Monday, April 24, 2017

Review--Canada Needs Libraries (1945), published by the Canadian Library Council, Inc.

Canada Needs Libraries. Published by Canadian Library Council, 1945. 45 p. Includes briefs and articles by the CLC, librarians, and seven provinces regarding library needs of Canadians in the postwar period. Reprinted from Ontario Library Review, November, 1944.

Towards the end of the Second World War, efforts began across Canada to return to a peacetime economy and society. The federal government established a Department of Reconstruction in 1944 under the direction of a powerful cabinet minister, Clarence Decator Howe, to provide general direction. Provincial governments also established agencies to examine reconstruction or rehabilitation activities. Both levels of government conducted hearings and encouraged public participation in this process. It was an opportunity for library associations and libraries to recommend a way forward to better serve the public after years of depression and wartime conditions. The most energetic group in this regard was the Canadian Library Council, Inc., (CLC) formed in 1941 to coordinate national library activities.

Throughout 1944-45, the CLC and provincial library associations created briefs to present their views on library development in the immediate postwar period. More than half of Canada's population did not have direct access to public libraries, especially in rural areas. There was no national library. Some provinces did not have public library legislation. These were serious deficiencies that the CLC and its partner associations sought to remedy with a series of presentations and documents to federal and provincial agencies outlining the arguments and information for improved library services. All these submissions took place within a short span of time and, in some cases, formed the basis of postwar library development into the 1950s. However, in Canada's library history these statements are, for the most part, rarely examined or cited today. Yet, at the time, they were essential for planning purposes. In fact, the CLC gathered these reports, briefs, and summaries and published them in 1945, leaving an important record of Canadian library reconstruction views at the conclusion of WW II.

Canada Needs Libraries was a short pamphlet composed of statements collected from seven provincial associations, the CLC itself, and two articles from leading figures in the CLC, Nora Bateson and Elizabeth Defoe. The briefs were originally published in the Ontario Library Review in November 1944. These short statements remain worthwhile reading today:

  • Library Service for Canada; a brief prepared by the Canadian Library Council [1944] with Appendices and "Rural Canada Needs Libraries" (Bateson) and "A National Library" (Dafoe).
  • Library Provision and Needs for Nova Scotia: brief to the Royal Commission on Post-war Rehabilitation in Nova Scotia, 1943 [by Regional Library Commission of NS]
  • Proposals Concerning Library Service in the Province of Quebec as outlined by a Special Committee of the Quebec Library Association
  • Library Needs of the Province of Ontario: a brief on needs prepared by the Reconstruction Committee of the Ontario Library Association, 1944
  • Post-war Library Service in Manitoba; a brief submitted by the Manitoba Library Association to the Committee on Post-War Reconstruction [Manitoba].
  • Post-war Library Service for Saskatchewan; a brief presented to the Saskatchewan Reconstruction Council on behalf of the Saskatchewan Library Association, 1944
  • An Extension Programme for Alberta Public Libraries, by Alexander Calhoun [Calgary]
  • A Brief on Post-war Library Service for British Columbia presented to the Post-war Rehabilitation Council by the British Columbia Library Association
  • Memorandum from [BC] Public Library Commission to Post-war Rehabilitation Council
All the submissions dealt with issues that hindered library development. The main brief from CLC, Library Service for Canada, was sent to the federal government's Special Committee on Reconstruction and Re-establishment in August 1944 (the Turgeon Committee). It made the case to develop library services in rural Canada by means of regional library service. It also proposed the formation of a national Library Resources Board "to guide, co-ordinate, and encourage provincial, local and special efforts." An initial focus for this Board would be a survey of existing library resources used by the armed forces. With this information and collection of provincial data, the Board, using federal funds under its control, could provide incentive grants for regional libraries and devise a system of co-operative use of library resources: necessities such as a National Library Service, library standards, and library consultation services (e.g., legislation, book tariffs, and postal rates). The idea of a national Board to coordinate library work was a bold idea but in keeping with the sweeping powers the federal government had assumed during wartime.

