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Friday, December 29, 2023

Report on Provincial Library Service in Ontario by W. Stewart Wallace (1957)

Report on Provincial Library Service in Ontario by W. Stewart Wallace. Toronto: Ontario Department of Education, January 1957. 62 p. with six appendices published between 1944–55.

Cover Provincial Library Service in Ontario

By the early 1950s, the plans originally made for postwar library reconstruction ideas were only partially achieved in Ontario and Canada. Passage of the National Library Act of 1952 and the official recognition of W. Kaye Lamb as National Librarian were the most successful endeavours. After 1945, the Ontario Library Association (OLA) relied on briefs and presented development plans based on ideas prevalent during the war’s reconstruction phase. The Ontario Department of Education had improved its grant formulas and regulations, introduced certification of librarians, amended older legislation, and added staff to its provincial library branch directed by Angus Mowat. Despite these improvements for local services, there was evident disenchantment with the 1946 grant formula that issued lesser amounts for more populous municipalities. In the case of Toronto, an arbitrary $50,000 ceiling in the early 1950s limited the board to about a quarter of what it could expect to receive, i.e. almost $200,000. Also, plans for coordinated regional or metropolitan types of service voiced in the OLA’s briefs and discussed at conferences had not taken root in legislative provisions.

In the face of this perceived inactivity, the OLA’s Provincial Library Committee report of 1952 became its most important postwar response. It was an elaboration of OLA’s 1944-45 briefs on what a ‘Provincial Library’ could do and how it might function. It was a call for further study. Many in the library field believed promotion of larger units of service—consolidation of smaller libraries into townships, free counties, and regional libraries—might be a better strategy than forming a central, provincial library, likely in Toronto. However, in 1954 at OLA’s Kitchener conference, the decision was made to prioritize a ‘Provincial Library.’ Other provinces had formed Provincial Libraries that offered direct book services and encouraged regional services because it was an efficient way to deliver services from Victoria, Regina, and Halifax. In May 1956, the Minister of Education announced that W. Stewart Wallace, who had retired as chief librarian at the University of Toronto in 1954, would conduct a study of Ontario public libraries. It was felt that Dr. Wallace’s lengthy experience and knowledge of library collections in Toronto could be beneficial in creating a plan for Ontario’s development. He was instructed to:
(a) to study the need for a Provincial Library Service in Ontario;
(b) to survey the probable requirements of such a Service;
(c) to study the present operation of similar Library Services in other provinces of Canada and certain states in the United States; and
(e) to report findings and make recommendations to the Honourable the Minister of Education before the close of the fiscal year.
Given his limited time frame, Dr. Wallace chose to focus on incremental solutions. His personal survey eschewed social science methodology and statistical analysis. The report he returned at the end of the year exhibited many features inherent in earlier 20th-century library studies.

The concept of a large, central library (or system of libraries) had persisted since the OLA’s wartime Reconstruction Committee, which Dr. Wallace had chaired, proposed the Provincial Library model in March 1944. On exploring libraries in other Canadian provinces, he realized that more extensive, recently released reports had led to divergent outcomes. Two provinces, New Brunswick and Manitoba, had commissioned library surveys shortly before 1956. In New Brunswick, Peter Grossman reported in 1953 that a regional system of libraries was necessary, enabled by improved legislation and the appointment of a director of provincial library services. As a result, New Brunswick revamped its Library Services Act in 1954 to promote regional library systems. To the west, in Manitoba, a survey over an extended period, 1953-55, summarized by George Noble, led to a decentralized system whereby the Legislative Library assumed control of public library legislation. Library extension work (the open shelf system and travelling libraries) became part of the University of Manitoba. Thus, Manitoba divided authority for library development.  Across Canada, library administrative structures and services reflected the reality of different social, cultural, and economic conditions.

Dr. Wallace admitted his travels and interviews only reached a “small fraction” of Ontario’s libraries, but he felt he had visited a representative number. He also interviewed public library leaders, such as Angus Mowat and Freda Waldon. He came to reject the concept of an extensive, centralized Provincial Library and suggested the Department of Education provide more direction with four basic recommendations:
 1. The current Public Libraries Branch under the direction of Angus Mowat should be renamed Provincial Library Service (PLS) and the Director of Public Library Service be retitled Director of PLS;
 2. The proposed Director of PLS should inaugurate an interlibrary loan system to serve smaller libraries, and an “Open Shelf” system (books-by-mail on request from the PLS) to areas without library service in Ontario;
 3. The staff in the proposed PLS should be increased by adding (a) an inspector of public and regional libraries, (b) a provincial children’s librarian, and (c) at least three additional assistants to staff the new interloan and open shelf services; and
 4. Improved accommodation for the PLS, located at Huron Street in Toronto, should be expanded and refitted to facilitate the augmented duties and tasks of the proposed PLS.

