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History of GSLIS: 1967-2004

The information age

McLennan Library Building in 1969 JPG (16kb)
The new McLennan Library Building in 1969. (McGill University Archives ps005028k) Enlarge

In February 1969 the School moved into new facilities on the street-level floor of the new McLennan Library Building at northeast corner of McTavish and Sherbrooke. The facilities were custom designed for the School including spacious classrooms, climate-control, and a bright and airy Library Science library. The School remains at this location (albeit with fewer facilities, again because of "space problems" within the library.)

1970 saw Dr. Violet Coughlin start a two-year term as Director of the School.

Violet Coughlin, Director of the School from 1970 to 1972 JPG (14kb)
Dr. Violet Coughlin, GSLIS Director from 1970 to 1972. (GSLIS photo) Enlarge

In order to promote and encourage research within the Graduate School of Library Science, the Occasional Papers series was launched in 1971. The series would deal mainly with Quebec and Canadian topics of interest but would be of a scholarly nature.

Also in 1971, a plan was launched by Professor Batty to implement a Documentation and Information Systems Laboratory today better known as the IT Lab. Special funding was obtained in 1972 to start this initiative.

In 1972 Dr. Coughlin stepped down as Director to be replaced by Effie C. Astbury who would remain Director from 1972 to 1976.

Effie Astbury JPG (25kb)
Effie Astbury, Director of the Graduate School of Library Science, circa 1977. (McGill University Archives PL006790)Enlarge

1973 saw Peter McNally join the fulltime faculty of the School.

In 1975 the Master of Library Science program was re-accredited under the ALA's 1972 Standards of Accreditation.

At the time the School was asked to justify its admission criteria. The School preferred full-time study for pedagogical reasons (especially in the first year) but welcomed part-time study as well. Enrollment was also limited to sixty students which helped create a competitive environment for admissions to the program (and reasonable classroom size).

The four month summer interval was also seen as essential for students to pursue practical experience in librarianship; therefore, few summer courses were offered.

The School preferred a general approach to its program. Dr. Coughlin said that the curriculum did not "...provide for intense specialization...The situation with respect to specialization reflects the School's philosophy that a program leading to a first professional degree should not be designed to prepare graduates for too narrow specialization..."

Teletype machine circa 1975 JPG (36kb)
A teletype machine not unlike the ones that could be found in the 1975 Data Processing Lab. Enlarge

On the IT front, 1975 proved to be a significant year. Until then the data processing classes had been descriptive in nature. Sensing the change in expectations for librarians, the School adjusted the course offerings to reflect a more practical approach. The required data processing course taught some programming needed for implementing a small library system while the elective course on information retrieval focused on both the database developer and the information retriever. The new Data Processing Laboratory was being put to good use.

In 1976 Director Astbury stepped down as director (to be replaced by Professor Vivian Sessions), former director Violet Couglin was named Professor Emerita by McGill, and the Data Processing Laboratory was renamed the Documentation and Information Systems Laboratory.

Vivian Sessions, Director of the School from 1976 to 1981 JPG (8kb)
Vivian S. Sessions, Director of GSLS from 1976 to 1981. (GSLIS photo) Enlarge

A small hiccough as the School is conditionally re-accredited by the ALA in 1980. Full accreditation would be restored the following year.

Professor Sessions left the School in 1981 to be replaced as Director by former McGill Librarian Hans Möller who had intended to be a sessional lecturer. Also in that year, John Leide is hired as an Assistant Professor.

Diane Mittermeyer joins the School as Assistant Professor in 1982.

Hans Möller, Director of the School from 1981 to 1984 JPG (26kb)
Hans Möller, Director of GSLS from 1981 to 1984. (Möller private photo) Enlarge

Professor Helen Howard becomes Director of the School in 1984, replacing Professor Möller. Professor Howard would make significant changes over the next five years.

The 1985-86 academic year would bring major changes to the Graduate School of Library Science. The School's name was changed to the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies (it is said with somewhat rancourous debate) and future director Jamshid Beheshti would join the faculty. In tandem with the name change, the School also changed the name of its degree from Master of Library Science (MLS) to Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS).

Helen Howard, Director of the School from 1984 to 1989 JPG (14kb)
Helen Howard was Director of the School for five years in the late 1980s. (GSLIS photo) Enlarge

In 1987 the School was re-accredited under the ALA's 1972 Standards of Accreditation guidelines. Dorothy Carruthers and Kathryn Hubbard joined the School.

1988 saw the appointment of the School's first Professional Associate as Darlene Canning joined the staff.

J. Andrew Large replaced Professor Howard as Director and joined the faculty as full professor in 1989.

A Ph.D program was introduced in 1991 under the ad hoc provisions of the Graduate Faculty.

