Two Big New Libraries Open Today In Montreal

So the Grande Biblioth?que opens today in Montreal: on time and within budget. They’re expecting between 20,000 and 30,000 visitors today and tomorrow. I’m sure they’ll all be overwhelmed by this magnificent new library. The Mission of the Biblioth?que nationale du Qu?bec reads as follows.

The Biblioth?que nationale du Qu?bec (BNQ) has a two-fold mission. Using the highest standards, it collects and permanently preserves Qu?bec’s published documentary heritage, as well as all Qu?bec-related documents published outside Qu?bec. It also disseminates Qu?bec?s documentary heritage in a user-friendly physical and virtual site providing all Quebecers with easy access free of charge to culture and universal knowledge.

That virtual site is the other Big Library referred to in the title here. It also is a most impressive place to visit. The computer architecture cost $12.7 million and it gives you access to an enormous body of information. In general every effort has been made to live up to that ‘user-friendly’ sentiment in the mission. You can visit in French, English or Spanish. The site has also been designed to be accessible according to WAI (the Web Accessibility Initiative of the W3C). One of the main objectives of W3C is to place the benefits of this technology at the disposal of all individuals, regardless of their hardware, software, language, culture, geographic location, or physical or mental capacities. You can check out what this means for the site in any of the three languages.

It clearly is tough to bring on such a huge undertaking and ensure it works satisfactorily from day one. In general the site’s main language is French, so many pages are only available in French. That’s fine but there are still some slightly surprising glitches in how the site welcomes its visitors. Residents of Quebec can subscribe to be members of the Biblioth?que and that works for either French or English visitors. However there is no subscription button on the Spanish welcome page. Just compare that with the English welcome page to see the difference.

I was particularly interested in the ‘Second Floor’ where the Collection for Business and the Economy is housed. Unfortunately the English web page on Collections gives no indication that this Collection even exists. You have to go to the French web page on Collections to find mention of the Collection on ?conomie et affaires.

Nevertheless these are only minor quibbles on the very first opening day. Nothing can take away from the magnificence of the virtual site. It certainly is as outstanding as the physical Biblioth?que.
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