Much of the work of the national advisory Library Resources Board could be furthered by assistance from provincial library associations and groups working in the field of adult education or teaching. In this scheme of thinking, a National Library was also essential: it could develop collections of national literature and history, provide national reference resources, compile a national union catalog to enable inter-library loan across the country, and produce bibliographical publications about Canada or indexes of publications. By providing leadership through the creation of library standards, and advisory services, the Library Resources Board could spur library expansion. In conjunction with provincial briefs the CLC's postwar rebuilding vision could advance the nation's "intelligence, character, economic advancement, and cultural life." Library Reconstruction plans at all government levels would confer benefits for all Canada’s citizens and lead to a better, more informed society.

Subsequent events at the national level dispelled many of the hopes of library planners. Following the failure to reach agreements at the Dominion-Provincial Conference on Reconstruction in August 1945, events took a new turn. C.D. Howe was determined to focus on converting existing factories producing munitions and war equipment to consumer and industrial products. Howe, a powerful minister with Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s support, preferred common sense industrial re-conversion and free enterprise rather than abstract social plans authored by Reconstruction advocates and groups, such as the CLC. Nonetheless, the CLC, and its successor, the Canadian Library Association (CLA), did not abandon many of its ideas and strategies developed during the war. The CLA itself could perform some of the tasks that had been proposed for the Library Resources Board, although federal funding would not be forthcoming, and forming a National Library became a postwar priority with CLA. The new Canadian Library body built on Canada Needs Libraries and, in concert with other national organizations, submitted an important brief in December 1946 that stated the case for a National Library that ultimately led to its legislative creation in 1953. Promotion of regional services also ranked high on CLA's list, but, more importantly, provincial library organizations became lynchpins in advocating for regional library legislation. It was these organizations that pursued governments to establish survey committees and reports on public library service in the provinces through the 1940s and 1950s.

In Canada's provinces, the growth of public library services was stimulated by new legislation and policies. In Saskatchewan, in 1946, a Regional Libraries Act allowed for a Supervisor, Marion Gilroy (a CLC director from 1945-46) to encourage the development of larger units of service. This led to the formation of its first regional library in north central Saskatchewan. In Ontario, postwar regulations led to better conditional grants for libraries and certification of librarians to improve qualifications for personnel. Later, in 1947, an Act enabling formation of county library co-operatives was introduced, a legislative piece that elevated rural service in southern Ontario. In Nova Scotia, following the recommendations of a thorough 1947-48 survey of the province, the Annapolis Valley Regional Library became the first of many such libraries in 1949. In 1948, Manitoba passed a Public Libraries Act that enabled the establishment of public libraries in municipalities and of regional libraries. The Alberta Library Board, an advisory group to the Minister of Education, was established in 1946 with Alexander Calhoun as chairman. It renewed interest in organizing rural regional systems; however, Alberta's first regional system, Parkland, was not established until 1959, the same year that Quebec enacted its first law leading to the development of a provincial network of public libraries.

Together, these briefs illustrate the faith that library promoters held in what would now be called "facts-based evidence" for establishing government policy. Library surveys, data, research, collaborative submission of briefs, and participation of concerned citizens formed the basis of library advocacy. Many of the ideas in Canada Needs Libraries would drive the agenda of library associations and workers after 1945 to establish a fundamental organizational framework for service that we recognize in present library systems. Even the CLC's title remains relevant today: almost three-quarters of a century later, Canada still needs libraries.

Further Reading:

My previous blog in 2012, THE CASE FOR A NATIONAL LIBRARY OF CANADA 1933-1946, outlines the 1946 joint library statement and subsequent events leading to the 1952 Act that created the National Library in 1953.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Review--Two 1940s Canadian Theses on Academic Libraries by Dorothy Hamilton and Winifred Snider

Dorothy I. Hamilton, The Libraries of the Universities of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. A Report. (Ann Arbor: Department of Library Science, University of Michigan, 1942). 2, 2, 137 leaves with tables.

Winifred H. Snider, Extramural Library Service in Libraries and Extension Departments of Canadian Universities. MA thesis (New York: Columbia University Library School, 1948). 64 p. with tables.

