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Friday, February 02, 2024

Review — Four Library Development Reports in British Columbia, 1945 to 1956

Programme for Library Development in British Columbia. Victoria, B.C.: Joint Committee on Library Policy, 1945. 36 p. maps

Programme for Library Development in British Columbia, 1950: Being a Condensation and Revision of the “Programme for Library Development in British Columbia,” 1945. Victoria, B.C: Joint Committee of the British Columbia Library Association and the Public Library Commission, 1950. 10 p.

Survey of Union Libraries in British Columbia. Victoria, B.C.: British Columbia Public Library Commission, 1950. 59 p.

Programme for Library Development in British Columbia, 1956. Victoria: British Columbia Public Library Commission, 1957. 15 p. (cover illustration below)

Over the course of a decade following the Second World War, British Columbia trustees, officials, and librarians sought to improve library services across the province. The provincial Public Library Commission (PLC, est. 1919), in conjunction with financing from the Carnegie Corporation, had issued two previous surveys, one in 1927–28 and another in 1940, that had led to the geographic extension of services through the formation of three union libraries (officially re-titled regional libraries in 1951): Fraser Valley, Okanagan Vally, and Vancouver Island.

However, the wartime and postwar scene began to reveal new issues beyond simple extension: the need to serve a growing population, the need for improvement in the quality of library service, the need to address technological developments, and the need for increased provincial financial support to reach people living in smaller, isolated communities beyond the south-west corner of the province.

Under the able chairmanship of William Kaye Lamb, chief librarian of the University of British Columbia, a 1945 report by a Joint Committee of the BC Library Association and the Public Library Commission sounded the alarm that public library service was inadequate, even in the major cities, Vancouver and Victoria which were housed in decades-old Carnegie libraries. “The pages that follow amply establish the shocking fact that not one community in British Columbia at present enjoys adequate public library service. Furthermore, they show that, for practical purposes, the majority of the people in the Province have no public library service at all.” (p. 1)

The 1945 report unveiled an ambitious program to remedy the situation. The report stated that with expanded services from seven existing libraries, the addition of one new union library district in West Kootenay, and one new Commission branch in the Peace River area at Dawson Creek, about 80% of British Columbians could be served. A revitalized public library map would include:
■ three proposed metropolitan districts serviced from Vancouver, New Westminster, and Victoria
■ four union systems organized in the Fraser Valley, Okanagan Valley, Vancouver Island, and West Kootenay (proposed)
■ two Commission branches at Prince George (already in service in a North-Central district) and Dawson Creek (proposed for the Peace River district)
The remaining population, about 20%, could be better served by converting existing public library associations (e.g., in Kamloops) into free municipal public libraries. The Open Shelf and Travelling Libraries operated by the PLC could supply rural towns, villages, and settlements. To implement its plan, the report called for improved provincial library aid and legislation to authorize the formation of metropolitan districts, an innovative approach by Canadian standards.

A subsequent brief report by the Joint Committee in 1950 complained that very few bold strokes had happened since 1945. Library service remained inadequate, in part due to low public expectations. Committee members repeated the call for increased general provincial aid (a meagre $25,000 in 1948–49), especially for the start of grants for city libraries. More importantly, in the same year the PLC issued a Survey of Union Libraries under the chairmanship of Edgar Robinson, chief librarian of the city of Vancouver.  By 1950, the three regional libraries were serving about one-fifth of the total population of British Columbia, and their progress demonstrated an efficient, cost-effective way to provide library service. Like many cooperative public libraries in Canada, school library service was one of these libraries’ strong suits.

Overall, the union libraries report aimed to improve rural services, strengthen existing union libraries, provide the provincial government with information to justify its expenditures and establish a future program for regional development. Various elements of union library operations were studied — governance, book collections, buildings, finances, personnel, bookmobiles, library objectives, standards and public relations. The report reiterated the importance of regional library work but noted the lack of trained personnel, substandard provincial support, and the need for additional regional development:

Gratifying as the record is, there is still obvious need for improvement in almost all phases of regional library work, and it is to this end that the present survey is pointed. Additional rural areas need service, some now being without a vestige of libraries, while existing libraries need additional and substantial financial aid from both local and provincial sources. (forward)

Six years later, in 1956, the third “programme for development” was more optimistic about the services provided by municipal and regional library systems:

The number of municipal public libraries has doubled, and five of the present ten have embarked on expansion programmes, including four new buildings. Financial support by municipalities has risen 60 per cent, though it is still well below the minimum required for services expected of a public library. Provincial aid has been extended to municipal libraries and has gradually increased over the five-year period. Three municipal libraries are now operating bookmobile service, and have mechanized their internal procedures.
The three regional libraries have acquired, with Provincial Government assistance, new headquarters buildings, which have helped immeasurably to improve the service. Local support has improved by 50 per cent or more ... . 
(p. 7)

Generally, the better financed libraries were operating from a position of strength rather than weakness. There was a repeated call for the formation of metropolitan systems around Victoria, Vancouver, and New Westminster and new regional systems in the Kootenay and Kamloops districts. School libraries were deficient and depended too much on services provided by public libraries. The report emphasized the need to establish a graduate library school at the University of British Columbia. 

