Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Canadian Maritime Library Surveys during the Great Depression

Gerhard Lomer, Report on a Proposed Three-year Demonstration of Library Service for Prince Edward Island. Montreal: McGill University Library, 1932. 52 p., illus, folding plan.

Nora Bateson, The Carnegie Library Demonstration in Prince Edward Island, Canada, 1933-1936. Charlottetown: Prince Edward Island Libraries, 1936. 52 p., illus. with an Appendix: The Public Library Act (assented to April 4, 1935; p. 50-52).

Nora Bateson, Library Survey of Nova Scotia. Halifax, Department of Education, 1938. 40 p., map; with an Appendix: An act to provide for the support of regional libraries: p. 40.

Nova Scotia Regional Libraries Commission,  Libraries for Nova Scotia, 2nd rev. ed. Halifax: the Commission, 1940.12 p.


The Depression in Maritime Canada presented enormous obstacles to library development. This period did, however, spur important new thinking about how public library services could be established and maintained by public funds and management. As the national survey and report funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Libraries in Canada, proceeded after 1930, it became evident that regional demonstrations might better serve as a stimulus and program for future courses of action. The commissioners, John Ridington, George Locke, and Mary J.L. Black, suggested that Prince Edward Island would an ideal area for such a testing ground for public library service.

Accordingly, The Corporation, under the presidency of Frederick P. Keppel, requested Dr. Gerhard Lomer, the library director of McGill University, to visit P.E.I. and give a second opinion on the issue. Although Lomer only spent a short time on the island in September 1932, he produced a detailed typewritten assessment of current services and facilities, talked with a variety of officials, critiqued operations such as the provincial School Days program for libraries, indicated potential sites for development, and even provided an up-to-date bibliography of regional services. While his work was not as extensive as an earlier Canadian report, British Columbia Library Service 1927-1928 (Victoria, 1929), Lomer provided practical details on organization and offered a program suited to Islanders' needs which explained regional service and showed how it could be put into action by a three-year demonstration of province-wide public library service. His report recommended that provincial education department take the lead in organizing a demonstration and training branch personnel. Part of Prince of Wales College could be used as headquarters. Lomer's astute observations, plus personal interest on the part of P.E.I.'s premier, W.J.P. MacMillan, were persuasive factors in the subsequent announcement by the Carnegie Corporation in January 1933 that it would grant $75,000 for an endowment for the Prince of Wales College (destroyed by fire in 1931) and also $60,000 to start up a provincial library demonstration. Nora Bateson, M.A., a staff member at the McGill library school, who had worked in Canada's first regional demonstration in the Fraser Valley, B.C., got the nod to head the demonstration in P.E.I.

Bateson's activities from 1933 to 1936 were later documented in her report, Carnegie Library Demonstration in Prince Edward Island. She began work out of Charlottetown in June 1933. A few branches were set up; then, Bateson began the arduous task of promoting services at group meetings and presentations across the island. She drove a modified car that could carry 300 books in shelves fitted onto the rear of her auto to give people a sense of the type of books that could be provided by a central service. Her report details how coordinated action functioned to establish branch libraries, create book lists, and refresh school libraries with good reading. It also highlights the parts played by the two main libraries at Charlottetown and Summerside as well as Women's Institutes in remoter area. Throughout the first years, Bateson was the catalyst for improved services.

There were 41,000 volumes in the main collection by 1935 with 23,517 registered borrowers--about 35% of the population. The 1935 annual circulation was 261,029. Because of the success of the demonstration, The Corporation provided additional funds and the government authorized library legislation creating a provincial library commission in April 1935. However, after the next provincial election, this Act was repealed by the new government, partly on the grounds that funding should be administered directly instead of by an appointed Commission. The report deals with legislative activity at the end (pp. 38-42).

