McGill, News

Library holdings to move off-island in 2023 ahead of proposed renovations

Two-point-three million items, including books and journals, will be transferred from McGill’s Humanities and Social Sciences Library to a new Collections Management Facility off the island of Montreal in mid-2023 to prepare for major renovations. The Fiat Lux project—a plan conceived in 2012 to renovate and modernize the McLennan-Redpath complex into a technologically-advanced facility with an open-concept layout—is moving ahead at full force. Construction on the complex is set to span from early-2024 to 2027. 

Physical texts currently occupy a significant amount of space in the McLennan-Redpath library complex. In a Sept. 7 press release, however, outgoing Trenholme Dean of Libraries Colleen Cook and incoming Dean Guylaine Beaudry noted it no longer makes sense to devote such a large footprint to this collection—almost half of the materials housed in the complex have not been checked out in over 30 years. As a result, many of the university’s hard-copy volumes will remain in the new Collections Management Facility, located in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, even after construction concludes.

Though library materials will be accessible to the McGill community through the interlibrary loan system during construction, the Dean of Librarians is encouraging instructors to start borrowing the texts they will need for 2023-24. All texts will be temporarily unavailable for six to eight months while they are transported to the holding facility. Once the facility is set up, library materials kept in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield will be delivered to McGill’s downtown campus within 24 hours upon request. 

During the renovations, the McLennan-Redpath complex will be completely inaccessible to students. The administration is currently looking into installing temporary satellite spaces around campus to compensate for lost study space. 

In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Laura Baek, U2 Management, expressed dismay about the closure of the McLennan-Redpath complex. Baek pointed to the importance of the complex as a prime study spot for students, and noted that the three-year-long shutdown would be an inconvenience for many.  

“It doesn’t seem ideal,” Baek said. “The [McLennan-Redpath] library is the main place on campus other than classes that students go to meet with other students and study. Especially during finals, there’s high demand for study spaces. Not having a place to go would not be great.”

McGill media relations officer Frédérique Mazerolle explained in an email to the Tribune that the complete renovation of the McLennan-Redpath complex is needed to cater to the university’s increased student population and the workspace they require. 

“A lot has changed in the last 50 years, and what worked well to serve 14,000 students back in the day isn’t necessarily the best fit for more than 40,000 students today,” Mazerolle wrote. “Students now struggle to find daily study space, a challenge made even harder during exam crunch time.” 

With most of its collection stored in the Collections Management Facility, the renovated library complex is expected to provide 5,350 seats for students. In her email, Mazerolle also detailed the various spaces the Fiat Lux project intends to create to support different styles of learning, including new areas for events and a reading room.

“Together, [the two infrastructure projects] will nearly double the space for students and create a vibrant library environment space that is accessible, comfortable, safe, and sustainable,” Mazerolle wrote. 

Though construction is set to begin after his tenure, Kerry Yang, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) vice-president University Affairs, said in an interview with the Tribune that ensuring the administration makes plans for alternative study spots ahead of the closure would be a point of advocacy for SSMU going forward. 

“Measures should be in place before renovations start to ensure students have spaces to study,” Yang said. “Students have concerns about this and the university has to do their best to alleviate them and be very clear on how they are going to create more spaces.”

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