Until the Second World War, it could be said with a measure of assurance that librarianship in Canada was dominated by interest in public library development. Libraries in higher education were mostly the reserve of an educated minority of Canadians. It was the public library that was known by the popular notion, the "people's university." There were, of course, occasions when academic librarians, such as Stewart Wallace, Gerhard Lomer, and Kaye Lamb, rose to prominence in provincial organizations during the Depression. And, in the early 1930s, the Commission of Enquiry had explored universities to some degree. These episodes, for the most part, were short lived. However, the long slumber of university and college libraries on a national stage was about to change after 1939.

Two librarians, Dorothy Isabel Hamilton and Winifred Helen Snider, produced studies that provide valuable information on the state of university collections and services during the war and immediate postwar period. Hamilton was first into the field: a native British Columbian, she earned her BA at Alberta in 1929 and then went to the University of Washington for her BSLS in 1931. After working at the university library in Edmonton in the 1930s she was awarded a Carnegie grant for an ALA fellowship in 1941 to complete her AMLS at Michigan on four Canadian western university libraries. Winifred Snider came from a prominent family in the Kitchener-Waterloo region. Like many young women in Ontario, she went to Victoria College, and graduated with a BA in 1923. After holding various positions, she went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for a Library Diploma (1928) and worked briefly in the Fraser Valley regional demonstration at Chilliwack, BC, before taking up cataloging at Waterloo College [now Wilfrid Laurier University] in 1932. She left shortly afterward to be the assistant librarian at Mount Allison from 1934-42, taking time to be president of the Maritime Library Association (1940-41). In 1942, she became the university's head librarian until the end of WW II when she resigned to work and study at Columbia University where she earned her MSLS in 1948.

These two theses are valuable records of academic library work in the 1940s. In the first part of her work, Dorothy Hamilton briefly considered how higher education developed at each western university: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. In the second part of her thesis, Hamilton looked at several aspects of library development on each campus prior to WW II:
  • the historical development of libraries and their accommodations;
  • an examination of library finances, financial standards, and a comparison with eight American universities;
  • the legal basis of the library in university acts, and the status of library committees and the head librarian;
  • the general management of the library and its staff resources and activities;
  • book collections in relation to checklists and special collections;
  • services: circulation, user regulations, hours of operation, interloan, reference, and reserve work.
Generally, there was room for improvement. At one point, Hamilton concluded that "Unfortunately, Canadian university administrators do not seem to be aware of the importance of the library in university instruction." (p. 45) Her lengthy exposition of the role of librarians, frugal budgets, and smallish collections helped to fortify this opinion in all areas, but we must remember throughout the Great Depression managerial thinking leaned to making ends meet.

One solution for improvement that Hamilton pointed to was the use of emerging college and university library standards by the American Library Association (ALA), recommended guidelines or principles by American librarians, and new accreditation processes of the North Central Association used in the United States. Hamilton used ALA statistics to compare the four Canadian universities were similar counterparts south of the border (e.g., Arizona, Colgate, Wyoming, Southern Methodist, etc.) rather than the usual parade of the highest ranking American universities with budgets and operations far beyond the expectations of Canadian faculty or librarians. In this regard, British Columbia did fairly well and the other three western libraries were inadequately supported. Hamilton also reviewed book, reference, and periodical collections using checklists for American college libraries developed by the North Central Association which had begun accrediting colleges before WW I. Again, the percentage holdings in relation to these checklists found British Columbia doing reasonably well with the other three universities mostly clustered in the median range or lower range.

Hamilton also explored services and personnel. In many cases, services (e.g., library instruction) were less developed or were reliant on manual procedures (e.g. circulation). Professional librarians, often in short supply, were regarded as "clerks" by most faculty. On balance, western Canadian university libraries in the early 1940s could best be described as being in the developmental stage. Hamilton concluded her analysis with the observation that all the universities required (1) a good central building; (2) a readjustment of the university budget to provide adequate support; and (3) increased staffing with adjustments as to status and salaries to attain at least minimum standards. The contemporary guidelines, of course, were American--it would not be until 1965 that the Guide to Canadian University Library Standards published by the Canadian Library Association appeared. Hamilton's exploration confirmed the need to improve services but her report was seldom referenced. After graduating at Michigan, Dorothy Hamilton returned to Alberta and worked at the library in public service areas, including head of reference, until 1969. She died in Victoria, BC, in 1974.

