The Promise of Paradise: Reading, Researching, and Using the Private Library


A Free-to-Attend Conference
June 17-18, Concordia University

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
– Jorge Luis Borges

In recent years, the idea of the library has become increasingly important to scholars of and experts on architecture, creative writing, digital humanities, history, and numerous other fields. Our conference asks contributors to join our keynote speakers

Alberto Manguel
celebrated author of The Library at Night (2007)


Susan Mizruchi
expert on Marlon Brando’s library and author of  Brando’s Smile: His Life, Thought, and Work (2014)

to talk about how researchers, writers, and the general public can use the library as a tool for engaging with various fields of scholarship. Of particular interest to this conference are papers on personal libraries and libraries from the perspective of users.

Private libraries have many of the qualities of an archive: they are testaments to and records of an era in terms of culture, philosophical thought, historical knowledge, architectural design, and so forth. In the case of personal libraries, collections can paint the broadest picture of what and (sometimes) when ideas were being read, internalized, and absorbed into an owner ’s life and work. Our conference invites contributors to offer methodological frameworks for considering general or specific libraries (public or private) with these benefits of the library in mind.


Reading, Researching, and Using the Private Library

J.W. McConneLl Building

1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W

Montreal, Québec H3G 2V8

LB 322: Multifunctional room (Public lectures)
LB 361: Friends of the library room (Food)
LB 362: Seminar room (Conference panels)




8:30-9:00 AM— LB 361— Breakfast


09:00-09:30 AM – LB 362—Opening Remarks

 Jason Camlot and Jeffrey Weingarten, organizers


09:30-10:45 AM – LB362—Reading Authors Reading Pt. 1 (Panel Session)

Moderator: Marc Ducusin (McGill University)

 Nick Bradley (University of Victoria)

“Libraries, Letters, Lives: The Case of Al Purdy”

Ian Rae (King’s University College, University of Western Ontario)

“The J.D. Barnett Collection, Western University, and the Quest for a National Library”

 Marc Fortin (Université de Sherbrooke)

“Running in the Family Library: Tracing CanLit History in D. G. Jones’ Poetry Collection”


10: 45-11:00AM—LB 361—Break


11:00-12:15 PM – LB 362—Reading Authors Reading Pt.2 (Panel Session)

Moderator: Ariel Buckley (McGill University)

Anna Dysert (McGill University)

"William Osler and the Collecting of the Middle Ages"

James Maynard (SUNY, Buffalo)

“Duncan's Books: Unpacking the Personal Library of Robert Duncan”

Emily Kopley (McGill University):

“The Scholar Moving About in Worlds Not Realised: Virginia Stephen's 1902 Edition of Wordsworth and Vanessa Bell's Cover for To the Lighthouse”


12:15-1:45 PM— Lunch Break—off campus


01:45-03:30 PM —LB 322—Unpacking the Writer’s Library (Round Table, Public Event)

Moderator: Jeffrey Weingarten

David McGimpsey (Concordia University)

“Nobody Will Ever Love You: What You Need to Know to Build a Baseball Library”

Phil Hall

“Shelf-Portrait: My Library as Theatre & Fortress”

Louise Halfe

“Story Telling”

Cherie Dimaline

"Apothecary and Cathedral: The Role of the Writer's Library"


3:30-4:00 PM—LB361—Nutritional Break


04:00-05:30 PM — LB 322—Keynote Lecture (Public Event)

Alberto Manguel (Director of the National Library of Argentina)

“In Memory of Alexandria”


5:30-8:00 PM— Dinner Break — off campus


08:00-10:00 PM – LB 677— The Richler Library at Night (Public Event)

Hosted by Jason Camlot and Jeffrey Weingarten



8:30-9:00AM—LB 361—Breakfast


09:00-10:30 AM – LB 362 — Unconventional Libraries (Panel Session)

Moderator: Emily Kopley

Cameron Anstee (University of Ottawa)

“‘I don’t expect to sell these books’: The Small Press Bookstore as Library and Archive”

Michael Nardone (Concordia University)

“Rematerializing the Digital Collection: PennSound and Charles Bernstein's Audio Library”

Colin Martin (University of Calgary)

“The Micropress Archive: When Basements Trump Libraries”


10:30-10:45AM—LB 361—Nutritional Break


10:45-12:45 PM – LB 362— Reimagining the Library (Panel Session)

Moderator: Marc Fortin

Nathalie Cooke (McGill University):

“Reimagining Faculty-Library Partnerships in the 21st Century”

Melanie Mills (Western University Libraries) and David Fiander (King’s University College,Western University)

“Speculative Friction: Reconciling the Roles of Public and Private Research Collections on the 21st-Century University Campus”

Sherrin Frances (Saginaw Valley State University)

“Remaindering the Difference: The Physical Book Collections of Radical Protest Libraries”

Bart Vautour (Dalhousie University)

“Embassy Cultures: Theorizing the Libraries and Cultural Life of Canada’s Foreign Missions”


12:45 -2:00PM—Lunch—off campus


02:00-03:15 PM – LB 322— Keynote Lecture (Public Event)

Susan Mizruchi (Boston University)

“Marlon Brando’s Library”


03:30-04:30 PM – LB 322 —Special Panel hosted by the Concordia University Libraries

Moderator: Alana Fletcher

Christine Mitchell (NYU)

“AV History, ‘Grey Media’ and Reimagining the University Library”

