Saturday, October 14, 2017

PHOTO ESSAY ON ONTARIO'S EDWARDIAN PUBLIC LIBRARIES (1989)

An illustrated address I originally gave at the Canadian Library Association library history interest group session at Edmonton in June 1989. Thanks to Pearl Milne, University of Guelph Library, for her digital assistance with these photographs.

Photographs can be used in historical accounts for many different purposes. Often, they serve to illustrate the reality a writer wishes to capture, an effective and time-honoured technique. But they also may be used in their own right, not just as adjuncts to the literary record, but as original sources. Images are part of a broader methodological trend, one that has historians utilizing many non-traditional sources both to establish information about people, places, and events, or to develop new lines of inquiry. Of course, visual history is not new in itself, what has changed in the past twenty years is that more rigorous use of photographs as historical sources has evolved.

Historical photographs are being used now in a variety of critical ways in research and teaching.(1) In some cases, they may establish or verify facts, an important consideration when traditional documents are lacking or present discrepancies. Visual histories depicting social or cultural values of an era or place are becoming more frequent; in these works, photographs frequently help to determine the text which may be supplemented by other resources. Sometimes, photographs can be used to reinforce historical interpretations shaped with other source materials. In library history all these photographic dimensions can be employed when different aspects concerning the history of public libraries are analyzed or narrated.(2)

Uxbridge Library open 1887
Many photographs pertaining to library history exist at local libraries, museums, and archives across Ontario. Although there is no comprehensive catalogue or index to holdings, they can be as valuable as surviving textual sources because they can be used to formulate new ideas about libraries or to reinterpret a period. For instance, historical works frequently refer to the four decades between 1880 and 1920 as "Victorian" or "Edwardian" or as a "Progressive Era." This period is normally characterized as one of growth and progress for Ontario public libraries, an expansive theme culminating in the revised Public Libraries Act of 1920. Like most eras, the years between 1880-1920 were ones of transition for libraries, a view confirmed by many photographs.

By 1914, distinctively modernist trends were emerging in Ontario's libraries; the Victorian synthesis of ideas and methods common to mechanics' institutes and their immediate successors, free libraries, was giving way to modern trends. Simply put, the public library in the first decade of the twentieth century was modifying its functions and assuming additional roles in society, a process allowing it to serve more people and redefine its character as "modern" at a time when Modernism, a conscious cultural rejection of the past by twentieth century artists and scientists, was beginning to sweep western nations. At the same time, Ontario was becoming an urban province directed by new values. Historical photographs of libraries help indicate the extent of these fundamental changes.
1 - Toronto Mechanics' Institute

Victorian Heritage

In the Edwardian era there was a mixture of old and new in many Ontario libraries, particularly in cities. The physical reminder of mechanics' institutes, a symbol of nineteenth-century ideals, survived in a few places, notably Toronto where the old institute building, built in the Italian Renaissance style of the 1850s at considerable cost, lingered on, first as an undersized central library, then, after the larger reference library opened on College Street in 1909, as a community branch at the intersection of Church and Adelaide. It finally closed its doors just before the Great Depression.

2 - Toronto Church St. Branch, 1924
Other pre-Carnegie structures, specially commissioned as free libraries, existed in larger centres at Hamilton and London. London's library, designed by the local architect Herbert Matthews in 1895, reflected the popularity of eclectic exteriors, in this case a Romanesque facade with conical towers, rounded arches, and smooth-faced red brick cladding. It was a late-Victorian revival style that imparted a sense of permanence and strength, solid qualities most communities were anxious to express in the educational facilities they were striving to build at this time.


3 - London Public Library
4 - Hamilton Public Library, c.1905
Interiors of Victorian free libraries were usually spartan: for example, in Hamilton, a building completed at a cost of about $45,000 in 1890, furnishings in the reference section, general reading room, and ladies' reading room were basic staples. These rooms flanked a main corridor leading to a large counter behind which stretched a closed stack room capable of accommodating 50,000 books. The separate reading area for women was a fashionable (and space consuming) fin-de-siecle enhancement that recognized the increasing number of women registering as borrowers. Children under 16 years were less fortunate; generally, they were denied borrowing privileges. In this respect Hamilton's library, led by Richard Lancefield, was relatively liberal; its board began to lower the age restriction for children before 1900. Children's rooms and storytelling would be future projects.

6 - Claremont Library, c.1895
5 - Dundas Library, c.1896
In the smaller communities throughout rural Ontario, libraries had to make do with more modest resources: rented offices, donated property or rooms, or combined business quarters. The small, one-room, subscription library managed by volunteers and part-time staff was commonplace. For instance, at Dundas the library occupied part of the old Elgin House block on busy King Street. In the police village of Claremont, the library operated from a commercial storefront for several years under the guidance of the incumbent shoemaker-librarian, Mr. James Jobbitt, who resigned in 1903.

7 - Streetsville Library
At Streetsville, affairs were more upscale. In 1901 the board of management received a gift comprising part of a small frame commercial building. It converted the space into a serviceable one-room library housed with a jewelry shop. Streetsville was considered advanced by small town Ontario standards: it operated on a free basis without an age limitation for children, possessed a card catalogue, and used the decimal classification system at a time when the Education Department still clung to an outdated class system adapted from mechanics' institutes.

Edwardian Progress

Sarnia Library, c.1903
When Carnegie grants became readily available, architects, trustees, and workers began transforming the organization of interior space and the interrelationships between staff and patrons. Improved functions, programs, and arrangements for access were under active development between 1900-10: there were larger branch libraries, children's services, improved reference service, better classification and cataloging schemes, and open access to collections. The familiar Victorian free library conventions--the emphasis on physical custody of books, on printed catalogues for holdings, and on public reading rooms; the use of indicators (a British practice) for circulation status in lending departments; and a desire to offer lectures or evening classes for the technical education of working classes--was ebbing. Libraries were changing their methods, expanding the scope of their public services, and re-evaluating their connections with another developing field, adult education. The modern public library as we know it today was emerging.

8 - Laying Toronto Reference Cornerstone
Carnegie gifts to local communities for library buildings not only attracted public attention at openings and the laying of cornerstones but also stimulated rhetoric about the merit of libraries. The Globe covered one Toronto ceremony, presided over by Ontario's Lieutenant-Governor and Chief Justice William G. Falconbridge, the board chairman, on 27 November 1906:
His Lordship stated that there was no question in this day of the value of free libraries to communities. The objection that a preponderating number of works of fiction circulated through a free library, instead of more solid reading, was not a serious objection in the mind of the Chief Justice, who admitted that he was no enemy to novel reading. . . .
10 - Free Public Library, Belleville, 1911
The box deposited in the corner-stone contained, among other things, a catalogue of the central circulating library, copies of the Toronto daily papers, Canadian coins, and a scroll containing names of those directly interested in its construction. This type of ceremony was re-enacted on many occasions during the Carnegie years. Sometimes a benefaction other than Carnegie's was invoked, for example at Belleville, Henry Corby, a Conservative member of Parliament, donated money for a library which opened January 1908 in the remodelled Merchants' Bank building.