The Prince Edward Island Libraries demonstration showed the potential for success of a province-wide library service. As well, the report offered interesting insights on the relationship of libraries and adult education. Nora Bateson had become acquainted with the library extension efforts of St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, and begun to apply similar methods with the demonstration's study groups. A short chapter on this work indicates the variety of meetings and activities in particular Island subjects such as fox-farming, oyster culture, co-operation, and fishing. As well, the report concluded with comments on regional libraries that might be applied in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In June 1936, the demonstration ended and the libraries that had been created came under the direction of the Dept. of Education with limited funding in succeeding years. Unpublished records relating to the reading habits of participants in the successful creation of branches to reach people were digested and reported later in 1940. In retrospect, The Carnegie Library Demonstration documented a systematic scheme of library promotion and provided a blueprint for action as well as data that could be used for research purposes in A Regional Library and Its Readers issued in 1940. Nevertheless, Bateson's report became the basis for library development on the Island until the 1960s ushered in change.

In the adjacent province of Nova Scotia, the Superintendent of Education, Henry F. Munro, and Dr. James Tompkins, the founder of the Antigonish Movement, were anxious to establish better library service, especially in Cape Breton. Father Tompkins, together with Nora Bateson, issued a pamphlet--Why Not a Co-operative Library?--to convince Nova Scotians that a public library system could be built at a reasonable cost and operate effectively. In 1938, the province agreed to sponsor a provincial survey targeting existing conditions, facilities, regional systems, and suggesting a plan for future service. Nora Bateson was the logical choice to conduct the survey. A half-decade before, Libraries in Canada had scant praise for Nova Scotia libraries. In September-October 1937, Bateson found little change. The Citizens Free Library in Halifax lacked staff, finances, accommodation, and needed to be run on "up-to-date professional lines." She found much the same situation in Sydney. The majority of colleges and universities had less than 500 students and small collections. Library extension programs at Acadia and St. Francis Xavier were bright spots. There were 300,000 books in school libraries. Bateson concluded: "It seems reasonable to suppose that when the possibilities of public library service ... is made known, the numerous organizations which have already shown their interest will combine to lift libraries in Nova Scotia out of the amateur class and put them on an efficient professional basis."

To complete her report, Bateson highlighted the state of current library issues--adult readers, children's services, the need for trained librarians and staff, typical service costs, and county and regional organization that had been demonstrated in B.C. and P.E.I. A suggested plan for public library service was put forward: (1) appointed public library commissioners with authority to hire a director and oversee library development; (2) county or regional libraries funded locally with provincial aid and managed by district boards; (3) a library system for Cape Breton with headquarters at Sydney' and (4) improved provincial public library legislation. Nova Scotia already had an enabling Act (1937) to permit regional libraries, but no provision for commissioners, a library director, or designated powers. After considering the report, a new Act was passed in summer 1938 and Bateson hired as library Director of Libraries for Nova Scotia.

To promote and establish libraries, Bateson realized public relations and accurate information was essential. Thus, the small pamphlet, Libraries for Nova Scotia, began to make a regular appearance in hamlets, villages, and towns across the province. This booklet went through various printings before 1945. It included brief outlines on topics such as "Why We Need Libraries," "Information," "Books as Wage Earners," "Leisure-Time Reading," "Country-Wide Library Services," and "Nova Scotia." Because the Second World War intervened, Bateson and her staff spent years assisting the Canadian Legion in providing books to the armed forces in the Maritime region.  Library expansion in Nova Scotia would have to wait another decade for the plans formulated in Library Survey of Nova Scotia could be realized.

The regional surveys conducted in P.E.I. and Nova Scotia during the hard years of the Great Depression showed the success of coordinated library services and value of mobilizing public acceptance to advance libraries. The Carnegie funded projects presented a regional perspective in contrast to the national study, Libraries in Canada, which had detected little interest in libraries. The two studies clearly indicated there was a latent need and potential for public support when energetic efforts were made to introduce better collections and services on a regional scale. Unfortunately, economic conditions and the realities of wartime Canada blunted immediate efforts to implement the ideas presented by Nora Bateson and others. Associated library legislation was incomplete or lacking to permit the formation of county or regional entities for libraries. Potential aids, such as bookmobiles, were ruled out due to transportation difficulties during winter and were not available at this point. Yet, these reports were vital additions that charted library development and served as a basis for eventual library improvements in the Maritimes after the Second World War. Together, with other studies in the west and at the national level, they marked a new era in planning for library service.

