My name is Donald Walcot and I am very privileged to be this year’s Chair of the Friends of the McGill Library, a wonderful organization that I have had a long affiliation with, working closely with three exceptional Deans – Frances Groen, Janine Schmidt, and current Trenholme Dean of Libraries, Colleen Cook.
The mission of the Friends is to support a truly world-class Library – its ROAAr specialized collections, including Rare Books, the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill Visual Arts Collection, and McGill Archives – is one of the very best in North America. And the Library’s digitizing technologies are truly cutting-edge, making collections available worldwide. With the design of a new technologically-advanced library building on the horizon under the Fiat Lux project, the McGill Library is poised to meet the work, access, space, and collection needs of 21st-century students. It is a privilege to be part of this pivotal moment.
Over the years, I have seen the evolution of a range of fun and impactful projects, from encouraging student employment at the Library and providing specialized books as teaching tools for professors to adding comfortable chairs for library users. (My appreciation of the latter stems directly from the fact that, as a general B.A., I spent a lot of time in the lower level of the library, sitting on old ratty chairs, longing for a more comfortable seat in which to read the assigned books of the introductory English course).
As Friends, we are able to share in the Library’s vision while supporting its many existing programmes and bringing in intellectual heft and discovery with our three annual lectures – the MacLennan Lecture, F.R. Scott Lecture, and Shakespeare Lecture.
While the pandemic has been a challenge, it is a challenge that has been successfully met by the Library, with the creation of student study hubs, ongoing circulation of print materials not otherwise available electronically, and increased reach via virtual events, including Friends lectures. Our audience has engaged with our programming like never before, extending further than the in-person lectures that physically allow for far fewer attendees. The 2020 virtual MacLennan Lecture has been viewed over 1,300 times while the 2020 virtual Shakespeare Lecture has been watched more than 900 times on YouTube. Thank you for supporting our efforts as we moved into this fully digital event space.
It is a real pleasure being a Friend of our extraordinary Library. I encourage you to take advantage of the many Friends activities – and keep up with exciting developments around the Fiat Lux project. Fiat Lux will be the true capstone for the whole Library system, and for McGill itself, as it approaches its 200th birthday.
I look forward to seeing you – virtually or in-person.
Until then, stay safe,
Chair, Friends of the McGill Library