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Evolution of the Collections


Acquisition of one-millionth item, 1962


David G. Esplin


The University of Toronto Libraries Discovery of Insulin collection is inscribed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

Until the 1960s, book selection was mostly carried out by the faculty, who would send their recommendations to the Order Department. The expansion of research and graduate study during the 1960s led to a significant increase in the size and scope of the collections, with nearly two million items added during this period. The acquisitions budget rose from $288,000 in 1962 – the year the central library celebrated its millionth item - to $2 million only six years later.

Feeling that a more systematic book selection method was required, Chief Librarian Dr. Robert Blackburn took steps to coordinate this work through the library. He appointed Violet Taylor to lead book selection for undergraduate collections and assigned staff to select material for an increasing number of departments. He established a department of book selection – the first in Canada - in 1965.

David Esplin was appointed by Blackburn in 1966 to head the department as Assistant Librarian for Book Selection. Esplin established a systematic selection method and built a team of selectors with specialized expertise from all over the world. Under his leadership, contracts were established with book dealers to select titles based on specific criteria, for examination and sign-off by library staff and faculty, greatly increasing efficiency in the ordering process. During this time, the University of Toronto library system grew into a large, internationally significant research library with broad and comprehensive collections. 

Evolution of the Collections