The Wallace report recommendations were hardly sweeping by any means. From the outset, the report stressed continuity because a provincial library service already existed: “What those who have been advocating a Provincial Library or a Provincial Library Service have had in mind has not been, it would seem, something wholly new, but an extension and development of services already in existence.” (p. 9) Further, the recent development of the National Library at Ottawa after 1953 had brought on “radical” change: “To build in Toronto a Provincial Library which would duplicate on a provincial scale the resources of the National Library would seem to be, to a large extent, a needless duplication.” (p. 14) When Dr. Wallace factored in the resources of a dozen of Toronto’s largest libraries (e.g., the University of Toronto and Toronto Public Library) holding about three million volumes, he concluded that building “a brand new Provincial Library in Toronto” would result in needless duplication within the city itself. He listed some of the larger city libraries, observing that their resources should be available by interloan to other Ontario libraries (p. 19-20). He felt accumulating book stocks in a new central provincial library building would waste money.

Organizing services for the public, rather than building and administering a central collection in Toronto, should become the primary goal.  In this regard, Dr. Wallace followed New Brunswick’s example by rejecting the concept of having the Legislative Library, with approximately 140,000 volumes, as the nucleus for a central provincial collection: “The functions of the Legislative Library are so different from those of what is now the Public Libraries Branch that they have little in common.” (p. 15) The Legislative Library should concentrate on serving the elected members at Queen’s Park and the civil service. Its historic function of providing books to schools and teachers—a task it inherited from the Dept. of Education—could be “ironed out” in a new arrangement with the proposed PLS. Similarly, Wallace cast off the idea for the Toronto Public Library to serve as a core for a provincial library or service by arguing “that the administrative difficulties involved in tacking a provincial institution on to a municipal library would be far from negligible.” (p. 19)

Dr. Wallace felt that coordination of services, not collection building, should be the foremost responsibility of the PLS: it should be augmented by the addition of two inspectors, one for children’s services and one for county or regional libraries. These were not new recommendations—the Department of Education’s Hope Commission had made them in 1950. Two submissions made to Dr. Wallace from the OLA and the Canadian Library Association supported adding a children’s librarian to provide professional guidance (report appendices E and F). While Wallace was firm about the basic need for a children’s coordinator in the PLS, he was less certain about the success of regional library co-operatives. “Not only in Ontario, but in other provinces as well, I cannot help wondering whether the results have always been commensurate with the efforts put forth by those who have struggled (like missionaries trying to convert the heathen) to get regional libraries started. ... Nonetheless, he recommended the appointment of an officer of the PLS to foster the growth and development of regional libraries. (p. 17-18)

In sum, the Wallace Report on the department’s administration of public libraries did not break new ground. It removed the older notion, never clearly accepted, about a central Provincial Library in Toronto and followed the model of separating the Legislative Library from public libraries. The report did introduce some new provincial services—interlibrary loans and the open shelf system, a clearing house for requests, and book supply to communities with inadequate (or no) library services. The mechanics of how a provincial interlibrary loan system would operate were outside Dr. Wallace’s mandate, but he contemplated using a dedicated teleprinter service between the library branch and the National Library rather than establishing a separate union catalogue for Toronto libraries. In fact, by July 1957, a new telex low-speed data network for the transmission of messages would be in place on a Canada-wide basis, but Wallace lightheartedly admitted, “I am old-fashioned enough to believe a telephone in Toronto could solve the problem.” (p. 23). He also briefly reflected on fees for interloans, which librarians would return to many times in subsequent decades. He realized attempting to serve more than a million people without library service by better use of travelling libraries was quite a challenge. Establishing an “open shelf” system in Ontario would necessitate enlarged quarters in the building now occupied by the Public Libraries Branch (at 206 Huron St.), an increased appropriation for books, and an increased staff. The Travelling Libraries Division of the Branch could probably look after the “open shelf” system since they would presumably be using a common book-stock, but at least one new assistant should be appointed... (p. 24-25). The report concluded the immediate cost to the Department of Education would be only $30,000 a year: $20,000 for salaries of new employees and $10,000 for books, equipment, supplies, etc.

The Department of Education received Dr. Wallace’s Report at the start of 1957. At the OLA’s May 1957 annual meeting held in Toronto, the Minister of Education praised Dr. Wallace’s report and assured delegates the government would advance the cause of libraries. Angus Mowat digested the issues in the Wallace Report and submitted six of his own recommendations “at the least possible cost” later in 1957:
1. Enabling legislation for county public libraries based on existing municipal legislation with the expectation that counties would work closely with cities and towns, thereby superseding the existing county co-operatives;
2. Appointment of an Assistant Director of Public Library Service to promote and supervise county and regional library work and to assist with the administration of the Public Libraries Act and general promotion of service;
3. Appointment of a Supervisor of Children’s Library Service to select books for the travelling libraries and assist smaller libraries to develop their services;
4. Provincial funding for a regional library demonstration in northern Ontario for three years, after which local authorities would assume a “fair share” of financing;
5. Establishment of a system of interlibrary lending with the library branch providing coordination of requests and shipments. There would be compensation for larger libraries for lending books. Increased staffing and enlargement of the Travelling Libraries collection at Huron Street would also be necessary to fill requests;
6. After building up a sufficient stock of books and providing additional accommodation for the library branch, the open shelf system for Ontario could be implemented.