Jason Camlot (Concordia University)

“Acquiring Richler’s Library”

Guylaine Beaudry (Directrice et bibliothécaire en chef, Concordia University)

"The Webster Library Transformation Project: From Ideas to Reality”




05:00-06:15PM—LB 362—Special Lecture

Deanna Reder (SFU) and Margery Fee (UBC)

“The People and the Text: Building an Inclusive Library”


06:15-06:30PM—Closing Remarks

Jason Camlot and Jeffrey Weingarten


6:30PM— Dinner Break — off campus


08:00-10:00PM – Pub Night and Goodbyes

Brutopia (1219 Rue Crescent)
















Participants / Abstracts

“‘i don’t expect to sell these books’: The Small Press Bookstore as Library and Archive” (Cameron Anstee, University of Ottawa)

This paper examines booksellers Nicky Drumbolis (Letters Bookshop, 1982-present) and jwcurry (Room 3o2 Books, [1984]-present) to trace their work establishing alternative libraries and archives of small press material. As Linda Morra argues in Unarrested Archives: Case Studies in Twentieth-Century Canadian Women’s Authorship (2014), “approaching traditional archives as the sole repositories of cultural material in fact privileges certain epistemologies” (6). The bookselling models developed by Drumbolis and jwcurry exist at the intersection of the small press gift economy and the impulse to preserve, catalogue, and make available such marginal and ephemeral materials. The result is a model of the bookstore-as-library-as-archive in search of a form appropriate to showcase experimental small press literature, thus making possible epistemologies alternative to those privileged in centralized institutions. I put forward such collections not as wholesale replacements, but rather as necessary counterweights to institutional holdings. Letters Bookshop functions in part as a lending library, and Room 3o2 Books is a productive “minor archive” (6) following Morra’s definition of the term as a “private cache deliberately withheld from formal institutions, by which to critique the existing national arrangements of archives” (6). The two stores function as alternative forms of recollection that are fundamentally skeptical of the ability of centralized institutions to adequately gather, represent, and critique small press materials. Each is simultaneously a bookstore, a personal collection, and an archive, arranging their materials in ways sensitive to the long histories of independent publishing with which each is particularly engaged.

Cameron Anstee is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa. His dissertation considers the relationship between bookselling and the small press in Canada following the Second World War. He runs Apt. 9 Press and is the editor of The Collected Poems of William Hawkins (Chaudiere Books, 2015).

“The Webster Library Transformation Project: From Ideas to Reality” (Guylaine Beaudry, Concordia University)

The digital culture influences library users’ needs. However, some “traditional needs” are preserved. For example, the grand reading room is still the hallmark study location on campus. The meaning of the library and its symbolic reference as a special place for students justify the major investments that are made all around the world in academic libraries. Libraries continue to be institutions that are contributing to transforming lives. In order to offer intellectually stimulating environments, many libraries have to go through major transformations. This contribution presents architectural and design characteristics as well as the concept of technology program for next-generation libraries. It also proposes, from a librarian’s perspective, how design can reveal the library as a public institution through which members of a community express their belonging to a group.

Guylaine Beaudry is University Librarian at Concordia University. She is responsible for the major renovation and extension of the Webster Library. She was in charge in 2014 of the transformation of the chapel of the Grey Nuns motherhouse into a reading room. She was previously Director of the Webster Library at Concordia. Before, until 2009, she was Director of the Digital Publishing Centre at Université de Montréal and Executive Director of Érudit (, a publishing platform for humanities and social sciences scholarly books and journals. She wrote many publications on scholarly publishing, notably, the books La communication scientifique et le numérique, published by Hermès/Lavoisier (Paris), Le nouveau monde numérique et les revues scientifiques published by Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal and La Découverte (Paris, France), that was translated and published by University of Calgary Press (Scholarly Journals in the New Digital World) and Profession : bibliothécaire published in 2012 by Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal. In 2014, she was co-guest editor, with Yvon-André Lacroix, of the special issue Architecture des bibliothèques, published in Documentation et bibliothèques. She was a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s Expert Panel on the status and future of libraries and archives in Canada. She holds a doctorate in history of the book from École pratique des hautes études (Paris). Her thesis is entitled “Scholarly communications and the digital revolution: Analysis of a mutation period from a historical perspective”. She was president of the Corporation of professional librarians of Québec from 2008 to 2010.

“Libraries, Letters, Lives: The Case of Al Purdy” (Nicholas Bradley, University of Victoria)

This paper will examine two complementary yet imperfect records of the life of the Canadian poet Al Purdy (1918–2000): his personal library and his extensive correspondence. In so doing it will affirm the fundamental importance to literary studies of specialized libraries and archival collections. Purdy’s poetry, like his occasional prose, is unmistakably autobiographical, yet aspects of his literary career and personal life remain obscure; a comprehensive account of his days has yet to be written. Purdy was a voracious reader and a prolific writer of letters, only some of which have been brought from the archives into the critical light. His library affords a view of his connections to other writers through marginalia, presentation and association copies, dedications, and ephemera. The collection itself—an ultimately temporary and at least partly accidental accumulation of books—is a history not only of his reading but also of his ties to literary figures of his time, whether great or small. Purdy’s library and his letters provide mutually illuminating means of reckoning with his artistic and intellectual development—a crucial topic in studies of his life and works. Libraries and letters are biographical documents but their interpretation depends upon the ingenuity of the critic, to whose inaccuracies and idiosyncrasies they are also subject. In this regard they resemble poems and other literary creations, the explication of which is less a problem to be solved than a conversation to be sustained.

