Tuesday, August 07, 2012


Karen and I have just reissued a revised edition of our older Public Library Boards in Postwar Ontario, 1945-1985. It was originally published in 1988 as an occasional paper by the University of Dalhousie School of Library and Information Science. Long out of print. But now its back in print again with updated information for the original text and references plus a new chapter to continue the story from 1985 to just before 2010. Most of the original text has been retained.

Contemporary library boards in Ontario are mostly administrative entities, but this was not always the case. Local government today is very different from the pre-1945 era. Over the years, accountability has trumped representation (a political concept) in local government and provincial statutes controlling local agencies. The municipal government has overtaken many local bodies--clearly, elected local officials in larger government entities created after the 1960s in restructuring exercises now hold powerful positions in relation to other community agencies. But councils are by no means absolute. Local representative agencies, such as Ontario library boards, still possess interesting positions in local decision making and continue to exist through separate provincial legislation (for public libraries dating to 1882) and retain some influence over services.

The transformative period for Ontario library boards was no doubt framed by the remarkable growth and development of local government after 1945. By 1985, with the enactment of new library legislation, the issue of accountability for non-elective library boards was mostly resolved. Since that time, trustees and boards have accepted  new roles and power relationships alongside municipal councils. But the original sense of community representation still remains a strong element in thinking about library operations and administration.

You can get a free preview for this book on Google. The contents and paging for the new version of Public Library Boards is as follows:

1.  Introduction                                                                                                          1
2.  Library Boards Prior to 1945                                                                               3
3.  Political Representation and Responsibility                                                          15
4.  Influence, Power and Authority of Local Boards                                                   30
5.  Intergovernmental Planning for Public Libraries                                                    50
6.  Professionalism in Library Administration                                                            81
7.  Trusteeship, the Internet, and the Digital Library                                                   95
8.  Conclusion                                                                                                          128
Tables                                                                                                                      131

If you are interested in having a copy, you can get a preview and request a copy for $15.00 by going to http://www.uoguelph.ca/~lbruce/onthistories.shtml

Thursday, July 19, 2012


A follow up from my previous history of public library growth in Ontario, Free Books for All: the Public Library Movement in Ontario, 1850-1930. If you want a print copy at $35, please contact me by email at lbruce@uoguelph.ca. You can preview Places to Grow at the Google Bookstore and read what people are saying by going to the following link.

Places to Grow covers the history of the development of Ontario's public library system from the Great Depression to the Millennium. It describes the growth of larger systems of service, plans in the 1950s and 1960s for a provincial library system centred in Toronto, the professional growth of librarianship, library architecture, the decline of censorship and growth of intellectual freedom, library automation, the rise of electronic libraries,  the impact of the Information Highway in the nineties, and many other issues. Chapters include:

1. Introduction                           
2. Depression and Survival                   
Broader Perspectives: Libraries in Canada
The Public Libraries Branch and the OLA
Modern Methods
Local Libraries in the Great Slump
County Library Associations
School Curriculum Revision and the Public Library
The Libraries Recover
3. War and the Home Front                   
Military Libraries and American Allies
Wartime Services and Planning
The Spirit of Reconstruction
Peacetime Prospects
4. Postwar Renewal, 1945-55
The Library in the Community                  
Revised Regulations and Legislation
Postwar Progress and the Massey Commission
Intellectual Freedom and the Right to Read
The Hope Commission Report, 1950
New Media and Services
Setting Provincial Priorities
5. Provincial Library Planning, 1955-66           
Library Leadership and Professionalism
Book Selection and Censorship
The Wallace Report, 1957
The Provincial Library Service and Shaw Report
The Sixties: Cultural and Societal Change
Towards the St. John Survey and Bill 155
6. “Many Voices, Many Solutions, Many Opinions,” 1967-75                   
The Centennial Spirit
Reorganizing Local Government
Schools and Libraries
Regional and Local Roles
Reaching New Publics and Partners
The Learning Society and Cultural Affairs
The Bowron Report
7. Review and Reorganization, 1975-85           
“Canadian Libraries in Their Changing Environment”
“Entering the 80’s”
The Programme Review
A Foundation for the Future
The Public Libraries Act, 1984
8. The Road Ahead: Libraries 2000               
New Directions and Consolidation
Legal Obligations
One Place to Look: A Strategic Plan for the Nineties
The Information Highway
 Savings and Restructuring, the Megacity, and Bill 109
The Millennium Arrives