In due course, recommendations concerning the Wallace Report were implemented in stages. In April 1958, The Minister of Education, W.J. Dunlop, met with OLA’s Provincial Library Committee to review the Wallace report. It was agreed that the Report would be distributed at OLA’s annual meeting at Kingston and that two departmental appointments would be forthcoming. William A. Roedde (BLS, McGill, 1951) was introduced as the new Assistant Director of Public Library Service specializing in regional services at the end of May. Later, in the summer, Barbara J. Smith (BLS, Toronto, 1953), who had experience at Oshawa with children’s work, became Supervisor of Children’s Library Service. For its part, OLA established a special committee on library legislation and set to work examining how to encourage more substantial units of service and improve library service.

By the start of 1959, the revamped Public Libraries Branch was progressing toward implementing the Wallace report. In April 1959, W.J. Dunlop provided authorization for a grant of $30,000, thereby establishing a regional demonstration in Cochrane and Timiskaming districts, the Northeastern Regional Library Co-operative. The responsibility of these regional co-operatives was limited to helping member libraries by simply distributing books. Other improvements, such as strengthening reference services or coordinating interlibrary loan activity, was not contemplated. To prepare for the implementation of the open shelf service, expanded travelling libraries and an interloan system, space requirements and financial estimates were prepared to expand the Huron Street headquarters. A change of name to “Provincial Library Service” was approved to go into effect on 1 April 1959. The remaining Wallace report recommendations could be implemented during subsequent legislative years when more satisfactory accommodations were attained for travelling libraries and staff. In the Legislature, the Minister introduced The Public Libraries Amendment Act of 1959 to allow the formation of free county libraries and larger union boards. It received its third reading in March 1959. Further creation of county co-operatives under the older 1947 legislation was suspended. Now, a county library could be established when seventy-five percent of the municipalities asked a county council to pass an authorizing bylaw. Transitioning older co-operatives to county systems with a single tax base and responsibility for providing services to all parts of a county was a progressive step that had taken a long time to achieve. Simple administrative advantages, such as a single county library card, might be at hand. The legislation did not include the formation of regional co-operatives in southern counties—this particular legal amendment would not occur until 1963.

On balance, the Wallace report (combined with Angus Mowat’s subsequent proposals) was a modest success. Its importance lay not in its actual recommendations but its stimulus for the Department of Education to enact new legislation and bolster the small PLS in Toronto. Indeed, the report’s legacy was short. The concept of travelling libraries and an Open Shelf service would soon become outdated in the 1960s and eventually abandoned after a disastrous fire destroyed half of the book stock at the PLS headquarters in 1963.  As well, the National Library in Ottawa would supplant any idea of forming a Provincial Library in Toronto. The issue of regional systems mainly supported by provincial grants would eventually be enacted in 1966. The study by Dr. Wallace was a progressive step forward but a small one.

The Wallace Report has been digitized and is available on the Internet Archive.

Saturday, December 09, 2023

In Solidarity: Academic Librarian Labour Activism and Union Participation in Canada (2014)

In Solidarity: Academic Librarian Labour Activism and Union Participation in Canada ed. by Jennifer Dekker and Mary Kandiuk. Sacramento, California: Library Juice Press, 2014; viii, 355 p., illus.

Collective action by faculty and librarians and their diverse organizations and associations has traditionally dealt mostly with academic standards and professional goals. With respect to economic issues, professors and librarians historically have engaged in individualistic pursuits. Until the 1970s, focused work to improve economic conditions was not considered appropriate activity for university or college faculty and librarians. The spectre of “trade unionism” loomed large at many campus meetings aimed at discussing collective action and improving salaries and working conditions. A further complication during this formative period—librarians’ predilection for creating associations no matter how small in membership—also impeded coordinated action towards certified and non-certified bargaining units (aka, special plans). However, after Canadian federal civil service workers attained collective bargaining rights and the ability to strike in 1967, the concept of public sector unions gained increased acceptance and faculty associations began to choose a familiar path of collective action.

It is within this background that In Solidarity delves into various challenging issues that academic librarians have engaged with over the years. The fifteen articles in this book are divided into four parts: (1) the historical development of labour organization of academic librarians; (2) case histories from various institutions; (3) current issues in labour activism and unionization; and (4) the practical complications and challenges that labour issues present in libraries. This general-specific pattern of articles in alternate sections is useful because context is provided, and the nitty-gritty of labour activism in the library profession (known chiefly for its conservative elements) on Canadian campuses is addressed for a various subjects and alternative analysis.