9  Berlin Library, c.1905
11 - St. Thomas Library, c.1905
After 1900, the interior organization and services of libraries began to change dramatically. At Berlin (now Kitchener), the traditional plan of housing a stack room behind a barrier surmounted by grill work and railing originally was followed, but later the board decided to permit open access to the collection except for fiction. A special area set off for children and use of the decimal classification were enterprising steps here. The same rationale about safeguarded free access to all books except works of fiction also applied at St. Thomas. The interior here was more ornate: classical busts and handsome wood columns graced the main corridor leading to the circulation desk, the reading room directly across from it, and the reference section at the end of the hall.

12 - Sarnia interior, c.1905
Sarnia's library was constructed along similar lines, but here the board adopted unrestricted access to all books, a bold move in 1903, although the building design easily allowed this measure. The board was fortunate to employ Patricia Spereman, who developed children's services and conducted story hours. She had trained in librarianship at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and became a pioneer in children's work in Ontario and Canada.

13  Sarnia Story Hour, 1907
14 - Guelph Public Library, c.1905
Carnegie exteriors were celebrated (or detested) for their Beaux Arts style featurin-g classical columns, steps, porticos, and domes. It was an exuberant style with classical lines and elements that promoted civic grandeur even in smaller cities which served as markets for the surrounding rural populace. Guelph's library was an Ontario leader in these regards and noted for its lack of functional interior space. However, some architects were influenced by local factors. In Cornwall, where a significant French-speaking community existed, a French chateau appearance was conveyed by the entrance, roof, and small corner tower.

15 - Cornwall Public Library ,1906
Some architects were able to use Beaux Arts features in a restrained fashion; perhaps the most capable was Alfred H. Chapman, who in association with Wickson and Gregg, designed Toronto's reference library on the corner of College and St. George streets at a cost of more than $250,000. This two-storey structure featured large windows flanked by Corinthian pilasters, soft yellow brick, and main entrance set off to one side. By the standards of the day and even during the bleakness of the Great War, it was an approachable "people place."


16 - Toronto Reference Library, 1915

* * * * *
In the years immediately preceding the First World War, therefore, Ontario's public libraries went through unprecedented change. The assumptions and characteristics common to Victorian free libraries--an adult clientele, priority on the safekeeping of books, limited services for users, systems of retrieval based on printed catalogues and indicators, classification and cataloguing systems that applied subject categories and accessioning practice developed in mechanics' institutes, and revival architectural styles--were being challenged and supplanted. The pace of change obviously had quickened in Edwardian Ontario, but faith in the library's contribution to societal progress, a belief that eventual improvements in society would ensue by assisting personal initiatives and stimulating their success, was unshaken. The service ethic became the most important constant in this era, a powerful rationale that spurred new library developments in a society that prized individual effort and public duty.

It is difficult to convey the spirit of any era or activity, but a review of pictures in this brief photo study reveals that it was time for libraries and librarians to look ahead, to question old views and methods, and to adopt fresh ideas.

PICTURE CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
 
Assistance with digitizing these photographs was kindly rendered by Pearl Milne of the University of Guelph Library.

Fig.1 The Toronto Mechanics' Institute before 1884 [AO, S-1178].
Fig. 2 An old Toronto library: the Church street branch, 8 Feb. 1924 [NAC,PA-86436].
Fig. 3 London Public Library, n.d. [NAC, PA-32789].
Fig. 4 View of Hamilton Public Library interior, c.1905 [AO, S-2042].
Fig. 5 Public library at Dundas, c.1896 [AO, S-6934].
Fig. 6 Palmer & Jobbitt store-library at Claremont, c.1895/1903 [AO, S-13475].
Fig. 7 Streetsville's new library, n.d. [AO, S-16035].
Fig. 8 Chief Justice Falconbridge laying the cornerstone of the public reference library in Toronto [AO, S-1252].
Fig. 9 Free Public Library, Belleville, 1911 [NAC, C-21464].
Fig. 10 Berlin Public Library interior, c.1905 [AO, S-2044].
Fig. 11 Central corridor of St. Thomas Public Library, c.1905 [AO, S-2055].
Fig. 12 Lending desk and stack room at Sarnia, c.1905 [AO, S-2057].
Fig. 13 After the Story Hour, 2 March 1907 [AO, S-2058].
Fig. 14 Sham pillars: Guelph Public Library, c.1905 [AO, S-2035].
Fig. 15 Cornwall Public Library, 20 Oct. 1906 [AO, S-2032].
Fig. 16 Toronto Reference Library at 214 College Street, 13 March 1915 [NAC, PA-61384].

AO: Archives of Ontario
NAC: National Archives of Canada
NOTES

1. For discussions on the use of photographs see:
Carol E. Hoffecker, "The Emergence of a Genre: the Urban Pictorial History," Public Historian, 5 (4) 1983: 37-48;
Walter Rundell, Jr, "Photographs as Historical Evidence: Early Texas Oil," American Archivist 41 (4) 1978: 373-398;
Stuart T. Miller, "The Value of Photographs as Historical Evidence," Local Historian 15 (8) 1983: 468-473;
Timothy J. Crimmins, "Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Illustrated Urban Histories," Journal of Urban History 13 (1) 1986: 82-91; and
W. Gillies Ross, "The Use and Misuse of Historical Photographs: A Case Study from Hudson Bay, Canada," Arctic Anthropology 27 (2) 1990: 93-112.
For library applications see Boyd Childress, "Library History, University History, and Photographic History: Some Considerations for Research," Journal of Library History 22 (1) 1987: 70-84.