The series of British Columbia reports of the 1940s and 1950s were unique statements in Canadian library planning. With the growth of the national economy, rising levels of employment, and the improvement in the standard of living, there was also an increased interest in the development of libraries. Cultural and social changes were taking place with the arrival of television and the popularity of sporting events. When the four library reports were published, the encouragement of metropolitan library planning was in its infancy and regional library service was not firmly established in other parts of Canada. British Columbia trustees and librarians had pioneered library extension work and, coupled with the PLC’s intention to publish up-to-date library surveys, they provided straightforward statements for efficient services, better grants, and improved standards.

By the mid-1950s, British Columbia libraries had reached reasonable levels of achievement and gained better provincial support. On a per capita basis, libraries in BC persistently ranked high in Canadian public library service levels. They were spending an overall $1.28 per capita expenditure compared to the Canadian average of 91 cents in 1957, as the following table summarizes.

Dominion Bureau of Statistics Public Library Receipts and Expenditures per person, 1957
local     prov.     total        book    salary
taxes    grants    receipts   exp.     exp.         
$1.04   $0.19     $1.28      $0.23    $0.83  BC
$0.71   $0.14     $0.92      $0.15    $0.54  Canada

The 1940s and 1950s had been marked by slow progress; nonetheless, BC libraries had profited from the repeated efforts of library planners to upgrade service on a provincial scale.

Two earlier Library History Today posts on British Columbia’s libraries are at:
BC public library reports 1927 to 1941
Two iconic films on the Fraser Valley Library

Friday, January 19, 2024

Review — Library Service in New Brunswick by Peter Grossman (1953)

Library Service in New Brunswick: A Report and Recommendations by Peter Grossman. Fredericton: New Brunswick Department of Education, 1953. 62 p., maps, illus.

Peter Grossman, c.1953
 
For many years in the first part of the 20th-century, public library service lagged in the province of New Brunswick; however, in 1951 a provincial Library Association was established with Maurice Boone, the chief librarian of the Legislative Library and formerly librarian of Acadia University, elected as President. The Association pressed government officials to improve public library services, and in the following year the Department of Education invited Peter Grossman, currently the Director of Libraries for Nova Scotia, to conduct a survey throughout the province and devise a plan for future library development.

Peter Grossman, a native British Columbian who had experience in regional libraries in the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island, spent five weeks in the summer of 1952 investigating school, government, and public libraries. Generally, despite apathy on the part of many officials, he found an overall public desire for improved library services. He noted the frequent attempts of community groups (especially womens’ groups) to establish library services and a growing recognition of libraries’ important role in schools and universities. He flagged the essential need for cooperation for a province-wide library service to develop properly. As well, he identified a need to hire more professionally trained librarians and publicize library services.

He submitted his report at the end of the year, on December 24, 1952; subsequently, it was tabled by the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly in the spring of 1953 and published by the Dept. of Education. Upon its release to the public, it was favourably received by the provincial press and library publications and regarded as an important step forward in Canadian library planning.

Peter Grossman emphasized the necessity for a provincial library enabling law and outlined various points that should be included in a new Act. He proposed the establishment of eight regional library systems. His report stressed the need for an immediate appointment of a provincial library director, the creation of an advisory library council to the government, and a publicity campaign to raise awareness about the state of libraries. Grossman made practical recommendations concerning the organization of regional libraries and suggested a geographic administrative structure for the province. Grossman’s report was not lengthy; yet, he made a number of succinct recommendations which formed the basis for library development in New Brunswick for decades:

■ The establishment of a Provincial Library under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Education.
■ The creation of an advisory body to be known as the Library Council.
■ The appointment of a Director of Provincial Library Services with appropriate staffing to promote services, centralized cataloguing, and inter-library loan.
■ Cities, towns, villages, or counties should be authorized to support libraries from general tax revenue.
■ Local governments should be authorized to enter into agreements for regional services.
■ The appointment of Regional Library Supervisors to the Provincial Library when new regional libraries were formed.
■ Annual provincial grants to regional libraries be made on a matching basis as well as initial grants to establish adequate book stocks.
■ Provincial support for public library buildings should be made available.
■ More space should be allocated for the Legislative Library which would facilitate the operation of an Archives Division for the province.
■ The Department of Education Library should appoint more school library supervisors and extend the Teacher’s College Summer School library course to regional library employees.