The two editors, Jennifer Dekker (University of Ottawa) and Mary Kandiuk (York University), provide a short introduction to the text and introduce the broader aspects of the volume, especially the common experiences of librarians relating to unionization. Labour activism can subdivide into many particular topics: salaries, benefits, pensions, general working conditions, workplace security (aka, deprofessionalization), librarian workload, promotions, tenure, job classification, academic status, grievances, and even can be termed professional matters, like defining ranks, seniority, collegial governance, and general terminology (e.g., the transition over time from “professional librarian” to “academic librarian”).

The first section offers two papers:  Leona Jacobs traces the history of academic status and labour organizing for Canadian academic librarians. and Jennifer Dekker’s exploration of the crucial part the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) played in academic librarians’ escape from the campus isolation of a “library ghetto.” CAUT’s acceptance of librarians as partners in faculty associations in the 1970s was a fundamental step forward because the vast majority of university libraries only provided a few dozen positions for librarians and little (or no) bargaining power on campus. In contrast, other predominantly female campus professionals, such as nurses, could rely on provincial or national organizations for assistance. These accounts of librarians’ struggles for recognition demonstrate the fragile and fractured nature of collective action across Canada during the past half-century and provide valuable background for three other chapters.

The second part of the book features three case histories. These accounts highlight the earlier papers and explore issues at different institutions in more detail.  Martha Attridge Bufton outlines gender and status issues at Carleton University from 1948-75, a brief presentation based on her more detailed thesis. Harriet M. Sonne de Torrens discusses the quest for academic rights and recognition at the University of Toronto, a story of determination on the part of rank-and-file librarians after a mid-1970s mini-revolution. Two college librarians, Robin Inskip and David Jones, outline a successful effort to organize and achieve parity within the ranks of Ontario post-secondary college teachers and faculty. These articles offer insight into conflicts between administrators, faculty, and librarians that occurred during attempts to organize and provide a coherent voice for librarians at their home institutions. Not every campaign was successful because the recognition of librarians was often disputed.

The third section featuring collaborative articles by librarians from different parts of Canada, provides insight into contemporary issues that librarians continue to grapple with in an academic setting. Academic librarians are partners in the post-secondary sector, and this raises a variety of topics discussed by the contributors. The role of librarians as teachers, researchers and community members is one feature. Another is librarians as faculty association participants, a condition of representing minority views and priorities within a broader, more complex context. Collective agreements are studied in another paper, along with an examination of the complaints and collegiality of determining what the “quiet librarian” would do or think.

The final section presents four case studies emphasizing the broader issues in practice today concerning librarian rights and responsibilities in various campus situations. A strike at the Western University in London highlights conflicts in a library setting. Success and failure in labour organizing (including one paper that reveals resistance to unionization in the state of Louisiana) unfolds in this section, followed by the issue of collegial self-governance with the establishment of a Library Council at Brock University (CAUT has long supported the concept of library councils but their formation has been hampered by local considerations for decades).

Readers will find there are several takeaways from reading In Solidarity. One easy conclusion is that working conditions and status for librarians vary greatly in Canadian academic institutions. The case studies illustrate that the terminology for academic status or academic freedom is often defined differently in collective agreements. Nor are the requirements for research and service consistent by any means. Faculty views on the academic status of librarianship are also inconsistent. Further, although librarians are usually members of faculty associations, their level of participation and success is necessarily limited by their small numbers: The chapter on “The Mouse that Roared” is a descriptive epithet that does not apply in all cases.  The articles present arguments favouring strengthening academic status and participation in faculty associations.

While there is a complicated legacy and contemporary challenges inherent in contractual issues involving librarian workloads and academic participation, the general trend presented in these pages is a positive one, even though Jennifer Dekker worries at the outset that “the gains librarians made in the 1970s and 1980s are being dialed back today.” Of course, a review of the history of librarian labour activity shows that opposition to collective bargaining and academic advancement has existed for many years. The recent (i.e., after 2000) attacks on the rights of academic librarians (including unjustified terminations) at Canadian universities and colleges follow this entrenched “tradition,” but are no less painful in particular situations.

The literature on librarian unionization and collective bargaining in any Canadian setting—schools, government, post-secondary or public libraries—is sparse, so In Solidarity is a welcome addition. This collection is a worthwhile effort to document librarian union participation and activism, telling the story in many cases from a first-hand perspective, and offering helpful examples of successful action.

