In June 1974 the acquisition by the University Library of the papers of Mordecai Richler was formally celebrated during a presentation ceremony attended by the author. A gift from the City Savings and Trust Company and a matching grant from the Provincial Government made possible the acquisition of Richler’s original manuscripts, editorial changes and correspondence with publishers and others connected with his literary career. This was the latest coup in a strategy engineered by Chief Librarian Kenneth Glazier to position the University of Calgary as a centre for Canadian Studies and to develop the best collection of Canadiana in any university library in Canada.
The Rare Books section of the University Library became the Special Collections department in 1971 when the unit began collecting archival records. The initial focus of the archival collection was the records of Canadian authors, and there was a flurry of activity during the 1970s as new accessions were purchased. Glazier explained: “Calgary has to have some unique things, and there is no way we can compete with some of the other, more established, universities when it comes to subjects like research and law. If we’re going to do anything here, let’s do it in Canadian studies.” A surge in nationalism and a growing interest in Canadian history and literature were cited as viable reasons for building the University’s Canadian studies resources. Prior to obtaining the Richler records the Library had acquired the papers of Hugh McLennan and James Grey, and 1000 pamphlets of French Canadian significance.
Once the collecting of authors’ papers was underway and proving successful, the Library expressed its ambition to create an “archives of Canadian creativity”. In recognition of other manifestations of creativity, its collecting activities soon expanded into the areas of art, architecture and music, eventually including the records of Canadian authors, literary agents, small publishing companies, Canadian visual artists such as book illustrators and caricaturists and the personal papers and business records of Canadian architects, composers, musicians, music educators and music societies. The architectural records were later detached from Special Collections to become the Canadian Architectural Archives.