Writing of Life: Massey Library – A Wealth of Knowledge and Change

One of the most crucial facilities of every academic institution is the library. The Royal Military College of Canada boasts a highly student-friendly library that has been on its campus for over 52 years. The Massey Library is a crucial part of life at RMCC, and it has changed drastically over the past ten years – and continues to do so. It sees a wide range of students; the library is frequented by officer cadets, graduate students, high-ranking officers of all stripes, non-commissioned members, exchange students, and many guests interested in research or a good book. With the capabilities of reaching out to its partner library at Queen’s University, and being able to access many other universities in the world, the Massey library packs a heavy punch despite its small size.

The leader of front-line activities in the library is Mrs. Clarinda Olsen. She is the Head of Access Services and sees to the efficient completion of inter-library loans, circulation, reference services, collection development, and shelving. She has been with the library since 2001, and several notable changes have been made to the library while she has performed as a key helper at RMCC. Originally in charge of the science and engineering library before it was centralized into the Massey Library in 2006, Mrs. Olsen is a well-informed, able-bodied woman capable of helping students with the toughest research issues and providing valuable information about the library.

“Massey Library,” Mrs. Clarinda Olsen explains, “was opened in 1960 with a ceremony by Governor General Vincent Massey. It is a pleasure working with the students of RMCC. I have worked at numerous other university libraries, and I believe the cadets are a great group to work with and are very focused.”

Academically, due to its large variety of students, the library requires specialization in many fields. This is a daunting task that is surprisingly managed in the library’s quaint location because of its largest change, switching to more electronic-based sources. A large database of scientific and literary sources can be accessed through the library’s computers, and a sample of each of these can be found on the shelves. The library also provides movies, journals, newspapers, and many different magazines for readers’ pleasure. However, the main concern for the Massey Library and its staff has always been focused on creating an environment where students are comfortable to learn and be engaged in.

“Another advantage of working in a small library is that you really get to know the students more,” says Olsen, “I like to think we offer a friendly atmosphere – not that that isn’t possible in a big library, but you have a chance to find out what becomes of your guidance when you work in a small university like this.”

Many student-focused initiatives have also been taken. Recently, the library has boosted its video collection to add a wider variety of films for students to enjoy. Since many students do not consistently have the luxury of renting movies, this is a great kindness. Books and collections can also be recommended for ordering by students and departments. The library is connected to the Writing Centre, and the English and History departments are located nearby, making the area a central academic hub where students have access to ample support when needed. Olsen spends two to four hours a days at the service desk to get involved with the students.

The library’s use is not limited to the student body, however. Guests are welcome to visit and read from the collections. The Massey Library holds heavy ties to its military roots and offers a great deal of books on the subject matter. One of the greatest gems that the library holds is their Special Collection section that can be accessed by all visitors. This collection holds numerous historical texts dating as far back as the start of the 17th century and contains items of remarkable interest – such as Major General Wolfe’s diary, era-made books on renaissance warfare, manuals on early Canadian battlements and strategy, and even identical replicas of certain Vatican texts. The section is an oasis of literary and military history.

With so much at their disposal, it is important for students to remember to make good use of the Massey Library. The library understands the students’ limitations and is willing to obtain their needed books without them having to leave campus. Ex-cadets are encouraged to visit and observe the exquisite collection of antiques decorating and defining the library. The library team is very responsive to feedback and friendly to all users of their facility.

“I would like to do a survey of our users to see if there is something more I can offer. If people have suggestions of what they would like, we have a suggestion box outside which we like to try to act on right away,” Olsen says, “I have worked at other libraries, and RMCC’s is very special. I would like to make it even more so.”

To find out more about the library, see the catalogue, or contact the staff, check out the library’s website.

By OCdt 26069 C. W. Kunkel

One Comment

  • Wyn van der Schee

    June 4, 2012 at 10:50 am

    The author of this article, and Mrs Olsen, have omitted any mention of Kingston’s other major repository of military history and science publications, the library at Fort Frontenac. Because its focus is on military history and science, it holds sources of information that may not be available at the RMC library, and it recently acquired a large collection of Canadian military history books, periodicals and ephemera. It is completely accessible to RMC cadets and graduate students.