Sunday, October 08, 2023

William Austin Mahoney: A Prolific Canadian Carnegie Library Architect

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Andrew Carnegie began dispensing grants to Ontario libraries. Many ambitious cities and towns submitted a request for assistance. One important requisite that Carnegie demanded was that the library be “free” that is, open at the point of entry free of charge—there would no longer be a subscription for membership. This condition would make it eligible for a specific amount from its municipality according to Ontario’s public library legislation. More than a hundred communities followed through and received grants.

One architect from Guelph, Ontario, William A. Mahoney (born 16 Sept. 1872 and died 13 Oct. 1952) designed fifteen buildings across the province. This short history looks at Mahoney’s buildings and their subsequent development until the period of the Second World War, especially in connection with Angus Mowat, who inspected most of Mahoney’s buildings and reported on their status about a quarter-century after they originally opened. There were examples of progressive and struggling libraries in Mahoney’s grouping prior to 1945.

William Mahoney's contribution to the Carnegie architectural history of Canadian libraries was large in number but small in terms of interior design and exterior features. His preference for simple, square, classical buildings and open floor plans suited the building period and size of grant allowances that the Carnegie corporation favoured for smaller towns across Canada, especially in Ontario. Mahoney continued a successful practice, building schools and commercial buildings for many years until his retirement. Seven of his buildings continue in use as libraries in 2023.

A testament to Mahoney's design concepts came from Angus Mowat, the Ontario Inspector of Public Libraries from 1937 to 1960, about thirty years after the libraries opened. The Inspector found most of Mahoney's libraries were still generally community assets, although crowded and in need of extensions or interior reorganization. One suggestion, used in a number of Carnegie buildings in the following decades, was to house children's sections in basement rooms that had being planned for other uses. Another testament to William Mahoney's success as an architect is that many of his buildings remain in use more than a century after their construction, surely a notable achievement.

A complete listing of William Mahoney's buildings is at the website, Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada 1800–1950.


Friday, September 01, 2023

Parents of Invention (2011) by Christopher Brown-Syed

Parents of Invention: The Development of Library Automation Systems in the Late 20th Century by Christopher Brown-Syed; foreword by W. David Penniman and conclusion by Louise O’Neil. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, 2011; xxi, 145 p., illus. ISBN: 978-1-59158-792-7 (paperback).

In Parents of Invention, Christopher Brown-Syed recounts developments in library automation from the 1970s to the 1990s, an important era in library computing dominated by what came to be called the integrated library system (ILS). After earning a BA at York University, Brown-Syed began his career with the emerging library vendors Plessey (a British firm that introduced an early version of the barcode) and Geac Computer Corp. (founded in Toronto in 1971). He knew firsthand about the revolution of circulation and catalogue functions that took place in libraries during this transformational period. Later, he turned to an academic career teaching at library graduate schools in the United States, at Wayne State and Buffalo, and earned his PhD in Library and Information Sciences at the University of Toronto in 1996. His dissertation, “From CLANN to UNILINC: An Automated Library Consortium from a Soft Systems Perspective,” reviewed the development of networking in Australia. Unfortunately, Brown-Syed died unexpectedly in March 2012 while he was teaching at Seneca College in Toronto.

Brown-Syed organized his historical account around interviews of librarians, computer programmers, and salespersons. He provides a Canadian perspective even though many of the fifteen contributors he interviewed are from the UK and Australia. There is a brief forward by David Penniman and a concluding chapter by Louise O'Neill (McGill University), who discusses important developments in library automation and the digital library, such as open-source software, open access, discovery tools, and Web 2.0. We learn how the “parents of invention”—librarians and vendors working collaboratively—implemented new technologies to improve library operations in technical services, and ultimately in public reference contexts. Parents of Invention unfolds in eight chapters as the author discusses the challenges facing early ILS vendors during the period of mini-computer dominance. Vendors and tech-minded librarians collaborated closely in a competitive marketplace and automated environment that changed libraries forever.