The government accepted many of the recommendations in the Grossman report. A director, James F. MacEacheron, who had served on the board of the Cape Breton Regional Library in Nova Scotia, was appointed to provide leadership commencing January 1, 1954. A completely revised Library Services Act was passed on April 14, 1954. A Central Library Services Office reporting to the Minister of Education was formed with responsibility for central cataloging, reference, children’s work, and regional libraries. However, many municipalities did not enthusiastically accept the formation of regional libraries. It was not until 1957 that the Albert-Westmorland-Kent Regional Library began operation: the Moncton Public Library served as the center of a bilingual system that developed slowly, with Kent finally joining in 1973. After the establishment of the Fredericton Public Library in 1955, the York Regional Library began service in 1959 from the Fredericton Public Library. The region received funding from the city of Fredericton and $7,000 from the Canada Council for three years. After consideration opposition, the Saint John Regional Library eventually was established in 1967.

The Grossman report influenced library development in New Brunswick for almost a quarter century. By the mid-1970s, regional systems were reaching a majority of citizens. By 1975 public libraries were circulating more than 2 million books per year. Peter Grossman became a significant figure in Canadian librarianship in the 1950s: he was elected President of the Maritime Library Association (1951–52), the Canadian Library Association (1953–54), and the British Columbia Library Association (1958–59). Eventually, he returned to British Columbia where he served as Director of the Vancouver Public Library for a dozen years, 1957–69. 

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Review — Ontario Libraries: A Province-Wide Survey and Plan, 1965 by Francis R. St. John Library Consultants

St John, (Francis R.) Library Consultants, Inc. Ontario Libraries: A Province-Wide Survey and Plan, 1965. Toronto: Ontario Library Association, 1965. 182 p.

At the beginning of the 1960s, Ontario’s public, school, university, government, and special libraries were trying to cope with a rapidly growing population, changing technology, and staff shortages. The Department of Education had made a few incremental improvements after the Wallace Report of 1957, but leaders in the library sector expected more effective planning and financial support from Queen’s Park. When William Davis, the Conservative M.P. from Peel County, was appointed Minister of Education in 1962, the Ontario Library Association (OLA) invited him to speak at its 1963 conference. The new Minister did not disappoint: he spoke about the importance of libraries as community agents and stressed better planning was necessary to achieve their service goals. Most importantly, he offered to finance studies sponsored by the OLA.

The OLA accepted the offer of financial assistance from the Minister and formed a Research Committee in 1964 under John Parkhill, head of Toronto Public Library’s (TPL) reference library, to consider study options for the province. This committee chose Francis R. St. John, the former director of the Brooklyn Public Library and a well-respected American library consultant, to conduct a provincial-wide study of all library types, which included universities because William Davis had added the newly formed Ministry of University Affairs to his cabinet duties in 1964. St. John’s firm began work in January 1965 and released a final report in February 1966.

While the American consultant surveyed libraries in the province, major educational changes were being planned. William Davis was a dynamic minister: during his tenure, he oversaw the formation of a new community college system and two new universities, created an educational television network, increased education spending dramatically, and amalgamated thousands of small school boards across the province. The Provincial Library Service (PLS), headed by William Roedde, studied legislation to eliminate less relevant clauses (e.g., the per capita free library rate, free library status, and local plebiscites to establish libraries), to abolish Association Libraries, and authorize the establishment of five regional library co-operatives. In the library sector, studies proposed a new library school for the Western University and strengthened existing university library education in Toronto and Ottawa.

Francis St. John’s work was the comprehensive study of school, university, special, and public libraries that OLA had sought for a decade. The report was a singular milestone in large-scale library planning in Ontario, especially for public libraries. The major trends in the early 1960s—regionalism, coordinated provincial planning, and service to smaller libraries in rural areas—were emphasized in 63 specific recommendations. Through his consultations, St. John emphasized the need for cooperative development and promotion of larger service units. The report specifically recommended the encouragement of larger regional units (p. 37-39) and that conditional provincial grants be directed to regions rather than individual public library boards. Association libraries (154 in 1964) were to lose their grants and be encouraged to contract with county or regional libraries (p. 31-34). No more county library co-operatives could be formed; the report recommended their operation should be transformed into stronger county library boards. The task of centralized processing for all school and public libraries within a region was assigned to the regional library co-operatives (p. 43-51). Each regional system would have a reference centre responsible for information resources within the region (p. 52-58). St. John revisited the idea of TPL serving as a central provincial resource centre and receiving provincial funding for this task (p. 59-61). TPL would also maintain a central bibliographic database of holdings to facilitate provincial interloan and interaction with the National Library union catalogue operation. The report advised that orientation programs be developed for new library trustees for governance. A chapter on library legislation put forward 15 recommendations, especially regarding regional governance and operations.

Within the Department of Education, St. John advised the consolidation of all library functions in a single Library Division where the PLS, public libraries, elementary and secondary schools, universities and colleges, and government libraries would integrate their work and develop plans (p. 19-21). The Travelling Library service was to be eliminated (p. 13-15), and the PLS upgraded with more staff.  Provincial direction would improve after the creation of a new Ontario Provincial Library Council (OPLC) to make recommendations to the Minister respecting the development and coordination of library service (p. 22-24).