Further reading:

Violet L. Coughlin, Larger Units of Public Library Service in Canada; With Particular Reference to the Provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1968

Sue Adams, "Our Activist Past: Nora Bateson, Champion of Regional Libraries," Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research 4, no. 1 (2009). [accessed 2014-06-24]

Maxine K. Rochester, "Bringing Librarianship to Rural Canada in the 1930s: Demonstrations by Carnegie Corporation of New York," Libraries & Culture: a Journal of Library History 30 (1995): 366-90.

Nora Bateson : Biographies of Librarians and Information Professionals at the Ex Libris Association site [accessed 2014-06-24]

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Angus Mowat and Ontario's Rural Libraries, 1937-40

Well, after years of research, I have published something on Angus Mowat, Ontario's irrepressible Inspector (later Director) of Public Libraries for three decades. And in the latest issue of Ontario History, a favourite regional journal for professional and local historians alike. The tweet just came out --> Great news! The Spring 2014 issue of ONTARIO HISTORY has been printed and is now available! More info: http://bit.ly/13AA8xu

"An Inspector Calls: Angus Mowat and Ontario's Rural Libraries, 1937-40" Ontario History (Spring 2014, vol. CVI, no. 1) covers a short period just before the Second World War when Mowat began his lengthy career in the Ontario civil service. Mowat was an inspirational voice for public library work during the Great Depression. In 1937, after he became the Inspector of Public Libraries in the Ontario Department of Education, he helped revive spirits and raise service ambitions in smaller libraries. Building on the "modern library" concept popularized after World War I, he re-energized trustees, librarians, and library workers with hundreds of visits to promote local efforts in the immediate prewar period. His inspections encompassed the advisement of trustees on management and financial processes; the promotion of librarianship and staff training; the development of adult and children’s collections; the reorganization of functional building space; the formation of county systems; and support for new school curriculum reading reforms. Mowat’s wide-ranging inspection method not only brought renewed optimism it laid the groundwork for genuine progress in the provincial public library system after 1945.

During the waning depression era, Mowat travelled to all parts of the province encouraging library development and making many friends. Unquestionably, he stimulated thought about enhanced services and helped libraries cope at a critical time. When his army duty (1940-44) ended, he resumed inspections with his usual enthusiasm; however, his term as Inspector ended when he became Director of Public Libraries in 1948. The regime of library inspections lingered into the 1950s, but Mowat’s new title signified his expanded role in advancing provincial policies, financing, and legislation for Ontario’s public library "system." By the time he retired in 1960, a colourful, personal period in Ontario’s public library organization had given way to more systematic, modern administration.

The article covers (1) Depression Era Public Library Service; (2) The Beginning of Inspections in Summer 1937; (3) Library Boards and Trusteeship; (4) Librarianship and Collections; (5) Library Accommodation and Buildings; (6) Library Cooperation; and (7) The End of Inspections in Summer 1940. Mowat's ups and downs in rural Ontario took many turns! Mowat was a library enthusiast for sure -- an administrator with an eye to the irreverent, but always able to cast a serious judgement or offer sage advice when necessary. By the time of his retirement party in 1960 at the Park Plaza, public libraries had undergone many changes and, although he retained many older ideas about how to do things, he was not adverse to try something new.

