Dalhousie University. Macdonald Memorial Library

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Type of entity

Corporate body (Dalhousie University)

Authorized form of name

Dalhousie University. Macdonald Memorial Library

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Other form(s) of name

  • Dalhousie University. Macdonald Science Library

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Description area

Dates of existence



Macdonald Memorial Library was planned long before Dalhousie had the means to build it. Charles Macdonald, Chair of Mathematics from 1864 until his death in 1901, bequeathed the university $2000 to purchase books, a gesture that triggered an eponymous fundraising campaign. By 1905 the fund had risen to $33,000, but it was not until 1911 that the university purchased the Studley Campus land and a new library became feasible. During the cornerstone-laying ceremony on 29 April 1914, President Mackenzie noted that Macdonald himself had been a foundation stone of Dalhousie.

The library was designed by architects Frank Darling and Andrew R. Cobb to fit into the narrow space between the Science Building and the old Murray homestead at the crown of the hill on the new campus. Built of local ironstone, with simple lines relieved by an ornamented gable and portico, the library was constructed by contractors Falconer & MacDonald, and was completed at a total cost of $90,000.

When it opened in the summer of 1916, the library contained only offices and a large and airy reading room on the second floor. In 1921 a five-storey expansion added a much-needed stack area on the north side. The stack capacity for 125,000 volumes was insufficient to hold the growing collection, so the Chemistry, Physics and Geology departments housed their own libraries and the remainder of the books were stored in the library's attic.

On 20 July 1956, a special convocation celebrated the opening of an addition on the building's west side. The O.E. Smith Wing, built of quartzite and ironstone in the same Georgian colonial style as the original building, housed the collection of Rudyard Kipling's works given to Dalhousie by James McGregor Stewart.

By the 1960s there were frequent complaints about the library's crowded conditions—for both books and students. In 1963 a new mezzanine in the Reading Room increased study space by one third, but the stacks were already at capacity. A third addition in 1965 joined the MacDonald Memorial Library to the Science Building, creating 40,000 square feet of floor space for the Department of Chemistry.

A campus development plan in the mid-1960s recognized the library's crucial role within the university and plans were made for a new, larger building. After the Killam Memorial Library opened in 1970, the Macdonald Memorial Library became the MacDonald Science Library, until the science collection was moved to the Killam in 1989. In 1991 the stacks of the former Macdonald Library were converted into administrative offices, and the reading room was refurbished as a meeting and special event room called University Hall. The Kilpling Room remains in what is now known at the Macdonald Building.


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Relationships area

Related entity

Dalhousie University. University Libraries (1867 -)

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Category of relationship


Dates of relationship

1916 - 1989

Description of relationship

Macdonald Memorial Library was the first university library established on Studley Campus.

Related entity

Macdonald, Charles (1828–1901)

Identifier of related entity

Category of relationship


Dates of relationship

Description of relationship

Charles Macdonald was the namesake of Macdonald Memorial Library.

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion


  • English



Maintenance notes

  • Clipboard

  • Export

  • EAC

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