Winifred Snider's thesis at Columbia was less extensive than Hamilton's work and was descriptive rather than analytical. But she chose a subject, extramural library services, that was national in focus and included university extension departments that mostly organized these services and relied on library support. Snider worked under the general mantra of Reconstruction in the postwar period and aimed to provide information for a national plan of library service to rural Canada to which university libraries could contribute. Since the inception of McGill's McLennan Travelling Libraries to smaller Canadian communities in 1901, university libraries had participated in a sporadic manner to a wide range of adult education activities in rural and remote areas. Extramural Library Service studied thirteen universities that offered a wide variety of extramural public services. A few libraries were active participants, others provided limited support for the work of extension departments. British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Toronto, Queen's, Western, Ottawa, McGill, Laval, Acadia, St. Francis Xavier, Mount Allison, and New Brunswick all participated in Snider's survey. Of these, Manitoba, Acadia, and New Brunswick did not have extension departments.

Essentially, in the immediate the postwar era, two main types of programing had evolved in Canadian universities. One grouping was course related--night classes in urban areas, correspondence courses, regular extension lectures for a short period, and summer schools. Mostly, academic credit was offered for advancement. McGill, Toronto, and Queen's were important in this regard. A second grouping of programs revolved around responses to the interests of users anxious to learn on their own or develop knowledge and skills related to local activities. Snider's definition for "extramural" emphasized this cultural work: she focused on library services to people who were not faculty, students, or staff attending university sessional classes. This perspective involved programming with reading clubs, handicrafts, films, debates, summer camps, music, commerce, entertainments and sports, short conferences and discussions for like-minded groups. In the east, St. Francis Xavier's Department of Extension was nationally recognized for its correspondence courses and lecture program especially on Cape Breton Island where branch libraries were established to support small, organized groups in a cooperative effort. To the west, the University of Alberta extension service was an acknowledged leader supported with a large library managed by its extension department. Also, British Columbia was an important source for provincial adult education and extramural work.

For academic libraries, providing resources for all these types of programs was a challenge. Snider's survey identified six main types of library borrowers--correspondence work, graduates, high school students, private individuals, formal library applicants, and clubs-study groups-community residents. For the most part, especially correspondence courses, there were specific requirements: "packet or package libraries" containing necessary reading and information were distributed to people and groups at a distance. Book lending was an ingredient in library activity, but not the major factor. But for the most part, extension work was not given priority in academic library work. Snider acknowledged her review presented an individualized portrait of institutions on a national stage where policy development presented "a rather primitive state of service" (p. 43). In fact, over the next quarter-century, university travelling and package library services began to wind down as regional public library services improved and students consulted better resourced regional and small public libraries. This likely accounts for the rare references to Snider's thesis because no comprehensive, coordinated Canadian plan of library development for rural Canada was developed in the postwar period.

After Snider completed her graduate work, and with a quarter-century of library work behind her from coast to coast in two countries, she left Columbia to return to Ontario to care for her father after her mother's death. She and her sister, Lillian (a teacher), became fixtures in local community life and heritage to the north of Kitchener. Winifred Snider died in 1994.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Review - Libraries in the Life of the Canadian Nation (1946) compiled by Canadian Library Council, Inc.

Libraries in the Life of the Canadian Nation. Part I, Public Libraries: An Interim Report Presented to the Organizational Conference of the Canadian Library Association by the Canadian Library Council, Inc., June, 1946. Canadian Library Council, 107 p.

At the end of the Second World War the pattern of public library service in Canada varied tremendously--from the acclaimed Toronto Public Library, a North American leader in services and collections, to cities such as Fredericton and Quebec City that had no municipally supported service. Halifax had a room a municipal building. In Manitoba, only Winnipeg and Brandon had a tax-supported library. Estimates varied, but across the country, almost 10% of people living in cities, about 60% living in towns and villages, and about 95% living in rural areas were without direct library service. To remedy the situation, the newly formed Canadian Library Council, Inc. (CLC), developed a survey to ask all libraries about their community services. The result, Libraries in the Life of the Canadian Nation, pointed the way to postwar planning by cooperatively planning services on a regional basis in many rural areas where there were no libraries or by federating small services (especially the ubiquitous 'association public library') that could not develop effective, expanded, progressive library services.