Libraries in elementary and secondary schools and those in higher education required a different approach than regionalism. St. John was critical of school libraries and proposed that schools with at least 150 students be required to maintain a centralized school library with holdings of 3,000 to 5,000 books or ten books per capita in larger schools. A school with 250 pupils should have at least one full-time librarian. Centralized cataloguing at the University of Toronto was proposed for colleges and universities supported by government financing. St. John recognized the Toronto library had already been asked by the government to compile basic collections of 35,000 volumes each for three new universities (Trent, Guelph, and Brock) and two Toronto regional campuses (Scarborough and Erindale). The Ontario New Universities Library Project began in October 1963 with a budget of $1.3 million for book purchases over the following 3-1/2 years. The Committee of University Presidents was urged to support the concept of collection building to avoid duplication of resources. Further, the report proposed that the government provide financing to build in-depth research collections. St. John also recommended the government finance a long-distance facsimile experiment between the three largest collections at Toronto, Western, and Queens for at least five years. As well, the report agreed with plans for higher library education in the three universities, and it recommended the appointment of trained librarians and specialists to school districts and regional co-operatives to serve as area supervisors and field advisors.

St. John’s approach to government and special libraries proposed more efficient, systematic operations: a system of depository libraries to receive provincial publications overseen by the Library Division in the Dept. of Education; centralized cataloguing and classification of documents by TPL for designated depository libraries; and submission of holdings into the proposed TPL bibliographic database. However, the report’s influence was limited. It was not until 1970 that the Ontario government established a depository library system, and, in the following year, the Ministry of Government Services began to publish its Ontario Government Publications Monthly Checklist. Also in 1970, an Ontario Government Librarians’ Council was established.

The initial press reaction to the report acknowledged that Ontario had fallen from the ranks of library leadership. It was a shock to some. William Davis immediately announced that provincial funding would be increased by 50% to $5 million, a new Public Libraries Act would be introduced in the legislature, another supervisor would be added to the PLS, and that the Globe and Mail journalist, J. Bascom St. John, would head up a committee to study the recommendations. Davis relied on policy advisors because his departments were expanding rapidly to reshape Ontario’s educational system. The Department of Education was about to examine all aspects of education through a Provincial Committee on the Aims and Objectives of Education (the Hall-Dennis Committee) established in 1965. The concept of “open education,” whereby students learned on their own progress rather than adhering to standardized grade steps, was on the march. When the OLA met in Ottawa to discuss St. John’s findings in April 1966, it endorsed and amplified many recommendations, although the president, Leonard Freiser, Librarian at Toronto’s Education Centre Library, criticized the report’s focus on organization, not service delivery.
 
After a short time, on 7 June 1966, William Davis announced a completely revised Public Libraries Act, 1966: “It [the St. John report] recommended that legislation be provided for an Ontario provincial library council and advisory council and that provisions for regional library service be improved. We have accepted these recommendations and followed certain other recommendations in the report.” He described the four main legislative sections:
▪ the powers and responsibilities of library boards;
▪ the role of the newly designed 23-member OPLC to develop and coordinate service under the Minister’s control;
▪ the role of the 14 regional library co-operatives with Metro Toronto included in current amendments to the Metropolitan Toronto Act;
▪ the strengthening of county libraries.
The new Act eliminated some prominent vestiges of the past—the need for local plebiscites to establish libraries (1882), the requirement to be a British subject (1905), the voluntary Library Association form of governance (1909), and the minimum per capita library rate of 1920. However, the PLS would continue to play a limited leadership role because St. John’s concept of a strengthened Library Division coordinating library activities in all types of libraries was rejected. The primary duties of the Director of PLS were to supervise the Act’s operation, promote and encourage the extension of service, serve as non-voting secretary of the Ontario Provincial Library Council, and oversee grant regulations.

There was little time to criticize or analyze the recommendations made by St. John. The new Libraries Act essentially refined the existing one initially formulated in 1920 and amended frequently over four decades. It was apparent the government did not intend to implement recommendations proposing the integration of library services across all educational sectors. Significantly, university and college libraries were moving independently: they rejected the idea of centralized coordination from the provincial government because they felt their interests lay within the post-secondary sector rather than regional groupings suggested by St. John. After the the Commission to Study the Development of Graduate Programmes in Ontario Universities (the Spinks Commission) reported the weak state of most Ontario university libraries in November 1966, the Committee of Presidents of Provincially-Assisted Universities in Ontario (CPUO) began to develop a co-operative approach to sharing existing resources and to initiate planning for expansion. This Council approved the creation of a provincial-wide university system to include reader services, an interlibrary transport service, a bibliographic centre at the University of Toronto, and the formation of the Ontario Council of University Librarians, composed of the chief librarians, as an advisory body to the CPUO.

