Saturday, December 17, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading on the Canadian Library Council:


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

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