The Library, as it stands today, is the result of over 150 years of continuous evolution. Reflecting the growth and evolution of the University as a whole, the Library continues to support Queen's mission to educate tomorrow's leaders.


Kingston was chosen as the location for the new Scottish-Presbyterian college.


Judge James Mitchell donated six books to Queen's University and they are known as the Mitchell Gift. These books are still held in Special Collections.

  • Latin Bible (1592)
  • Greek New Testament (1760)
  • French New Testament (1664)
  • Greek Lexicon (1821)
  • Copy of Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1760) in ten volumes


Queen's University was established by a Royal Charter issued by Queen Victoria on October 16, 1841.

The Library's fledgling collection was housed in the tower of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church.


The collection, now numbering 1500 volumes, was moved to the attic of the Princess Street buildings, which Queen's was renting.


The growing collection lived in the attic of the University’s Princess Street home, the dining room of Summerhill and in the 1870s, in a drafty corner of the Old Medical Building. According to a contemporary account, it required "the heroism of a northern explorer" to hunt for a book because of the cold. In these early days there was no real catalogue and the library was only open for one hour a day.


  • Queen's and the Library move into Summerhill.
  • First catalogue was compiled, listing about 2600 volumes, and many of the volumes were theological works.



The Library has 7417 volumes.


Professor George Ferguson made the first donation to the University Archives with the 1812 Order Book from Fort Niagara.


Having accumulated over 11,000 volumes, the Library moved into the rounded west end of the "Old Arts" building, now Theological Hall, which opened in October that year.


Adam Shortt, the professor in charge of the library, visited Harvard University to study their library. Upon returning, he bought a typewriter, filing case, and 84,000 cards, and single-handedly produced Queen's Library's first card catalogue.


Lois Saunders, a linguist, literary critic, poet and translator, was appointed as the first full-time Librarian. Although her annual book budget seldom exceeded $2000, the collection grew rapidly during her 23 years as the Chief Librarian.


The Library of Congress Classification system was chosen as the classification system to catalogue the library books.


  • Nathan van Patten appointed Chief Librarian (1922-1927).
  • With a capital grant of $150,000 from the Ontario Government, construction began on Douglas Library.


Named in honour of James Douglas, Queen's Chancellor from 1915-1918, the cornerstone of Douglas Library was laid by Walter Douglas, son of James Douglas on May 23, 1923.


  • Douglas Library opened with 85,000 volumes. The official opening was held on October 17, 1924. Originally built to house the University's collection, it also contained the office of the Principal and senior officials until Richardson Hall was built in 1954.
  • Douglas Library was built in the neo-gothic style and faced with Kingston limestone.
  • Interlibrary Loan service was first mentioned in the Nathan van Patten's report of 1924, where he noted that Queen's borrowed books from five institutions, loaned books to R.M.C., and "rendered occasional assistance to the Government departments at Ottawa". The stated purpose of interlibrary loans was "to aid research calculated to advance the boundaries of knowledge by the loan of unusual books".


Dr. Lorne Pierce and his wife Edith Chown established the Edith and Lorne Pierce Collection of Canadiana, helping to make Queen's University an internationally known centre for Canadian studies.


  • The library contained about 150,000 volumes, of which about 25,000 circulated annually, and was open about 78 hours a week.
  • Staff, not including student assistants and stenographers, consisted of nine individuals – four in cataloguing, two in circulation, one in reference, one Order Librarian, and one Chief Librarian, Mr. Nathan van Patten.


Ernest Cockburn Kyte appointed Chief Librarian (1928-1947).


The South Tower of Douglas Library becomes the first home of the Government Documents Unit.


The Buchan Collection was established. This collection included the bound manuscripts of John Buchan's published writings plus his entire private library. The Buchan Library was acquired through the generous benefaction of Colonel & Mrs. R.S. McLaughlin who purchased the collection in 1955.