The CLC had been formed to create a Canadian library association across the nation, a bilingual organization that would proselytize a course of action to develop library services and advocate for a National Library in Ottawa. To this end, its small, capable executive, led by Margaret Gill from the National Research Council, Ottawa, organized a national meeting at McMaster University in June 1946 to rally librarians, trustees, administrators, adult educators, school authorities, and anyone interested in books and media.

We meet in Hamilton in June, 1946, to consider 'libraries in the life of the Canadian nation' at a conference called to organize a Canadian Library Association [CLA]. It is to be hoped that from the decisions of this gathering will come a policy of realistic and courageous nation-wide promotion of effective library service through public, university, school, special and government libraries, not overlooking the establishment of a national library.

Libraries in the Life of the Canadian Nation provided the basis for the newly minted CLA to advance its ideas in briefs to provincial and federal governments in the immediate years after 1945. Today, many decades later, the report's information serves to remind us that libraries were present in their communities in many ways through community cooperation in the first part of the 20th century. The range of groups allied with libraries was diverse and extensive. The types of services, of course, depended on local funding, donations, or limited provincial grants. A small sample of the report's replies gives an impression of the state of public library service and interaction with community life and agencies from west to east:

New Westminster: "The University Women's Club has, for a number of years, donated about $30.00 worth of books to the Boys' and Girls' Department. Of recent years this gift has been to the Young Moderns' Alcove. The books are chosen by the Children's Librarian and bear a special book plate."

Calgary: ". . . has its teen-age groups divided into 2 sections, Junior High School and Senior High School or Young Adults. There is a librarian in charge of the library work with this first section who spends full time on the work. Grades 7 to 9 are served--they have a separate room know as the John Buchan Room. A librarian spends part-time on the work with the young adults, grades 10 to 12. This section has an alcove in the circulation department know as "The Corral."

Regina: ". . . provides information, catalogues, etc., about education and documentary film: it also provides loan of films but not preview facilities. Films as part of the regular library programme is used for special subject display. The library provides collections of photographs, but not of lantern slides, films strips, photostats or microfilm. The library does not have a reading machine or a film projector. Copies of its materials are provided by typescript."

Manitoba libraries under 5,000 population: "Only 1 (Gimli Icelandic Library) is housed in a separate building. 1 has a room (125 feet of shelf space) in the post office and Red Cross building. . . .6 are in need of larger quarters. Kenton, Gypsumville and Shoal Lake hope to build community halls (the latter 2 as [war] memorials) which will house the library. Langruth hopes to have a municipal building in which the library will be located. Neepawa has plans to take over the room used by the Red Cross when that organization finishes with it."

Toronto: "Two radio programmes. 'Stories for You'--Sundays, 5 o'clock, CJBC, since Jan. 1945. 'Junior Story Period'--sponsored by Dept. of Education, during Fall terms, 1944, 1945. 'One of our most rapidly growing projects is our service to parents of pre-school age children. Hundred of parents take advantage of this service every week.'
Toronto Beaches branch: "An active drama organization. Professional and student concerts. Co-operation in the field of music."

Montreal Children's Library: ". . . public relations--talks, articles, radio programmes, displays, etc.--have been an important part of the work of Committee and Librarian in an effort to make citizens more conscious of the value of libraries and their lack in this city. We were started as a 'demonstration'."

Moncton and Saint John: "Both have a Friends of the Library group and Saint John has held open house for the community." . . .Both have a separate reference room, but neither has a reference librarian. Saint John has the following specialized collections: Loyalist biographical material; local and provincial history in scrapbook form; Maritime history in manuscript (typewritten)."

Reserve Mines: "This is a small library mainly supported by our Co-operative Institutions--with a modern equipped School Library branch in the school building. The librarian is a graduate in Library Science. . . . [this library supplies books to] Women's Institutes, Farm Forum Groups, Citizen's Forum Groups, Labor groups, church groups, study clubs, adult education groups."

