July 14, 2005 13:22 ET

Assessment of the Island of Montreal's Municipal Library System : An Essential Tool for Consolidation and Development

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(CCNMatthews - July 14, 2005) - "We are now equipped with a detailed portrait of the status of our library system that enables us to set precise and quantifiable objectives. Although we were previously aware of the fact that upgrades and improvements were needed, we are now able to accurately define our goals and our priorities. The strength of the network and a borough-central department dynamic that respects local autonomy and is attentive to system-wide needs, represents a major asset in creating conditions aimed at ensuring the success of our development strategy," said Ms. Francine Senecal, vice-chairperson of the executive committee and responsible for culture and heritage, after receiving the results of the assessment of the Island of Montreal's municipal library system.

An innovative study

The Government of Quebec and the Ville de Montreal agreed in their city contract that an assessment of the public libraries system's overall needs was required before any decision could be made on a plan to consolidate the system.

The city produced this assessment in conjunction with the Ministere de la Culture et des Communications. Data was taken from 2002, the first year of the new city's existence and a period in which construction was continuing on the Grande Bibliotheque. The study incorporates an innovative analytical framework that has already set new standards of excellence for research in the field of library science. The study describes original analytical approaches, including those pertaining to library service areas and offers different comparisons with major Canadian cities.

An accurate and living portrait of Montreal's uniqueness

The collections (books and documents)

- The number of books per Montreal resident has, since 1999, been
greater than the corresponding number for Quebec as a whole.
- The Quebec standard of 2.2 books per resident has been met system-
wide. However, nine of the city's 27 boroughs failed to meet the
standard, corresponding to a shortfall affecting nearly 57% of the
- Eighteen boroughs fail to meet the goal of three books per resident
established in the Politique quebecoise de la lecture et du livre
(Quebec's policy on reading and books).

Hours of operation

- Half of the island has more than 53 hours of operation per week and
per borough, the objective set by the Commission permanente des
arts et de la culture.
- Sixty percent of the population, residing in 11 boroughs, has six
day per week access to library services.
- Libraries are open 286 days per year for more than half of
Montreal's population.

Staff (librarians and specialized employees)

- The policy on reading and books determined that without human
intervention, library resources remain underutilized throughout
Quebec, whatever the quality of available texts.
- Major gaps in staffing exist between the boroughs. Most (21 of 27)
boroughs have fewer librarians than the Canadian mean, with 12 of
them ranking beneath the 60th percentile. The Canadian standard for
cities of 500,000 or more residents has been set at 0.76 librarians
for every 6,000 inhabitants.

Space (seats, conference and study rooms, stacks)

- Ten boroughs that are home to 16.8% of the city's population met
the Canadian average of 57 m2 per 1,000 inhabitants.
- More than half of the boroughs (17 out of 27) ranked below mean for
large Canadian cities, with eight failing to achieve the 60th
percentile level. A total of 1,508,193 individuals (more than 80%
of the population) was affected by this lack of space.

Service (service areas and library locations)

- All boroughs provide some library service. The 13 serving the
majority of the population provide good library locations and an
adequate number of branches.
- A Montreal model was established to take into account large
differences in the populations (from 2,500 to nearly 80,000) to be
served by each library. Based on this model, the service radius
should vary in accordance with population density. The model
reveals not only imbalances and gaps in service such as overlaps in
coverage on the one hand and a serious shortage of branches in
several boroughs, on the other. This new model also makes it
possible to plan branch locations in terms of network impact and
partnerships between libraries. Other factors were also considered
by the assessment, including loan rates, services and document
management systems.

Moving toward development

Beginning this fall and in conjunction with different partners
including the Ministere de la Culture et des Communications, the city
intends to develop its consolidation plan. The plan's key areas for
action will be based on strategic initiatives aiming at promoting
better access. The action plan will essentially comprise five
different phases:

- Increased operating hours.
- Enhancing out reach programs.
- More staff (particularly librarians and liaison officers) to
improve out reach and services for young people.
- Enhanced collections.
- Carrying out a dozen development projects, including the addition
of branches, upgrades, relocations and expansions.

The assessment demonstrates that nine boroughs will be particularly targeted by these priorities. They are Cotes-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace, Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Ville-Marie, Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Verdun, Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension, LaSalle and Sud-Ouest. These boroughs correspond with underprivileged sectors that were previously identified by the city in such action programs as Revitalisation urbaine integree (integrated urban revitalization).

"In the same year that Montreal was named World Book Capital and in which we adopted our first policy on cultural development policy, this assessment and the consolidation plan that is resulting from it, reasserts our desire to make Montreal a city that fosters reading and a city of knowledge. Work remains to be done, of course, but the first step has already been taken," said Ms. Senecal.

The city's Service du developpement culturel, de la qualite du milieu de vie et de la diversite ethnoculturelle, which reports to the Comite des normes minimales de services, was responsible for producing this assessment, which appears at:

Contact Information

  • Source:
    Office of the mayor and the executive committee
    Darren Becker
    (514) 872-6412
    Cultural Development, Quality of Life and Ethnocultural
    Diversity Service
    Claire Rocher, Communications Manager
    (514) 872-9080