Ahead of the Storm: Research Libraries and the Future of the Research University Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, McGill University B ooks were incredibly important for me growing up. They were my escape—my safe harbor. And this is because, as a child, I was blessed with supportive librarians who fed my insatiable appetite for reading. But in the presence of this multitude of distinguished university librarians, I have a confession to make: at one point, my family had so many books overdue from the local public library that the entire family was blacklisted until we gathered up our massive collection of overdue books, and, hanging our heads in shame, all seven of us carried the books back to the library. Penitent sinners that we were, we threw ourselves on the mercy of the chief librarian, who bade us to rise, to begin our new, cleansed and more “book responsible” lives. The woman was a saint. From my very earliest experiences, I saw libraries as portals to new worlds, with librarians opening the doors to the hidden treasures of the imagination. Even today I feel a tingle of excitement when I walk into a library, and my favorite gift to give someone is to give in their name, on a special occasion, a book restoration from our wonderful rare book collection. From a university perspective, libraries are, and always have been, at the heart of our mission. When I came to McGill, one of my first projects, with our provost, was to RLI 276 1 SEPTEMBER 2011 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC Editor’s note: Below is the lightly edited text of a speech delivered by Heather Munroe-Blum on May 5, 2011, at the 158th ARL Membership Meeting in Montréal, Québec. The meeting was jointly convened with the Canadian Association of Research Libraries.