2. Recent Canadian works include:
Margaret Beckman, John Black and Stephen Langmead, "Carnegie Libraries in Canada," Canadian Library Journal 38(6) 1981: 386-390 and The Best Gift; a Record of Carnegie Libraries in Ontario (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1983);
David R. Conn and Barry McCallum, "Heritage to Hi-Tech; Evolution of Image and Function in Canadian Public Library Buildings," in Peter F. McNally (ed.), Readings in Canadian Library History (Ottawa: Canadian Library Association, 1986), pp. 123-149;
Margaret Penman, A Century of Service; Toronto Public Library 1883-1983 (Toronto: Toronto Public Library, 1983); and
Barbara Myrvold, "The First Hundred Years: Toronto Public Library 1883-1983," in McNally, Readings , pp. 65-79.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

PUBLIC LIBRARIES AND THE INFORMATION AGE (1995)

[An Edited version of my speech given at Kitchener Public Library, Monday, Oct. 16, 1995]

INTRODUCTION

It is a pleasure to be here today to help celebrate Ontario's Library Week. Although I have been an academic librarian for many years, I fondly remember working in and using public libraries. Just recently, I returned to King City library this past June to observe the twenty-fifth anniversary its opening. King City was one of the first smaller public libraries to open in York Region after the 1966 Public Libraries Act consolidated the older association libraries. We must remember it is important to have celebrations, to mark anniversaries, to promote and to market public library services. In this area for example, we have three of the oldest public libraries in Canada--Guelph formed in 1883, Kitchener in 1884, and Waterloo in 1888. Certainly, the Kitchener library has been prominent in Ontario circles for a long time. We recognize the outstanding contributions of Mabel Dunham to Canadian librarianship. We can look back sixty years to the Great Depression when the first national library study, Libraries in Canada, noted that Kitchener possessed one of the best collections of lantern slides and German books in Canada. So a tradition of fine service to the community measured by provincial and national trends has long been a standard in this community.
 
As for Library Week in Ontario, we should remember that 1995 is the one hundredth anniversary of our first provincial Public Libraries Act. Previous to 1895, free libraries coexisted beside mechanics' institute libraries and literary society libraries. These organizations received grants from agriculture and education departments up until 1895 and have a complex history in their own right. But it was exactly a hundred years ago when our provincial legislature consolidated and combined a number of acts into one under the Dept. of Education with the result that the public library concept and terminology that we are familiar with today was first established in Ontario. Much has changed on the municipal and provincial scene over time, but the public library which is managed locally and normally does not directly charge for services has continued grow throughout this century as we can see from the following logarithmic graph on population served, circulation, and books held.



So much for progress and advancement. What is the public library doing today? Right now there are many challenges, perhaps too many for comfort. Management challenges, e.g. budgets--they are always a problem. Technological challenges, e.g. computers--they are always being upgraded. Educational challenges, e.g. learner centred environments created by the proliferation of information. There are, of course, other challenges, but I want to speak about the incredible growth of information that seems at times to engulf us and to submerge libraries. We are familiar with the general trends surrounding the universe of information. After all, it is the subject of many popular books and magazine articles such as the recent October issue of National Geographic on the information revolution. Currently, we are undergoing a synthesis of scholarly/popular interpretations of the time and society we are living in. I am sure many of us are familiar with Alvin Toffler's Third Wave and its predictions for future change, but he is only one of many seers. For a moment, I would like to link some of these societal conceptualizations with books we may remember from the past half century in the following table.

  MODERN SOCIETAL AND CULTURAL CHANGES IDENTIFIED SINCE 1940

Year Societal/Cultural Change            Source


1941  Managerial Revolution      Burnham, Managerial Revolution
1950  Cybernetics                    Wiener, Human Use of Human Beings
1950  Lonely Crowd                  Riesman, Lonely Crowd
1956  Organization Man            Whyte, Organizational Man
1958  Consumer Society           Galbraith, Affluent Society
1959  Two Cultures                   Snow, Two Cultures and the Scientific Revoution  
1960  Environmentalism            Carson, Silent Spring
1960  End of Ideology               Bell, End of Ideology
1962  Paradigm Shift                 Kuhn, Structure of Scientific Revolution
1963  Atomic Age                     Atomic Scientists, The Atomic Age
1964  Global Village                  McLuhan, Understanding Media
1964  Technological Society       Ellul, Technological Society
1968  Postmodern Society         Etzioni, The Active Society
1970  Leisure Society                Parker, Future of Work and Leisure
1972  Sustainable Development  Club of Rome, Limits to Growth
1973  Post-Industrial Society     Bell, Coming of Post-Industrial Society
1977  Information Economy       Porat, Information Economy
1979  Computer Age                 Dertousoz & Moses, The Computer Age
1980  Third Wave                     Toffler Third Wave
1983  Third World                     Worsley, Three Worlds
1986  Information Age              Beniger, Control Revolution
1990  Information Age              Toffler, Powershift


Many of these contemporary accounts seem to suggest that we have entered into a new era in which information about societal political/economic structures is the key ingredient in our lives. To some extent, we are overwhelmed with the enormous quantity of material that touches on this subject.

THE INFORMATION AGE: WHAT IS IT?

The Information Society or Information Age is a new phenomenon since 1950 which brings with it new challenges as we seek to integrate an expanding universe of print and multimedia sources into our daily lives. The two terms often are used to describe a cybernetic society in which there is a great dependence on the use of computers and data transmission linkages to generate and transmit information. By contrast, our familiar reference frame of an industrial society relied on machines to augment human physical labour to produce goods and services. Now, through a process of continual change, geographic barriers are being dissolved, businesses are more interconnected, and relationships between workers and workplace are changing more rapidly.

However, information (or data, or ideas, or knowledge) has long played, in one way or another, a significant role in human culture and society, and has shaped, over a long period of time, the way in which we behave and think. I think what is now proclaimed to be the Information Age is terminology that can be applied in to all stages of human development. We must recognize that improvements in communications during the industrial period since 1800, and I am speaking of the telegraph, telephone, postal delivery, radio, television, and modern printing presses, have been in part a response to the need to process more information. For example, just think of one historical period taught in school, the Renaissance. It is regarded as a rebirth of knowledge, the rediscovery of and transmission of ideas and texts about classical authors which transformed European culture and thinking in the fourteen and fifteenth centuries. In a historical context, Information has been with us a long time. One can illustrate themes in information by looking at literacy, censorship, the organization of knowledge, the economics of information, and roles which institutions such as the public library and schools have played.

The definition of "information" varies incredibly. It is often used interchangeably with terms such as data, knowledge, understanding, messages, wisdom, and ideas. I am not going to discuss the lexical nuances at length. Instead, I prefer to use the term broadly in the way it is used across many disciplines and in many countries today. We talk and read about consumer information, management information systems, information technology, information overload, the information highway, and so on, all the time. In the past fifty years information has assumed an important new meaning. In a new sense, borrowed from the sciences, Information has come to express whatever can be transmitted through a channel connecting a source with a receiver. What is being communicated, a message, is information. Considerations about the character or quality of what is being transmitted--a legal live broadcast of the judgement in the O.J. Simpson trial or the latest evening hockey score in the newspaper--become less relevant in this sense. The older distinction between information as mostly specific data with a potential usefulness and knowledge as aggregated thought that is applied usefully has eroded. In this process, information has almost come to subsume knowledge. 

