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 http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/local-history-publications/most-attractive-resort.jsp .

       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 -- http://www.abqla.qc.ca/about-abqla.

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)

THE MORTON YEARS: THE CANADIAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, 1946-1971.
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