Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review: The Amulree Commission Report, 1933: The Impetus for Newfoundland Public Library Service

Newfoundland Royal Commission 1933: Report. William Warrender Mackenzie, 1st Baron Amulree, chair. London. H.M.S.O., 1933. vi, 283 p., maps.

Important advances were made in Canada in the 1930s by the provision of Carnegie grants for library development in British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. However, in Newfoundland library development was sparked by a different investigative process. In the bleak depression year, 1933, the Newfoundland government, which had held official Dominion since 1907, requested Great Britain for loans to alleviate its dire financial state. The British government responded by establishing a Royal Commission the following year to examine the future of Newfoundland and make recommendations on the island's finances, fisheries, and political status. For most Newfoundlanders, it marked the end of almost eighty years of "Responsible Government." For the next fifteen years (1934-49) Newfoundland and Labrador would continue to be administered by an appointed Governor and unelected Commission.

The Royal Commission was chaired by Lord Amulree, William Warrender Mackenzie, 1st Baron Amulree, who conducted an extensive (and controversial) survey of Newfoundland's political, economic, and social conditions with a few colleagues. One feature of the Commission report, seldom commented on by library historians in Canadian studies, was observations and suggestions about the island's libraries. In a chapter on subsidiary considerations, the Commission reported:
We were much surprised, on our arrival at St. John's, to find that there was no public library in the capital. The need for such a library need not be stressed. The provision of a public library is wholly beyond the immediate resources of the Government, nor could we expect that an appeal for subscriptions for this purpose could be launched with success at the present time.(p.221)
Of course, by "public library" the commissioners meant a tax-supported library freely open to the public. Subscription libraries and mechanics' institutes had long been the mainstay of island library provision since the early 19th century. In its concluding sections, the Amulree Report recommended "We understand that arrangements are in view for the establishment of a public library in St. John’s. We think it is important that public libraries should be established in the larger out ports as opportunity offers and that steps should be taken to extend and improve the recently instituted service of travelling subscription libraries." In the 1920s, the Carnegie Corporation had provided $5,000 for the Bureau of Education to establish a rural travelling library service. Deliveries were made to schools and coastal ships provided service to outport communities. However, the service had languished at the outset of the Great Depression after Carnegie resources ceased.

The Amulree Report's comments spurred immediate action in St. John's. A few citizens, headed by the Commissioner for Public Utilities, Thomas Lodge, formed a committee to begin planning for the establishment of a city public library. By January 1935, a Public Libraries Act was passed to allow a Public Libraries Board to establish libraries and services, in effect a system similar to emerging regional library systems which had already been demonstrated in British Columbia. The fourth section of the new Act stated: "It shall be the duty of the Board to establish, conduct and maintain a public libraries or libraries in St. John’s and in other places in Newfoundland as the Board may deem expedient and to establish and maintain travelling or circulating libraries if the Board shall deem it expedient." The Board reported to the Commissioner of Public Utilities.

The St. John’s Gosling Memorial Library (named for William Gilbert Gosling, a popular mayor from 1916-20) opened on 9 January 1936. The Gosling Library was the beginning of an expansion of public library service across Newfoundland and Labrador in the ensuing decades. At this time, the concept of "regional libraries" was more limited on the island. According to Jesse Mifflen, in the 1930s, "it referred to all libraries set up in relatively large towns; libraries were supposed to serve not only the town itself but schools and groups in neighbouring communities, and also to provide some of the bookstock for any small libraries situated in the area, and which were known as Branch Libraries." There was no formal demarcation of regions with Newfoundland at this time.

After the Gosling library opened in downtown St. John's, the Public Libraries Board, headed by Dr. A.C. Hunter and through the work of its Outport Library Committee, eventually established a five-year plan to provide library services to communities with a minimum population of 1,000 people to serve people in its "region." This plan was approved in 1942 by the British appointed Commission, helped with another timely grant of $10,000 from the Carnegie Corporation. This scheme proved to be successful and included larger towns such as Corner Brook. All these activities can be traced back to the Amulree Report, the beneficence of the Carnegie Corporation, and the dedicated work of local citizens.