In the twentieth century there has been a radical transformation in the role of information in society as well as in the technology used in its production and dissemination. At the turn of the last century, printed information reigned supreme in Europe and North American communities. This, of course, is no longer the case. New electronic forms of communication have multiplied, reducing the primacy of the print medium, but not yet displacing it. Instead, each new form of communication has supplemented printing and publishing (we must remember that more than two billion copies of books are produced in North America alone each year). Whole new industries, such as television and cable networks, each with its own set of directions and organization, have grown up around each of these new forms of communication. The proliferation of communication technology has also brought with it a situation in which the content of these various forms of communication are merging as forms of digitized information which combine print, voice, video, and graphics for educational and recreational purposes.

Just as the printing press served as an agent of change in the nineteenth century, so have telecommunications given us the capacity to transfer information instantaneously across vast distances in the twentieth century. The advent of the telegraph in the 1830s, the telephone in the 1870s, radio, which came into being in 1901, and television shortly afterwards had by mid-century led to the slogan "Global Village." Thirty years after Marshall McLuhan, the computer has effectively established itself as the dominant means of handing textual material as well as numeric data. Combined with telecommunications systems, the computer appears to have created a major turning point in the history of information. It is this amalgamation of new systems, and the emphasis, perhaps even devotion, that is placed on information, that have brought into being the phrase "Information Age.

Today there is a significant new approach to the production, storage, distribution, and use of various types of information. Previous information "systems," such as the book, were based on the process that the message that entered a system was the message that was received. This is no longer the case: the newer communication technologies on the Internet are interactive, that is the capability of modifying messages and creating new messages exists within the system. As well, in the new systems, such as electronic bulletin boards, information is controlled to a greater extent by managers who store and transmit information. In older systems, the original creator or supplier of the information was in control. Thus, a new set of relationships and responsibilities is emerging but has not yet been clearly established, witness problems with copyright and censorship on the Internet under proposed new American legal regulations scheduled for 1996.

The evolving electronic information systems also pose new directions for issues that have been around for some time. Take literacy as an example. It is not longer sufficient to be print literate, i.e. to read and write, and the idea of audio or visual literacy has in turn been supplanted by stress on computer literacy. Literacy has come to be seen as the ability to use information in various forms that it is presented in and to master the skills and techniques necessary to use the systems involved in managing information, a.k.a. computers. Most commentators seem to see this new literacy not only as an expansion of traditional literacy but also an expansion that requires the development of new skills and new ways to deal with information.

Another issue for re-examination is the economics of information. Information in many forms has a high economic value and indeed it is said the information industry is becoming the engine driving our economy. We have become an "information economy" with "information workers" taking their place beside manufacturers, industrialists, steel workers, and cab drivers. In fact, as Alvin Toffler writes in his Third Wave, we have entered a new post-smoke stack economy. Whenever someone watches television, rents a video, or reads a magazine, they are substituting information in place a manufactured product such as a tennis racket or automobile created by the traditional production modes we have known. Information normally is language (radio, TV, books, tapes, magazines) or image (TV, movies, videos) and the information derived from it is relatively inexpensive to replicate. One can verify this by looking in stores at prices for tapes, videos, record albums, cd-roms, and so on. This fact makes for economies of scale since most of the business investment is devoted to developing the first copy.

But from the individual citizen's perspective on information resources, there seems to arise a major issue from this economic transformation. Within a print and broadcast culture the typical user is not expected to invest significant amounts of money into information systems hardware (e.g. books, radios, portable television sets, videos, music recordings). Purchases were made for an item, such as a record, or for a right, such as admission to a movie theatre. However, with the growth of personal and business computing enterprizes and new home games after the mid-1980s, a fundamental alteration is occurring. With computers and telecommunications systems, the user, not the manufacturer, publisher, or broadcaster, becomes responsible for significant financial outlays in the investment in information systems equipment and peripherals, such as Nintendo and modems which require frequent upgrades. Obviously, there is a danger that economically disadvantaged families--indeed whole countries--will not be able to take complete advantage of our information rich universe which is dominated by the English language. This perspective was most recently voiced in the August issue of Scientific American which dealt with foreign language coverage in North American reference sources.

A third area of concern deals with control and freedom of information. Increasingly on a local, regional, national and international scale the regulation of the free flow of information becomes more difficult. A host of issues might be dealt with here, such as censorship in networks, copyright infringements in electronic formats, freedom of information, and the need for personal privacy. Some national governments consider the control of information as a vital element of state policy. Nevertheless, the advanced computerized telecommunication networks make information more readily accessible and make it more difficult to restrict information flow. What we need to balance, to some degree, is the right of the individual to obtain free access to information with the right of individuals to control and limit access to their personal information.

Finally, the role of institutions such as schools and libraries in the dissemination of information has come under scrutiny at a time when public spending is being reduced in stages at the federal and provincial levels in Canada. In the past century, public libraries have developed their own unique sets of procedures for organizing print and audio-visual knowledge. Classification systems such as the Dewey Decimal System have been adopted, reference service desks created, children's departments set up, audio-visual departments organized, interlibrary lending procedures arranged, and so on. Now a glut of information threatens to make libraries irrelevant: in the fictional library of Jorge Luis Borges--the Library of Babel--the librarian is unable to find anything in a collection boasting an infinite number of books.

At a general level, society recognizes that people need to gain access to information. To make the best use of it there needs to be an effective system for organizing information on a community basis so it can be retrieved effectively. The public library has responded to this need in varying ways for many decades through years of economic restraint, as witnessed by the Great Depression of the 1930s, and years of growth characterized by the 1960s and 1970s. The question posed in the 1990s returns to the basic functions of the library and what it should offer the public.

To conclude my brief introduction to the so-called Information Age, I would like to stress that divergent views exist about the possible effects of the development of a full-fledged Information Society. On one side, advocates insist that it will empower people, providing direct access to opportunities previously unavailable to them. On the other side there are pessimists who believe that the global economic structure that information provides the foundation for what will ultimately displace individuals and communities with totalitarian capitalist structures. There is little doubt that the development of information can produce dramatic changes, but it remains to be seen if the nature of those impacts will be determined mostly by the structural requirements of new computerized technologies or if their impact will be influenced to a greater degree by social/political forces, such as state regulation.