Community colleges agreed to form a Bibliocentre to acquire and process books centrally shortly after 1967. As well, school libraries remained outside regionalization efforts. The Ontario Teachers’ Federation published School Library Standards in 1966. The Dept. of Education increased funding for school resources and library facilities, followed by publication of The Library Handbook for Elementary Schools in Ontario in 1967. More courses for teacher-librarians were introduced to bolster assistance for students in learning to use library resources. Regarding government or special libraries, St. John was criticized for omitting reference to federal libraries, many of which were located in Ottawa. The public library sector became the main beneficiary of the St. John findings, although the OPLC as an advisory, coordinating body did not live up to its potential.

The report framed by Francis R. St. John served as a general guideline for a centralized system of libraries within a province. However, the Ontario government, indeed, librarians, trustees, and officials at all levels chose to continue in the traditional ‘type of library’ sectoral organization entrenched across North America. A multi-type library development model was laid to rest with the prospect that technology, not administrative organization, would suffice to develop all types of libraries into an interconnected network.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Review — Report on Provincial Library Service in Ontario by W. Stewart Wallace (1957)

Report on Provincial Library Service in Ontario by W. Stewart Wallace. Toronto: Ontario Department of Education, January 1957. 62 p. with six appendices published between 1944–55.

Cover Provincial Library Service in Ontario

By the early 1950s, the plans originally made for postwar library reconstruction ideas were only partially achieved in Ontario and Canada. Passage of the National Library Act of 1952 and the official recognition of W. Kaye Lamb as National Librarian were the most successful endeavours. After 1945, the Ontario Library Association (OLA) relied on briefs and presented development plans based on ideas prevalent during the war’s reconstruction phase. The Ontario Department of Education had improved its grant formulas and regulations, introduced certification of librarians, amended older legislation, and added staff to its provincial library branch directed by Angus Mowat. Despite these improvements for local services, there was evident disenchantment with the 1946 grant formula that issued lesser amounts for more populous municipalities. In the case of Toronto, an arbitrary $50,000 ceiling in the early 1950s limited the board to about a quarter of what it could expect to receive, i.e. almost $200,000. Also, plans for coordinated regional or metropolitan types of service voiced in the OLA’s briefs and discussed at conferences had not taken root in legislative provisions.

In the face of this perceived inactivity, the OLA’s Provincial Library Committee report of 1952 became its most important postwar response. It was an elaboration of OLA’s 1944-45 briefs on what a ‘Provincial Library’ could do and how it might function. It was a call for further study. Many in the library field believed promotion of larger units of service—consolidation of smaller libraries into townships, free counties, and regional libraries—might be a better strategy than forming a central, provincial library, likely in Toronto. However, in 1954 at OLA’s Kitchener conference, the decision was made to prioritize a ‘Provincial Library.’ Other provinces had formed Provincial Libraries that offered direct book services and encouraged regional services because it was an efficient way to deliver services from Victoria, Regina, and Halifax. In May 1956, the Minister of Education announced that W. Stewart Wallace, who had retired as chief librarian at the University of Toronto in 1954, would conduct a study of Ontario public libraries. It was felt that Dr. Wallace’s lengthy experience and knowledge of library collections in Toronto could be beneficial in creating a plan for Ontario’s development. He was instructed to:
(a) to study the need for a Provincial Library Service in Ontario;
(b) to survey the probable requirements of such a Service;
(c) to study the present operation of similar Library Services in other provinces of Canada and certain states in the United States; and
(e) to report findings and make recommendations to the Honourable the Minister of Education before the close of the fiscal year.
Given his limited time frame, Dr. Wallace chose to focus on incremental solutions. His personal survey eschewed social science methodology and statistical analysis. The report he returned at the end of the year exhibited many features inherent in earlier 20th-century library studies.

The concept of a large, central library (or system of libraries) had persisted since the OLA’s wartime Reconstruction Committee, which Dr. Wallace had chaired, proposed the Provincial Library model in March 1944. On exploring libraries in other Canadian provinces, he realized that more extensive, recently released reports had led to divergent outcomes. Two provinces, New Brunswick and Manitoba, had commissioned library surveys shortly before 1956. In New Brunswick, Peter Grossman reported in 1953 that a regional system of libraries was necessary, enabled by improved legislation and the appointment of a director of provincial library services. As a result, New Brunswick revamped its Library Services Act in 1954 to promote regional library systems. To the west, in Manitoba, a survey over an extended period, 1953-55, summarized by George Noble, led to a decentralized system whereby the Legislative Library assumed control of public library legislation. Library extension work (the open shelf system and travelling libraries) became part of the University of Manitoba. Thus, Manitoba divided authority for library development.  Across Canada, library administrative structures and services reflected the reality of different social, cultural, and economic conditions.