The Amulree Report was an important motivation for improved public library services. Although it gave only fleeting reference to libraries and did not fit with the typical Canadian library survey or report on development of services in the 1930s, its impact was evident. As a result, the Commission style government would become an important incubation period for Newfoundland's public library system.

Further reading:

Jesse Mifflen, The Development of Public Library Services in Newfoundland, 1934-1972. Halifax: Dalhousie University Libraries and School of Library Service, 1978.

The entire Amulree Report is available at the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage website -- The Newfoundland Royal Commission, 1933

An Act to Create a Public Libraries Board approved in January 1935 is available at the Memorial University Digital Archive (commencing at page 28).

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Review: The Public Library in Canada in Relation to the Government (1939) by Jean E. Stewart.

The Public Library in Canada in Relation to the Government by Jean E. Stewart. Chicago: Fellowships and Scholarships Committee of the American Library Association under the direction of the Graduate Library School, University of Chicago, 1939. 106 p. and map.

Following the completion of a number of Canadian library studies during the Great Depression, there was increasing interest in the formation and development of library services, especially for public libraries. The need for better planning at the political level, stable tax-based financing, improved staffing, increased coordination, and a broader perspective applied to services was more evident. Academic interest in library aspects related to the social sciences was also beginning to develop. The Dominion Bureau of Statistics had collected and published information on the growth of library service for a decade-and-a-half. Now, the opportunity to analyze libraries rested on a firmer basis. The observational approach use by John Ridington, George Locke, and Mary Black in their national 1933 report, Libraries in Canada, would no longer satisfy most planning needs.Stewart's work marked the increasing use of statistics in library studies and American interest in Canadian developments.

In 1939, a young graduate from the University of British Columbia, Jean Eileen Stewart, originally from Manitoba, undertook a study on the Canadian public library in relation to federal, provincial, and municipal jurisdictions. Stewart had worked for several years as a librarian in BC libraries, becoming the first director of the new Vancouver Island Union Library when it opened in 1936. To bolster her credentials, she sought a scholarship from the American Library Association under the direction of academics at the University of Chicago, a leading institution in library science research. The resulting report, The Public Library in Relation to Government, appeared exactly when Canada entered the Second World War, September 1939. Consequently, Stewart's report was never really distributed or cited to any extent. In retrospect, however, much of her work remains of value in terms of understanding the Canadian public library in the first part of the 20th century.

What did Stewart set out to do? She investigated 37 public libraries across Canada, all over 30,000 population except for Verdun, Three Rivers, and Quebec City for which she was not able to find data. In her own words:

In an analysis of governmental relations of public libraries in Canada, an effort will be made to find answers to certain questions: (1) What is the relationship between the library and the provincial government? (2) What place does the library take in municipal government? (3) What are the advantages and disadvantages or the library board system or control? (4) What are the possibilities in the development of larger units or library service? (p. 7)

In her first chapters, Stewart documented the historical and legal development of public libraries finding that they closely followed British and American patterns, i.e. libraries were enabled, not mandated, by legislative provisions at the local and provincial levels. The Canadian situation was simpler than the US where home rule municipalities and special charters complicated planning at the state level. Later chapters included information on corporate and association libraries (e.g. in Montreal), board managed municipal libraries (especially in Ontario), and larger units of service (the union libraries and regional demonstrations in BC, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island). Stewart relied on DBS data but also received various responses to a questionnaire she mailed out to in 1938. She presented this information in several tables sprinkled in her report. With respect to municipal-library relationships, she found that boards with active members were often influential in promoting services. Only two cities, Westmount and Winnipeg, used committees of council to administer libraries.

