Two men reading

9 to 5: Bank Librarian

Established in 1930, the Library Department at Montreal Head Office acted as the nucleus of information on banking and related subjects. In the days before the Internet, the department’s team of librarians were responsible for ensuring that employees had access to any form of information needed to help customers make real financial progress, whether it related to interest rates or the agricultural trends of a community.

A typical day as a bank librarian largely involved processing loan requests. Each Bank of Montreal branch was periodically supplied with a catalogue, which allowed employees to remain up to date on new additions to the library. Upon consulting the catalogues, employees could issue loan requests and retrieve their books in-person or have them sent by mail. The latter option was particularly valuable for branch employees working in remote areas without access to a public library for their information needs.

Image: Photograph of the library at Montreal Head Office, Staff Magazine, August 1932.

While the library mainly consisted of publications related to banking and finance, the librarians ensured that a selection of biographical, historical, and general interest publications also lined the shelves. Under the direction of Head Librarian Kathleen Carpenter, who joined the bank during the acquisition of Molsons Bank in 1925, employees had 7,000 books and over 4,000 pamphlets to choose from. These titles were carefully selected by Carpenter and her team by combing through book reviews, appraising donations, and taking into consideration requests from employees.

The Library Department additionally acted as the predecessor to the Corporate Archives. Specifically, librarians were tasked with preserving the bank’s extensive collection of historical materials at Montreal Head Office. In 1932, Carpenter and her team even curated a display at the Montreal Main branch.

Image: Photograph of (left to right) Kathleen Carpenter (Head Librarian), Pat McArthur (Librarian), and M.E. Trimble (Librarian) hard at work in the library at Montreal Head Office, Staff Magazine, August 1932.

Reference services were also a central aspect of a bank librarian’s job. In 1968, over 300 research queries and 1,600 “on-the-spot” questions, ranging from “Where is Hay River?” to “What are the income tax rates in Iraq?”, were posed to the library. Other duties included managing inter-library loans, filing history records for the bank’s vast network of branches, and circulating 437 periodical titles from Maclean’s to The Economist.

Amidst such varied tasks, it would not be surprising if the bank librarians sometimes found themselves overbooked!

Image: Photograph of Bobbie Merilees (Assistant Librarian) searching for a book to answer a research query, Staff Magazine, August 1969.