The Richler Library Project

The Richler Library Project approaches the personal library of Canadian writer Mordecai Richler as a boundary object for the exploration of author’s libraries as platforms for research and teaching about Richler, Canadian Literature, the cultural significance of writers’ libraries, and the personal library as a unique form of collection. Through practices of cataloguing and description, database and search engine-design, digital presentation, and through ongoing creative and critical projects that include an oral history project, a digital curation platform, and an online publication that collects texts and photographs by Canadian writers about what their own personal libraries mean to them, The Richler Library Project aims to generate new research, creative presentation, study and engagement with the writer’s library as a cultural entity of rich significance.

The Mordecai Richler Library

In 2013, Concordia University acquired Mordecai Richler’s personal library, related papers, and materials from the Richler estate. The Richler Library collection consists of over 5500 monographs, many annotated in Richler’s hand, thousands of pages of typescript, periodicals, personal agendas, correspondence, financial documents, photographs, prints and drawings, newspaper clippings, audio recordings, ephemera, personal documents, and realia. The materials are housed in The Richler Reading Rooms, a designated university departmental space associated with the Department of English, and are available for flexible use, manipulation and creative intervention.

The Richler Library Project (RLP) and Research Team

Over the past decade a new field of inquiry has emerged around the significance of the author’s personal library and collection–and the conceptual power of “the archive” as an organizing structure–for literary and historical research. While major Digital Humanities projects have contributed to our association of the author’s archive with generative work on the digital presentation for research of manuscripts and materials relevant to a single author’s oeuvre and creative process, far less attention has been paid to the significance of authors’ libraries as social and culturally-informed structures in their own right. Our project asks: What can author’s libraries teach us about literary culture and institutions? How can we make hidden and underused collections vibrant and relevant for multiple disciplines and constituencies? How can we theorize and approach “collections” from multiple disciplinary perspectives?

The objective of The Richler Library Project is to respond by developing a rich catalogue of approaches for the processing, contextualization, theorization, use, and digital and public presentation of the materials that comprise Mordecai Richler’s personal library. This project advances knowledge of how to engage with unique author’s collections, and is designed to benefit scholars, memory institutions and society at large by developing innovative methodologies and templates for making a largely inaccessible corpus of cultural heritage both usable and widely available for critical, educational and creative use. The RLP has established important modes of collaboration between humanities scholars and librarians, and has a strong focus on the mentorship and training of students to engage in interdisciplinary, collaborative research that aims to approach major questions concerning literature, collections, and institutional structures.

Engaging with the materials that comprise the Richler Library (RL) as our case study corpus, our key research activities have included:

  1. determining and applying descriptive and processing techniques to the RL collection of books, typescripts, ephemera and realia, and expanding our understanding of the aesthetic, historical and cultural import of such materials,
  2. extending collaborative connections and initiatives between the RL and the Mordecai Richler fonds at the University of Calgary
  3. contributing research to the field of Canadian/Québec Literature studies through analysis of materials in the RL,
  4. expanding methodologies of oral history and oral-photographic research to generate contextualizing stories and critical insights about the contents of the RL,
  5. developing adaptable methods and templates for the digital presentation of materials of unique cultural heritage value,
  6. organizing and delivering public colloquia, lectures, workshops and pedagogical initiatives on the themes of a) the author’s library and personal collection, b) meanings of “collections” in the twenty first century, and c) Mordecai Richler as author,
  7. developing a publication venue where contemporary Canadian writers can share creative and essayistic accounts (and photographs) that explore and represent the significance of their personal libraries for their own creative practice.

The Richler Library Project was initially funded by grants from the Richler estate and Concordia University Faculty of Arts and Science. From 2017-2022 it has been funded by a Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Grant, under the direction of Principal Investigator Jason Camlot, and an interdisciplinary team of researchers with expertise in the fields of Canadian and Québec literature, literary studies, digital design and digital humanities, oral history and oral-photographic research.

Members of the RLP research team are:

  • Jason Camlot (Principal Investigator): Professor, Department of English, and University Research Chair in Literature and Sound Studies at Concordia University
  • Nathalie Cooke: Professor, Department of English, and Associate Dean Archives & Rare Collections, McGill University
  • Andre Furlani: Professor, Department of English, Concordia University
  • Steven High: Professor, Department of History, Concordia University
  • Martha Langford: Professor, Department of Art Histotry, Concordia University
  • Linda Morra: Professor, Department of English, Bishop’s University
  • Jeffrey Weingarten: Professor, Communications, Writing, Media Literacy, and the Humanities, Fanshawe College
  • Annie Murray: Associate University Librarian, Archives and Special Collections, University of Calgary
  • Meagan Scanlon: Senior Special Collections Librarian, Library and Archives Canada
  • Darren Wershler: Professor, Department of English, University Chair in Media History, Concordia University
  • Jared Wiercinski: Associate Librarian Research and Graduate Studies, Concordia University

Contact Us

If you have questions about The Richler Library Project or the Mordecai Richler Library collection please contact: richlerlibraryproject@gmail.com.