Andrew Large, Director of the School from 1989 to 1998 JPG (17kb)
Professor Large would help "internationalize" the School during the 1990s. (GSLIS photo) Enlarge

In spite of negotiations and protests McGill consolidated the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies Library in 1994. Instead of going across the hallway from the Student Lounge the sixth floor of the McLennan Library would be the goal of MLIS students accessing the Z section of the stacks.

Also during the 1994-95 academic year France Bouthillier joined the faculty.

1996 was a significant year for the School. The MLIS program was re-accredited under the ALA's 1992 guidelines making it perhaps the longest continually accredited ALA graduate program. A post-master's Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Studies was introduced. At the same time the School's course offerings were reviewed and updated. A new course - Information and Society - was introduced as a survey course not bound to traditional principles of librarianship. Also, GSLIS celebrated its first Ph.D graduate - Albert Tabah. To complete the year, the School became a unit within the Faculty of Education.

In 1998 the School experienced a Canadian first: Professor Large became the first holder of the CN-Pratt-Grinstad Chair in Library and Information Studies immediately placing the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at the forefront of LIS research in Canada.

Jamshid Beheshti, Director of the School from 1998 to 2004 JPG (14kb)
Professor Beheshti would go on to become the first GSLIS Director promoted to Associate Dean of the Faculty of Education. (GSLIS photo) Enlarge

Also in 1998, Professor Large, in order to spend more time on teaching and research, stepped down as GSLIS director. Professor Jamshid Beheshti became the new director. With the support of Professor Beheshti, the Information Technology Laboratory would be expanded from 14 to 32 computers by 2003.

In the Fall of 2001 GSLIS made a proposal for the establishment of a regular Ph.D program to replace the existing ad hoc program. Also in 2001, a post-master's Graduate Certificate in Library and Information Studies was introduced bringing to four the number of academic programs available at the School.

The IT Lab in 2002 (JPG 14kb)
The IT Lab c. 2002 Enlarge

The ALA re-accredited the MLIS program in 2002. The accreditation certificate is presented in January 2003.

In keeping with the changing world of information, the School embarked in 2002 on a reorganization of the MLIS program into "specializations" including Archival Studies (with special emphasis on digital information), Knowledge Management, and Librarianship. It would see its first students enroll in these areas in Fall 2005.

In 2002 Kimiz Dalkir was hired to develop the KM curriculum and in 2003 Eun Park was hired in the area of Archival Studies.

France Bouthillier, Director of the School from 2004 JPG (14kb)
Professor Bouthillier would bring a competitive intelligence and business perspective to the School (GSLIS photo) Enlarge

2004 was the centenary year of the establishment of a summer library school at McGill. A special day was held at the Faculty Club in May where a good time was had by present and former students, staff, and faculty.

Also in 2004, Dr. Joan Bartlett was hired as the newest faculty member and Associate Professor France Bouthillier assumed the directorship of the School upon Professor Beheshti's promotion to Associate Dean in the Faculty of Education.

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The IT evolution

As early as the mid-1960s there was a realization of the importance of information technology to the librarianship field. At the School, plans were drawn up and money obtained in the early 1970s to build a small Documentation and Information Systems Laboratory.

By 1977 the lab's name had been changed to the Data Processing Laboratory. The School added a new course - Library Automation and Networks - so that there were then three technical courses available to students.

The IT facilities were promoted in the calendar in 1977-78 as described below:

"Through the terminals in the Data Processing Laboratory [what happened to that name change?], students have access to MUSIC (McGill University System for Interactive Computing), and to the programs on the operating system of the Centre [UNIX mainframe]...

In the School's in-house laboratory, there is dial-up access to on-line information retrieval systems at the National Library and the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, both in Ottawa. Instructional use is also made of commercial database vendors in Canada and the U.S. Students in Library Automation are given access to the UNICAT/TELECAT shared cataloguing system based in Toronto via terminals in the Cataloguing Department of McLennan Library."

The ten or so "terminals" connected via modem to McGill's mainframe and provided paper rolls for both input and output (no monitors in those days). These would be added to until the mid-1980s when there were twenty or so terminals in the laboratory.

In the late 1980s Philips and then Olivetti PCs (286s) with low resolution monochrome monitors replaced the paper roll terminals. In the early 1990s a large grant from IBM would enable the School to purchase 16 IBM 386 computers. Generic 486s followed in 1995. 1999 would see a sixth generation - 16 Celeron 433s. The following year eight Pentium 3 700s were installed in the Cataloguing Lab. The seventh generation arrived in 2002 and 2003 with a total of 32 Pentium 4 computers replacing all those in the IT Lab / Cataloguing Lab area.

Times have indeed changed. What will the IT Lab look like in 2010?


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