Nicholas Bradley is an associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Victoria, where he teaches Canadian literature and American literature. He is the co-editor of Greening the Maple: Canadian Ecocriticism in Context (2013) and the editor of We Go Far Back in Time: The Letters of Earle Birney and Al Purdy, 1947–1987 (2014).

“Reimagining faculty-library partnerships in the 21st century" (Nathalie Cooke, McGill)

As libraries set about digitizing their special collections, assigning levels of access to and search capabilities for those materials, they inevitably make curatorial decisions about what constitutes a "collection," to which audience it will appeal, and how best to negotiate its dissemination. I am currently involved in just this process with McGill's cookbook collection. A similar decision process is necessary for projects focused on private collections, such as the family history project on which I am embarking. As a researcher, I am obliged to offer analytical frameworks and suggest avenues for future inquiry. Using my own project as a case study, I will explore tentative answers to a series of questions. What methodological frameworks do and should guide an individual researcher's decisions about to include in a curated collection? What are the bibliographical conventions and best cataloguing practices for preparing private materials for analysis and dissemination?  What analytical frameworks might shed light on the collection in order to make it useful to other researchers in diverse fields?

Nathalie Cooke is English professor at McGill. Most recently she is co-editor of a facsimile edition of a handwritten manuscript cookbook The Johnson Family Treasury: A Collection of Household Recipes and Remedies 1741-1848 (2015) and a new critical edition of Catharine Parr Traill's 1855 Female Emigrant's Guide. She served as Chair of McGill's Senate Committee on Libraries 2010-13, founding editor of CuiZine, a scholarly journal published by McGill Library (2009-), and is partnering McGill and University of Toronto's Fisher libraries on upcoming exhibits and initiatives. She is currently working on a family history project involving a private library of handwritten letters, a journal and photo albums.


"Apothecary and Cathedral: The role of the writer's library" (Cherie Dimaline)

abstract TBA

Cherie Dimaline is a member of the Georgian Bay Metis Community in Ontario. Her first award winning book, Red Rooms, was published by Theytus Books in 2007. Her 2013 novel ‘The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy’ was shortlisted for the Burt Award for First Nations, Metis and Inuit Literature. Cherie’s latest collection of short fiction “A Gentle Habit” was released by Kegedonce Books, December 2015. Named as the Ontario Emerging Artist of the Year for the 2014 Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, Cherie was appointed as the first Aboriginal Writer in Residence for the Toronto Public Library, Spring 2015. Her upcoming YA novel, The Marrow Thieves is forthcoming from Cormorant in early 2017.


"William Osler and the Collecting of the Middle Ages" (Anna Dysert, McGill)

Abstract TBA

Anna Dysert is an assistant librarian at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University, where she supports teaching, learning, and research with rare and archival collections in history and social studies of medicine. She is also a PhD candidate in history at McGill University. Anna received an MA in Medieval Studies from the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, and an MLIS in Archival Studies from McGill’s School of Information Studies. Her research interests include paleography and codicology, special collections analysis and curation, and manuscript collections and public memory.


“The People and the Text: Building an Inclusive Library” (Margery Fee, UBC, and Deanna Reder, SFU)

Libraries, by their very nature, make assumptions based on Western notions of literacy and knowledge. Literacy, in a Western understanding, is defined in terms of language, script, culture, and the pedagogy of reading and writing….Obstructive dichotomies have become well established, such as literate versus illiterate, and print versus oral. (2)

-Brendan F. R. Edwards. Paper Talk: A History of Libraries, Print Culture, and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, Before 1960

Osage scholar Robert Warrior argues, in The People and the Word (2005), that writing by early, typically Christianized Native Americans ought to be reconsidered as contributions to a tradition that can and should inform the contemporary work of Native intellectuals, to the benefit of "the intellectual health of Native America" (xiv).  Our 2015-2020 SSHRC funded project, The People and the Text, extends Warrior’s call for the consideration of neglected writing by Indigenous people in Canada. While on one hand we are beginning to catalogue the understudied archive of writing by Indigenous authors, on the other hand we understand the category of texts in its broadest definition—that is of language, material culture, and stories embedded in land as texts to be read, to be researched, to be used.

Margery Fee (UBC) holds the McLean Chair in Canadian Studies (2015-2017) to work on early Indigenous narrative production. Recent publications are Literary Land Claims: The “Indian Land Question” from Pontiac’s War to Attawapiskat (Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2015) and Tekahionwake:  E. Pauline Johnson’s Writings on Native North America (Broadview, 2016), co-edited with Dory Nason.