What can be said, however, is that the role of information and related communication technology continues to expand by leaps and bounds in the 1990s. I think, paradoxically at first, that the capacity to strength both centralization and decentralization is taking place. Today's management business texts, such as Fifth Discipline and Megatrends 2000, stress flexible ways of organizing business in a deregulated, privatized environment. Opportunities seem to exist for local or small entrepreneurs who are willing to switch organizational and production facilities freely from one place to another in order to capture a share of a global marketplace. Evidently, the new information networks are no longer tied to places and it is possible to attain a centralization of managerial control and decentralization of production. On the other hand, it is not difficult to see why massive corporate concentrations are taking place in communications, why Disney and ABC are merging to dominate and make money from an industry composed of independent communication enterprises and local broadcast channels.

Finally, new groups and audiences are in the process of interconnection, e.g. electronic mail groups and dial-up bulletin boards, direct telemarketing, and subscription cable television. The principal media--television or video or the computer, and the telephone, are connected in many new networks that are integrating sound, speech, text, data, and images and permitting the connection of persons in lieu of the connection of places. It seems the most important communication patterns of the future will be interaction and conversation, not the hierarchical transmission from a mass communication centre to a mass audience tracked by Neilson ratings or recounted by George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Traditional community ties are being replaced by much more selective groupings in diffuse social networks. Further, an increasing number of social activities will rely on integrated online media in place of traditional face-to-face modes, e.g. telemarketing, and so on. As we can see, the Information Age or Society promises to be an exciting time, although it is too early to predict the demise of door-to-door sales!


THE PUBLIC LIBRARY'S ROLE: WHAT IS IT?

Let us turn now to the public library. Where does it fit into information revolution which is taking place? As far back as 1950, a prominent scientist, Norbert Wiener, wrote a book, The Human Use of Human Beings, which applied insights gained in the computer technology of his era to the study of human communication systems using information in the new sense. Even at this early stage of the computer era, he emphasized that the proliferation of information reinforced existing relationships by placing a greater burden on society to disseminate and store information.
The needs and the complexity of modern life make greater demands on this process of information than ever before, and our press, our museums, our scientific laboratories, our universities, our libraries and textbooks, are obliged to meet the needs of this process or fail in their purpose.
The fact that he specifically mentioned libraries in the same sentence with kindred educational and research oriented institutions indicates to me that he recognized their crucial importance in the next stage of the information revolution.

I feel the basic question to be resolved right now is: will libraries be able to adapt new technologies to information demands during a period of retrenchment in government funding? Well, let us start with some good news. Although the public library generally is viewed today as a print-based institution, I have already referred to the ability of libraries to integrate formats such as films, videos, slides, records, and audio cassettes into their services. This activity began in earnest after the Second World War and continues today. Those of you who have used libraries over the past two decades realize that public libraries have successfully automated their acquisitions, cataloguing and circulation functions and introduced online and cd-rom pro ducts to their reference and interlibrary loan services. There have been successes and some failures along the way, nevertheless, by the mid-1990s it safe to say that most urban public libraries in Ontario serving more than 30,000 people have either made or are in the midst of the transition to automated systems. There is no doubt that libraries can incorporate new electronic formats into collections, in fact, these formats reduce rather than create barriers to public access. The managerial and professional expertise therefore exists to deal successfully with new electronic information resources on a community-wide basis.

If we review technical changes in libraries, we can see that online public catalogues have replaced card catalogues which first appeared in Ontario at the turn of the century during the Carnegie building program. Bar codes and wands have replaced the photocharging systems that had become common library procedures by the late 1960s. Online searching of remote databases is another recent innovation: users can ask to have many different searches performed. Full-text retrievable searches are possible, for example from Toronto where the Globe and Mail was the first major newspaper in North America to introduce computerized editions in the late 1970s. Subject specific inquiries can be made outside this country, for example to California where large corporations (like Lockheed Dialog) have established huge database libraries which provide access to many subject areas, especially business, on a fee per use basis. And we must remember that library automation was accomplished during a period of recessions and cutbacks in the 1980s and 1990s, so libraries have not only been able to introduce automation they have been able to achieve economy in operation at the same time.

It seems to me, therefore, that public libraries can build on their knowledge and experience to extend their range of services. It is certain that the electronic information superhighway, the Internet, is offering people the ability to communicate via computers and to make available vast quantities of information that dwarf local library resources as we know them now. Let us be clear that people are not going to stop reading--in fact, digitized print is a basic staple of the Internet where information is created, shared, modified, "flamed", praised, and so on, every day. What will continue, is the erosion we have witnessed in this century of the book's dominance and centrality. With every passing month, it is becoming more important to identify and evaluate electronic forms of information in order to provide meaningful, balanced collections for public consumption. This process is essentially one that libraries and librarians have been engaged in for decades.

To be successful I think public libraries have to try to develop new services, to provide new resources, and to alter the public perception that libraries are mostly old-fashioned print warehouses that predate the modern era. To position the library more firmly in the mainstream, I think its crucial for public libraries to do five things during the next five years.

First, libraries have to employ the power of information technology by emphasizing new roles in their public services. The communications revolution is an important feature of society. Libraries must continue to offer the latest features of telecommunications which integrate sound, text, data, and images. This effort will entail budgetary decisions, and, in a climate of restraint and cutback, lead to the reallocation of declining budgetary resources. Success in the area of technical services that people d o not clearly observe will no longer suffice. As a start, computer workstations should be introduced as public resources where word processing, e-mail functions, electronic newsgroups, cd-roms, and worldwide Internet access are standard services. After all, the public library is a learning centre where many different resources should be utilized. One can easily envisage right now that older newspaper reading areas characterized by tables and racks will be replaced with state-of-the-art computer terminals that can access hundreds of daily newspapers across North America. The same is true, to a lesser extent, for magazine reading areas: a number of traditional general or specialized periodicals, like Macleans, are now available on a subscription basis in electronic forms. Using software programs, either newspaper stories or magazine articles can be downloaded to disk or printed on paper at workstations on demand, thereby shifting the library's focus to immediate service demands away from the time-honoured collection of on-site materials.

Second,  partnerships with other organizations have to be developed in the rapidly expanding information universe. The development of regional/metropolitan freenets which permit toll-free access to the Internet across the province is a good case in point. Libraries must at the very least get their catalogues on local electronic freenets and they should try to play a leadership role in developing local community networks. Librarians have many opportunities to draw on their experience and proficiency in this process. They can select information resources, design user interfaces, or help promote the organization of community information on these networks. Libraries and librarians need to participate in network initiatives by allowing access to library catalogues around the world and by developing WWW servers with navigational aids that allow people to find or discover information resources. Across the province local networks are in a state of development, e.g. London's homepage efforts and Ottawa's national capital freenet. To date, a number of Ontario libraries (small and large) are responding by developing Internet access and establishing their presence as an information provider.