Dr. Wallace admitted his travels and interviews only reached a “small fraction” of Ontario’s libraries, but he felt he had visited a representative number. He also interviewed public library leaders, such as Angus Mowat and Freda Waldon. He came to reject the concept of an extensive, centralized Provincial Library and suggested the Department of Education provide more direction with four basic recommendations:
 1. The current Public Libraries Branch under the direction of Angus Mowat should be renamed Provincial Library Service (PLS) and the Director of Public Library Service be retitled Director of PLS;
 2. The proposed Director of PLS should inaugurate an interlibrary loan system to serve smaller libraries, and an “Open Shelf” system (books-by-mail on request from the PLS) to areas without library service in Ontario;
 3. The staff in the proposed PLS should be increased by adding (a) an inspector of public and regional libraries, (b) a provincial children’s librarian, and (c) at least three additional assistants to staff the new interloan and open shelf services; and
 4. Improved accommodation for the PLS, located at Huron Street in Toronto, should be expanded and refitted to facilitate the augmented duties and tasks of the proposed PLS.

The Wallace report recommendations were hardly sweeping by any means. From the outset, the report stressed continuity because a provincial library service already existed: “What those who have been advocating a Provincial Library or a Provincial Library Service have had in mind has not been, it would seem, something wholly new, but an extension and development of services already in existence.” (p. 9) Further, the recent development of the National Library at Ottawa after 1953 had brought on “radical” change: “To build in Toronto a Provincial Library which would duplicate on a provincial scale the resources of the National Library would seem to be, to a large extent, a needless duplication.” (p. 14) When Dr. Wallace factored in the resources of a dozen of Toronto’s largest libraries (e.g., the University of Toronto and Toronto Public Library) holding about three million volumes, he concluded that building “a brand new Provincial Library in Toronto” would result in needless duplication within the city itself. He listed some of the larger city libraries, observing that their resources should be available by interloan to other Ontario libraries (p. 19-20). He felt accumulating book stocks in a new central provincial library building would waste money.

Organizing services for the public, rather than building and administering a central collection in Toronto, should become the primary goal.  In this regard, Dr. Wallace followed New Brunswick’s example by rejecting the concept of having the Legislative Library, with approximately 140,000 volumes, as the nucleus for a central provincial collection: “The functions of the Legislative Library are so different from those of what is now the Public Libraries Branch that they have little in common.” (p. 15) The Legislative Library should concentrate on serving the elected members at Queen’s Park and the civil service. Its historic function of providing books to schools and teachers—a task it inherited from the Dept. of Education—could be “ironed out” in a new arrangement with the proposed PLS. Similarly, Wallace cast off the idea for the Toronto Public Library to serve as a core for a provincial library or service by arguing “that the administrative difficulties involved in tacking a provincial institution on to a municipal library would be far from negligible.” (p. 19)

Dr. Wallace felt that coordination of services, not collection building, should be the foremost responsibility of the PLS: it should be augmented by the addition of two inspectors, one for children’s services and one for county or regional libraries. These were not new recommendations—the Department of Education’s Hope Commission had made them in 1950. Two submissions made to Dr. Wallace from the OLA and the Canadian Library Association supported adding a children’s librarian to provide professional guidance (report appendices E and F). While Wallace was firm about the basic need for a children’s coordinator in the PLS, he was less certain about the success of regional library co-operatives. “Not only in Ontario, but in other provinces as well, I cannot help wondering whether the results have always been commensurate with the efforts put forth by those who have struggled (like missionaries trying to convert the heathen) to get regional libraries started. ... Nonetheless, he recommended the appointment of an officer of the PLS to foster the growth and development of regional libraries. (p. 17-18)

In sum, the Wallace Report on the department’s administration of public libraries did not break new ground. It removed the older notion, never clearly accepted, about a central Provincial Library in Toronto and followed the model of separating the Legislative Library from public libraries. The report did introduce some new provincial services—interlibrary loans and the open shelf system, a clearing house for requests, and book supply to communities with inadequate (or no) library services. The mechanics of how a provincial interlibrary loan system would operate were outside Dr. Wallace’s mandate, but he contemplated using a dedicated teleprinter service between the library branch and the National Library rather than establishing a separate union catalogue for Toronto libraries. In fact, by July 1957, a new telex low-speed data network for the transmission of messages would be in place on a Canada-wide basis, but Wallace lightheartedly admitted, “I am old-fashioned enough to believe a telephone in Toronto could solve the problem.” (p. 23). He also briefly reflected on fees for interloans, which librarians would return to many times in subsequent decades. He realized attempting to serve more than a million people without library service by better use of travelling libraries was quite a challenge. Establishing an “open shelf” system in Ontario would necessitate enlarged quarters in the building now occupied by the Public Libraries Branch (at 206 Huron St.), an increased appropriation for books, and an increased staff. The Travelling Libraries Division of the Branch could probably look after the “open shelf” system since they would presumably be using a common book-stock, but at least one new assistant should be appointed... (p. 24-25). The report concluded the immediate cost to the Department of Education would be only $30,000 a year: $20,000 for salaries of new employees and $10,000 for books, equipment, supplies, etc.