Deanna Reder (Cree-Métis) is an Associate Professor in the Departments of First Nations Studies and English at Simon Fraser University. She is the Principal Investigator for a 2015-2020 SSHRC funded research project working with co-applicants Margery Fee and Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee), both at U.B.C. (for more details see

“Running in the Family Library: Tracing CanLit History in D. G. Jones’ Poetry Collection” (Marc Fortin, Sherbrooke)

In Douglas Gordon  (D.G.) Jones’s poem “A Portrait of Anne Hébert,” he states that in her writing Hébert “define[s] / the morbid tissue, laying it bare / like a tatter of lace / dark / on the paper” (A Throw of Particles 25). So too, in the books that make up Jones’ collection of Canadian poetry, now held at the Université de Sherbrooke,  is the “morbid tissue” of a Canlit family laid bare on the pages. Some of these ligaments are made obvious in the dedications to Jones, others through letters found inside the covers of the books, while more subtle connective tissue can be found in the archival correspondence about the parties and poetry readings held in North Hatley over the years, attended by such writers as F. R. Scott, Roland Giguère, Gérald Godin, Hugh MacLennan, Ronald Sutherland, John Glassco, A.J.M. Smith, and Louis Dudek. In looking at Jones’ poetry library, traces can be found of the history of Canadian literature that includes both the growth of a national literature and an attempt to bridge the two solitudes of French/English writers. New stories unfold from the pages of the books, ones that say more than the texts themselves, about relationships between authors across Canada: George Bowering, Margaret Atwood, Al Purdy, and Michael Ondaatje. My talk will explore both the personal history that can be read through the library’s holdings and the wider narrative about the growth of Canadian poetry across linguistic divides, literary aesthetics, and geographical spaces.

Marc André Fortin is Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Canadian Literature at l’Université de Sherbrooke. His work includes research on aboriginal literatures, early ethnography in Canada, modernism, and science and literature. He is co-editor of the journal Mémoires du livre/Studies in Book Culture.

“Remaindering the difference: The physical book collections of radical protest libraries” (Sherrin Frances, Saginaw Valley State University)

Radical political movements around the world often establish encampments in public squares and parks that last between a few weeks to a few months.  Occupy Wall Street is the most high-profile example in the United States, and 15M in Spain, the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, and Nuit Debout in France are other well-known instances.  Since 2011, these types of spaces have regularly begun to include libraries.  Their collections range from a few hundred books to over 8,000 books.  In the context of temporary, contested, public encampments, these physical collections of texts are initially confounding.  Books that are heavy, immobile, and difficult to protect from the elements seem to be more trouble than they are worth, particularly in an age when digital options are so easily accessible.  This presentation will address the significance of these physical collections as representative of a community's excess or a remainder.  Within this type of permanently-temporary, publicly-private library space, a book donation is not just an act of giving but one of giving-with, and the collection’s materiality supports the formation and preservation of a volatile, radical community.

Sherrin Frances is an Assistant Professor of English at Saginaw Valley State University where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses addressing spatial rhetoric through topics such as urban planning, cartography, and interface/graphic design. Her primary research revolves around “outsider libraries,” and she has traveled to locations in the US, Canada, Spain, and (forthcoming) Ukraine to talk with librarians and document these spaces.  Her work has been published in social theory journals including CTheory, disClosure, and Itineration, and she has presented and created installation pieces at conferences including Rhetoric Society of America, BABEL Working Group, and New Urban Languages.


“Story Telling” (Louise Bernice Halfe)

Abstract TBA

Louise Bernice Halfe – Sky Dancer was raised on Saddle Lake Reserve and attended Blue Quills Residential School. Louise is married and has two adult children and two grandsons. She graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Regina. She also completed two years of Nechi Training in St. Albert’s Nechi Institute, where she also facilitated the program. She served as Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate for two years and has traveled extensively throughout Canada, Northwest Territories and the countries of the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Malaysia and Australia and others. Her books, Bear Bones and Feathers, Blue Marrow,  and The Crooked Good have all received numerous accolades and awards. Her most recent publication Burning in this Midnight Dream was released on April 2, 2016. Louise was also awarded an honorary degree from Wilfrid Laurier University.


“Shelf-Portrait: My Library as Theatre & Fortress” (Phil Hall)

This title is inspired by an art exhibit, Shelf Portrait, in Toronto in 2007 by Robin Pacific, in which she hung her library in a gallery & gave the books away. People lined up! The artist was demonstrating herself in a reading-portrait, while divesting herself, opening the gates. Meanwhile, gallery goers were revealing themselves by the books they chose to take. I will talk about how a library both acts out & besieges: the book collector both revealed & guarded by each choice.

Phil Hall has been publishing poetry in Canada since 1973. He won the Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry in English for his book of essay-poems, Killdeer (BookThug, 2011). He also won the 2012 Trillium Book Award for Killdeer. His most recent books are: Guthrie Clothing: The Poetry of Phil Hall (Sir Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2015), and Conjugation (BookThug, 2016). He has taught widely, and been writer-in-residence at Queen’s University, the University of Ottawa, Sage Hill Writing, the Pierre Berton House, and elsewhere. He plays clawhammer banjo, and lives near Perth, Ontario.