In recognition of Mowat's efforts, a provincial award, the Angus Mowat Award of Excellence, recognizes a commitment to excellence in the delivery of Ontario public library service. The award is made annually for services that can be old, new, and ongoing.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Library History Network of the Canadian Library Association Annual Meeting, 2014

The program for the Library History Network of the Canadian Library Association is now set for the end of May as follows:

“LIBRARIES & HERITAGE: NEW RESEARCH in LIBRARY HISTORY”
Victoria, British Columbia
Conference Centre
Saturday, May 31, 2014
8:30 to 10:00 am

“The Canadian IFLA Adventure: a Journey of Discovery, 1927-2012.” -- Judith Saltman, Dan Gillean, Jamie McCarthy, Myron Groover, Justin Unrau, and Rachel Balko. (University of British Columbia)

“Libraries and the Establishment of Canadian Public Lending Rights in the1970s and 80s.” -- Robert Tiessen (University of Calgary)

“The Business and Economics Division of Vancouver Public Library under Aileen Tufts, 1951-1978.” -- Frank Winter (University of Saskatchewan)

Discussion and Business Meeting

For further information please contact
Prof. Peter F. McNally, Convenor
McLennan Library
McGill University
TEL: 514-398-7460
EMAIL: peter.mcnally@mcgill.ca

Don't forget to visit the FACEBOOK group for the Library History Network.
If you want to contribute ideas or questions on various aspects of Canadian library history--people, libraries, book history, adult education, historical methodology or emerging trends--be sure and add your comments.

 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Regional Library and Its Readers (1940) - Libraries and reading in Prince Edward Island

A Regional Library and Its Readers; A Study of Five Years of Rural Reading by H. B. Chandler and J.T. Croteau. New York: American Association for Adult Education, 1940. 136 p. tables, charts, and index.

When it first appeared, in 1940, after the outbreak of the Second World War, A Regional Library and Its Readers received little notice in Canadian library circles. Peacetime energies were being redirected to the nation's war effort and the establishment of military-camp libraries. An academic publication by the Director of Prince Edward Island Libraries (Henry Chandler) and a college professor (John Croteau) at Charlottetown's St. Dunstan's University was surely not cause for detailed discussion, especially if it was published in New York. It was an American review in the July issue of Library Quarterly that best recognized this innovative Canadian study's linkage of library circulation with the reading habits of rural Prince Edward Islanders and noted the trend to apply more scientific methodology to library activity.

Already, in the United States, a few library reading studies had appeared, notably an urban study by the Borough of Queen Public Library, New York, Woodside Does Read (1935), that presented statistical tables of responses to many questions posed to library readers. In the United Kingdom, more informal library reading responses were being captured in a few localities by volunteer observers participating in the Mass Observation project that sought to record everyday life in Britain beginning in 1937. In British Columbia, the Fraser Valley regional library demonstration gathered reading information after it commenced operations in 1930, but its results were not published or readily accessible. In retrospect, the data collected and analysis published by Chandler and Croteau compares favourably to its contemporary Anglo-American-Canadian counterparts despite some shortcomings noted by Library Quarterly.

What did Chandler and Croteau set out to do? Following the Carnegie funded regional library demonstration headed by Nora Bateson from 1933-36, the PEI government decided to carry on with the regional (actually provincial) library concept. Bateson's success had certainly given an affirmative reply to questions about the utility of regional libraries. Chandler and Croteau, using data gathered during the project and subsequent years, investigated an entirely different area -- the reading Islanders were doing. About 25,000 people borrowed a million books between 1933-38 and Chandler-Croteau, with the help of the Dominion Bureau of Statistics and PEI news and magazine agents, used the collected data extensively. They asked: who read library books? what did people read? which occupational groups made most use of the library? were there changes in reading habits during the five-year period, 1934-38? All these queries were new areas for exploration in Canadian library research.

