In focus

The library at the Institut canadien-français

From the outset, the Institut canadien-français provides its members with a library: the first in Ottawa to offer French-language material to the public. Books and newspapers, as well as French, Canadian, American and British magazines can be found in its reading room.

In 1860, the library contains 600 publications on its shelves, and subscribes to eight newspapers. Rare books already number among these works, including 71 volumes and engravings offered by the Emperor Napoleon III the previous year. Unfortunately, a fire destroys much of the collection in January 1862. A second fire, fifteen years later, completely destroys the building. Some works are miraculously spared.

Over the years, the Institut canadien-français renews its library. In its 1897 report, the Institut’s librarian, Francis-J. Audet reports a campaign of donations among “friends of the Institut, members, or not” which “brings the number of books now available to members to the tidy figure of 1,400, not including many journals, reports of learned societies, etc.1

The Institut’s library endures, while its English counterpart, the Literary and Scientific Society’s library, is swept away by the opening of the Ottawa Public Library in 1906. In 1949, the Institut canadien-français’s library has 1,200 books, and it subscribes to eight daily newspapers, nine weeklies and thirty magazines. Today, it includes more than 1,000 titles, including several books on French-Canadian and French-American history, classics of French and French-Canadian literature and a number of older French and Canadian journals.



1 Francis-J. Audet, “Rapport du bibliothécaire,”, Institut canadien-français, Ottawa, October 1897. University of Ottawa, CRCCF, Fonds Institut canadien-français d’Ottawa (C36), C36-6/1/7 (translated from the original).