Third, libraries must strive to promote the concept of end user empowerment, that is to link people with information without an intermediary. Ideally, the idea is to provide an alternative to visiting the library by permitting users to locate and control their own information at their own convenience from home or office on a time basis outside the traditional 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The creation of virtual reference libraries with encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, indexes and abstracts that people can access from outside the library is the next step in the evolution (revolution?) of reference services. But to achieve this goal, librarians need to impart their skills developed over the past decade or so. Finding information on an information highway is not a s easy as it seems: people need direction, training, and skillsets. Frequently, the assistance of an intermediary--such as a librarian--will be required. Electronic information retrieval requires what many retrieval experts have termed recall and precis ion. Recall is the amount of relevant material a searcher finds, usually 50-75% of what is actually available. Precision is the number of relevant items from a particular search that a user decides to use, usually 50-80% of what was originally located. Obviously, it is easy to see that many searches will produce less than half of what is actually pertinent to a subject search and that searching can become a frustrating activity. Librarians certainly can help information seekers overcome these obstacles.

Fourth, libraries have to dramatically broaden the range of electronic services. It is just not a matter of collecting electronic files. The day is over when library staff can feel comfortable offering an array of print or electronic resources housed in a central library or community branches. The traditional meaning of circulation as it pertains to libraries is changing and this concept has to be rethought. The twentieth-first century electronic library we have heard about should provide access to a vast range of resources and service providers anywhere in the world. It is not necessary to have news from newspapers which are incorporating more analytical and journalistic pieces to retain readership. If you want news from Australia, you can go on the World Wide Web and connect with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. A few people can do this from home now: in fact, according to Statistics Canada, Ontario has a growing number of people owning home computers with modems in Canada. Granted that this percentage is just under fifteen percent and there is a fundamental restriction--they have the know the information resource exists.

Another future service possibility is to have people login to a local library by computer from their homes or offices and "chat" with staff as they do on Internet Relay Chat channels around the world or fill in an electronic form, post it in an electronic mailbox and receive a response from the library about some specific query, say the status of a previous request or the whereabouts of a circulating item. This organizational response is not as easy as it seems but it is a key area where libraries can play a vital role in providing an environment where research, study, and learning can flourish.

Finally, an image problem needs to be addressed. Libraries need to reimage themselves as important learning organizations where services continually change and improve. Too often, people consider the local public library as a recreational resource and the educational or informational role is secondary or overlooked altogether. If libraries are to continue to receive tax funding from municipal and provincial governments, they will have to rethink their traditional mainstay, the circulating collection. The concept of reading is changing: the cultural weight

Already, some steps are being taken in this province to develop libraries as learning centres in a broad sense. Industry Canada's Schoolnet Community Access Project announced in February 1995 that it intends to offer rural communities affordable public access to information resources on the Internet by creating a national network of community access sites. The plan includes libraries. As well, government of Ontario information is now available on-line in over two hundred public libraries with details about different ministry services, the location of government offices, MPP's addresses, and Ontario's parliamentary system. The idea of an electronic learning centre--the electronic library--needs to be integrated with the library's long-standing commitment to literacy and educational and recreational resources. The library is an important institution for improving literacy skills and helping understand and use information in different formats such as printed texts and computer files.

Taken together, none of these points is a remarkable new starting point. People have been saying libraries need to stress educational services for years, this is why book reading clubs and readers' advisory services were popular in libraries as long ago as the 1920s. Information technology is not new, what is new is the pace of change. Access to resources at a distance is a challenge which interlibrary loan departments have been grappling with for decades. End user empowerment is essentially newfangled terminology for explaining why free public library services have existed for a hundred years. To say that libraries should help people help themselves is to revisit the age of Victoria when Samuel Smiles wrote a best seller, Self-Help, in 1859. Partnerships are not of recent origin, libraries have been cooperating with community groups for decades. It is the groups that are new.

To conclude, we need to acknowledge that there is work to be done if Library Week is to continue as a relevant occasion in Ontario. Fortunately, technology offers the library a chance to preserve and enlarge its role in providing access to resources in different types of formats. While it is always difficult to predict the future, it appears that public libraries are well-positioned to exploit information technology and interact with their communities and users in meaningful ways. I for one, any way, think that the foundation public libraries have laid is such that continued growth is highly likely. Free access to information and educational/recreational services have been their business for more than a century and it seems that another hundred years is not out of the question. 

NOTES 
 
Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones (New York, 1962)
W. Wayt Gibbs, "Lost Science in the Third World," Scientific American 273, 2 (Aug. 1995): 92-99
John Ridington, Mary J.L. Black, and George H. Locke, Libraries in Canada; a Study of Library Conditions and Needs (Toronto, 1933)
Statistics Canada, Household Facilities and Equipment, 1995 (annual), Table 5.6
Joel Swerdlow, "Information Revolution," National Geographic Magazine 188, 4 (Oct. 1995): 5-27
Alvin Toffler, Third Wave (New York, 1980)
Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings (New York, 1950)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Review—World War II Theses on Schools and Public Libraries by Two Albertans: Louise Riley and Jack Brown

Mutual Relationships between Public Libraries and Schools in Providing Library Service to Boys and Girls in Canadian Cities (Columbia University, M.A. thesis, June 1942, 113 p. with tables) by Margaret Louise Riley and The Extension of Public and School Library Services in the Province of Alberta (University of Chicago, M.A. thesis, August 1940, 161 p. with tables and map) by Jack Ernest Brown.

Margaret Louise Riley was born and educated at St. Hilda's High School for Girls in Calgary. She attended McGill University (B.A. 1921) and received her library diploma at Madison, Wisconsin in 1928.  After graduation, she worked at the Calgary Public Library as a children's librarian throughout the 1930s. Riley's articles on library work for children and teens helped her attain a Carnegie Fellowship and she graduated from Columbia University Library School in 1942. Her thesis, Mutual Relationships, dealt with the subject of cooperative work by school and public libraries in Canada.

Jack Ernest Brown was born in Edmonton in 1914 and graduated from the University of Alberta with a B.A. in 1938. He attended McGill University Library School, receiving a B.L.S. in the following year. Brown was awarded a Carnegie Fellowship and graduated with a MA from the University of Chicago Graduate Library School in 1940. His thesis focused on the development of public and school services in Alberta.

Children's librarianship was a well-established public library service by 1930. Louise Riley introduced a room for young adults readers and enthusiastically improved Calgary's children's library at a time when money was hard to come by during the Depression years. It was during the 1930s when schools in Alberta, and elsewhere in Canada, began to develop a "new program" in elementary and junior high schools that emphasized the use of many books rather than rote learning and use of  one class text. Because many elementary school libraries were deficient (or practically non-existent), students and parents often turned to public libraries to secure good reading. This practical consideration inspired Riley to research cooperative educational efforts between schools and public libraries. Her thesis at Columbia examined the relationships that were being developed in Canadian cities with more than 10,000 population (52 in total) through the use of questionnaires and a literature search of leading professional opinions about school-public library cooperation.