The Law Library was first located in the basement of Morris Hall

1960s and 1970s

  • Separate faculty and departmental libraries begin to multiply across campus.
  • Douglas Library becomes the University’s main social science and humanities library, as well as home for the library system administrative offices, a periodicals room, and a Special Collections unit for rare or fragile publications.


The William R. Lederman Law Library opened in its current space at Sir John A. Macdonald Hall, with the Government Documents collection located in the basement.


The Queen's Library contained about 45,000 volumes and employed about 60 people.


  • Donald A. Redmond appointed Chief Librarian (1966-1977).
  • An addition to Douglas Library, the northern section, was built with three underground floors. It was modeled in the neo-gothic style of the original building and was faced with Kingston limestone.


Irene Bessette, the first woman to join the Faculty of Law, begins as Head Law Librarian who also taught Quebec Civil Law


The Education Library opened in the newly completed Duncan MacArthur Hall on West Campus. Approximately 36,000 monographs and journals, 1,000 pamphlets, 500 reels of microfilm, 50,000 microfiche, and 4,000 audio-visual materials were relocated to their new home on June 21. The new library had a capacity for 100,000 volumes and measured 18,445 square feet.


  • Margot McBurney appointed Chief Librarian (1977-1990).
  • Music Library opened.


Work was finished on Botterell Hall - a nine storey medical sciences building. Bracken Library, the life and health sciences library, opened in this new space. Bracken Library was named for Dr. Franklin Bracken.


Gene Cleavenger was hired as Assistant Librarian, Systems and Development with a mandate to advise on the selection and implementation of an automated system for cataloguing and circulation.


  • In March the GEAC 8000 computer was installed in the Douglas Library Data Processing Office.
  • In June the Retrospective Conversion (RECON) Project began with staff inputting all the card catalogue records.


In April the Retrospective Conversion (RECON) Project was finally completed with approximately 1,160,000 records on file. The estimated cost of the RECON Project was $1.18 per record.


Conversion of the GEAC database to NOTIS, which was operated on the Queen's mainframe computer.


  • Paul Wiens appointed Chief Librarian (1991-2010).
  • The Adaptive Technology Lab was established in Douglas Library. The Adaptive Technology Lab was the forerummer of the Adaptive Technology Centre, currently located in Stauffer Library, room 119.


  • Named in honour of Joseph S. Stauffer (BSc 1920), Stauffer Library opened in the fall housing the University's humanities and social sciences collections. It was designed in neo-gothic style to match the architecture of Douglas Library.
  • Dedication of the Joseph S. Stauffer Library
  • Douglas Library was closed for renovations.
  • The Library wins an innovation award from the Canadian Association of College and University Libraries in recognition of its leadership in providing services and resources to students with disabilities.


  • Douglas Library was re-opened as an amalgamated library replacing individual department libraries for the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences and several science departments within the Faculty of Arts and Science. It is named the Engineering and Science Library.
  • Stauffer Library is awarded the Governor General's Award for Architecture.


W.D. Jordan Rare Books and Special Collections and Music Library was created and opened on the second floor of Douglas Library. It is named for W.D. Jordan (BA 1938), a friend and close advisor to Joseph S. Stauffer.


Library migrated from NOTIS to Endeavor's Voyager system.


As the number of students with disabilities at Queen’s increased, the Adaptive Technology Lab developed into the Adaptive Technology Centre (ATC). The ATC is one of the founding partners of the Queen’s Learning Commons and is currently located in Stauffer Library. The Centre includes Library Services for Students with Disabilities, an Adaptive Technology Lab, study rooms, and the Adaptive Technology Support office. The ATC provides a range of services, specialized software programmes, computers, and assistive devices to enable students with disabilities to reach their academic goals.

The Queen's Learning Commons was opened in September on the ground floor of Stauffer Library.This enriched learning environment brings together support and resources to facilitate and advance the academic experience of Queen's students.


Martha Whitehead appointed University Librarian.


Library and Archives Master Plan (LAMP) was launched in May, closely integrated with the development of a new Campus Master Plan.


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