Despite the innovative work in PEI, A Regional Library did not receive much attention in library histories until Maxine Rochester, "Bringing Librarianship to Rural Canada in the 1930s," Libraries & Culture 30, 4 (1995), 366-90 revisited library efforts in Depression era rural Canada and provided additional analysis in conjunction with the Fraser Valley project. These library projects were complementary to adult education activities, such as the formation of reading clubs. Rochester concluded:
The demonstrations had shown that there was an enormous book hunger in the rural areas, and that once a library service sufficiently financed and of an adequate population base was developed on a trial basis, the citizens were willing to pay for such a service through their taxes. The demonstrations dispelled any assumptions about reading interests of rural people being less sophisticated than people living in cities.
Re-reading A Regional Library can offer many insights. The chapter on Fiction Reading, for example, demonstrated the traditional desire by librarians to circulate the "best books." Library fiction was classed in three categories -- classics and "first-rate modern novels;" modern novels judged to be above the "usual run of fiction;" and lighter reading (mysteries, romances, westerns, etc.). The first two classes comprised 50% of library fiction stock and accounted for 16% of the total fiction circulation. The "lighter" novels (50% of the fiction total) accounted for 84% of the circulation. However, like all lists, one might question the categorization of authors: the book's appendix shows that Lucy Maud Montgomery, Raymond Knister, Joyce Cary, Booth Tarkington, and Jules Verne were just a few of novelists consigned to the lighter class that readers obviously preferred.

A Regional Library provides many interesting facts about rural PEI in the 1930s and adult education activities. Over a period of five years more than a quarter of the total island population registered at libraries to borrow books. Students and housewives comprised the largest number of library card holders -- almost 50 percent but the study concluded that educational attainment, not age or sex, was the prime factor for reading. After five years, total circulation annually reached about 250,000 for a population of 94,000, a significant stimulus to book use in a region where there were few bookstores and formal education usually stopped at junior high school (grades 8-10). Chandler and Croteau's work, in conjunction with Nora Bateson's two provincial east-coast works, The Carnegie Library Demonstration in Prince Edward Island, Canada, 1933-1936 (1936) and Library Survey of Nova Scotia (1938), clearly documented that libraries could make important societal contributions when organized in an efficient and cost-effective manner. These studies, together with others conducted during the Depression, formed a foundation for future growth across Canada.

An online full-text version is now available from the Hathi Trust without any restrictions.
 



Sunday, December 01, 2013

Libraries in Canada -- The Commision of Enquiry (1930-33) and creation of a national perspective on libraries

Libraries in Canada: A Study of Library Conditions and Needs by John Ridington, chair; Mary J. L. Black, and George H. Locke. Toronto: Ryerson Press; and Chicago: American Library Association, 1933. 153 p. index.

In the spring of 1933, thousands of printed copies of Canada's first national survey of libraries were delivered to the offices of newspaper and magazine editors; school and university officials; federal, provincial and municipal politicians; as well as librarians and trustees. It marked the culmination of three years of work by Carnegie-funded commissioners who had traversed Canada in 1930 at the outset of the Great Depression. Led by John Ridington, the chief librarian of the University of British Columbia, the Commission had sought to ascertain the state of Canadian libraries and made recommendations to improve conditions. The three commissioners were primarily interested in public libraries but also included chapters on government and universities and colleges.

How was the report received? What impact did Libraries in Canada have? A case can be made that it influenced library development for many years and was a landmark Canadian study that set a standard for library surveys, reports, briefs, and planning documents in the era before social science techniques and data gathering took hold in library science.

According to one American reviewer in The Library Quarterly, Ridington, Black, and Locke had produced a "human story" about library progress (or lack thereof) and aspirations for future growth that might inspire contemporaries to attain higher standards and to provide a blueprint for planning. A friend of Ridington, Edgar Robinson, noted that "tangible results," in the form of Carnegie funding for a regional demonstration in Prince Edward Island, were already in evidence. Decades later, the Canadian librarian who has provided the most extensive study on the work of the Commission, Basil Stuart-Stubbs, described its report as a "vision document" that spoke to the community at large and realized its vision decades later--the establishment of a national library, regional libraries, improved library legislation, published standards, better funding. Even a national library association, which the commissioners felt impossible to establish in the Depression, would eventually be formed in 1946. None of the commissioners lived to see their ideas become conventional principles: Locke died in 1937, Mary Black in 1939, and Ridington in 1945.