Prince Edward Island Libraries: ". . . serves 23 community libraries, 4 deposit stations (56 collections loaned to Women's Institutions or community groups during 1945) and 272 schools. They do not give book van service. The library is housed in 3 rooms in Prince of Wales College, Charlottetown. . . . The headquarters library selects and purchases all books and catalogues them. It maintains a central deposit of books to answer reference questions and to supply special requests. . . . Headquarters library assistance with community activities: loan service to [several groups]; talks on the library; book displays at various meetings."

Libraries in the Life of the Canadian Nation documented proactive library work that was happening on a sporadic basis across the country at the end of WW II and it showed what additional roles libraries could play with better organization and financial support. In many ways, the data in this report supported the ideas about library development recommended by the 1933 Commission of Enquiry. Unlike the previous report, issued in the depths of the Great Depression, Libraries appeared during improved national economic circumstances, and, even more importantly, it could used by the newly formed Canadian Library Association to assert its ideas and plans for the future growth of libraries.

Further reading on the Canadian Library Council:


Nora Bateson, Rural Canada Needs Libraries (S.l.: Canadian Library Council, 1944)

Friday, October 21, 2016

THE CARNEGIE CORPORATION ADVISORY GROUP ON CANADIAN COLLEGE LIBRARIES, 1930–35

The history of Canadian university and college libraries remains an understudied subject. To be sure, the "golden age" of rapid expansion of facilities and progressive professional development after 1960 has attracted attention. But, despite decades of interaction between Canada's educated elite (students, administrators, and faculty) and campus libraries and librarians, the period prior to 1960 is mostly the record of individual librarians (usually directors), iconic buildings, and underdeveloped collections. In the general history of all Canadian libraries that emphasizes the public library movement, the Carnegie building program between 1900-25, regional library growth after the 1930s, the postwar formation of the Canadian Library Association (1946) and establishment of the National Library (1953), and the dramatic contrast between library development in Quebec and English-speaking provinces, there seem to be no major events or themes of similar consequence pertaining to libraries in higher education.

In the legacy of Carnegie philanthropy, too, colleges and universities reside outside the usual historiographical library tradition. For example, there was only one Canadian library, Victoria in Toronto, that benefited from Carnegie building grants for university libraries prior to World War I. However, there is one significant period when the Carnegie Corporation of New York contributed significantly to the development of Canadian university and college libraries. During the Great Depression (1932 to 1935), 34 libraries in institutions of higher education shared in book grants totaling $214,800 (approximately $4,000,00 in 2016) as a result of a national (Canada and Newfoundland) examination conducted by an advisory group established by the Corporation. The ways in which the Canadian Advisory Group investigated and inspected potential recipients, evaluated whether they complied with conditions set, and distributed grants typically followed the policies and procedures established by an earlier American Advisory Group funded by the Corporation. Carnegie and university records document how financial aid was awarded and directed to the advancement of undergraduate print collections. Our sources can also be used to study the Canadian group in relation to the role of American philanthropic college library work, attempts by Canadian administrators to adapt library collections and organization to local circumstances, and trends in the improvement of undergraduate library services on a national scale.

You can read my article on this interesting, mostly unknown story and its contribution to the development of Canadian libraries in higher education in the latest fall 2016 issue of Historical Studies in Education/Revue d'histoire de l'éducation. HSE covers all aspects of education, from preschool to university education, informal and formal education, and methodological and historiographical issues.

The Carnegie book program was of short duration. For the first time on a national scale, it drew attention to the need to improve undergraduate library resources and elevate the status of the library in educational institutions. The book grants were tied to the caliber of local library services and looked for a number of effects and results.