The final two chapters summarized most of her findings. With regard to the expansion of regional systems in Canadian provinces Stewart found many basics -- for example public demand for services -- lacking. "The first steps in regionalism in Canada must be to stimulate and integrate existing institutions, and to extend library service to districts where it is completely lacking." (p. 94) The regional model was clearly an important feature for future planning. As well, Stewart commented that "Library affairs should be administered by a distinct branch of a government department, and, according to general opinion, the provincial departments of education should be given this responsibility. A trained staff should be maintained in this department to supervise, co-ordinate, and direct public library affairs in the province." (p. 99) Stewart's findings and assessments would prove accurate for the most part during the postwar era of public library development in Canada.

The Public Library in Canada remained unpublished. Like other Canadian reports that appeared during WWII (e.g., Gordon Gourlay's 1942 University of Michigan MLS thesis, "The role of Canadian Public Libraries in Adult Education" and the Rockefeller Foundation "Report on Canadian Libraries" in 1941 by Charles F. McCombs, a New York city public librarian) it found a space to rest on some office shelves. Eventually, a few copies made their way into academic libraries. Stewart's work disappeared from view, but it was not entirely forgotten. Today, along with other Depression-era studies, it continues to be an important resource for understanding early twentieth century public libraries in different parts of our country. Stewart's use of national based statistics and her own survey methods marked another step forward in Canadian library studies..

Monday, December 01, 2014

Canadian Library History Network Call for Papers at Ottawa in June 2015

LIBRARY HISTORY


A Call for Papers


The Library History Network is soliciting papers for a programme at the National Conference & Trade Show of the Canadian Library Association, Ottawa, Ontario, June 3-6, 2015. This year’s theme is: “Privacy and Security – Are you open to the public?”
  • Freedom of Information and Privacy legislation
  • Privacy advocacy and education
  • Information Technology security
  • Role of libraries and librarians/library staff in protecting privacy and freedom of information.

Particular consideration will be given to proposals dealing with the varied aspects of Canadian Library History. Consideration will also be given to papers on other themes. Selected papers may be published by the Library History Network in conjunction with CLA. Papers are solicited on any of the following categories of library history:
  • 1.Overviews and syntheses.
  • 2.Studies of particular individuals, institutions, or developments, which provide generalizable    interpretations or else serve as case studies.
  • 3. Methodological studies, which look at various aspects of research in library history.

It is anticipated that papers will be based upon personal, funded, institutional, or degree projects. Papers should not have been previously published elsewhere. They should be fully documented, and accompanied by illustrations where appropriate. They may be presented in either English or French.

Deadlines:December 10, 2014 proposals and brief abstracts and May 1, 2015 completed papers

For further information, or submission of proposals, abstracts, and papers please contact:

Professor Peter F. McNally
Rm. M3-53B
McLennan Library
McGill University
3459 McTavish St.
Montreal, QC
H3A 1Y1
Telephone: 514-398-7460
email: peter.mcnally@mcgill.ca

Friday, October 10, 2014

Alfred Fitzpatrick and the Beginning of Ontario's Travelling Libraries in 1900

Ontario's Travelling Libraries began modestly and developed over six decades before the system was wound down in the 1960s when new ways to reach rural and isolated readers became prevalent. Although travelling libraries were not uncommon at the turn of the twentieth century, the Ontario Department of Education was at first reluctant to engage in this type of work. Its officials preferred to reach rural localities through schools and encourage "association" libraries (requiring small fees for membership) for adults. However, a new Minister, Richard Harcourt, struck out on a new course in 1900, influenced by Alfred Fitzpatrick, the founder of Frontier College. Fitzpatrick was a force to be reckoned with and almost single-handedly was responsible for the inauguration of this type of service in Ontario, first in the region of "New Ontario," the vast area north of Muskoka and Lake Superior that extended to the Manitoba border before the First World War.