Riley's detailed compilation and analysis of statistics received from across Canada yielded useful information about the state of children's work in 1940. For example, larger city pubic libraries were open for children on average from 20-40 hours per week and the average number of books per registered child ranged from 1.5 to 2.2 books/borrower. Fifteen school boards were developing centralized school libraries, an option many library planners favoured. Data on classroom libraries, children's sections in public libraries, and public library branches in schools were included. There were twenty-six tables in all.

Mutual Relationships explored solutions for cooperative efforts to improve children's work. Riley surveyed the experience of American and English libraries and presented the advantages and disadvantages of similar Canadian efforts especially inter-board representation on school and library boards, public library branches in schools, and cooperative administration of school libraries. Often, the crucial element missing was leadership at the local level. Based on her findings, Riley recommended conducting local community surveys and devising a cooperative plan for discussion and eventual implementation. She suggested the newly formed Canadian Association of Children's Librarians and Canadian Library Council could provide assistance in developing cooperative work.

Riley's conclusions did not surprise many informed librarians and administrators. However, the data she presented was the first Canadian study of its kind that buttressed many arguments about school-public library cooperation. It was another instance of the use of social science methodology to study libraries and demonstrate the value of "library science." Of course, Mutual Relationships was confined to cities--smaller communities, rural places, counties, and regions were not included. The thesis was a practical exploration of an issue that would continue throughout the 20th century and be resolved locally in many different ways.

Louise Riley returned to Calgary Public Library to develop children's services after graduation. One successful effort was the establishment of general reading sections with visiting librarians to advise student readers in some schools which was financed by school board grants. She became Calgary's Assistant Librarian in 1949, served as President of the Alberta Library Association, taught courses for children's librarianship for teachers at the Calgary campus of the University of Alberta, and authored an award-winning children's book, Train for Tiger Lily (1954). Louise Riley died in 1957 and shortly afterward a new branch library in Hounsfield Heights was named in her honour.

Jack Brown's thesis at Chicago was centered on Alberta where about sixty percent of the population lived in rural conditions. A plan for the extension of library services through schools and public libraries based on governmental, economic, educational and social conditions was his primary aim. He made a lengthy study of Alberta's geography, its educational system, municipal and school authorities, and economic conditions. It was a time when Edmonton and Calgary were small cities under 100,000 population and when agriculture and cattle ranching were dominant economic activities.

Brown applied the concepts of 'modern service' and 'efficiency' to Alberta's library scene in a thorough manner by stressing the educational role of public libraries and the development of regional systems. Brown surveyed the province's public libraries and found that only 30.3% of the total population of 772,782 were served by libraries and only 8% were actually registered borrowers. Half of Alberta's book stock resided in Edmonton and Calgary and the per capita expenditure on libraries based on total provincial population was fifteen cents. School libraries were at a rudimentary level. Larger school divisions held the promise of better funding but these were only in the initial stages of development. One successful venture was the small travelling libraries and 'open shelf' system operated by the University of Alberta's Extension Department.

Brown concluded that the existing public library 'system' was completely inadequate and suggested that cooperation between rural sections and urban communities should be adopted and promoted by an independent appointed provincial library agency. He strengthened this argument by reviewing British Columbia's pioneering effort in the Fraser Valley as well as American library organization in Vermont where regional services were introduced on a voluntary basis during the Depression. Brown was particularly impressed by work in California where county library systems and city libraries were supervised by the State Library. By 1940, California's system of county libraries and city libraries had reached 98 per cent of the state's population and had been adopted by many other American states. Brown also provided a brief account of the coordinated system of rural and larger centralized libraries in Denmark.

Using his findings, Brown adapted international library planning to suit Alberta's needs. To remedy the permissive nature of current library legislation, he suggested establishing an independent provincial library agency to supervise and coordinate an integrated public library and school library system based on larger units of service. Brown presented the idea of eleven districts each with a headquarters and branches, a reasonable tax base, populations in excess of 20,000, and areas ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 square miles to minimize the problem of distance. He knew that his divisions were personal decisions, not necessarily ones that a potential provincial agency and new library director might implement. However, Brown stated "If a public library system were established in each of the eleven regions, then approximately 80 per cent of Alberta's population would receive public library services (p. 154)." His specific recommendations, which were shared by other Alberta librarians, were never put into action; however, an Alberta Library Board was formed in 1946 and eventually, after passage of a new library act in 1956, the process of establishing regional libraries began, first in the Lacombe (now Parkland) regional library and area similar to Brown's "District 2" centered in Red Deer.

Jack Brown returned to Edmonton Public Library after graduation, establishing the popular street car branch library that was publicized in the January 1942 issue of Library Journal. Shortly thereafter, Brown left to work at the New York Public Library until 1957 when he returned to Canada as chief librarian with the National Research Council in Ottawa. At the NRC, Brown oversaw the development of a National Science Library for Canada in the 1960s and in October 1974 a new library building opened with a new title: the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information. He retired from CISTI in 1978 at a time when a national information system had become a practical reality. Jack Brown passed away in 1996

The two theses by Louise Riley and Jack Brown were completed when Canada was at war--not a reasonable time to expect any action to result from their publication. However, Mutual Relationships and The Extension of Public and School Library Services marked another step in the direction of the application of more rigorous scholarship to Canadian library issues and planning that had begun in the late 1930s.

Further Information

View the 1942 Paramount Pictures video of the Edmonton's Street Car Library on YouTube.

Read about Margaret Louise Riley's career in the Ex Libris Association Newsletter (page 9).

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review—Canada Needs Libraries (1945), published by the Canadian Library Council, Inc.

Canada Needs Libraries. Published by Canadian Library Council, 1945. 45 p. Includes briefs and articles by the CLC, librarians, and seven provinces regarding library needs of Canadians in the postwar period. Reprinted from Ontario Library Review, November, 1944.

Towards the end of the Second World War, efforts began across Canada to return to a peacetime economy and society. The federal government established a Department of Reconstruction in 1944 under the direction of a powerful cabinet minister, Clarence Decator Howe, to provide general direction. Provincial governments also established agencies to examine reconstruction or rehabilitation activities. Both levels of government conducted hearings and encouraged public participation in this process. It was an opportunity for library associations and libraries to recommend a way forward to better serve the public after years of depression and wartime conditions. The most energetic group in this regard was the Canadian Library Council, Inc., (CLC) formed in 1941 to coordinate national library activities.

