

I was waiting to write my blog post until after I had visited the Montreal Central Library...but alas, Montrealers apparently do not like libraries since 1 map, 1 tourist book, 1 Tomtom, 1 helpful security guard, 1 massive plan of area, 1 passer by, 2 Tim Hortons employees, and 4 library students could not locate it.  This is sad but in itself portrays a less than positive vibe concerning the approach to libraries.  There were not even any signs for the library in the streets surrounding it (I have since discovered its location and we were only a few blocks away being pointed in vastly different directions by our sources).  My conclusion, the bibliotheque ain't that popular in Montreal*...

...but QR codes are... are dancing poodles.

A slight saving grace was this poster (below), which we saw while in Chinatown with the tag line 'le livre, machine a voyager dans le temps' - what a great way to put it.  The Salon du Livre de Montreal is an annual book festival including round table discussions, debates and public readings.

I also wanted to write a bit about a talk we had last week in 'Management and Preservation of Special Collections' from Lucy Mulroney, one of the SU Special Collections Research Centre's curators.  With a background in art history, Lucy has a different approach to the collection and her description of her job as getting to know the historical characters associated with the collections at SU made me think of special collections in a different way.

Another point that I found interesting was the relationship she drew between collection development policy and scholarly argument.  She rightly pointed out that the decisions surrounding collection development such as what to buy, what to deaccession etc. all come after extensive research and deliberation.  The librarians have to consider the collection as a whole, where items have their place, who else has bought/dealt with items in a similar manner, who are the main players in the market, who is the audience and then use all of these answers to develop a persuasive and scholarly researched case for action.  Librarians need to keep abreast of their field and new scholarly insights as well as keeping an eye on faculty and where their fields of research might lead the university.  Collection development is not just an administrative job.

Lucy sighted Julia Van Haaften of the New York Public Library and the changes she made to the classification of photographical history books, which increased the focus on these books for their artistic content rather than historical narrative (good article here).  Classification has a greater strength than mere organisation on a shelf.

This all ties in with the increasingly important role that SCRC plays in teaching students.  They can tailor their presentations and lectures to suit specific subject areas, drawing on all areas of the collections.  There have already been over 30 such lectures this term and the concept is proving a great success.  This gets students into the Research Centre and shows them how relevant these collections are to what they are studying...something that they would be unlikely to discover on their own.  This also directs collection development policy and gives the curators a good idea of what would be beneficial purchases.

So, I was pleasantly surprised by this insight and am glad that I now know a bit more about what happens on the other side of the 'divide' on the 6th floor between SCRC and Archives!

*apologies if this is vastly wrong


  1. Hi Erin, I'm sorry to read that you had a hard time finding the Grande Bibliothèque.

    I can assure you that it's really popular in Montreal. It's actually the most popular francophone public library in the world in terms of visits.

    You can read on it right here :

  2. Thank you very much for your comment. I have had a look at the article and am very annoyed that I didn't get the chance to visit this busy and forward-thinking library. We must have been unfortunate in those that we asked for directions. If I am in Montreal again, I will definitely make sure to visit.