The Queen's library system has a substantial collection including books, microforms, periodicals, maps, air photos, sound recordings, and data files.

Collections are housed in Stauffer Library, Douglas Library and three major faculty libraries: William R. Lederman Law Library, Bracken Health Sciences Library and the Education Library.

The Engineering and Applied Science Library and W. D. Jordan Special Collections and Music Library are in Douglas Library. The Art Library is in Ontario Hall and the Teacher Resource Centre is in Duncan McArthur Hall on west campus. Technical services activities for the libraries are found in Mackintosh-Corry Hall.

The Libraries also have a number of formalized partnerships with local agencies: the Teacher Resource Centre provides support for local school boards and Bracken Health Sciences Library is engaged in numerous outreach programs to support health care professionals in eastern Ontario.

Queen's library collection has not always been so well housed. When the university first opened its doors at 67 Colborne Street, there was no room for the fledgling collection, so it was stored in the tower of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. Among these books were the first volumes the university ever owned - seven boxes of Greek, Latin, and philosophical treatises donated in 1840 by John Mitchell, a judge from the London, Ontario area and the library's first donor.

Later, the growing collection lived in such unlikely places as the attic of the university's Princess Street home, the dining room of Summerhill and then, in the 1870s, in an drafty corner of the Old Medical Building, where, 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 about an hour a day.

After 1880, having accumulated over 11,000 volumes, the library found an attractive home in the rounded west end of the "Old Arts" building (now Theological Hall), where floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, accessible by ladders, lined the curving walls.

In 1895, the professor in charge of the library, Adam Shortt, visited Harvard University to study its library. He then bought a typewriter, filing case, and 84,000 cards and single-handedly produced Queen's first card catalogue. Around the turn of the century, the university hired its first full-time librarian, Lois Saunders, who had previously acted as Shortt's assistant.

The library moved from the Old Arts Building after the opening of Douglas Library in 1923. Before the opening of Stauffer Library in 1994 and the re-opening of Douglas Library in 1997, collections were held in 20 separate libraries around campus: Douglas Library, which served the Social Sciences and Humanities and housed the library administrative offices; three major faculty libraries (the Law library, the Education Library, and Bracken Library, the university's Health Sciences Library), and 16 departmental libraries.

These were:

  • Art History Library
  • Biology Library
  • Canadian Institute of Guided Ground Transport Library
  • Chemical Engineering Library
  • Chemistry Library
  • Civil Engineering Library
  • Documents Library
  • Geology Library
  • John Reid Bain Library (Electrical Engineering)
  • Map and Air Photo Library
  • Math-Stats Library
  • May Ball Library (Industrial Relations)
  • Mechanical Engineering Library
  • Music Library
  • Physics Library
  • Psychology Library

Learn more about Queen's Libraries...