Board games available for loan

Did you know that the library lends board games? The following titles are perfect for a snowy winter’s day:

All are available for two-week loans at the service desk in the McLennan Library. Just bring the call number to a staff member.

And please don’t lose any pieces…

Oooh that smell…

If you’ve walked by the McLennan Library Building on McTavish Street over the past few weeks, then you’ve likely been overcome by a distinctly foul odour. The first time you smelled it, maybe you figured some guy vomited in front of Service Point on the way back from Peel Pub the previous night. But as the days passed with no relief, you began wondering how such a truly fetid smell could linger in the open air for weeks on end.

So what’s the source? It’s actually Ginkgo biloba.

The row of trees lining the western side of the building are ginkgos. These fascinating trees have been called “living fossils,” as they are by far the longest surviving species of tree on earth. Native to China, they have thrived for over 200 million years. Ginkgos are particularly resilient. In fact, a group of them survived the atomic bomb that exploded on Hiroshima, and are still alive today.

The odour, however, comes from the grape-sized ginkgo seeds. As they fall to the ground each autumn, crack open and get stomped on, nasty stink juice is released. Ginkgo trees come in male and female varieties, the latter of which produce the noxious seeds.

smashed ginkgo seeds

You smelling what I’m stepping in?

Unfortunately, McLennan’s larger ginkgos are all females and produce an abundance of seeds each year. Because of the smell, many municipalities will only plant male ginkgos on public land, and even chop down female trees (sexist much?).

But don’t worry, our smelly ginkgos are here to stay. Then again, judging by the looks of these branches, we’re in for plenty more stink bombs in the coming days.

Ginkgo seeds on tree

Bombs away!

McGill joins the effort to preserve electronic government information

The McGill Library recently joined the the Canadian Government Information LOCKSS Network, which is a group of eleven institutions across country that have committed to preserving the Canadian government’s electronic publications and safeguarding against their disappearance from the web. LOCKSS (“Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe”) networks operate under the simple assumption that maintaining multiple, redundant copies of electronic documents on geographically scattered servers is the surest way of preventing their loss due to human error, bit rot, or natural disaster. Each institution, including McGill, will maintain a copy of every electronic document in the Government of Canada’s publications catalogue.

The LOCKSS network is designed in such a way that any alteration to the content of a document will be quickly identified and fixed. This protects against natural degradation of electronic files, and – call us paranoid – tampering. Believe it or not, governments have been known to surreptitiously edit documents for political purposes, even here in Canada. If this happens with a document in the LOCKSS network, we’ll know about it.

The LOCKSS network is the natural extension of the library’s role in preserving government documents in print format. McGill has been a member of the Depository Services Program, through which libraries receive and agree to retain Canadian federal documents, since the program’s inception in 1927. Beginning in 2014, the federal government will no longer distribute print publications to libraries. This new initiative allows the library to continue its role as a steward of public documents and ensure they are available to future generations of citizens and scholars.