(1) Origin of Magic. The ILS first appeared in the mainframe era of computers: with the development of MARC (machine-readable cataloguing) standards it seemed possible to mechanize many aspects of a library. It was a magic of sorts that needed to be unravelled for computers to create records and share them between libraries. As mini-computers came into vogue, the Canadian firm, Geac, became a leader in this pioneer development. Networking became a logical library activity, and new acronyms, now well known, appeared: OCLC (Ohio College Library Center), WLN (Western Library Network), RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network), etc. Eventually, the mini-computer triumphed, and a new era of commercialization and innovation took hold.
(2) Customers' Perspectives. Brown-Syed outlines customers views on ILS based on many interviews with clients in Australia. He provides background comments on library automation and networking using CLANN (later UNILINK) as an example. CLANN allowed libraries access to mainframe computing, thus introducing automation locally. While computerized searching of external mainframes continued, the introduction of cd-rom technology permitted libraries to begin mounting databases locally on workstations (e.g., ERIC) and end their reliance on expensive online searches through dial-up access to DIALOG or BRS.
(3) At the Interface: Librarians and Vendor Environment. Librarians working for automation firms were an essential aspect throughout this period. Some had considerable library experience and would eventually take positions with Geac and Plessey. Previous success and an ability to travel and connect with people were essential ingredients. Managerial ability was another quality: some librarians became project managers for short periods, a challenging task but a satisfying experience.
(4) The Nature of the Vendor's Work. The author summarizes many interviews with the observation, “It is doubtful that they (the ILS vendors) could have operated successfully had employees not been willing to work long hours, to set and keep their own schedules, and to travel so widely when required to do so.” (p. 55) Workers, mostly tech-savvy computer professionals, were willing to go the extra mile to get the job done.
(5) On Company Time. The nature of work, collegial attachments, the ever-changing work environment, and personal satisfaction is outlined through many comments and Brown-Syed’s own experience. Employees learned to be flexible and accommodate schedules and travel.
(6) Transformations. Geac reached its peak in the 1980s. The Geac System 9000, the successor to the more limited Geac 8000 with fewer dedicated terminals, was introduced in the late 1980s for large libraries. “Turnkey” systems had truly arrived. The chapter gives insight into many details, such as batch processing, computer coding, bibliographic data, computer peripherals, circulation transactions, requests for upgrades, and so on. But the companies that included hardware and software expanded ILS capabilities beyond circulation to include acquisitions, serials control, cataloguing, etc.
(7) Consolidation and Lasting Achievements. The business of automation ultimately led to the rise and fall of innovative firms, such as Plessey, CLSI, and Geac. The introduction of microcomputers changed the business model for companies that relied to a great extent on hardware sales. Open-source development and the advent of Linux, Java, and Python also reduced customers’ costs. These improvements spelled the transition to a new era in ILS development. By the late 1990s, ILSs were including library users through OPACs (Online Public Access Catalogues) and web-based portals on the Internet. Despite the changing landscape for ILS firms and their employees, ILS sales continued to proliferate as library automation spread to every type of library, small or large.
(8) The Future of Library Technology. Louise O’Neil provides a concluding chapter about significant developments in library automation and the digital library, such as the Internet, open-source software, open access, and Web 2.0.

“The development of the ILS was a remarkable collaborative effort, in which designers and librarians as customers played often interchangeable roles. That process continues, but with new challenges and opportunities taking the fore.” (p. 127). In the 21st century, the Internet allows many small client machines and larger servers to distribute workloads. Users have home access to online catalogues or library databases to view their loans or find records on their topics of choice. The computing environment has completely changed. The personable interactions of librarians and corporate employees we encounter in Parents of Invention are an experience of the past.

Brown-Syed concludes by observing that the super mini-computer was perhaps a ‘sunset phenomenon,’ the like of which we will not see again, although we can learn from the history of its development and the dedicated efforts of ILS library and vendor pioneers.

Saturday, July 08, 2023


In the 1950s and early 1960s, Ontario librarians began to believe they should have a separate provincial body to speak for ‘professional librarians’ on issues related to unions, library boards, and governments. In 1958, the Institute of Professional Librarians became a section within the Ontario Library Association. Two years later, in 1960, the IPL sought incorporation and became an independent organization. This separation was followed by private legislation in 1963, An Act Respecting the Institute of Professional Librarians of Ontario. Through the 1960s, IPLO served as a clearing house for professional information, helped its members (about 300 by 1970) with employment conditions, offered workshops, and published a newsletter and then a journal to keep members informed of its activities on current issues

Membership in IPLO required librarians to have a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university as well as a postgraduate degree from a library school (usually a BLS) accredited by the Canadian and American Library Association or training which the Institute's Registration Committee considered equivalent to a postgraduate library science degree. Older librarians who did not possess these qualifications before 1960 also gained admission. However, IPLO began to face difficult financial conditions in the early 1970s because there was a legislated maximum membership fee and declining membership. New library science graduates considered IPLO outmoded, a remnant of unsuccessful efforts to achieve independent professional standing. Librarians were becoming more vocal about working conditions, low salaries, and sex bias in management. Academic librarians were collaborating with faculty unions and public librarians were joining the Canadian Union of Public Employees. In 1976, the Institute came to an end. Greg Linnell recounts its story in detail: his article can be downloaded at one of my earlier blogs in 2009:

IPLO was reasonably active in the field of working conditions. The Institute developed general guidelines for employment, drafted sample contracts for individuals, and set forth guidelines for grievance procedures. A code of ethics for librarians was adopted, and briefs were presented to the provincial government on various issues. One notable statement appeared in 1972: a statement on intellectual freedom. There were already two statements by the Ontario and Canadian library associations that were readily available for libraries, but the IPLO Board of Directors and general membership felt a need to address certain issues that were librarian oriented. IPLO had engaged with two newly established colleges, Conestoga and St. Lawrence, in 1970, about issues arising from intellectual freedom. In the case of Conestoga College, while an IPLO committee found insufficient evidence to support a charge of censorship of materials even though three librarians had resigned in September 1970, citing cancellation of an underground magazine, The East Village Other. The committee recommended that the college prepare a written statement on the role of the library and that the librarian prepare a statement on its book selection policies. Two years later, IPLO emphasized the need for more explicit selection standards and librarians’ responsibility to resist censorship when it issued the following policy.