“The Scholar Moving About in Worlds Not Realised: Virginia Stephen's 1902 Edition of Wordsworth and Vanessa Bell's Cover for To the Lighthouse” (Emily Kopley, McGill)

Virginia Woolf's library, held by Washington State University in Pullman, WA, includes Virginia Stephen's 1902 edition of Wordsworth's works. This well-worn and marked-up volume includes front endpapers decorated with furiously scribbled trees. One of these trees resembles Vanessa Bell's cover for To the Lighthouse, with its aspiring fountain doubling as tree and lighthouse. A scalloped border at the top of both images reinforces their similarity. Suffused with childhood generally and with Woolf's childhood in particular, To the Lighthouse has a clear textual debt to Wordsworth. The novel includes at least two allusions to Wordsworth’s Immortality Ode: Cam moves about in "worlds not realised"; Lily, finishing her painting, “had a few moments of nakedness when she seemed like an unborn soul." Now, does To the Lighthouse also have a material debt to Wordsworth, or rather to Virginia Stephen's copy of his works? This talk proposes a tentative yes, informed by plausible deductions about the drawing's authorship and the book's owner. Studying Woolf's 1902 Wordsworth sheds light on the Stephen sisters' independent creative process as well as on their relationship, amply detailed in Diane Gillespie's The Sisters' Arts: The Writing and Painting of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell (1990). Further, asking the right questions of the archive at Pullman--whose history I will delineate--helps us reconstruct the literary and biographical past. The child of the Immortality Ode and Cam of To the Lighthouse inhabit "worlds not realised," mysterious spaces that hold the promise of solution; the scholar in the archives inhabits a similar space. Trading innocence for experience, the probing sleuth for the proud decoder, the scholar arrives at the lighthouse.

Emily Kopley received her BA in English from Yale University in 2006 and her PhD in English from Stanford University in 2013. Between 2013 and 2016 she was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of English at McGill University. She is the author of Virginia Woolf and the Thirties Poets (Cecil Woolf, 2011) and editor of a special issue of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany. Articles of hers are published or forthcoming in Review of English Studies, Mémoires du Livre/Studies in Book History, English Literature in Transition, and Studies in American Jewish Literature.


“The Micropress Archive: When Basements Trump Libraries” (Colin Martin, University of Calgary)

In her 2004 survey of Canadian poetry micro-presses, Angela Rawlings asks twelve publishers how they archive their works and whether they collect other presses’ works. She finds that the majority of the publishers do not archive their own work, and do collect each other’s publications. In 2012, I survey close to four dozen such presses and find a similar response. Some presses print small runs, and to send copies to archives and libraries would take too many of the copies out of circulation. As Calgary’s NO Press publisher derek beaulieu says, “no one will see it in the National Archive […] and I publish to create a conversation.” beaulieu collects works by other micro-press publishers, but does not have a collection of his own NO Press and housepress works; having sent the last copies to Simon Fraser University’s special collections. Yet, accessing such works in university collections also proves difficult. Typically, the pieces get archived by author’s name and often wind up in the stacks alongside the author’s trade publications. Small chapbooks and broadsheets quickly go missing when this happens, as they are quite easily misplaced and stolen. On a 2014 trip to the Simon Fraser University special collection, I found that nearly 40% of the micro-press books that appeared in the library database could not be physically located; prompting a review of how the library stores ephemeral works that have limited circulation. I had better luck locating some titles through social media, by simply asking micro-press collectors who had copies of the books in their cupboards, and binders, and basement boxes. Booksellers who accrete collections of these works, such as Ottawa’s John Curry (also known as jwcurry), keep some books in circulation and in discussion, and publishers such as rob mclennan and derek beaulieu, who distribute the works for cheap or free through a potlatch economy, do likewise, but as mclennan points out, “the limited runs mean that by the time you hear about something cool, it’s already gone and you can’t get it.” One solution to this problem of access is the digitization of the works, as Janey Dodd and Ryan Fitzpatrick have done with Fred Wah’s published archive at Yet, even searchable PDFs such as those at the Wah site cannot satisfy a culture invested in the physical objects of books and book-like things. I propose a different sort of digital archive; a database of book objects in the hands of collectors as an open source public index that seeks not to replicate the book objects digitally, and that does not fall foul of copyright legislation that bars digital reproduction of works. Such a database may serve as a clearinghouse of information about missing books that connects collectors from a wide variety of backgrounds, including producers, poets, mail-poem distributors, and booksellers, while listing what may be shared, traded, sold, and simply extant. This presentation shall showcase my efforts to conceptualize how such a resource may be developed, and to what extent it could serve those who love and study small- and micro-press poetry.

Colin Martin studies Canadian small press publishing at the University of Calgary, where he defended his doctoral dissertation on Canadian poetry micropresses in the spring of 2016. He works as contract faculty for the University of Calgary, and for the University of Lethbridge at its Calgary campus, and he is currently editing a volume on Calgary poetics for the University of Alberta Press.


“In Memory of Alexandria” (Alberto Manguel)

The idea of a library is inextricably linked with that of memory, preservation and loss. Because of this, Alexandria is its archetypal model, and every library, public or private, is erected in its shadow. But while a library --Alexandria first and foremost-- predicts its own disappearance, it also proclaims its resurrection in other shapes and sizes, and under other skies, to continue to house in a myriad ways the old and new technologies we are always inventing to preserve our experience of the world for readers to come.

Alberto Manguel is a Canadian writer, translator, editor and critic, born in Buenos Aires in 1948. He has published several novels, including News From a Foreign Country Came, and All Men Are Liars, and non-fiction, including With Borges, A History of Reading, The Library at Night, Curiosity and (together with Gianni Guadalupi) The Dictionary of Imaginary Places. He has received numerous international awards, among others the Commander of the Order of Arts & Letters from France, and is doctor honoris causa of the universities of Ottawa and York in Canada, and Liège in Belgium and Anglo Ruskin, Cambridge, UK. He is now the director of the National Library of Argentina.


