Taking Care of Business for 40 Years: A Brief History of Innis Library

Submitted by libperkovic on
Filed under Library News:  Events Innis

In the late 1960s, when the plans for the Arts III building were being finalized, it was decided that the new home for the Faculties of Anthropology, Business, Economics, Political Science and Sociology would also include a study space for the students in those Faculties.

In 1971 when the newly dubbed Kenneth Taylor Hall opened to the campus community its new study hall featured seating for about 90 students as well as a caged area that housed reserve material for courses offered by the various Faculties. Materials would be accessible only for a few hours a day, courtesy of a temporarily transplanted staff member from Mills Memorial Library. 

This new space was named after Harold Innis, famed economist, communication theorist and McMaster alumnus. The Innis Room was quickly embraced by students from the moment it opened its doors.

The heaviest users of the Innis Room were from the Faculty of Business. To compete with business programs at other universities, McMaster pursued accreditation. One of the requirements for this level of certification was to have a dedicated business library.

In the fall of 1973, after much deliberation and negotiation with the adjoining Faculties, it was decided that the Innis Room would become known as a business library. A full-time librarian was hired and plans for the transition began to take shape.

In the early summer of 1974, the Innis Room was closed so that the reserve cage could be removed. Books, shelves and furniture were also transferred from Mills Library.

On July 2, 1974 the Innis Room officially re-opened as a business library and soon boasted over 5,000 reserve items. Despite its modest size, the space saw approximately 180,000 people pass through its turnstiles in its first year of operation.

Traffic at Innis continued to grow at a steady pace throughout the seventies and into the eighties. By the end of that decade, it had become quite clear that overcrowding had become a problem, exacerbated by the steady growth of its book and periodical collections.

By the early nineties, when construction began on the DeGroote School of Business building, a major expansion and renovation of Innis was integrated into the plan, eventually more than doubling its floor space and seating capacity and most symbolically, changing its designation from “Room” to “Library”.

Over the decades, microfilm and print have slowly been usurped by the proliferation of online databases which provide access to countless reports and articles in thousands of periodicals. Despite the changes in technology and access to information, the needs of McMaster’s business and commerce students remain very similar to those of the early seventies; to find reliable and relevant information, quickly and efficiently.

Innis Library has proudly been taking care of business for 40 years and will continue to strive for new and innovative ways to serve its users. We will be celebrating this milestone with balloons and free cake from 1:30-2:30 PM on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 (which happens to coincide with our namesake's 120th birthday). We hope you can join us!

by Alessandro Erasmi