Adopted by the membership at its Annual Meeting on April 22, 1972

The Institute of Professional Librarians of Ontario affirms that library service is based upon the fundamental right of citizens to freedom of speech and the underlying tenet of a democracy that a citizen has the right to choose courses of action, public or private. In order that a democracy />function, the citizenry must have free and unhindered access to information and ideas as presented in a variety of media.

The I.P.L.O. therefore asserts:

1. that a professional librarian will take steps to establish a meaningful materials selection policy for the institution or constituency he serves, and that within the limit of the library’s particular function the librarian will select materials in a manner to avoid the undue influence of opinions of the selectors, to represent a variety of opinions or approaches and to assert that materials will not be rejected because of the race, nationality or political, religious or unpopular views of the creator or because the materials may be considered as depicting the ugly, shocking or unedifying in life.

2. that the censorship of materials is not a valid activity for a librarian, library management or library board.

3. that attempts to curtail access to library materials, or to withdraw books or other materials from library circulation by individuals or groups must be resisted, and that librarians under such pressure should seek the support of fellow professionals, through their professional organization.

4. that the professional librarian will seek to encourage the climate of intellectual freedom and freedom of access to library materials and that he will adhere to the I.P.L.O’s Code of Ethics and to procedures as outlined in the I.P.L.O. guidelines for handling grievances where these concern censorship and intellectual freedom.

5. that no member of the I.P.L.O. shall knowingly apply for or accept a position in an institution which has consistently yielded to pressure to censor, withdraw, or restrict access to materials for citizens’ use or which subscribes to such policies in either a formal or informal manner.

The statement was directed to IPLO’s members in public, academic, school, and special libraries and it differed in some respects from other associations, e.g., there was no reference to the use of library facilities. The statement referred to IPLO’s policies in one instance (clause 4) and in another (clause 2) included library trustees (virtually all who were ineligible to join IPLO). It called for the formal creation of collection policies to guide book selectors and inform administrators and the public about collection development in its broader context.

IPLO was not reluctant to rely on its newly adopted statement. In December 1972, it issued a press release criticizing letters issued by the municipal council of Pembroke to other Ontario municipalities for stricter enforcement of censorship. Of course, it cited its new policy; however, the statement was only in effect for four years until the Institute’s demise in 1976 and did not influence librarianship in Ontario in the way IPLO intended, e.g., ethical guidance. However, the idea of policies for collection development, while not original, would become standard practice in subsequent decades.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Confronting the Democratic Discourse of Librarianship: A Marxist Approach (2019) by Sam Popowich

Confronting the Democratic Discourse of Librarianship: A Marxist Approach by Sam Popowich. Sacramento, CA: Library Juice Press, 2019. 322 p.

“So long as we are a democracy we need intelligence; so long as we need intelligence in the community we need librarians; so we shall need librarians to the end of Time.” — George H. Locke speaking to university students in Toronto, October 1932.

George Locke’s assessment neatly encapsulated the thoughts of the “library community” in Canada, the United States, and Britain in the first part of the 20th century. Today, many people support the belief that public libraries provide beneficial free and equal access to resources for everyone in the community that the library serves. Library historians have also followed this line of reasoning, using the themes of  “temples of democracy,” “cornerstones of liberty,” or “arsenals of democracy.” But is it so simple? Readers of two classic Marxist histories, such as Georges Lefebvre’s The Coming of the French Revolution (1939), which dissected the ancien régime or E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class (1963), might beg to differ. Yet, Marxist views about public libraries are seldom referenced because Anglo-American library histories are rarely written from the Marxist perspective. They are published from “the left” and present revisionist, radical views, but fall short of revolutionary analysis. Now we have a book written in the Marxist vein to reject the validity of the normative democratic discourse of librarians and challenge ideas that have pervaded Anglo-American-Canadian library statements for so long.