The Department of Education received Dr. Wallace’s Report at the start of 1957. At the OLA’s May 1957 annual meeting held in Toronto, the Minister of Education praised Dr. Wallace’s report and assured delegates the government would advance the cause of libraries. Angus Mowat digested the issues in the Wallace Report and submitted six of his own recommendations “at the least possible cost” later in 1957:
1. Enabling legislation for county public libraries based on existing municipal legislation with the expectation that counties would work closely with cities and towns, thereby superseding the existing county co-operatives;
2. Appointment of an Assistant Director of Public Library Service to promote and supervise county and regional library work and to assist with the administration of the Public Libraries Act and general promotion of service;
3. Appointment of a Supervisor of Children’s Library Service to select books for the travelling libraries and assist smaller libraries to develop their services;
4. Provincial funding for a regional library demonstration in northern Ontario for three years, after which local authorities would assume a “fair share” of financing;
5. Establishment of a system of interlibrary lending with the library branch providing coordination of requests and shipments. There would be compensation for larger libraries for lending books. Increased staffing and enlargement of the Travelling Libraries collection at Huron Street would also be necessary to fill requests;
6. After building up a sufficient stock of books and providing additional accommodation for the library branch, the open shelf system for Ontario could be implemented.

In due course, recommendations concerning the Wallace Report were implemented in stages. In April 1958, The Minister of Education, W.J. Dunlop, met with OLA’s Provincial Library Committee to review the Wallace report. It was agreed that the Report would be distributed at OLA’s annual meeting at Kingston and that two departmental appointments would be forthcoming. William A. Roedde (BLS, McGill, 1951) was introduced as the new Assistant Director of Public Library Service specializing in regional services at the end of May. Later, in the summer, Barbara J. Smith (BLS, Toronto, 1953), who had experience at Oshawa with children’s work, became Supervisor of Children’s Library Service. For its part, OLA established a special committee on library legislation and set to work examining how to encourage more substantial units of service and improve library service.

By the start of 1959, the revamped Public Libraries Branch was progressing toward implementing the Wallace report. In April 1959, W.J. Dunlop provided authorization for a grant of $30,000, thereby establishing a regional demonstration in Cochrane and Timiskaming districts, the Northeastern Regional Library Co-operative. The responsibility of these regional co-operatives was limited to helping member libraries by simply distributing books. Other improvements, such as strengthening reference services or coordinating interlibrary loan activity, was not contemplated. To prepare for the implementation of the open shelf service, expanded travelling libraries and an interloan system, space requirements and financial estimates were prepared to expand the Huron Street headquarters. A change of name to “Provincial Library Service” was approved to go into effect on 1 April 1959. The remaining Wallace report recommendations could be implemented during subsequent legislative years when more satisfactory accommodations were attained for travelling libraries and staff. In the Legislature, the Minister introduced The Public Libraries Amendment Act of 1959 to allow the formation of free county libraries and larger union boards. It received its third reading in March 1959. Further creation of county co-operatives under the older 1947 legislation was suspended. Now, a county library could be established when seventy-five percent of the municipalities asked a county council to pass an authorizing bylaw. Transitioning older co-operatives to county systems with a single tax base and responsibility for providing services to all parts of a county was a progressive step that had taken a long time to achieve. Simple administrative advantages, such as a single county library card, might be at hand. The legislation did not include the formation of regional co-operatives in southern counties—this particular legal amendment would not occur until 1963.

On balance, the Wallace report (combined with Angus Mowat’s subsequent proposals) was a modest success. Its importance lay not in its actual recommendations but its stimulus for the Department of Education to enact new legislation and bolster the small PLS in Toronto. Indeed, the report’s legacy was short. The concept of travelling libraries and an Open Shelf service would soon become outdated in the 1960s and eventually abandoned after a disastrous fire destroyed half of the book stock at the PLS headquarters in 1963.  As well, the National Library in Ottawa would supplant any idea of forming a Provincial Library in Toronto. The issue of regional systems mainly supported by provincial grants would eventually be enacted in 1966. The study by Dr. Wallace was a progressive step forward but a small one.

The Wallace Report has been digitized and is available on the Internet Archive.

Saturday, December 09, 2023

Review — In Solidarity: Academic Librarian Labour Activism and Union Participation in Canada (2014)

In Solidarity: Academic Librarian Labour Activism and Union Participation in Canada ed. by Jennifer Dekker and Mary Kandiuk. Sacramento, California: Library Juice Press, 2014; viii, 355 p., illus.

Collective action by faculty and librarians and their diverse organizations and associations has traditionally dealt mostly with academic standards and professional goals. With respect to economic issues, professors and librarians historically have engaged in individualistic pursuits. Until the 1970s, focused work to improve economic conditions was not considered appropriate activity for university or college faculty and librarians. The spectre of “trade unionism” loomed large at many campus meetings aimed at discussing collective action and improving salaries and working conditions. A further complication during this formative period—librarians’ predilection for creating associations no matter how small in membership—also impeded coordinated action towards certified and non-certified bargaining units (aka, special plans). However, after Canadian federal civil service workers attained collective bargaining rights and the ability to strike in 1967, the concept of public sector unions gained increased acceptance and faculty associations began to choose a familiar path of collective action.

