Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), is both a national library, national archives, the largest public library in the French-speaking world and a virtual library that is open day and night for Internet users worldwide. Operating 11 facilities located throughout the territory of Québec and a related branch in France, BAnQ welcomes close to three million visitors per year while its web portal receives four million visits. The largest cultural institution in Québec and an essential pillar in the knowledge society, BAnQ is a dynamic and unique organization!
The Grande Bibliothèque opened its doors in May 2005. A site for exploration, discovery and intellectual life designed for all, it has been a resounding success.
Located in the heart of Montréal’s Latin Quarter, the Grande Bibliothèque welcomes more than 50,000 visitors per week. It has a selection of more than four million documents to be borrowed or consulted on site—books, magazines, newspapers, films and CDs, geographic maps, microfilms, etc.—and visitors can also explore the treasures of the heritage collections. Finally, BAnQ presents hundreds of cultural events each year, for both adults and children.
The Grande Bibliothèque also serves as a central library for Montréalers and Montréal’s libraries, under an agreement with the Ville de Montréal. Moreover, the library provides specialized services for several types of clients, particularly youngsters aged 13 or under, businesspeople, new arrivals, members of the cultural communities and people with visual or other disabilities.
BAnQ is responsible for acquiring, processing, preserving and developing the heritage collections, which include the national collection, which is made up of all the documents published in Québec, as well as all of the documents published outside Québec by an author or on a topic related to Québec, foreign documents with a heritage value and, finally, collections with a cultural interest. The highly specialized teams of the preservation branch (Direction générale de la conservation) handle this aspect of the institution’s mission at BAnQ’s preservation centre (Centre de conservation). Inaugurated in May 1997, this building, which is located in Montréal’s Rosemont neighbourhood, was designed to meet high standards, so as to guarantee the longevity of the documents stored there. The preservation centre (Centre de conservation) is BAnQ’s head office.
The principal means for acquiring documents for the heritage collections is through legal deposit, which is governed by the Act respecting Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. Legal deposit was implemented in 1968. At present, the following documents are subject to legal deposit:
BAnQ also makes retrospective purchases of publications and, as a result, it has been able to develop a virtually exhaustive collection of Québec’s documentary heritage as well as a major collection of foreign publications about Québec.
In keeping with its archives mission, BAnQ preserves public and private archives and facilitates access to them throughout Québec. And that’s not all! It also provides support and counsels public organizations with respect to the management of their documents.
BAnQ fulfils this mission through its nine archives centres and its Gaspé service point. These facilities are located throughout Québec and are open to all citizens; they form a well-established network that encourages the preservation of archives in their place of origin so as to ensure better use and understanding. Located in Québec City, Montréal, Gatineau, Rimouski, Rouyn-Noranda, Saguenay, Sept-Îles, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières, BAnQ’s archives centres welcome tens of thousands of researchers each year to their reading rooms.
These archives centres are formidable treasure troves of documents about the history of Québec, which they make accessible. Their temperature- and humidity-controlled storerooms house more than 59 kilometres of written documents, namely the equivalent of 180,000 archive boxes, 750,000 maps and plans, 14,872,793 photographs, postcards and engravings, 343,183 drawings prepared by architects and engineers, more than 72,600 films, videos and sound recordings in government, legal, civil and private archives.
BAnQ, which has a mandate to serve the people of Québec and make Québec’s documentary heritage renowned throughout the world, uses new technologies to ensure remote access to a portion of its services and collections. As a result, Quebecers enjoy unprecedented access to their heritage and universal culture. People living outside Québec can access a wealth of information about Québec. BAnQ’s web portal (banq.qc.ca) provides a window into a rich virtual universe.
Numerous remote services are also available. BAnQ’s librarians and archivists offer the public a reference and research assistance service by telephone and email. People with perceptual disabilities can make the most of service offered by the BAnQ’s Service québécois du livre adapté and have Braille and audio books delivered to their homes free of charge.