  •  to awaken university administrators to the potential of a good library;
  • to provide books required for collateral reading in connection with the courses and materials faculty designated for their own instructional needs;
  • to promote the library more as a service-oriented partner with faculty and less as a passive repository of books;
  • to supply books for voluntary student reading and encouragement of their use;
  • to employ professionally educated librarians to ensure that acquisitions could be easily accessible through proper cataloguing and classification systems;
  • to promote wide-ranging book selection covering all fields of knowledge;
  • to educate students in the use of library resources, thereby better integrating holdings with academic programs.
Of course, there were many different results across Canada. In a few cases, universities reorganized their libraries to more effectively serve students. New undergraduate reading areas (sometimes called junior divisions) were established to house new holdings. A few major careers, e.g. Marjorie Sherlock from Alberta, were begun with the book stimulus program. On the whole, for a period prior to the Second World War the Carnegie program fostered library development in different ways and heightened awareness of the library's potential to undertake new directions that had not previously been in evidence. After 1945, many universities and colleges would revisit the library ideas that were planted in the difficult Depression years.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

BUILDING CANADIAN ELECTRONIC LIBRARIES; THE ONTARIO EXPERIENCE, 1960-2010

"Building Canadian Electronic Libraries: The Experience in Ontario Public Libraries, 1960-2010" by Lorne D. Bruce. Article published in LIBRARIES IN THE EARLY 21ST CENTURY. VOLUME 1, AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE [pp. 92-104], edited on behalf of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions by Dr. Ravindra N. Sharma. Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter Saur, 2012.ix, 398 p.; ill.; map.

Years ago, shortly after the disastrous financial depression of 2008-09, I was asked to write about the Canadian experience with electronic libraries in the last half of the 20th century. There are few such studies in Canadian library history, but it was agreed that I would contribute a paper on Ontario's public library experience with automation, electronic-virtual-digital libraries, and Library 2.0. Of course, a provincial outline must incorporate national and international technological developments. I tried to balance my article within a chronological framework that would identify key trends, persons, groups, and technical developments. But the 'whole story' of Canadian library technical advances (and setbacks) remains to be researched, documented, and published. A short article of fifteen pages must focus on the main issues and events.

The general editor for this undertaking by IFLA, Dr. Ravinda Sharma, who was Dean of the Monmouth University Library at this time, strove to gather and convey the different approaches many countries have taken to achieve electronic library proficiency, a difficult task indeed. The first volume (2012) represented the history and development of library work of developed nations and the developing world chapter by chapter. A second volume followed, one covering additional countries describing the modern history, development of libraries and library technology. The two volumes are a good source for international librarianship and comparative history.

The development of electronic processing and digital services in Ontario's public libraries for half a century began slowly in the postwar period. By 1960, visionary concepts were beginning to coalesce into practical solutions. Toronto Public Library, under the leadership of H.C. Campbell, was particularly active in thinking about applying new technology to in-house work, especially technical processing. At a national level, the National Library and Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information were prominent exponents of computerized applications and potential networking in the 1970s. For public libraries in general, the establishment of a Network Development Office in Toronto, funded by the province, marked an important step in the move towards cooperative planning in regions and in the province shortly before 1980.

Less than a decade later, the province of Ontario funded two major conferences--Libraries 2000 and the Electronic Library--that may be regarded as idea-generating and synthesizing efforts at a time when 'second generation' computerized catalogs and information systems were being introduced into libraries. By the mid-1990s, library automation advanced rapidly with the development of the Information Highway (or World Wide Web) and the profound influence of the Internet. Studies about the public library's capabilities (and liabilities) appeared frequently. Fears about the decline of the public library proved to be inaccurate as the service aspect (the virtual and later digital library) became more apparent to the public and library critics. Digital services could be interactive, not passive ways of using libraries, and a way of better connecting with local communities.

In the early years of the 21st century, the term Library 2.0 appeared. This appellation added a further layer of ideas about how libraries, now closely tied to the success of second generation web-based technologies, could serve clienteles. Library 2.0  was concerned with user-centered change and client participation in the creation of content and an enhanced sense of community.

Over fifty years, Ontario's public libraries have been able to keep pace with technological developments during periods of fluctuating financial fortune. The prospect of multi-type library services and more collaborative networking with public libraries and university, college, and school libraries remains one area where Ontario's public-sector libraries could achieve future improvements.

 A Google preview of "Building Canadian Electronic Libraries" with limited page views is available: LIBRARIES IN THE 21ST CENTURY.

Bail Stuart-Stubbs, "Learning to Love the Computer: Canadian libraries and New Technology, 1945-1965," in Readings in Cannadian Library History 2 ed. by Peter F. McNally, pp. 275-301 (Ottawa: Canadian Library Associaton, 1996).