About Eastern Canada Chapter

The Eastern Canada Chapter (ECC) of the SLA exist since 1932. It covers the area from Kingston, Ontario to east of the Maritimes. Our membership includes the cities of Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec and Halifax. Members are involved in a wide range of careers and disciplines ranging from University Librarians, to Corporate Librarians, from Consultants to Information Brokers. We are also fortunate to have three highly active student groups located in Montreal (McGill and Université de Montréal) and in Halifax (Dalhousie).

Hotel-Dieu_Montreal_1865.jpgThe first Montreal library was probably a special library; the library of Hôtel-Dieu de Montreal begun in 1659. Of the 171 pre-1900 Montreal libraries identified by Yvan Lamonde in his landmark studies, a very high proportion, perhaps most, would be considered special libraries today. But in Montreal as elsewhere the concept and terminology of a “special library” came into use only during the early years of this century. The strong and sustained growth of an economy which required information and could support institutions to collect and disseminate it, the proliferation of business and industrial libraries, and the developing maturity of the library profession all contributed to the emergence of a special library consciousness.


This consciousness was spurred on by the Special Libraries Association. Founded in 1909, its constitution permits local chapters. Of the 52 in existence today, the fifteenth and first Canadian one was in Montreal. Its establishment was closely linked to the McGill Library School which in 1930 had introduced a one-year graduate Bachelor of Library Science degree program which in 1931 became the first such Canadian program to be accredited by the American Library Association. On February 9, 1932 the School’s Alumnae Society proposed the formation of a Montreal Branch of SLA. On May 9 seventeen people met at the Sun Life Assurance Building where they agreed to constitute themselves into the Montreal Branch of the Special Libraries Association. This decision was communicated to the Alumnae Society on May 10.

Growth of the Chapter has been steady throughout the (…) years. In 1933 there were twenty-seven personal members. three institutional. By 1958 there were 132 members. In 1981 the Eastern Chapter/Section de l’est du Canada had 256 personal members which made it the fourteenth largest of SLA’s 52 chapters.

This shows that (…) there has been an approximately 250% increase in the city’s special libraries. The period of greatest growth was 1955 to 1975 which are probably also the most economically dynamic years Montreal has enjoyed during the past half-century. Only in three editions did the Directory record a decline in the number of Montreal special libraries: 1940, 1973, 1977. The first reflects the twin disasters of the Great Depression and the second World War. The other two reflect the economic and political uncertainty of Montreal in the 70s.

The Eastern Canada Chapter of the Special Libraries Association has had a full and productive first fifty years. The next half-century will have a strong base upon which it can grow and flourish. The time will soon arrive to write a full-scale history of the Chapter which will place it within the larger context of Montreal social/economic development and North American librarianship.


Fifty Years of Special Libraries in Montreal and Eastern Canada. Reprint of: McNally, P. (1982, May). Fifty years of special libraries in Montreal and Eastern Canada, 1932-1982. Eastern Canada Chapter Bulletin 47(4):26-30.