If you are interested in having a copy, you can get a preview and request a copy for $35.00 by going to http://www.uoguelph.ca/~lbruce/onthistories.shtml
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Wednesday, July 11, 2012


In the midst of the Great Depression a Carnegie funded project to study Canadian libraries appeared. In a hundred and fifty pages this report, authored by John Ridington, George H. Locke, and Mary J.L. Black, surveyed the landscape of library service across the country. Its two chapters on government libraries still make sober reading today. The surveyors reported there was “very little enthusiasm for either a scholarly or a democratic book service in most of the libraries of the various government of Canada.”

Indifference and neglect continued to prevail in government circles on the topic of a national library. Libraries in Canada (1933) did not issue a rallying cry for a national library—it was content with offering advice that a national librarian should be appointed and put in charge of all the libraries maintained by the Dominion government. In this way, all their activities could be coordinated, their holdings catalogued and made available nationally over a period of time. A system of legal deposit would ensure a comprehensive collection of printed resources. Eventually, a new building could be erected to house material and provide reference and reading services. It was an opportunity, but one unlikely to be a priority in the early 1930s.

But the times did change. A Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations was struck in 1937 to examine the underlying financing for the federal and provincial basis of Confederation and the distribution of legislative powers across Canada. Amongst the many submissions were two on forming a national library by the British Columbia and Ontario Library Associations in March and April 1938. These briefs envisioned four national functions. There would be a central repository of library information together with a national union catalogue of holdings. As well, the national library would issue books and liaise with cultural organizations, such as the National Museum, National Gallery, Public Archives, and Library of Parliament. The Commission sympathized with these points and stated a national library was within the federal mandate when it reported in 1940.

During the Second World War, the Canadian Library Council and prominent university librarians continued to press the case from Queen’s and Manitoba. The Ontario Library Review published E. Cockburn Kyte’s “A National Library for Canada,” in 1939 and Elizabeth Dafoe argued for “A National Library” in the May 1944 issue of Food for Thought. The General Librarian of Parliament, Felix Desrochers, added his support in the Canadian Historical Review in 1944. But it was the Canadian Library Council, the predecessor to the Canadian Library Association, that best defined the activities that a national library might undertake in its visionary Canada Needs Libraries in 1945:
  • collecting national literature and history cooperatively with the Dominion Archives, National Gallery, and other national bodies;
  • assembling a central national reference collection;
  • lending items to other libraries;
  • providing microfilm, photostat, and other copying services for clients;
  • compiling a union catalogue to identify materials available through inter-library loan on a national scale;
  • co-ordinating book information with audio-visual aids in co-operation with the National Film Board, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, etc;
  • administering collections of Canadian books for exhibition abroad
  • publishing bibliographical works about Canada, e.g. Canadian Catalogue of Books,Canadian Periodical Index, etc.
After the formation of the Canadian Library Association in June 1946, these points were adopted and resubmitted in an influential brief to the federal government in December 1946. This particular effort, A National Library for Canada, elaborated on the benefits of a national library and the broad support the concept had garnered from other national groups: the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Historical Association, the Canadian Political Science Association, and the Social Science Research Council of Canada. This grouping of professional organizations was a influential catalyst in convincing federal Members of Parliament in the value of a national library. There were many benefits to Canada (p. 11):
A National Library for Canada would contribute to the organization of precise knowledge, thus ensuring the most intelligent use of the country’s resources, human and material.
The existence of a research centre on Canada would encourage the writing not only of factual works useful to the legislator, administrator, business man, farmer, student, but also of imaginative works based on research which would help to interpret Canada to Canadians and also to the world.
The prestige of the National Library and its many activities would stimulate the whole library movement. Individual libraries and citizens in all part s of the country would receive assistance from its publications and travelling exhibitions, its reference and cataloguing services, and from the speeding-up of inter-library loans through use of its union catalogues.
The international services of the National Library would play an essential role in Canada’s expanding international relations.
To sum up, the National Library would be a centre of intellectual life of Canada, and a guarantee that the sources of its history will be preserved, and a symbol of our national concern with the things of the mind and the spirit.
To expedite matters, the CLA's 1946 brief concluded that a national service could begin immediately and be housed in temporary quarters: "the National Library can begin as an Information Bureau and Bibliographical Centre, while at the same time, the investigation of the whole question of the ultimate organization of the National Library, its book stack and the building that will be needed to house its collections and its services is continued" (p. 3). The brief urged the government to form a committee reporting to a cabinet minister(s) to investigate its establishment. By June 1948 a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament approved a plan for a Bibliographic Centre as the first step towards the creation of a National Library.

In September 1948, Dr. W. Kaye Lamb was appointed Dominion Archivist, a position which he accepted on condition that he should pave the way for the establishment of a national library. Dr. Lamb had served as Provincial Archivist and Librarian of British Columbia from 1934-40 before becoming Librarian of the University of British Columbia. He had helped author British Columbia’s brief to the Royal Commission in March 1938. He set to work by establishing the Canadian Bibliographic Centre in May 1950. Dr. Lamb presented another statement to the Massey Commission in support of a national library program, a project the Royal Commission on Arts, Letters, and Sciences (1951) endorsed. Then, Dr. Lamb helped draft the National Library Act passed by Parliament in 1952 and officially became Canada’s first National Librarian on 1 January 1953.

Further Reading:
A National Library for Canada; A Brief Presented to the Government of Canada by The Canadian Library Association/Association Canadienne des Bibliotheques, The Royal Society of Canada, The Canadian Historical Association, The Canadian Political Science Association, and The Social Science research Council of Canada, December, 1946 is available online at Library and Archives Canada as a submission to the Massey Commission.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Just over a century ago Lawrence Burpee published an article entitled “A Plea for a National Library” in Andrew MacPhail’s University Magazine, an influential literary magazine to which many leading Canadian academics, politicians, and authors contributed. Burpee came up with a great idea: he suggested that the Dominion government create a national library in Ottawa close to Parliament Hill. Just like other European and American countries! Burpee obviously was dissatisfied that Canada lagged behind other nations. He asked: “Are we Canadians either so inferior, or so superior, to the rest of the world, that we cannot use, or do not need, such an institution?” Obviously, Burpee was a progressive thinker!

You can read his entire article on my main website. Some parts of “A Plea” are inspirational, even in today’s jaded atmosphere about the benefits of government institutions. Only the more important points from Burpee’s piece are highlighted here. What did he propose? He wanted Parliament to enact legislation to create a national library, to erect a suitable building to house national collections, and for the library to serve as both a reference and circulating library. He felt the new entity should work with the National Archives, which had been established in 1872, and with the Library of Parliament: “What is really needed is a Canadian national library, working in harmony with the two existing institutions, but filling its own field, a field which belongs neither to the national archives nor to the legislative library.”

Burpee was impressed with the workings of the Library of Congress in Washington. A smaller Canadian equivalent could be started by removing more general items from the Library of Parliament that did not suit parliamentary use, thereby establishing the working core of a national collection, about 200,000 books he estimated. By housing the national library close to Parliament Hill, a synergy of sorts could be built by employing new ideas and new technologies. “The national library would then be within easy reach of the archives, the Library of Parliament, and all the government departments, and, as has been done in Washington, it could, if necessary, be connected with the other government buildings by pneumatic tubes, for the conveyance of both messages and books.” Of course, the national library could lend to major libraries across Canada, both public and college ones.  At a time when Canadian college research libraries were meager in content and free public library service in short supply, even in major cities, his proposal was a cogent one.

Nonetheless, sufficient support for Burpee’s vision was short lived. The Dominion government had more immediate considerations, like equipping the newly founded Canadian navy, and fighting an bitterly contested election. Forty years on, Burpee was still pressing for a national library. He penned a short article, “Only Canada has no National Library” in Saturday Night on August 21, 1943, a few years before he died. He had a dream but did not live to see its fruition.

But others took up his cause. Libraries in Canada, a national study conducted by John Riddington, George H. Locke, and Mary J.L. Black, which was released in 1933, also argued the merits of a national library. Later, after the Second World War, the Canadian Library Association, in conjunction with other national organizations, issued a call for its formation in Ottawa. The idea Burpee advocated was too sound to remain a vision—it would become a reality in 1953.