“Duncan's Books: Unpacking the Personal Library of Robert Duncan” (James Maynard, University at Buffalo)

This paper discusses the library of Robert Duncan (1919-1988): New American poet, autodidact, and lifelong lover and collector of books. Of all the personal libraries (James Joyce, Basil Bunting, Helen Adam, etc.) held as part of the Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, University at Buffalo, the one shared by Duncan and his partner Jess (1923-2004) is by far the largest and the most eclectic. Theirs was a household shaped heavily by their mutual fascination with books, and among their collection one finds all the various fields and genres associated with the poet and artist: from children’s books and fairy tales to philosophy, psychology, history, myth, the occult, and more. For a poet as avowedly and unabashedly derivative and bookish as Duncan, one could persuasively argue that his library is potentially the most significant part of his archive, especially as so many poems and essays have as their genesis some specifically identifiable moment in the act of reading particular texts. By examining the wide selection of Duncan’s books, his meticulous use of bookplates, and representative examples of his marginalia, this presentation considers the poet’s intimate relationship to books in general, the sources of his thinking about poetry and poetics, his specific use of other texts in his writing, the function of his notebooks as an extension of his library, and the overall significance that the act of reading played in his approach to the world.

James Maynard is Associate Curator of the Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, University at Buffalo. He has published widely on and edited a number of collections relating to Robert Duncan, including the poet’s Collected Essays and Other Prose (University of California Press, 2014), which received the Poetry Foundation’s inaugural Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism. He is currently editing a volume of Duncan’s uncollected prose and working on a critical study titled Architect of Excess: Robert Duncan and the American Pragmatist Sublime.

“Nobody Will Ever Love You: What You Need to Know to Build a Baseball Library” (David


abstract TBA

David McGimpsey is an award-winning author and professor of Creative Writing at Concordia University.


“Speculative Friction: Reconciling the Roles of Public and Private Research Collections on the 21st-Century University Campus” (Melanie Mills, Assistant Librarian, Western University, and David Fiander, King’s University College)

What is the role of the research library in the 21st century? What assumptions do members of the academic community (i.e., research and teaching faculty, academic librarians, students, and university administrators) make about its form and function? How are broader trends in academic libraries and higher education impacting users’ experience with and expectations of research library collections?In an effort to better understand these questions, as well as the relationship between scholars’ invisible or ‘private’ libraries (i.e., academics’ working research collections housed in faculty workspaces) and the university’s ‘public’ research library, David Fiander and Melanie Mills began reviewing the hidden collections of humanities scholars at Western University in early 2013. Bibliographic data for each volume housed in a faculty member’s primary workspace is collected; data gathered is then used to identify materials that faculty members own but that Western Libraries has not acquired. The information gathered for this research study will help to determine whether or not significant gaps in the University’s ‘public’ research collection exist (e.g., specific imprints or disciplinary subjects). Insights gained may also help reconcile the roles of ‘public’ and ‘private’ research collections. In this paper, the authors will situate their research-in-progress within the broader and shifting contexts of academic librarianship and higher education. Established, as well as emerging trends in research library acquisitions and collections management strategies will be considered, as will the existing and possible future roles of ‘public’ and ‘private’ research libraries on the 21st century university campus.

Melanie Mills is an Assistant Librarian at Western University, where she is a Research & Instructional Services Librarian in The D.B. Weldon Library serving the Faculties of Arts & Humanities, Information and Media Studies, and Social Science. She has held administrative positions in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies and with Western Libraries. Her current research includes investigations into: humanities scholars' private research collections (i.e., working libraries); and the use conceptual frameworks as sensemaking devices for teaching and learning initiatives in academic libraries. David Fiander is an Associate Librarian at Western University.

AV History, ‘Grey Media’ and Reimagining the University Library” (Christine Mitchell, NYU)

This paper traces the emergence, evolution and activities of the Instructional Media Office at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia) as a parallel or shadow library structure. It uncovers how the audio-visual unit aspired, at times, not only to supplement, but to bypass or reinvent the library in meeting the institution’s information needs, not just by storing and distributing research and instructional materials, but through in-house production and training. While such histories of campus AV are necessary to broaden our understanding of campus libraries, they are often difficult to account for, due to the obsolescence of the equipment they managed and the scattering and de-accessioning of their media collections, especially their experimental, in-house productions. This paper argues that the relationship between libraries, AV units and media labs might be best approached by making an explicit connection between their “uncataloguables.” “Grey media” is introduced as a corollary for “grey literature.” Just as print ephemera reveals and challenges standard notions of format and function, grey media emerges here as a persistent historical manifestation of the techno-utopianism that continues to inform the design of our library and learning spaces.

Christine Mitchell holds a PhD in Communication Studies from McGill, and recently completed postdoctoral fellowships in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and with SpokenWeb, a digital poetry archive in the Department of English at Concordia. Her research focuses on intersections of technology and language from media historical and institutional perspectives. Her publications include a co-edited special issue of Amodern on poetry recordings and poetry series. She is currently working on a book that develops a media theory of translation based on the history of language laboratories and automated translation systems and software.


“Marlon Brando’s Library” (Susan Mizruchi, Boston University)

Marlon Brando was a classic 1950s icon. Like most icons, Brando himself contradicted his iconic image in many significant ways. This paper discusses "Brando's Library" as a guide to the Brando that was inaccessible to his public. Until Brando's 4000-book library was sold at a Christie's Auction in 2005, the year after Brando's death, few knew about this utterly counterintuitive side of the famous actor. As the biographer who tracked down--following a trail that wound its way from a collector in Moscow to the private Estate of actor Johnny Depp--and photographed every one of these books and all of their marginalia, I will discuss how Brando's stunning book collection transforms and deepens our understanding of the icon.