Throughout 1944-45, the CLC and provincial library associations created briefs to present their views on library development in the immediate postwar period. More than half of Canada's population did not have direct access to public libraries, especially in rural areas. There was no national library. Some provinces did not have public library legislation. These were serious deficiencies that the CLC and its partner associations sought to remedy with a series of presentations and documents to federal and provincial agencies outlining the arguments and information for improved library services. All these submissions took place within a short span of time and, in some cases, formed the basis of postwar library development into the 1950s. However, in Canada's library history these statements are, for the most part, rarely examined or cited today. Yet, at the time, they were essential for planning purposes. In fact, the CLC gathered these reports, briefs, and summaries and published them in 1945, leaving an important record of Canadian library reconstruction views at the conclusion of WW II.

Canada Needs Libraries was a short pamphlet composed of statements collected from seven provincial associations, the CLC itself, and two articles from leading figures in the CLC, Nora Bateson and Elizabeth Defoe. The briefs were originally published in the Ontario Library Review in November 1944. These short statements remain worthwhile reading today:

  • Library Service for Canada; a brief prepared by the Canadian Library Council [1944] with Appendices and "Rural Canada Needs Libraries" (Bateson) and "A National Library" (Dafoe).
  • Library Provision and Needs for Nova Scotia: brief to the Royal Commission on Post-war Rehabilitation in Nova Scotia, 1943 [by Regional Library Commission of NS]
  • Proposals Concerning Library Service in the Province of Quebec as outlined by a Special Committee of the Quebec Library Association
  • Library Needs of the Province of Ontario: a brief on needs prepared by the Reconstruction Committee of the Ontario Library Association, 1944
  • Post-war Library Service in Manitoba; a brief submitted by the Manitoba Library Association to the Committee on Post-War Reconstruction [Manitoba].
  • Post-war Library Service for Saskatchewan; a brief presented to the Saskatchewan Reconstruction Council on behalf of the Saskatchewan Library Association, 1944
  • An Extension Programme for Alberta Public Libraries, by Alexander Calhoun [Calgary]
  • A Brief on Post-war Library Service for British Columbia presented to the Post-war Rehabilitation Council by the British Columbia Library Association
  • Memorandum from [BC] Public Library Commission to Post-war Rehabilitation Council
All the submissions dealt with issues that hindered library development. The main brief from CLC, Library Service for Canada, was sent to the federal government's Special Committee on Reconstruction and Re-establishment in August 1944 (the Turgeon Committee). It made the case to develop library services in rural Canada by means of regional library service. It also proposed the formation of a national Library Resources Board "to guide, co-ordinate, and encourage provincial, local and special efforts." An initial focus for this Board would be a survey of existing library resources used by the armed forces. With this information and collection of provincial data, the Board, using federal funds under its control, could provide incentive grants for regional libraries and devise a system of co-operative use of library resources: necessities such as a National Library Service, library standards, and library consultation services (e.g., legislation, book tariffs, and postal rates). The idea of a national Board to coordinate library work was a bold idea but in keeping with the sweeping powers the federal government had assumed during wartime.

Much of the work of the national advisory Library Resources Board could be furthered by assistance from provincial library associations and groups working in the field of adult education or teaching. In this scheme of thinking, a National Library was also essential: it could develop collections of national literature and history, provide national reference resources, compile a national union catalog to enable inter-library loan across the country, and produce bibliographical publications about Canada or indexes of publications. By providing leadership through the creation of library standards, and advisory services, the Library Resources Board could spur library expansion. In conjunction with provincial briefs the CLC's postwar rebuilding vision could advance the nation's "intelligence, character, economic advancement, and cultural life." Library Reconstruction plans at all government levels would confer benefits for all Canada’s citizens and lead to a better, more informed society.

Subsequent events at the national level dispelled many of the hopes of library planners. Following the failure to reach agreements at the Dominion-Provincial Conference on Reconstruction in August 1945, events took a new turn. C.D. Howe was determined to focus on converting existing factories producing munitions and war equipment to consumer and industrial products. Howe, a powerful minister with Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s support, preferred common sense industrial re-conversion and free enterprise rather than abstract social plans authored by Reconstruction advocates and groups, such as the CLC.

Nonetheless, the CLC, and its successor, the Canadian Library Association (CLA), did not abandon many of its ideas and strategies developed during the war. The CLA itself could perform some of the tasks that had been proposed for the Library Resources Board, although federal funding would not be forthcoming, and forming a National Library became a postwar priority with CLA. The new Canadian Library body built on Canada Needs Libraries and, in concert with other national organizations, submitted an important brief in December 1946 that stated the case for a National Library that ultimately led to its legislative creation in 1953. Promotion of regional services also ranked high on CLA's list, but, more importantly, provincial library organizations became lynchpins in advocating for regional library legislation. It was these organizations that pursued governments to establish survey committees and reports on public library service in the provinces through the 1940s and 1950s.

In Canada's provinces, the growth of public library services was stimulated by new legislation and policies. In Saskatchewan, in 1946, a Regional Libraries Act allowed for a Supervisor, Marion Gilroy (a CLC director from 1945-46) to encourage the development of larger units of service. This led to the formation of its first regional library in north central Saskatchewan. In Ontario, postwar regulations led to better conditional grants for libraries and certification of librarians to improve qualifications for personnel. Later, in 1947, an Act enabling formation of county library co-operatives was introduced, a legislative piece that elevated rural service in southern Ontario. In Nova Scotia, following the recommendations of a thorough 1947-48 survey of the province, the Annapolis Valley Regional Library became the first of many such libraries in 1949. In 1948, Manitoba passed a Public Libraries Act that enabled the establishment of public libraries in municipalities and of regional libraries. The Alberta Library Board, an advisory group to the Minister of Education, was established in 1946 with Alexander Calhoun as chairman. It renewed interest in organizing rural regional systems; however, Alberta's first regional system, Parkland, was not established until 1959, the same year that Quebec enacted its first law leading to the development of a provincial network of public libraries.

Together, these briefs illustrate the faith that library promoters held in what would now be called "facts-based evidence" for establishing government policy. Library surveys, data, research, collaborative submission of briefs, and participation of concerned citizens formed the basis of library advocacy. Many of the ideas in Canada Needs Libraries would drive the agenda of library associations and workers after 1945 to establish a fundamental organizational framework for service that we recognize in present library systems. Even the CLC's title remains relevant today: almost three-quarters of a century later, Canada still needs libraries.

Further Reading:

My previous blog in 2012, THE CASE FOR A NATIONAL LIBRARY OF CANADA 1933-1946, outlines the 1946 joint library statement and subsequent events leading to the 1952 Act that created the National Library in 1953.