You can read about Fitzpatrick's drive to establish "reading camps" in Northern Ontario and his interaction with Harcourt's department in my article just published in Historical Studies in Education / Revue d'histoire de l'├ęducation. After a half decade, Fitzpatrick reoriented his efforts to eventually establish Frontier College, but small libraries remained part of his broader vision to provide learning opportunities for adults along Canadian frontier areas. A pr├ęcis follows and the complete article is available for consultation online at Historical Studies in Education.

In 1900, the Ontario Department of Education and Alfred Fitzpatrick engaged in an experiment to supply books to reading camps for lumber, mining, and railway workers in Northern Ontario. The center-periphery interplay between education officials and Fitzpatrick gave birth to two important adult education agencies: Frontier College and Ontario’s travelling library system. Although the Department partially accepted Fitzpatrick’s original plan for library extension, he garnered enough public support and employer endorsements to leverage government action on key issues related to a systematic book supply, the reduction of illiteracy, and non-formal adult learning techniques. This paper uses primary sources to examine the differing objectives held by Fitzpatrick and the Department during their initial joint venture prior to the Ontario election of 1905. The study highlights why travelling libraries became a provincial responsibility; as well, it shows Fitzpatrick reshaped his original plans by practical interactions with resource workers that led to new approaches for adult learning at the outset of the 20th century.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Review - Three British Columbia Public Library Commission reports, 1927-41

British Columbia Public Library Commission. British Columbia Library Survey 1927-28, Conducted Under the Auspices of British Columbia Public Library Commission. Victoria:  Printed by C. F. Banfield, Printer to the King, 1929.

British Columbia Public Library Commission. Libraries in British Columbia 1940; a Reconsideration of the Library Survey of 1927-28. Victoria:  Printed by C. F. Banfield, Printer to the King, 1941.

British Columbia Public Library Commission. A Preliminary Study of Adult Education in British Columbia, 1941.  A Contribution to the Problem. Prepared  by a Special Committee of the Public Library Commission: H. Norman Lidster, C. K. Morison, John  Ridington, E. S. Robinson, Chairman. Victoria: 1942.

While I have concentrated on national and regional library surveys during the Great Depression in the past few blogs, it would be gross omission if the efforts of the British Columbia Public Library Commission throughout this period was not highlighted. In 1919, a revision of the BC Public Libraries Act provided for a three-member commission to supervise public library services and to administer the Province's library grant to libraries. The relatively independent commission form of library oversight was not uncommon in the United States, but in Canada, where the Ontario Library Association had failed to develop a similar scheme before WWI, it was unique. The Commission conduced a travelling library service and a books by mail (open shelf) service to individuals. By the 1920s the Commission was operating a small budget of about $20,000. It was at this point that the commissioners, led by Dr. Norman F. Black, set out to discover the state of province-wide library service. With a generous $6,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the commission employed Clarence B. Lester, from the Wisconsin library commission, as an adviser for a thorough study--the first of its kind in twentieth century Canada.

The British Columbia Library Survey 1927-28 provided a detailed report of more than 100 pages on library conditions and responses from residents. More than twenty appendices recorded information on issues such as sea-coast libraries, the open shelf system, services for the blind, school libraries, vocational services, and library training. The key recommendations focused on direct services, namely (a) the use of library districts, created specially for this purpose, in rural communities and (b) the provision of school library service as part of a unified library system. In this scenario, regional library systems would provide services for a combination of school districts, municipalities, unorganized rural communities, and even individuals. When the report was tabled in 1929, it was an obvious that the potential of regional/district library service (the "union library" concept) could only be demonstrated through an actual project. The 1927-28 survey findings were used to secure $100,000 from the Carnegie Corporation and to employ Helen Gordon Stewart, Victoria's chief librarian, to conduct a demonstration in the Fraser Valley beginning in 1930. This project is ably described and analyzed by Maxine 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. But it was the report itself that was the crucial catalyst for action because it contained copious factual information, especially statistics, which could not be garnered elsewhere (even in the Dominion Bureau of Statistics publication, Survey of Libraries) that bolstered its conclusions and recommendations. The Fraser Valley experiment served as precedent  that led to further Carnegie grants on the Atlantic coast in the mid-1930s. This "second wave" of Carnegie library grants in the 1930s encouraged the growth of libraries at a time when public funding for libraries edged towards impoverishment rather than improvement across Canada.