Susan L. Mizruchi is Professor of English at Boston University. She received her B.A. from Washington University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University. She often writes at the intersection of social, religious, and literary studies. Her specialties are American literature and film; religion and culture; literary and social theory; literary history; and history of the social sciences. Her books include: Brando’s Smile: His Life, Thought, and Work (Norton, 2014, 2015); The Rise of Multicultural America (North Carolina UP, 2008) Becoming Multicultural: Culture, Economy, and the Novel, 1860–1920 (Cambridge UP 2005); The Science of Sacrifice: American Literature and Modern Social Theory (Princeton UP, 1998); The Power of Historical Knowledge: Narrating the Past in Hawthorne, James, & Dreiser (Princeton, 1988); and as editor, Religion and Cultural Studies, (Princeton UP, 2001).  She is the recipient of many academic honors, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Huntington Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Fulbright Scholars Program. She serves as Oxford University Press’s Literature Delegate, and as a consultant for many foundations, among them, PBS (the American Master’s Series) and the Princeton University English Department Advisory Council. She has directed thirty dissertations at BU and is the 2015 recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Education.


"Rematerializing the Digital Collection: PennSound and Charles Bernstein's Audio Library" (Michael Nardone, Concordia)

Abstract TBA

Michael Nardone is managing editor of Amodern and assistant editor of Jacket2. He is a PhD candidate at Concordia University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture, where he is completing his dissertation “Of the Repository: Poetics in a Networked Digital Milieu.” In 2015, he was a PennSound visiting fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. Recent writings on poetics, technics, and sound appear in Public Poetics, Leonardo Music Journal, Camera Austria, Jacket2, Canadian Literature, Theatre Research International, and Amodern.


“The J.D. Barnett Collection, Western University, and the Quest for a National Library” (Ian Rae, King’s University College)

This paper will examine the impact and development of John Davis Barnett’s private collection of 40,000 volumes, which became the foundation of the arts library at Western University in 1918 but was originally intended to form the basis of a national public library.  Barnett emigrated to Canada from England in 1866 and, still a teenager, apprenticed as a draughtsman in the steam engine shops of the Grand Trunk Railway in Montreal.  Largely an autodidact, Barnett rose quickly through the railway’s ranks to become a leading civil engineer and he attributed his success to book learning, which he believed could be particularly effective for self-instruction in the physical sciences (Barnett, “Mechanic” 16).  After moving to Stratford, Ontario, in the 1880s to supervise the locomotive repair shops there, Barnett helped to expand the local GTR Literary Institute, Mechanics Institute and Stratford Public Library.  At the same time, his growing private collection functioned as a lending library for scholars across North America, who were particularly attracted to his distinguished Shakespeare and Canadian history collections.  Barnett’s promotion of Shakespeare and his work as a library and parks advocate helped to prepare the intellectual and material grounds for the founding of the Stratford Festival in 1953.  However, this presentation will focus on the collecting and lending philosophy behind Barnett’s work as a public and private library builder and the way in which his collecting activities were inspired by, and deviate from, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ideas in his “Essay on Books.”

Ian Rae is an Associate Professor of Modern Languages at King’s University College at Western University.  He is the author of From Cohen to Carson: The Poet’s Novel in Canada (2008) and editor of George Bowering: Bridges to Elsewhere (2010). This grew out of a 2012 SSHRC Insight Development Grant (with Sandra Smeltzer) for our Mapping Stratford Culture project, which aims to develop an interdisciplinary history of the cultural life of the city.  The project will include a cultural history of Stratford and an interactive, web-based timeline of productions in Canadian theatre, literature, music and the visual arts.

“Embassy Cultures: Theorizing the Libraries and Cultural Life of Canada’s Foreign Missions” (Bart Vautour, Dalhousie)

Alongside the founding of what is now the Jules Léger Library in Ottawa as the official library of the Department of External Affairs (now Global Affairs Canada), Canada has a long history of both creating and dismantling the equivalent of the “personal library” for its official residences abroad. The aim of my paper is to draw upon the theoretical methodologies of textual studies, print cultural studies, and curatorial studies to initiate an investigation of an understudied aspect of “official” culture as it moves from a single state to sites abroad. By investigating the ways in which literary texts and other cultural products are subject to a particular mode of governmentality throughout the twentieth century, my paper takes up numerous representational examples that provide evidence of different configurations of the production and dissemination of “official” Canadian culture through what I’m provisionally calling “the state’s official personal library abroad,” insomuch as the library simulates the personal library of the ambassador of the day. As ambassadors come and go, the embassy’s personal library maintains a projected image of taste, erudition, and cultural competency. That said, there are important and telling moments when individual representatives and their families have shifted the development of the libraries and shifted the outward projection of Canadian cultural accomplishment. For example, P.K. Page’s involvement in official cultural representation in Brazil and Mexico while her spouse, Arthur Irwin, was the Canadian Ambassador adds much to our thinking about both the production and reception of Canadian literature abroad. Further, my paper also investigates the role of diplomatic missions in the founding and support of Centres for Canadian Studies and academic programs in Canadian Studies abroad through the divestment of the state’s official personal libraries, which was the case for the founding of the Centre for Canadian Studies at the University of La Laguna in 1992 upon the gift of the library from the Canadian Embassy in Spain. I suggest that by studying the history of libraries in Canada’s foreign missions through a lens that understands those libraries as both personal libraries and official state-sanctioned cultural repositories, we can get a better sense of the ways Canada has projected its ideal citizen as a cultural collector of material objects for outward display to global audiences.

