MILLS MEMORIAL LIBRARY
Mills Memorial Library originally opened in 1951, and experienced a number of renovations and expansions between 1960 and 1994. Located on the east side of campus, steps away from the main quad and the Student Centre, the library plays a vital role as both a scholarly resource and a community hub—in addition to supporting ongoing scholarly activity, the building hosts a wide range of meetings, events, and symposia each year.
While Mills is McMaster’s humanities and social sciences library, it is heavily used by the university population as a whole; in addition to its general collection, the building houses a variety of important specialty learning programs (both library-administered and operated as partners) and provides study seats for approximately 1,680 students and researchers. Mills also houses McMaster’s world-class William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections, important scholarly resources for both McMaster and the global academic community.
Mills has gone through a series of significant renovations and retrofits in recent decades. Bound collections have been substantially consolidated in order to accommodate much needed study seats (almost 1,700), and a variety of new and exciting programs have been introduced.
The building faces substantial challenges as well:
- Mills is a crowded and noisy place that fails to create an inspiring learning environment for the thousands of students who use it each day. Many study seats have been added, but not enough to meet demand. Existing study seats do not support a sufficiently wide range of learning behaviours;
- The Library’s world-class research collections are hidden in the lower level without adequate exhibit, teaching or research space for scholars;
- The complex interface between various building phases compromises access to services and collections, limits intuitive way finding, and obscures many exciting and innovative programs;
- Students are eager to have 24-hour access to study space but the building only supports extended hours in one large reading room;
- Existing building infrastructure is insufficient: access to power and data are in short supply, increases in occupant load mean the building is no longer code compliant, and large portions of the building do not meet current standards of accessibility;
- Staff space is distributed across multiple areas and levels, impeding effectiveness and compromising overall space planning.
H.G. Thode Library is located on the opposite side of campus, near Cootes Drive and the GO Transit bus terminal. Completed in 1978, the building is an idiosyncratic structure that reflects an understanding of the library as a repository of objects rather than a place for people. Like Mills, Thode has become a destination for students from across the university despite its subject matter focus, and like Mills, the Thode collections have already undergone substantial consolidation in order to provide additional study space with over 1,300 seats. Also like Mills, Thode faces a number of key challenges:
- Acoustic control within the building is limited, and noise issues compromise learning;
- Study seats do not support a sufficiently wide range of learning behaviours;
- A significant portion of the print collection is not publicly accessible, compromising research and discovery;
- Key program elements, including quiet study areas and a technology-rich classroom, occupy unsuitable spaces;
- Existing building infrastructure, as in Mills, is insufficient.
Innis Library occupies a 9,600 SF area within Kenneth Taylor Hall. With a focus on supporting the DeGroote School of Business, the library is known to business students but is a well-kept secret for much of the rest of campus. The library enjoys a modest but well-managed collection, and provides 253 study seats of a variety of types, including very heavily-used group study rooms. The library’s primary challenge lies in providing a sufficient number of collaborative study seats, given the school’s emphasis on group projects and team-based learning. However, with plans to expand the DeGroote School of Business currently under discussion, the library has the potential to expand not only its footprint, but its seating capacity and program offerings as well.
While each of these libraries is well used today, in a variety of ways their capacity to support McMaster’s teaching, learning, and research goals are becoming gradually more compromised. In order to maintain its position as a cutting edge institution, McMaster needs cutting edge facilities. This Master Plan proposes a series of strategic interventions that will position the libraries to fulfill that need and act as hubs for scholarship, collaboration, and innovation over the coming years and decades.