After four years of successful operation and after Carnegie funding ended in 1934, BC residents in twenty communities voted to continue the Fraser Valley project with local taxes. With the success of the Fraser Valley demonstration came the need to expand and upgrade library services. The Commission was able to promote the development of two more "union library" systems as they were known on Vancouver Island and in the Okanagan Valley. As the effects of the Depression lessened in 1938, the Commission began to review progress on a five-year basis. It undertook an extensive review of the 1927-28 report with a view of identifying successes and problems that had occurred during the intervening decade. On balance, the new report, Libraries in British Columbia 1940, concluded the original principles and policies of the first report should continue to constitute the foundation of provincial organization to further book service in BC. The 1940 report, however, emphasized the idea of centralized coordination for professional library training, standards of service for different sized communities, and enlarged powers for the Library Commission to distribute grants to all libraries achieving standard provincial requirements. The report lamented that libraries in larger centres--Burnaby and North Vancouver--were being operated and funded by voluntary associations and located in downtown shops. With Canada at war against the Axis powers, the report intoned that library services should be mandated and that "democracy must be intelligent" to succeed in "winning the peace" as well as the war. But wartime austerity and priorities pushed the commission report onto the shelf rather than the field of action.

Not to be idle and considering that postwar planning was essential, the same commissioners (Norman Lidster, C. K. Morison, the indefatigable John  Ridington, and E. S. Robinson) undertook another wartime study, A Preliminary Study of Adult Education in British Columbia, 1941 for the Minister of Education. They were charged to survey the existing state of adult education across BC and to submit suggestions and recommendations for its development. The Commission studied formal provincial, federal, and municipal agencies working with adults in various capacities--boards of health, departments of agriculture, educational bodies, police schools, museums, forestry programs, and youth training--as well as the Extension Department of the University of British Columbia which was praised by the commissioners. Numerous civil society organizations were mailed questionnaires: art galleries, musical and literary societies, boards of trade, cooperatives, credit unions, student and study groups, newspapers, radio stations, crafts organizations, etc. National organizations, e.g. the Workers' Educational Association and CNIB were noted although Frontier College was a notable omission. The study called for a provincial program of Adult Education comparable to the public school system. The potential of radio broadcasting was highlighted. The work of public libraries also received favourable comment--the public library was designated as a  "principle agency."  The survey's basic recommendation: the need for the provincial government to authorize a coordinating authority, the Department of Education, to establish a central adult education division under a director. Then, it would be possible to form a Council of Adult Education to determine policy with the Director for appropriate plans, standards, grants, advisory work, and necessary operating services for the entire province. An underlying wartime ideal of democratic progress once peace was attained often appeared in the study's pages. It was a broad appeal, but one that did not stimulate the government to take immediate action. As a result, the linkage between libraries and adult education remained tenuous in the postwar period, a situation not uncommon in the rest of Canada. In postwar BC, the extension service of UBC would head up adult education efforts.

Nonetheless, the three studies encompassing the Depression years standout as positive statements for the development of libraries and their connection with the emerging field of adult education. At a time when Canadians' appreciation for the arts, adult education, and library science was influenced more by parsimonious economic considerations and wartime challenges, the reports and work of the Library Commission were vital statements of "what should be" infused with bold rhetoric and factual material that fortified its arguments. On the Canadian library stage in the first part of the twentieth century, they stand out as important historical markers in the development of libraries and librarianship.


A Preliminary Study of Adult Education in British Columbia, 1941 is available for viewing via the Hathi Trust.

Marjorie C . Holmes, Library Service in British Columbia; a Brief History of its Development (Victoria, 1959)