Bart Vautour is Assistant Professor of English at Dalhousie University. He is the editor of a critical edition of Ted Allan’s Spanish Civil War novel This Time a Better Earth (2014) and, with Emily Robins Sharpe, co- editor of a critical edition of Charles Yale Harrison’s Spanish Civil War novel Meet Me on the Barricades (2016). He is also a co-editor, with Erin Wunker, Travis V. Mason, and Christl Verduyn, of Public Poetics: Critical Issues in Canadian Poetry and Poetics (2014). With Emily Robins Sharpe, he is co-director of the Canada and the Spanish Civil War project (



Jeffrey Weingarten is an FRQSC Postdoctoral Fellow at Concordia University and a Professor of Language and Liberal Studies at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. His publications centre on post-1950 Canadian poetry and have appeared in numerous venues, including Canadian LiteratureCanadian Poetry, and Studies in Canadian Literature. He has also contributed articles to Canadian Literature and Cultural Memory (OUP; 2014) and The Oxford Handbook to Canadian Literature (OUP; 2015). His first book, Sharing the Past: The Reinvention of History in Canadian Poetry Since 1960, is forthcoming from the University of Toronto Press. He is also the co-founder and co-editor of The Bull Calf: Reviews of Fiction, Poetry, and Literary Criticism.

Jason Camlot’s critical works include Style and the Nineteenth-Century British Critic and Language Acts: Anglo-Québec Poetry, 1976 to the 21st Century (co-edited with Todd Swift). His articles and essays on topics ranging from Victorian literature and media to contemporary North American poetry have appeared in journals such as Postmodern Culture, Book History, 19, Victorian Review, Journal of Canadian Studies and English Literary History. He is also the author of four collections of poetry, Attention All Typewriters, The Animal Library, The Debaucher, and most recently, What the World Said. His recent research projects have focused on the history of literary sound recordings and the digital presentation of analogue documentary poetry readings (see, for example, He is Associate Professor of English and Associate Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Science at Concordia University in Montreal.

Information for Participants



Montreal is easily accessible by planes and trains from all the major cities in North America and Europe. Please note that the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), requires anyone, including U.S. citizens, entering or re-entering the United States by land and sea to have a passport or other appropriate secure document.

From the Airport

The cheapest way to get downtown from the airport is to take the new airport bus, Route 747, which will bring you directly to the metro system. The fare is $10 and functions as a day pass for the Montreal metro system. Taxis are also available and charge a flat rate of $38 from the airport to downtown Montreal.

From the Train Station and Bus Station:

For those of you coming from Congress in Ottawa, train or bus are good ways to travel.  Gare Central train station is within walking distance from Concordia (if you have a suitcase on wheels, or a very cheap taxi ride.  The Bus station is at Berri, east of where Concordia is located.  To get to Concordia or the hotels from there you may either take the green line going west, from Berri-UQAM to Guy-Concordia, or take the 24 bus that runs along Sherbrooke, going west.

Getting Around Montreal

The Montreal metro system is the fastest and most cost effective way to get around the city. While individual tickets are $3.25, a three day pass is $18 (and will last through the conference).

Metro operating hours are Monday to Friday and Sunday from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., and Saturday from 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. The average wait time between trains is eight minutes and three minutes during rush hour. For more information about public transportation in Montreal, visit

If you prefer getting around by taxi, it’s always very easy to flag one down on the street. You’ll also find them in front of your hotel, or at one of the city’s many taxi stands. Also, should the weather prove appropriate, you want to take advantage of the Bixi bicycle rental system that is set up throughout the Montreal metropolitan area.


Please book your rooms as soon as possible.

We recommend these accommodation options with rooms available:

Le Nouvel Hotel (1740 René-Lévesque West Montréal) - Right next to campus
For now, Le Nouvel Hotel has set aside a block of rooms for our conference.

Chateau Versailles - A quaint boutique next to campus

Marriott Residence Inn Westmount - Nice hotel close to campus

Grey Nuns Residence - Budget-friendly private rooms right on campus! (*Best rates!* -- ask for the group rate established by Jeffrey Weingarten)

Things to do around Montreal

Arts & Museums

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts:

Musée d’Art Contemporain:

Canadian Centre for Architecture:

McCord Museum:

Place Des Arts (Montreal Opera, The Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens):

Centaur Theatre Company:

The National Film Board (Events, Screenings and Personal Viewing Stations):

Segal Centre for Performing Arts

Théâtre Français à Montréal:


Chowhound (Quebec and Montreal):

Resto Montreal:

Montreal Food:

Urban Spoon:

Attractions, Activities and Entertainment

Botanical Gardens:


Notre Dame Basilica:

St. Joseph’s Oratory:

Bell Centre:

Cinema Listings:

General Tourism:

Local Entertainment listings for the week:

Véhicule Press’s “Montreal: A Celebration” site:

Yoga Montreal: