Sunday, December 01, 2013

Review—Libraries in Canada: The Commission of Enquiry (1930-33) and creation of a national perspective on libraries

Libraries in Canada: A Study of Library Conditions and Needs by John Ridington, chair; Mary J. L. Black, and George H. Locke. Toronto: Ryerson Press; and Chicago: American Library Association, 1933. 153 p. index.

In the spring of 1933, thousands of printed copies of Canada's first national survey of libraries were delivered to the offices of newspaper and magazine editors; school and university officials; federal, provincial and municipal politicians; as well as librarians and trustees. It marked the culmination of three years of work by Carnegie-funded commissioners who had traversed Canada in 1930 at the outset of the Great Depression. Led by John Ridington, the chief librarian of the University of British Columbia, the Commission had sought to ascertain the state of Canadian libraries and made recommendations to improve conditions. The three commissioners were primarily interested in public libraries but also included chapters on government and universities and colleges.

How was the report received? What impact did Libraries in Canada have? A case can be made that it influenced library development for many years and was a landmark Canadian study that set a standard for library surveys, reports, briefs, and planning documents in the era before social science techniques and data gathering took hold in library science.

According to one American reviewer in The Library Quarterly, Ridington, Black, and Locke had produced a "human story" about library progress (or lack thereof) and aspirations for future growth that might inspire contemporaries to attain higher standards and to provide a blueprint for planning. A friend of Ridington, Edgar Robinson, noted that "tangible results," in the form of Carnegie funding for a regional demonstration in Prince Edward Island, were already in evidence. Decades later, the Canadian librarian who has provided the most extensive study on the work of the Commission, Basil Stuart-Stubbs, described its report as a "vision document" that spoke to the community at large and realized its vision decades later--the establishment of a national library, regional libraries, improved library legislation, published standards, better funding. Even a national library association, which the commissioners felt impossible to establish in the Depression, would eventually be formed in 1946. None of the commissioners lived to see their ideas become conventional principles: Locke died in 1937, Mary Black in 1939, and Ridington in 1945.

Libraries in Canada (LIC) attracted some modest press and magazine attention in 1933. A Saskatoon Star-Phoenix editorial on March 14th indicated the lowly state of library service in many regions of Canada might come as a shock to those who were comfortable with present service levels. It noted the three basic improvements the Commission advocated: 1) the development of larger administrative units of service or cooperation between urban-rural libraries in regions; 2) the extension of services via branches, bookmobiles, etc; and 3) the need for better trained staff. On March 25th, Toronto Globe lamented that the report offered up a general "discouraging picture" and editorialized that Canadians were "book hungry." Some papers, such as the Montreal Gazette, highlighted comments about local conditions: it reported "Parish Libraries Plan Commended," on March 15th and followed with "[McGill] Library School is Doing Great Work," on March 16th. The April and May issues of the Canadian Bookman and Canadian Forum also commented briefly on the work of the surveyors for their readers.

While explicit "next steps" and tangible results were not immediately forthcoming, the Commissioners' ideas were sketched on a national canvas for the first time. Their work prompted Canadian librarians and educators to rise above parochial thinking. After LIC suggested reduction of postal subsidies for book loans by mail, British Columbia and Ontario librarians reiterated this position in Briefs to the dominion government's study on federal-provincial relations (the Rowell-Sirois Report) a few years later. A special postal "book rate" became reality in 1939 and still exists today. Although LIC admitted formation of a national association was not feasible during the Great Depression, new steps were undertaken to form a national body with support from A.L.A in 1934. Eventually, a national association came into being in 1946. After the Second World War, the concept of regional libraries took hold across the country. The establishment of more library schools and library training in colleges was firmly implanted by the late 1960s. To be sure, many improvements in libraries can be traced backed to LIC, in part because the report was brought to the attention of decision-makers such as Quebec Premier, Louis-Alexandre Taschereau, and the Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. While the Commission could be faulted for not doing more extensive work on university-college libraries and school libraries, few could argue that the $10,000 Carnegie grant was not well spent.

Further, Libraries in Canada pointed the way to conducting more published analysis on library problems, especially on a geographic basis. Previous studies, especially in British Columbia, had focused mostly on specific provincial concerns. Now a national study unveiled and legitimized ideas -- principles, even -- that could be developed on a broader basis. Studies in the later 1930s such as Nora Bateson's two works, Carnegie Library Demonstration in Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown, 1936) and Library Survey of Nova Scotia (Halifax, 1938); and Norma W. Bennett, Library Service in Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, 1937) benefited greatly from LIC. More than a decade on, another national study by the Canadian Library Council, Libraries in the Life of the Canadian Nation, published at Ottawa in 1946, revisited numerous ideas from the Commission of Enquiry. Many of the subsequent studies began to utilize data gathered on a biennial basis by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, a resource that LIC neglected. But, by this time, the influence of the initial efforts by Ridington, Black and Locke had taken hold. It was the power of words and ideas rather than explication of numbers and facts that prevailed.

The concluding chapter of Libraries in Canada is available at Libraries Today.

More reading:

Review by Edgar S. Robinson and Harold L. Leupp, Bulletin of the American Library Association 27, 4 (April 1933), 197-198

Review by Clarence B. Lester, Library Quarterly 4, 4 (Oct. 1934), 662-66

Basil Stuart-Stubbs, "1930: the Commissioners' Trail," Feliciter 47, 3 (2001), 140-41

Basil Stuart-Stubbs, "1933: The Commission Speaks," Feliciter 48, 3 (2002), 126-28

Basil Stuart-Stubbs, "1934: CLA Redux . . . Almost," Feliciter 49, 3 (2003), 161-64

Friday, October 18, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading:

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

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review—The Library Book: A History of Service to British Columbia by David Obee (2011)

The Library Book: A History of Service to British Columbia by David Obee. Vancouver, British Columbia Library Association, 2011. 264 p., illus., $50.00. Available at the British Columbia Library Association website.

A modestly sized coffee table book with 300 photographs is an unusual entry for a library history but, in this case, well worth reading and possessing. The Library Book covers more than a hundred years in three major sections with eighteen chapters. David Obee is a respected journalist, a local-family historian, as well as a genealogist; and he has combined his knowledge and skills to craft an informative and entertaining history of all types of libraries in British Columbia from the late eighteenth century up to the present. With the help of a number of prominent BC people in the library community, this book was published to celebrate the centenary of the British Columbia Library Association in 2011.
     David Obee covers the development of a valued provincial service to many different clienteles by public, school, college and university, special, government and legislative libraries. While 'service' is a keynote theme, Obee also includes details and chapters on intellectual freedom, information technology, library associations, and library organization. The text is divided into three main periods with fairly even treatment: 1796 to 1926; 1927-1959; and 1960 to today. Often, of course, books that celebrate contemporary milestones concentrate on the latest period, but that is not the case in The Library Book.
      In the first part, we learn that James Strange brought books to BC on a fur-trade mission in 1796; that New Westminster established the first 'public' library in 1865; that the Legislative Library was formed in 1863 to serve the small British colony on Vancouver Island; that three Carnegie libraries had opened by 1905 (Victoria, Vancouver, and New Westminster); that a training course in librarianship appeared in 1913; and that the University of British Columbia library opened in 1915. Progress was never easy, of course. Few municipalities took advantage of the Free Libraries Act of 1891; however, when this act was thoroughly revised in 1919 it also established a Public Library Commission and granted financial aid to 'library associations' which became eligible to receive travelling libraries (small boxes of books) from the Commission's headquarters. This was an important landmark to provide all provincial residents with some form of library service.
     The second section begins with the Commission's efforts to promote the development of regional libraries (a Canadian innovation) under the stewardship of the dynamic Helen Gordon Stewart. In 1930 she began a successful Carnegie funded regional demonstration in the Fraser Valley which led to the creation of two other library systems, the Okanagan and Vancouver Island. The Great Depression and WWII stymied other progress but regional systems and bookmobiles were a major step in reaching rural Canadians. The postwar era saw new buildings, larger collections, better-trained librarians, and the spread of business, government, and school libraries. But perhaps the most interesting chapter in this part touches on a personal confrontation between a librarian, John Marshall, and the Victoria library. During the height of the Cold War and anti-Communist rhetoric, in 1954, Marshall was summarily terminated for his ties with 'Red' organizations. At the same time, pro-Communist books came under fire. Half a century later, in 1998, the Victoria Library publicly apologized to Marshall. By this time, libraries had become advocates of intellectual freedom not guardians of political and moral standards.
     The final section begins in 1960; this is not a seminal date, but perhaps the 1960s decade was for Canadian libraries of all types. There was a boom in new library buildings across Canada and British Columbia was no exception. New universities and colleges--Simon Fraser (1965), Victoria (1963), Capilano (1968), and Okanagan (1963)--rapidly developed with a need for new library operations based around computer technology. Outside cities, the days of the one-room rural schoolhouse had come to end as more centralized schools with better libraries and staffing became the norm. In 1961, a School of Librarianship was established at the University of British Columbia to provide more librarians with a standard degree for professional training, the BLS. Obee concludes his history with chapters on the "tsunami" of technological change that has swept libraries since the 1970s, the explosive growth of the internet, and the emergence of the "library without walls." This period is necessarily compressed, but Obee gives the reader the basics without delving deeply into library jargon and administrivia.
     One feature of The Library Book that deserves special comment is the design and format of the volume. Excellent black and white/colour photographs are sprinkled throughout. Boxed texts with quotes and outlines of important events or people who have made valuable contributions are helpful additions that complement the chronological format. Deserving individuals who receive particular attention are E.O.S. Scholefield, John Ridington, W. Kaye Lamb, Lois Bewley, Basil Stuart-Stubbs, Margaret Clay, and Helen Gordon Stewart. They made contributions on a national level, as well as in British Columbia. At about 12" x 12," the book is still easily readable and displays nicely. There is an excellent timeline and appendices detailing various topics on associations, award winners, etc. The index provides convenient access to persons, subjects, and institutions. Researchers and historians will have to be satisfied with the narrative and pursue their interests elsewhere because there are no footnotes or a bibliography!!! But most general readers can do without the academic apparatus.
     David Obee and the BC Library Association must be congratulated for bringing The Library Book to press. It stands as the most complete Canadian provincial history of libraries produced to date and an important addition to the history of libraries in Canada.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review—A Book in Every Hand by Don Kerr (2005)

A Book in Every Hand: Public Libraries in Saskatchewan by Don Kerr. Regina: Coteau Books, 2005. 279 pp.; $19.95. Still available via email from Saskatchewan Library Trustees' Association.

At the start of the 1930s, a national study funded by the Carnegie Corporation, Libraries in Canada, reasoned that Saskatchewan, which had almost a million people, might prosper in the years ahead if public library proponents worked hard to achieve services outside a few major communities. A base existed. Regina and North Battleford had Carnegie library buildings. Saskatoon, Prince Albert, and Moose Jaw were major centres with book collections. But the vast majority of people were rural dwellers who depended on a Travelling Library service of boxes of books for loan, an Open Shelf system of 'books by mail' operated from the provincial Legislature, and small struggling mostly subscription funded libraries. One solution highlighted by this report seemed to be the development of regional libraries through cooperative efforts--of course, 'cooperation' was a buzz word during the Great Depression. It became a byword for library progress in the latter part of the 20th century.
     Don Kerr's welcome volume on public library development in a large province with a small population outlines the successful efforts of library supporters, politicians, governments, trustees and librarians over seventy years up to 2005. Canadian provinces have distinct public library systems and Kerr (a former Saskatoon library trustee) best describes Saskatchewan's development as a 'one-library system' with administration centralized and public services decentralized. The Provincial Library, formed in 1953, is a central coordinating body. Regina and Saskatoon serve as resource centres. Eight unified regional systems gradually formed after 1950 are important hubs. Three in the south: Chinook (1971), Palliser (1973), and Southeast (1966). Four in the centre: Wapiti (1950), Wheatland (1967), Parkland (1968), and Lakeland (1972). Lastly, in the north an autonomous board for the Pahkisimon Nuye?áh Library, a federated structure of communities and school libraries, formed in 1991. Initially, the province provided the majority of funding for regions. Today, the regions are funded principally by local levies supplemented by provincial aid. Kerr concludes that Saskatchewan has one of the best library systems in Canada.
     This study is organized in a chronologic-geographic mode with theme chapters from the very early days when Saskatchewan was a territory to early 21st century arrangements based on a union catalogue, reciprocal borrowing, and interlibrary loan. As mechanics' institutes changed to community libraries, as travelling libraries and the open shelf service disappeared in the 1960s, a provincial-regional partnership emerged. A Regional Libraries Act (1946) and formation of a Provincial Library (1953) set the stage for growth in the 1960s. As the system expanded, periodic reviews took place to update legislation in 1984, in 1996, and to create a multitype library authority to coordinate work and access by all types of libraries to collections and information. For Canadian library history readers there are familiar names scattered through Kerr's history: J.R.C. Honeyman, Marion Gilroy, Mary Donaldson, Don Meadows, and Frances Morrison. In many ways, the success of equitable service throughout the province is underlined by the personal commitments by strong-minded individuals. Although individual effort and local initiative was essential in building Saskatchewan's libraries, Kerr credits the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation governments with much of the initial impetus towards equitable service in rural areas. The CCF under Tommy Douglas was sympathetic and ready to assist library planners.
     A Book in Every Hand details the arduous efforts to form and create regional systems one by one over three decades. 'Planning from below' was never easy--mandatory participation by municipalities in regions did not come into being until 1996. Often, local autonomy trumped universal access, a familiar library theme. The development of urban services in Saskatoon and Regina provide insights into library planning and community building through branches and online access via the internet. Also, budget struggles with city elders! There are interesting separate chapters devoted to the Saskatchewan Library Association's (SLA) contributions; the development of a provincial multitype system in the 1990s; and aboriginal library service that began to function in the 1960s. The SLA was an early supporter of the creation of a National Library in Ottawa in the 1940s and, and along with the Canadian Library Association, a constant source of professional development for the province's librarians. When the federal government began assistance in earnest for Indian band libraries in the mid-1960s, there were plans to train persons, to build suitable collections, to finance and assist aboriginal communities. These efforts usually (but not always) met with success. The short chapter on multitype service offers some information that is comparable to efforts in neighboring Alberta.
     Don Kerr is an excellent writer-poet-scholar, with many books to his credit. His text sweeps the reader along with personable comments from his own interviews and from documentary sources he consulted. He offers a personal account at the outset about his love of libraries and a general outline of his history. Book chapters are interspersed with tables, black and white illustrations, and some beautiful colour plates of public libraries provided by the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation. More on library architecture would have been a definite plus for A Book in Every Hand. There are frequent scholarly footnotes that will lead researchers to additional information and sources of study. A great index too! Kerr's work impressively documents the development of equitable access and better services hinted at by Libraries Canada in the depression years. There are not many histories of public library development for an entire Canadian province but this is one that makes me wish there was a digital version.    

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Review—Library Spirit in the Nordic and Baltic Countries (2009)

Library Spirit in the Nordic and Baltic Countries: Historical Perspectives edited by Martin Dyrbye, Ilkka Makinen, Tiiu Reimo, and Magnus Torstensson. Tampere, Finland: HIBOLIRE, 2009. 188 p. illus. Still available for purchase through the HIBOLIRE website for 17 euros - .

       The authors involved in this publication belong to HIBOLIRE, The Nordic-Baltic-Russian Network on the History of Books, Libraries and Reading, a multinational and multidisciplinary network of scholars. They consider the development of Nordic public libraries to be relatively influential and successful in a broad northern geographic arc from Greenland to the Baltic States. My interest in this library history is on the comparative aspects that I recognize from a Canadian context, not surprising because the Nordic "library spirit" often incorporates Anglo-American ideas about public libraries stemming from the 19th century that were also prevalent in Canada.
        In terms of public library development, several countries evolved services from a variety of pre-1900 'public' institutions: reading societies, school and university libraries open to the public, commercial and scientific groups, parish libraries, and folkbiblioteken (Sweden) to assist lower classes with less access to reading materials. In many ways, this parallels the Canadian experience with a host of "social libraries" -- library associations, mechanics' institutes, athenaeums, literary societies, mercantile libraries, etc. -- that existed in Canada prior to 1900. The transformation of these libraries into free public libraries, i.e. libraries regulated by government legislation, managed as a public trust, financed by municipal tax levies and open to local residents, is recounted a number of times, especially for Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, where Anglo-American concepts took hold at an earlier stage. Of course, state aid was crucial in the development of the public library concept. It is interesting that financial assistance begins in Norway in the 1830s in the same time period as Canadian colonial government grants to mechanics' institutes commence. By the last quarter of the 19th century, popular or people's libraries in the Nordic-Baltic countries were prominent in many communities.
      Canadian provinces began experimenting with general legislation for local libraries and government support as early as 1851. Of course, proximity to the American border states and colonial association with Britain sparked many ideas about libraries, especially after Confederation in 1867 colonial status after 1867, when Canada began to emerge as a fully sovereign nation. Public library legislation for the Nordic-Baltic experience evolved at a slower pace, but many Anglo-American ideas circulated and help promote library progress. Especially, important was the "library spirit" -- the idea of the library as an active educational force that facilitates access to collections and promotes community development though a variety of ever-changing services. Fused with two major concepts, Bildung and Volksbildung, the Nordic library spirit continues today, a combination of self-cultivation or improvement and popular or adult education in the broadest sense. I find these underlying philosophic ideas to be unique, and really without parallel in Canada where early library promoters were mostly influenced by Utilitarian ideas disseminated from Britain.
       The formation of national library associations and librarianship is another focus I found interesting. In Canada, association formation came at the provincial and local level prior to a national organization in 1946, promoted mostly by the need for a national library "voice" and coordinating body. Major Nordic countries had formed national bodies decades before this date, inspired by leading intellectuals and publications about libraries/librarianship. A Finnish association was formed as early as 1910, even before the country's independence from Russia during WW I. Associations not only attempted to improve library services, they sought to improve the social standing and working conditions of librarians. There are insightful chapters on the development of the library profession -- from volunteer status, to vocation, to profession -- in Denmark. The concept of public service for professional librarians was expanded to align with societal needs. As in Canada, this change mostly took place after 1945 as national systems of libraries developed rapidly and educated personnel were required. The development of Library Science as part of the Nordic educational curriculum and training for librarianship also was a crucial development during this period.
       It would be too much to try and summarize all seventeen chapters that record the history of libraries within national cultural and educational progress in the Nordic-Baltic spectrum. Some presentations, such as the Soviet era in the three Baltic Republics, represent discontinuity in library development and a complete rejection of Anglo-American influences. The Scandinavian style of library architecture was obviously influenced by the International Style at an earlier stage than Canada, thus functional forms, open interior design, and horizontal elements as evidenced by the Nyborg Public Library had arrived by 1939. Comparative analysis, like the final chapter which summarizes the work of preceding authors, is important, yet in many ways each chapter has a distinct history based on differing perspectives about libraries.
       Comparative histories usually follow the path of identifying a variable, such as "library spirit," examining various cases to determine similarities (and differences), and then offering an explanation for why (or how, who, or when) the variable succeeded, developed, changed, or varied by case or geography, etc. An important journal in this field is Comparative Studies in Society and History from Cambridge University. A historiographical study by Marc Bloch, The Historian's Craft (translated from French in 1954), still is a reliable and useful guide to comparative history. Bloch was a pioneer in comparative studies, specializing in medieval feudal societies.
        Hopefully, the HIBOLIRE network can continue to produce informative histories that broaden our knowledge about libraries, books, and reading. The comparative approach offers the possibility of identifying recurring social mechanisms and structures as well as observing how different outcomes are possible.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review—The Most Attractive Resort in Town by Barbara Myrvold (2009)

The Most Attractive Resort in Town: Public Library Service in West Toronto Junction, 1888-2009 by Barbara Myrvold. Toronto: Toronto Public Library Board, 2009. 2nd revised and expanded edition, paper, 82 p., 126 illus. Available for sale at $20 at .

       Originally published in 1989 with co-author Barbara Forsyth to record the 80th anniversary of the Annette Street branch (1909-1989) of Toronto Public Library, this updated 2009 version is a welcome addition to histories of community library service in Canada. The book title derives from a quote by the Women's Christian Temperance Union when the West Toronto Junction Mechanics Institute was formed in 1888. The WCTU obviously hoped the influence of book reading and social amusements provided would divert young men from less uplifting pursuits in this growing community of 3,000 people. Self-improvement is an important theme in library history and there are frequent references to this trait throughout this book.
       The expanded version includes much more detail, more images, and an updated chapter on post-1989 activities--almost fifty additional pages more than the 1988 edition. The period before West Toronto's annexation in 1909 by the city of Toronto is covered in rich detail. The nuances of bylaws, biographies of board members and civic politicians, buildings, Toronto Junction's growth, streetscapes, and local businesses provides are included within the context of wider socio-economic developments. Annual plans to balance budgets based mostly on membership fees and other contributions give us a picture of how the library was managed and staffed. Like many other Ontario communities, Toronto Junction's service had its roots as a Mechanics' Institute until 1895 provincial legislation transformed MI's into public libraries with various types of management and financing provisions. As the Junction grew rapidly at the turn of 1900 library supporters decided to partake of the Carnegie program of grants for a suitable building.
       An entire chapter is devoted to plans and activities revolving around how a Carnegie grant of $20,000--a handsome sum for a Canadian town--was obtained and expended. Along the way, Toronto Junction passed a bylaw to establish a "free" public library, i.e. one eligible for an annual statutory tax levy of about $2,000 (a Carnegie requirement); the town disappeared as a separate municipal entity after annexation by the city of Toronto; and considerable time was spent procuring a site and architectural renderings and construction of a new library. By the time the building (designed in the popular classic Beaux-Arts style with interior layout for closed book stacks and no separate children's area) opened, it had become Toronto Public Library's "Western Branch," a neighbourhood resource in a large city rather than a standalone civic agency. This was not the "end of history" but rather a new beginning, one unforeseen when the pursuit of Carnegie money commenced.
      Barbara Myrvold guides us through the Junction library's next century as the Western branch (renamed Annette Street in 1962) developed its new identity within a larger city system. For this period, there is less detail; in part because many of the source materials used to build the first part of the library's history no longer existed--there are no separate board or council minutes for the Junction; less space is devoted to activities in Toronto's daily newspapers; and no personal accounts by local residents who served in various capacities in a local municipal environment. As the sources for history change, so does the history for institutional histories such as this one! There are still "facts" and "events," the stuff of history, for the author to illustrate on a larger canvas using different sources at hand. If there is little written about censorship it is because this theme is broader and does not appear to have significantly affected the Junction's reading public.
       After 1909, the library's history is portrayed through various strands of administrative activity, functional library services, and general societal trends. As the ethos of Victorianism declined in the first part of the 20th century, the library's "mission" changed from didactic moral uplift and self-improvement to providing activities, programs, resources, and information guided by community surveys and analysis of users and non-users. After the Ontario government eliminated age restrictions in 1909, children's services became a primary focus of work in libraries and Toronto under the aegis of Lillian Smith, who developed a model of services that was one of the best in North America and the British Commonwealth. In the 1920s, TPL's efforts to bring "the right book to the right reader" extended branch work to recreational adult education programs. As the demographic makeup of the Junction changed from its British origins to a more diverse mosaic, multilingual collections (originally termed foreign language) expanded in the late 1950s in many TPL branches.
       In the 1970s, as "Toronto the Good" became more cosmopolitan, TPL embarked on an extensive renovation program for many branches, turning them into neighbourhood "people places," and Annette profited from a complete remodeling and addition to the original building in 1979-80. In the 1980s, a local history collection was established in conjunction with the local historical society. In the 1990s, a computerized circulation system, catalogue stations, and access to the Internet were important improvements as libraries moved from book places to information providers. As the challenges of the digital library era brought into question the idea of the need for physical resources, Annette Street celebrated its centennial in 2009 after the branch--open about 50 hours per week--had busily circulated 168,132 items in the previous year.
       Added to an informative text are more than a hundred black and white pictures that highlight people, buildings, events, design plans, collections, equipment and furnishings. Special attention is paid to architectural details present in the Carnegie building and the subsequent modest updates in 1962 and complete renovation in 1979-80. The author shows that the Annette branch was a successful instrument for serving and promoting its surrounding community of about 10,000 people. The Most Attractive Resort is peppered with hundreds of footnotes that makes it useful for other library history researchers. Overall, this is one of the best micro library histories produced in Canada to date and it can be used to document broader studies.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review—The Quebec Library Association by Peter F. McNally and Rosemary Cochrane (2009)

Quebec Library Association: An Historical Overview, 1932–2007 = L’Association des bibliothécaires de Québec: un survoi historique, 1932-2007 by Peter F. McNally and Rosemary Cochrane. Montreal: Association des bibliothécaires de Québec. 2009. Cdn $20.00 (Canada); $25.00 (US); $30.00 (rest of world, including postage). ISBN: 09697803.

       Anniversaries are often the occasion for retrospective histories. For the 75th birthday of ABQLA a project was struck to document ABQLA’s activities since 1932 under the authorship of Peter McNally and Rosemary Cochrane. In a brief 30 pages, they have distilled the highlights of this regional library association's life. Anyone interested in ABQLA’s past will find this a useful starting point for facts, sources, and historical periodization.

        Born in the years of the Great Depression after efforts to establish a Canadian organization for libraries and librarians faltered, ABQLA realized positive results from the depression-era bywords “co-operative efforts” where others failed. ABQLA had the advantage of a membership base in Canada’s largest urban centre, the city of Montreal. From the outset, the association functioned on a bilingual basis and participated in Canada’s first major regional (perhaps even national) library meetings at Ottawa and Montreal in 1937 and 1939 before WW II ended these interprovincial opportunities.

        As a provincial organization largely based in Montreal, ABQLA often has found it difficult to address many issues of library development in Quebec. Library service to the public, universities and colleges, schools, and special libraries all had their own diverse qualities and governance issues that made coordination difficult. On a national scale, ABQLA members helped with the creation of the Canadian Library Association in 1946 and throughout the fifties and sixties promoted the concept of a national library in Ottawa.

        After the Quiet Revolution and the economic downturn of the early 1970s, ABQLA’s regional prominence came under challenge from many new groups within Quebec. After its 50th anniversary, ABQLA experienced membership problems but continued to encourage library education and organized smaller, successful annual meetings. At Montreal, at the Canadian Library Association conference in 1991, ABQLA hosted a provincial coordinating group, the Provincial, Regional and Territorial Libraries Association. In the age of the Internet, of course, the association launched a website to better maintain contact with its members.

        In the new millennium, ABQLA’s membership base remains less than 200 persons. It might be said after reading McNally’s and Cochrane’s work that ABQLA’s accomplishments far outweigh what one might expect from a small group. However, it could also be said that ABQLA has succeeded in maintaining libraries in the provincial spotlight because its executive and membership did not lack for enthusiasm, ingenuity, or united action in putting their concerns before the public and government departments that have increasing supported library progress across the province in the past half-century.

        While one might quibble about the brevity of this history, a library historian might rightfully pose the question: what other Canadian library association has an up-to-date account of its life? Enough said . . .

        Some might consider this book a typical institutional library history that charts it way through the course of the twentieth century without much regard to social, political, or economic currents that shaped Canada and Quebec. Others might regret the lack of a cultural studies perspective -- where does ABQLA stand in the "modernity project" cultural theorists and historians speak about? or has ABQLA been able to transcend its origin and make the passage to the "postmodern condition?" These are important questions, but lacking a basic framework that this overview provides they are best set aside until further research can be conducted. In fact, ABQLA's programs, membership patterns, and changing structures show us that "people can make history" and that the differentiated provincial landscapes of public library history--the multiple regional histories that make up the heart of the Canadian public library history--are essential to understanding how public library systems developed in Canada. Without regional contexts--the associations, librarians, library "systems," etc.--the broader national history of public libraries cannot be researched and written.

Originally posted in 2010. This book is still available from ABQLA on their website --

Reviews—Ottawa and Nepean Public Libraries in 20th Century by Phil Jenkins

The Library Book: An Overdue History of the Ottawa Public Library 1906-2001. By Phil Jenkins. Ottawa Public Library, 2002. 150 p. illus. paper. Also available as Une bibliothèque vivante: l'histoire tant attendue de la Bibliothèque publique d'Ottawa, 1906-2001.

       Popular history! What’s that? Well, here it is for librarians and the history of libraries in Ontario. Phil Jenkins, the well-known Ottawa area writer and book lover, has authored award winning works such as Fields of Vision: a Journey to Canada’s Family Farms (1991) and An Acre of Time (1996). Now he has turned his attention to libraries.

       Jenkins’ Library Book was commissioned by the Ottawa Public Library in 2000 to highlight OPL’s history prior to amalgamation arising from Ontario’s municipal reforms in the 1990s. Not surprisingly, Jenkins has aimed at a general audience and provides his own insights along with engaging anecdotes and particulars.

       Popular history takes many forms and directions. It is not simply a matter of recognizing differences between academic jargon vs. journalist style. There are many examples of valuable popular histories – Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919, Pierre Berton’s Klondike, and Peter C. Newman’s Company of Adventurers. These are trustworthy, interesting histories that fill a void in the historical record. Some academics might argue that Jenkins’ approach is too biographical and lacks both analysis and argument. But Overdue History strives to engage the public reader and even attract a new audience to library history through local-regional interest. In this context, Jenkins’ work is valuable in its own right.

       Popular histories have some appealing characteristics. They are normally narrative in structure and less analytical. Historical narratives often feature interesting characters, with entire sections devoted to one or more person to demonstrate their influence. Of course, serious writers will integrate some analysis with various important issues. Interestingly, narrative history has made resurgence since the 1980s, even in academic circles. Another common argument vs. popular history is that it is “too political” or “too traditional.” In the current historiographic library history debates in the UK and the USA “too institutional” might be another criticism. But at the micro-local level other approaches are not always suitable or viable. Further, community groups and formal organizations like public libraries are integral parts of social history, worthy of being “central characters” to build history around. Although popular histories may lack the sweep of broader social and economic aspects that influence the development of libraries and the professional makeup of librarians, they do offer up facts and events that can be used to illustrate broader trends. Finally, a more forceful argument is that many popular histories seldom offer new or useful contributions or interpretations to our understanding of history. This is not the case with Jenkins’ Library Book because the author returns to what he considers the central mission of libraries from time to time while describing changing services and operational modes.

       Jenkins’ traces the evolution of Ottawa's public library (and eventually its branch system) in nine chapters, six which are shaped around the chief librarians — Lawrence Burpee (1905-12); William Sykes (1912-36); Frederick Jennings (1936-53); Claude Aubry (1953-79), who received in Order of Canada in 1974; Gilles Frappier (1979-95); and Barbara Clubb (1995-present). The Library Book covers many highlights prior to 2001. Only a few can be mentioned here:

-- an effort by the Council of Women in 1895-96 to establish a free public library, a campaign that was defeated decisively for a variety of reasons;
-- Andrew Carnegie’s $100,000 gift for a new library which opened in 1906 and served the city until its demolition in 1971;
-- the opening of Rideau branch by former Prime Minister Robert Borden during the depression year of 1934 (a bilingual branch declared a heritage building in 1998);
-- the implementation of the ever-popular bookmobile service in 1953 (which has survived many budget scenarios);
-- the opening of Carlingwood, a small branch in a shopping centre in 1957, an innovation that would spread to other public library systems in cities across Canada;
-- a barcoded circulation system, ULISYS, in 1980;
-- establishment of Friends of the OPL in 1981 (the library’s 75th anniversary);
-- the creation of a writer-in-residence program in 1987;
-- the 1996 launch of library services on the internet via web browsers;
-- the amalgamation in 2001 of surrounding municipalities that expanded OPL from 8 branches to 36.

        The Library Book is illustrated with revealing portraits of people and building projects, logos, and snippets from reports and newspapers (one on Adrienne Clarkson using children’s books when she was 10). The cover cleverly displays an important chronology of OPL dates stamped on an old date due card that was library staple for many decades prior to the advent of computerized circulation systems. Jenkins offers a short account of a typical “day in the life” at the busy Main library starting at the early hour of 6:30 a.m. for the library’s staff, readers, librarians, courier services, computer terminals, and all involved in operating a complex system. The author finishes with some futuristic thoughts. In the 21st century, computers and digital works may replace books as the most used items. Physical buildings may decline in number and size. But the library’s rationale for providing reading materials, knowledge, and personalized public service will continue. Jenkins thinks there is more work to be done! I think he’s right. OPL’s story is not over – in fact, I will also review his other library history on Nepean, completed in 2005, in the near future.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review—Local Library, Global Passport by J. Patrick Boyer (2008)

Local Library, Global Passport: the Evolution of a Carnegie Library. By J. Patrick Boyer. Toronto : Blue Butterfly Book Publishing, 2008. 370 p, ill.; $34.95 hardcover, $22.95 paper,

       2008 marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Bracebridge Carnegie library built with $10,000 granted by the philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. Patrick Boyer traces the evolution of local library service in Bracebridge (and to some extent in adjacent Muskoka towns) from 1874 to the present day with a local/global perspective as an overarching theme. The “library as community” and the library as “window on the world” provides a dual historical view to trace the library’s activity over 13 decades.

       The author covers Bracebridge’s library history from the founding of the mechanics’ institute in 1874 to the virtual library of the 21st century in a series of chapters. In the pioneer days of Muskoka, books and newspapers were scarce ingredients in the promotion of intellectual life and the town’s political, business, and educational leaders—Victorian males who believed in progress and community development—established and promoted the town’s public library. By 1901, the municipal council had assumed control of the older institute and authorized a free public library supported by taxes. By 1908, the library board members and supportive citizens had erected a Carnegie library on Manitoba St., a distinctive building that would remain essentially unchanged for three generations. The “library as place” represented a cautious and stable, sometimes censorious, locale for residents to read about their changing country and world through war, depression, and postwar expansion. Some have recounted their library experience and how it helped them adapt and succeed.

       Behind this interpretation, Dr. Boyer reveals that the library possessed an internal “dynamic stability” that helped it survive, then thrive in the second half of the 20th century. Its staff was prepared to apply new technology and develop new resources; and its board members or local politicians ready to finance new endeavours. In Canada’s Centennial Year, the library was modestly renovated and in 1984/85 the Carnegie library was completely restored and expanded to keep pace with the town’s development. In the next two decades, the library’s catalog was computerized and by 2005 the Internet was no longer a novel experience. The virtual library, a portal to international knowledge, was set to dwarf the previous century’s reliance on book collections as a window. But, as Boyer states, the book remains alive and well-positioned to entertain and inform readers.

       Local Library, Global Passport (now associated with Dundurn Press) recounts the work of many people who believed in the value of library service. Quotes and illustrations provide a tangible view of the library, its librarians, and trustees as well as local community leaders. Various chapters offer insight into the library’s community role as an important cultural resource linked to place and identity. While Bracebridge provides the focus, its citizens — adults and children, students, seniors, new Canadians, people in need of outreach or special services, even local prisoners — are groups that the library has sought to serve. Dr. Boyer, whose family has been closely related to the library for many years, has successfully recounted the library’s history and offers insights that can be applied to many small Ontario town libraries. Along the way, his book is a good read and a valuable addition to Ontario’s growing corpus of library histories even though the primary source for his history, the minutes of library meetings for several decades, disappeared without a trace many years ago.

       After a century of Dominion Days and Canada Days, the library continues as an essential community asset, reason enough to celebrate every year.

Originally posted in March 2009

Reviews—Artistic features in Ontario public libraries: Mural Paintings and Carved Figures

       From time to time, public libraries are featured in works that are primarily focused on art or architecture and often overlooked by people interested in the history of libraries.

       In keeping with the theme of design and art in libraries, the book A National Soul : Canadian Mural Painting, 1860s-1930s by Marilyn J. McKay (McGill-Queen's Univ. Press, 2002) discusses the role libraries played in the context of Canadian mural paintings, highlighting how our country was glorified as a modern nation-state and how social-economic themes of patriarchy, progress, and cultural dominance were imparted at various government levels.

       An entire chapter is devoted to mural painting in local public libraries -- an almost forgotten chapter in Canadian library history due partly to neglect and the destruction and removal of these murals. Chapter 8: "Progress, patriarchy, and public library murals" describes the murals in Toronto Earlscourt library (opened 1913, renamed Dufferin/St. Clair Branch in 1973) that were painted over in a mid-1960s renovation project. Two murals in particular -- "Community" and "Story Hour" -- indicate the roles of men and women during this period, i.e. the 1920s. At a political level, the murals were elitist and democratic at the same time, providing a basis for civic and national pride but also for social control by inculcating predisposed ideas about social relations.

       Earlscourt rightfully takes centre stage in this chapter, for unfortunately other murals in libraries, e.g. at Collingwood painted by Elizabeth Birnie, were destroyed (the Carnegie library burned in 1963). Birnie's other work, at Penetang, is now relegated to storage. The reading room for the House of Commons in Parliament was also decorated with murals after WWI by Arthur Crisp and is a notable reminder of this era as a 1990 Canadian parliamentary web article reveals.

       Professor McKay's book is extensively illustrated and a valuable contribution to art history and to library history. Interestingly, the "mural movement" she describes happened almost simultaneously with the "public library movement" which stretched between the 1850s and 1930s in Ontario.

Late in 2006 a another book by the journalist, Terry Murray, appeared: Faces on Places: A Grotesque Tour of Toronto (Toronto: Anansi, $24.95). This is a great read for librarians interested in architecture and it includes some Toronto libraries as well in the more than 50 buildings discussed and illustrated.

Faces on Places tells the story of Toronto's buildings that are adorned (guarded perhaps?) by gargoyles, grotesques, and griffins carved into the facades of buildings. Libraries like the Runnymede branch and the new Lillian H. Smith library are featured along with Deer Park and the old Toronto Reference Library on College Ave. (now the University of Toronto bookstore).

The book is wonderfully illustrated and the price is right! For those interested in library architecture and design it provides a very different perspective -- form and function do not share centre stage in this production!

The libraries described are as follows....

Toronto Reference Library (College Ave): describes Alfred Chapman's various Graeco-Roman figures that were used to decorate doorways.

Deer Park: sculpture of two figures above entrance around a "lamp of learning." Deer Park opened in 1952 and the styling is less classical and more modern.

Lillian H. Smith library (1995): griffins -- with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle -- at the entrance symbolize a protective state through strength and watchfulness.

Runnymede Library (1929): and oft-featured library by architect John Lyle has Canadian images of beavers, totem poles, and native carvings in the strong sense of the 1920s and the Group of Seven work that Canadian culture ought to be celebrated.

This is an unusual book that includes libraries with other Toronto buildings. It shows that architects introduce designs and features in public libraries as a matter of course in traffic areas to heighten the awareness of culture and learning.

These reviews were posted earlier in 2008 and 2009.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review—Paper Talk by Brendan F.R. Edwards (2005)

Paper Talk: a History of Libraries, Print Culture, and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada before 1960. By Brendan Frederick R. Edwards. Lanham, Maryland, and Toronto: Scarecrow Press, 2005. 221 p.; illus.; paper.

       This book, based on the author’s MA thesis at Trent University, is a wonderful read and a valuable addition to Canadian book and library history. Edwards recently also contributed to the History of the Book in Canada project published by University of Toronto Press —“’To put the talk upon paper’: Aboriginal Communities” (vol. 2: pp. 481-88) and “Reading on the ‘Rez’” (vol. 3: pp. 501-05). Edwards' works are informative histories that break new ground and cover more than a century of varying kinds of library service and print culture among Aboriginals across Canada. There are five main chapters summarized as follows.
       The introduction deals with the overall conceptual framework for books, libraries and First Peoples’ literacy issues. To provide overall continuity and examine historical texts Edwards employs articulation theory, developed by Stuart Hall for cultural studies purposes in the 1980s. In short, in the creation of collective identities, services and resources that libraries provide can be combined with various different elements under certain circumstances to provide a “unifying” meaning. In some cases, the connection of various elements may be temporary and groups or persons will reformulate the elements based on tradition, technology, cultural preferences or other aspects of social life. Throughout Paper Talk libraries and books are adapted or re-conceptualized by Aboriginals in various ways to suit their own spoken and written traditions within an assimilative or integrative framework developed by Western missionaries and governmental officials. As a result, the historical record is a complicated one whereby ideas, discourses, and practices are linked with western (mostly textual) and aboriginal (often oral) formations that are not predetermined by a dominant linear-progressive ideology or part of homogenous “modernization” theory where different peoples and cultures adopt Western culture, economic standards, etc.
       The second chapter deals with 19th century interactions, mostly missionary efforts to civilize and convert Aboriginals to Christianity. Sunday school libraries and religious tracts were important elements of this process, but books in industrial schools played a role in literacy as well. In Ontario, for example, Ryerson’s library system and provincial legislation for voluntary libraries, such as mechanics’ institutes, were not well suited or designed for First Peoples. However, missionaries, like Thaddeus Osgood or James Evans played important roles in education by providing translations of texts, mostly (but not always) religious in content and the creation of a Cree syllabary. In terms of library history, Edwards provides a balanced view on the issue of libraries and social control noting that school collections were woefully inadequate or that public library provision for Aboriginals in communities was mostly non-existent prior to 1900.
       From 1900-1930, the federal government began to play a more active role in education. Natives, such as Charles A Cooke, made requests for books and libraries based on their own understanding of libraries and literacy. In fact, Cooke promoted the formation of an Indian National Library before Lawrence Burpee launched his well-documented campaign for a National Library in Ottawa. Unfortunately, neither venture proceeded at this time, mostly due to federal inaction or inattention. Efforts were made to provide library books in day, residential, and industrial schools, a course often held to be sufficient for Aboriginals. There were only a few community libraries envisioned or established across Canada, notably the Lady Wood Library at Lennox Island, PEI.
       A fourth chapter covering the period 1930-1960 charts changing standards and ideas that led to the recognition that community libraries were necessary, albeit impoverished in practice. Travelling library services in Ontario and British Columbia (starting in the 1940s) and the figure of Angus Mowat, the director of provincial library service in Ontario, are introduced. Mowat’s persistent efforts led to the establishment of an important community library at Moose Factory. But only small steps were taken in this period: in Ontario, Mowat’s efforts furnished the basis for further action after 1960, a time of growth that lies outside Edward’s book.
       Edwards' final chapter reviews the complex efforts of First Nations peoples to utilize reading and writing and to establish libraries. Missionary work, philanthropy, self-help, federal departmental action/inaction in Indian Affairs, and individual efforts by persons such as Cooke and Mowat laid the basis for advancement after 1960. Before this time, there was a prolonged interplay of ideas about the incorporation of print culture developed by Aboriginals; conversion and education activities by missionaries; modes of assimilation and integration envisioned by federal officials; and what might be fairly labeled a “regime of neglect” by most people in the library field. Edwards concludes by noting that the adoption of books and libraries was not simply the result of Western assimilation but rather the adoption of these elements by First Nations to maintain and promote their own interests and preserve their culture.
       The articulation of identities demonstrates the ever-changing nature of social life and culture and the unique features of some historical periods that are often conceived as “Victorian” or “modern.” Paper Talk offers much new evidence and synthesizes existing accounts in an effective presentation about Aboriginal library history that has been, to date, sadly neglected. Knowing that libraries and books can be involved in various shifting formations under certain conditions is a lasting value that Edwards stakes out throughout his book. In this type of history, contemporaries could gain from an examination of past precedents that were developed in the pre-1960 era.

Originally posted in October 2007

Review—The Morton Years by Elizabeth Hulse (1995)

By Elizabeth Hulse. Toronto: Ex Libris Association, 1995.

The genesis for this book dates to 1987 when the Ex Libris Association set out to honour the memory of Elizabeth Homer Morton (1903-77), the long-time executive director of the Canadian Library Association (CLA) and an important leader in Canada's twentieth-century library history. The Morton Years covers CLA's first quarter century and highlights Morton's contributions during her tenure of office (1944-68).
        Elizabeth Hulse, a bibliographer and historical writer, has aimed for a broad readership: persons interested in librarianship, libraries, and the conditions that promoted progress in these areas during the postwar era's rapid growth of educational services. The Morton Years is a concise, authoritative history which will be recognized as a standard reference for many years. Hulse has delved into the CLA manuscript sources at the National Archives and has recorded a number of oral histories with former CLA officers. Researchers will be rewarded by studying the footnotes despite the fact that CLA's archives are not complete and that the administrative nature of many documents (often recorded or edited by Morton) are often unrewarding in terms of personal details or controversy.
        A short introduction (1-12) provides a useful synopsis about the foundation of CLA in 1946. This account will likely undergo revision after a forthcoming publication (not available to the author) by William Buxton and Charles Acland on the Charles McCombs Report of 1941 appears. This new work will document the extent of American influence and financing for the educational goals that Canadian librarians actively pursued during the second world war and its immediate aftermath.
        The progress of many worthy CLA projects which Morton helped orchestrate between 1946-65 is traced in two chapters (13-52): the foundation of the National Library in Ottawa; the microfilming of historical newspapers; the development of the Canadian Periodical Index; successful publication ventures; the professionalization of librarianship; a CLA statement on intellectual freedom; and submissions to federal royal commissions to promote literacy, information services, women's rights, and bilingualism.
        Hulse then addresses the problems faced by CLA in the mid-1960s and subsequent changes (53-90). Initially, CLA's organizational structure reflected the small base of its membership, but, by the mid-1960s, there were 2,500 members and the executive group which Morton guided was sometimes criticized as "out of touch." Under the terms of the first constitution only "library" members employed by libraries or library school graduates were eligible for election to the executive, which was assisted by a few councillors and section chairs (e.g., cataloging) in a formal legislative body. By 1971, the expanded membership had decided to reorganize along the lines of a "type-of-library" model with the presidents of five divisions (e.g., school libraries) serving on the executive along with elected representatives from regional library organizations. In this revised formation, a larger executive and council was deemed to be more responsive and representative. In addition, membership provisions were extended to all persons interested in the general welfare of library services.
        In retrospect, it is clear that changes came about because CLA was not always effective in coping with professional issues or balancing diverse regional interests. This perspective is most evident in Hulse's description of the gradual withdrawal of Francophones into their own national organization in the mid-1960s (72-77). Effectively, by centennial year, CLA had become a unilingual national organization less attentive to professional concerns.
        A final chapter (91-104) focuses on CLA's search for a successor and Morton's retirement. Hulse addresses a number of sensitive questions about CLA's chronic financial problems, and the pressures its executive confronted by attempting to replace someone who had worn many organizational hats. Most participants convey the impression that they felt Morton could not really be replaced (her successor left after three years). Morton's qualities as an executive officer, her management style, character, and leadership abilities are recounted at this point by Hulse, who concludes with a very brief summary of CLA's accomplishments.
        Throughout the Morton Years, Hulse balances the demand to study the development of CLA and to personalize Morton's role as a catalyst and administrator. At certain critical points, such as the search for a successor, the sources are not complete enough to provide more satisfying explanations or historical narrative. By all accounts, Morton was a hard working, dedicated professional. Her career coincided with a labour market that offered a limited number of relatively low-paying professional career opportunities for women and with social conventions that dictated that they must resign their positions if they married. Morton did not directly challenge these barriers. Instead, she focused her energies on improving librarians' educational and occupational attainment through association activities on a national scale to redress gender workplace inequality, a typical response in the library community.
         Overall, Hulse has woven a reliable account of CLA's postwar growth and demonstrated the outstanding contribution one person can make to a national organization. Elizabeth Morton deservedly received a Centennial Medal and became a member of the Order of Canada in 1968.

Originally posted in September 1997