Nothing is more of a focal point on a university campus than the main library, where students do their research, run into friends or find quiet places to study.
Such is the case with the University of Victoria's McPherson Library, a fixture on the edge of the central quad since 1964 - a year after the university welcomed its first students.
At the time it opened, the library had 150,000 volumes and a staff of 57. It was named for Thomas Shanks McPherson, an entrepreneur who believed that a university was one of the most important elements in the evolution of a city.
McPherson died in 1962, but his gift of a $250,000 legacy fund to Victoria College - UVic's predecessor - helped make the library a reality. He also bequeathed $2.5 million to the University Building Fund established at Victoria College, as well as leaving his 50 per cent share in downtown Victoria's Central Building to the emerging university project.
Both UVic and its library grew quickly through the '60s and early '70s, with the library collection reaching 500,000 volumes by 1971. An expansion was built from 1972-74, which is when the building's noted exterior relief panels were added.
The library collection reached the million-volume mark in 1982, along with close to 1.5 million items in micro form.
A further addition completed in 2008 created the William C. Mearns Learning Centre, of which the library is a key component. The new space created by the addition includes the Bessie Brooks Winspear Media Commons, which brings together the university's music, audio and video collections.
Mearns, who died in 1998, was a 1927 Victoria College graduate who became vice-president and senior executive director of B.C. Hydro. He also helped assemble the properties in Gordon Head that would become UVic.
His family made a $5-million gift toward the $20-million learning-centre initiative.
Today, the library is firmly on track with new technology and the rapid changes that come with it. A 30-station computer classroom has been established to help students and faculty hone their research skills.
The 2012 collection has 1.9 million volumes, 2.3 million microform items and 200,000 cartographic items. As well, there are 184 public work stations, eight multimedia work stations and 46 laptops for borrowing.
The library facilities have always been open to the public, as well as the campus community, said UVic head librarian Jonathan Bengtson.
Borrowing privileges are available for a $50 annual fee.
Many more members of the public are using the library than expected, Bengtson said.
"It's wonderful and we want to understand how better to serve that population."
He described the library as "a community space beyond the Ring Road," adding that its growing volume of digital materials extends its reach beyond campus to wherever there is a computer screen. firstname.lastname@example.org
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