It is within this background that In Solidarity delves into various challenging issues that academic librarians have engaged with over the years. The fifteen articles in this book are divided into four parts: (1) the historical development of labour organization of academic librarians; (2) case histories from various institutions; (3) current issues in labour activism and unionization; and (4) the practical complications and challenges that labour issues present in libraries. This general-specific pattern of articles in alternate sections is useful because context is provided, and the nitty-gritty of labour activism in the library profession (known chiefly for its conservative elements) on Canadian campuses is addressed for a various subjects and alternative analysis.

The two editors, Jennifer Dekker (University of Ottawa) and Mary Kandiuk (York University), provide a short introduction to the text and introduce the broader aspects of the volume, especially the common experiences of librarians relating to unionization. Labour activism can subdivide into many particular topics: salaries, benefits, pensions, general working conditions, workplace security (aka, deprofessionalization), librarian workload, promotions, tenure, job classification, academic status, grievances, and even can be termed professional matters, like defining ranks, seniority, collegial governance, and general terminology (e.g., the transition over time from “professional librarian” to “academic librarian”).

The first section offers two papers:  Leona Jacobs traces the history of academic status and labour organizing for Canadian academic librarians. and Jennifer Dekker’s exploration of the crucial part the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) played in academic librarians’ escape from the campus isolation of a “library ghetto.” CAUT’s acceptance of librarians as partners in faculty associations in the 1970s was a fundamental step forward because the vast majority of university libraries only provided a few dozen positions for librarians and little (or no) bargaining power on campus. In contrast, other predominantly female campus professionals, such as nurses, could rely on provincial or national organizations for assistance. These accounts of librarians’ struggles for recognition demonstrate the fragile and fractured nature of collective action across Canada during the past half-century and provide valuable background for three other chapters.

The second part of the book features three case histories. These accounts highlight the earlier papers and explore issues at different institutions in more detail.  Martha Attridge Bufton outlines gender and status issues at Carleton University from 1948-75, a brief presentation based on her more detailed thesis. Harriet M. Sonne de Torrens discusses the quest for academic rights and recognition at the University of Toronto, a story of determination on the part of rank-and-file librarians after a mid-1970s mini-revolution. Two college librarians, Robin Inskip and David Jones, outline a successful effort to organize and achieve parity within the ranks of Ontario post-secondary college teachers and faculty. These articles offer insight into conflicts between administrators, faculty, and librarians that occurred during attempts to organize and provide a coherent voice for librarians at their home institutions. Not every campaign was successful because the recognition of librarians was often disputed.

The third section featuring collaborative articles by librarians from different parts of Canada, provides insight into contemporary issues that librarians continue to grapple with in an academic setting. Academic librarians are partners in the post-secondary sector, and this raises a variety of topics discussed by the contributors. The role of librarians as teachers, researchers and community members is one feature. Another is librarians as faculty association participants, a condition of representing minority views and priorities within a broader, more complex context. Collective agreements are studied in another paper, along with an examination of the complaints and collegiality of determining what the “quiet librarian” would do or think.

The final section presents four case studies emphasizing the broader issues in practice today concerning librarian rights and responsibilities in various campus situations. A strike at the Western University in London highlights conflicts in a library setting. Success and failure in labour organizing (including one paper that reveals resistance to unionization in the state of Louisiana) unfolds in this section, followed by the issue of collegial self-governance with the establishment of a Library Council at Brock University (CAUT has long supported the concept of library councils but their formation has been hampered by local considerations for decades).

Readers will find there are several takeaways from reading In Solidarity. One easy conclusion is that working conditions and status for librarians vary greatly in Canadian academic institutions. The case studies illustrate that the terminology for academic status or academic freedom is often defined differently in collective agreements. Nor are the requirements for research and service consistent by any means. Faculty views on the academic status of librarianship are also inconsistent. Further, although librarians are usually members of faculty associations, their level of participation and success is necessarily limited by their small numbers: The chapter on “The Mouse that Roared” is a descriptive epithet that does not apply in all cases.  The articles present arguments favouring strengthening academic status and participation in faculty associations.

While there is a complicated legacy and contemporary challenges inherent in contractual issues involving librarian workloads and academic participation, the general trend presented in these pages is a positive one, even though Jennifer Dekker worries at the outset that “the gains librarians made in the 1970s and 1980s are being dialed back today.” Of course, a review of the history of librarian labour activity shows that opposition to collective bargaining and academic advancement has existed for many years. The recent (i.e., after 2000) attacks on the rights of academic librarians (including unjustified terminations) at Canadian universities and colleges follow this entrenched “tradition,” but are no less painful in particular situations.

The literature on librarian unionization and collective bargaining in any Canadian setting—schools, government, post-secondary or public libraries—is sparse, so In Solidarity is a welcome addition. This collection is a worthwhile effort to document librarian union participation and activism, telling the story in many cases from a first-hand perspective, and offering helpful examples of successful action.