Libraries in Canada (LIC) attracted some modest press and magazine attention in 1933. A Saskatoon Star-Phoenix editorial on March 14th indicated the lowly state of library service in many regions of Canada might come as a shock to those who were comfortable with present service levels. It noted the three basic improvements the Commission advocated: 1) the development of larger administrative units of service or cooperation between urban-rural libraries in regions; 2) the extension of services via branches, bookmobiles, etc; and 3) the need for better trained staff. On March 25th, Toronto Globe lamented that the report offered up a general "discouraging picture" and editorialized that Canadians were "book hungry." Some papers, such as the Montreal Gazette, highlighted comments about local conditions: it reported "Parish Libraries Plan Commended," on March 15th and followed with "[McGill] Library School is Doing Great Work," on March 16th. The April and May issues of the Canadian Bookman and Canadian Forum also commented briefly on the work of the surveyors for their readers.

While explicit "next steps" and tangible results were not immediately forthcoming, the Commissioners' ideas were sketched on a national canvas for the first time. Their work prompted Canadian librarians and educators to rise above parochial thinking. After LIC suggested reduction of postal subsidies for book loans by mail, British Columbia and Ontario librarians reiterated this position in Briefs to the dominion government's study on federal-provincial relations (the Rowell-Sirois Report) a few years later. A special postal "book rate" became reality in 1939 and still exists today. Although LIC admitted formation of a national association was not feasible during the Great Depression, new steps were undertaken to form a national body with support from A.L.A in 1934. Eventually, a national association came into being in 1946. After the Second World War, the concept of regional libraries took hold across the country. The establishment of more library schools and library training in colleges was firmly implanted by the late 1960s. To be sure, many improvements in libraries can be traced backed to LIC, in part because the report was brought to the attention of decision-makers such as Quebec Premier, Louis-Alexandre Taschereau, and the Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. While the Commission could be faulted for not doing more extensive work on university-college libraries and school libraries, few could argue that the $10,000 Carnegie grant was not well spent.

Further, Libraries in Canada pointed the way to conducting more published analysis on library problems, especially on a geographic basis. Previous studies, especially in British Columbia, had focused mostly on specific provincial concerns. Now a national study unveiled and legitimized ideas -- principles, even -- that could be developed on a broader basis. Studies in the later 1930s such as Nora Bateson's two works, Carnegie Library Demonstration in Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown, 1936) and Library Survey of Nova Scotia (Halifax, 1938); and Norma W. Bennett, Library Service in Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, 1937) benefited greatly from LIC. More than a decade on, another national study by the Canadian Library Council, Libraries in the Life of the Canadian Nation, published at Ottawa in 1946, revisited numerous ideas from the Commission of Enquiry. Many of the subsequent studies began to utilize data gathered on a biennial basis by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, a resource that LIC neglected. But, by this time, the influence of the initial efforts by Ridington, Black and Locke had taken hold. It was the power of words and ideas rather than explication of numbers and facts that prevailed.

The concluding chapter of Libraries in Canada is available at Libraries Today.

More reading:

Review by Edgar S. Robinson and Harold L. Leupp, Bulletin of the American Library Association 27, 4 (April 1933), 197-198

Review by Clarence B. Lester, Library Quarterly 4, 4 (Oct. 1934), 662-66

Basil Stuart-Stubbs, "1930: the Commissioners' Trail," Feliciter 47, 3 (2001), 140-41

Basil Stuart-Stubbs, "1933: The Commission Speaks," Feliciter 48, 3 (2002), 126-28

Basil Stuart-Stubbs, "1934: CLA Redux . . . Almost," Feliciter 49, 3 (2003), 161-64