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:

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

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

Friday, October 18, 2013

National Library Act, 1952 - from drawing board to reality

Sixty years ago, in January 1953, Canada's National Library Act, took effect. The original statute was passed on May 27, 1952 during the 6th session of 21st Canadian Parliament under the Liberal leader, Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent. The year 1952 was not uneventful. The country was emerging from the immediate postwar era in a more prosperous condition; Elizabeth II became Queen of Canada; Canadian armed forces were fighting in Korea; CBC television went on the air; and a national Old Age Security scheme was introduced. For most Canadians, the National Library was a lesser consideration in nation building.

However, the idea of assembling the greatest collection of literature on Canada in the world and making it available to all Canadians had been a important recommendation of the influential Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences (aka the Massey Report) when it was released in 1951. The report was clear about its national importance:
"That a National Library finds no place among the federal institutions which we have been required to examine is a remarkable fact which has been occasion of much sharp comment during our sessions. Over ninety organizations have discussed this matter, some in great detail, urging that what has been called a 'national disgrace' be remedied."

And the government agreed. It introduced a bill within a year to establish such an institution. When Dr. Kaye Lamb became National Librarian as well as Dominion Archivist expectations were high. Many librarians and researchers felt an immediate need for a large collection, a union catalogue of holdings of major Canadian libraries, and a national bibliography to replace the effort Toronto Public Library had begun in the 1920s. They wanted coordination among libraries and leadership on matters that required a Canadian voice or liaison with other external agencies like the Library of Congress or UNESCO. What did the new legislation mandate or allow? The 1952 statute was a succinct four-page document with thirteen sections.

Some formalities were dealt with in the first seven sections -- a few definitions (e.g. "book"), appointment of a National Librarian and an Assistant National Librarian (Dr. Raymond Tanghe was selected), establishment of a National Library consisting of "all books placed in the care and custody of the National Librarian," and provision for staff in accordance with the Civil Service Act. An Advisory Council was also mandated (sec. 8) to be composed of three ex officio members -- the National Librarian along with the General and Parliamentary Librarians from the Parliamentary Library that had lost many books in a fire in 1952 -- and twelve people representing all Canadian provinces. In mid-twentieth century Canada, important federal institutions featured advisory groups that provided advice and could question policy. Dr. Lamb had already formed a similar advisory committee in 1948 to look into the formation of a national library.

Section 10 was really the heart of the matter. The powers and duties of the National Librarian were as follows: a) the collection of books; b) compilation of a national union catalogue of library holdings which could be utilized for interlibrary lending; c) publication of a national bibliography of works on Canada and by Canadians to make known the country's identity and activities; d) lending, selling, disposing, and exchanging books with institutions in Canada and elsewhere; e) making the Library available to the government and Canadians "to the greatest possible extent" consistent with sound administration. Section 11 established a deposit scheme whereby Canadian publishers were obliged to send copies of books to the Library. It allowed the cabinet Minister having oversight of the National Library to regulate the deposit scheme. Previously, publishers had sent copies to the Parliamentary Library under the Copyright Amendment Act, 1931. Sections 12-13 established an account for Parliamentary grants for books, a special account for donations and bequests, and required the National Librarian to file a report each year.

In the subsequent decade, Dr. Lamb worked assiduously to develop services. At first, Library services, the Bibliographical Centre, then the new divisions of cataloguing, reference, and ordering operated in the Public Archives building on Sussex Drive. By 1955, plans were underway to build a new four-storey building on Wellington Street for two million books. This facility would also include resources and staff from the Public Archives. Both institutions were 'bulging at the seams.' Dr. Lamb believed the national archives and library should operate complementary activities such as information services, a historical reference collection of books, maps, newspapers, and acquisitions, within a single building. It was a matter of logistics to locate the activities of the two professions in one building for better public access and for economical operation. In 1956, the homeless library moved to a new records storage warehouse at Tunney's Pasture.

Things moved slowly, very slowly. On Dominion Day 1959, a Toronto Globe and Mail editorial strongly suggested "the Government should now consider giving special priority to the National Library project. The library is needed in the life of this country, and there can be no library in any real sense until there is a building with shelves to put books on, where people can get at them." The government eventually designated the building as a national Centennial project and authorized a budget for its construction. Just in time for Dominion Day, on June 20th 1967, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson opened the new Public Archives and National Library Building.

The Massey Report recommendations and Dr. Lamb's vision of national library service had taken shape over fifteen long years. During this time Canadian society and libraries were changing dramatically. Bi-culturalism was flourishing: two months after opening the Wellington St. building, the Quebec National Assembly enacted provisions for a 'national' library in Montreal to collect materials about Quebec, books published in Quebec and by Quebec authors. The Bibliothèque nationale du Québec was mandated to produce its own bibliographic record. As well, scientific research across Canada was escalating rapidly and the National Library had already relinquished its role in these extensive areas. A few miles along the Ottawa River, the National Research Council library formally became Canada's National Science Library shortly before the 1967 celebrations.

Government decisions, telecommunications, computers, and new media were altering the operation and scope of libraries in Ottawa and throughout the country. The task at hand would be the development of new ideas, resources, and roles for the National Library.

View the CBC coverage of the National Library opening with Lloyd Robertson at
The National Library Act, 1952 is available at (Revised Statutes of Canada 1952, chap. 330)
The Massey Commission briefs and report are available at

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Canadian Library History Network Call for Papers in May 2014

The Library History Network is soliciting papers for a programme at the National Conference & Trade Show of the Canadian Library Association, Victoria, British Columbia, May 28 – 31, 2014. 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.


October 28, 2013 proposals and brief abstracts

May 1, 2014 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