Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




The Grande Bibliothèque du Québec (GBQ), the merger of the National Library of Québec with the Central Municipal Library of Montréal in a ninety-million dollar construction project which opened in the spring of 2005, serves as the point of departure and as a model and metaphor for reflection on the significance of libraries in the cultural life of a society and in the construction of social identity. The province of Québec is unique, not only because it is the sole province in Canada where the citizens are a French language majority, but also because it is the only province to have established its own national library. The Bibliothèque nationale du Québec and other significant libraries around the world collect and preserve memory in ways that create a context for cultural recall. Government and religious leaders have, for a long time, recognized the potential that libraries have in influencing popular thought and ideas of citizens. In societies where democratization of information is fostered, libraries are promoted as a source of pride and cultural achievement in buildings that are constructed as architectural monuments. In war-torn regions or in areas under authoritarian control, library materials are censured and cultural epochs are erased or destroyed. The heated debates that took place at the turn of the late 19th and early 20th century over the creation of a public or municipal library in Montréal and in the struggle between religious and secular forces over control and direction of public reading characterize a lengthy discourse that parallels the development of the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec and of public libraries in Québec. The various stages of evolution and current metamorphosis of the Bibliothèque nationale / Grande Bibliothèque can be viewed as a reflection of the evolution and metamorphosis of society and cultural memory in Québec throughout the nineteenth century to the present.