In Confronting the Democratic Discourse of Librarianship, Sam Popowich rejects the liberal-democratic tradition within librarianship which usually supports the concepts of library neutrality, pragmatism, and independence from social, economic, or political developments. A general ideological outlook—a historical myth perhaps—confines libraries and librarianship: the “library faith,” a long-standing belief that public libraries can provide materials (especially books) that could transform public attitudes, raise the cultural level, and develop citizenship, thus bettering  democracy.  For the author, the reliance on these ideas, especially mainstream library historians, must be dismantled to change the profession, libraries, and our society. “From a political perspective this allows us also to ignore the very real problems inherent in our social and political world: racism, sexism, intolerance, alienation, hatred, violence, and political manipulation” (p. 3). Popowich believes the traditional liberal-democratic order of governments masks the oppressive structures of society and sustains the capitalist order of exploitation. Thus, by extension, librarians and libraries play a complicit role in the social reproduction of capitalism and its ideology. But all is not lost: the author concludes with potential strategies for resistance to the standard democratic discourse and capitalist hegemony that might contribute to a better society, a liberating vision shared in Marxist themes.

The corrective, mould-breaking lens of Marxism presented in the Democratic Discourse unfolds over nine chapters:
(1) The Democratic Discourse of Librarianship; (2) Vectors of Oppression; (3) Liberalism and the Enlightenment; (4) Ideology and Hegemony in the Marxist Tradition; (5) Three Hegemonies of Library History; (6) The Library Myth; (7) Truth Machines; (8) Dual Power and Mathesis; (9) Conclusion: Lives and Time.

The first chapter explores whether we actually live in a democracy. It revisits the meaning of democracy and librarians’ tunnel vision on issues such as liberty, free speech, and intellectual freedom, issues often taken for granted. “True democracy cannot be partial, cannot be exclusionary, and I will argue that this is precisely what ‘liberal democracy’ has always been. The democratic discourse of librarianship, the idea that libraries are sacred to some actually-existing democratic reality, prevents us from working towards the achievement of this radical, total democracy.” (p. 49) In the second chapter, the concept of vectors of oppression, for example, sex, race, or gender identity, is introduced to show libraries have inherited oppressive ideas and practices inherent in capitalist structures which perpetuate an in-egalitarian society.

In the following two chapters, a critique of the Enlightenment search for universal truths, Capitalism’s relentless drive for profits, and Liberalism’s political and social successes/failures as opposed to a roseate outline of Marxist thought put the reader in the right place for reassessing the role of libraries. Popowich leads the reader through the contributions of 20th-century theorists to Marxist theory: Georg Lukács’ reification, Antonio Gramsci’s hegemony, Louis Althusser’s ideological state apparatuses and capitalist reproduction, and Frederic Jameson’s postmodern political unconsciousness (living in a ‘perpetual present’) and the idea of cultural logic. These thinkers have made significant additions to critical Marxist theory. Jameson provides a way forward because “we have to look at the political unconscious of library work, especially as it relates to the particular ‘cultural logics’ of the different periods of library history” (p.169).

This background leads us to the three (perhaps four) hegemonies of library history, a cookie-cutter view of the periodization of library history on the Anglo-American scene from the mid-1800s to the present based on the Marxist historical view.

1848–1914: Classical liberalism, industrial technology, factory work, the bourgeois library;
1914–1945: War and depression; the war library [a short period that could be combined with the mass library]
1945–1973: Embedded liberalism, the welfare state, mass work, the mass library;
1973–2008: Neoliberalism, postmodernism, the neoliberal library,

Popowich expresses more interest in the two latter periods, where capitalism and neoliberal philosophy prevailed in Western societies. In the “industrial library” period, he finds the development of ideas encouraging the education of a democratic society (ultimately a library myth) and the substitution of reliance on moral education in favour of library neutrality. The author investigates aspects of the neoliberal library in two chapters: the issue of postmodern epistemology and library science, as well as library labour in the age of “truth machines.” The binary logic of computing/cybernetics is applied to social control based on the reality of the outcome, true/false. In fact, “one of the things that makes libraries so useful to capitalist society: libraries are machines for the reproduction of ideology” (p. 274). The library’s mythic presence of political and social neutrality in support of liberal democracy is linked with the mechanical process of providing information and programs that reinforce the inequalities of contemporary neoliberal society. These two chapters are mainly devoted to the structures of society with brief, depressing context for librarians and libraries: efforts in the daily working environment (the machines of reproduction) do not effect real change to systemic issues such as racism, alienation, inequality, and sexism. It is a nuanced deterministic view, a common element of Western Marxist writings. 

The Democratic Discourse also points to the present, post-2008 period in its final chapters. Marxism posits that society moves through a series of stages and ultimately arrives at real freedom and a classless utopia. By adopting a Marxist viewpoint, Popowich believes liberation is possible. He believes we can employ two potential strategies for resisting capitalist hegemony and repudiating the democratic discourse of librarianship. The eighth chapter, “Dual Power and Mathesis,” considers utopian strategies to revolutionize the neoliberal library and jettison its democratic discourse. One co-existing power, capitalism (a repressive regime), can be offset by another liberating force, “mathesis,” in which libraries prioritize learning over rote education, thus establishing a radical, authentic democracy. Popowich concludes that we must cast aside our fictitious innocence, which determines how we think about “lives and time” (pp. 293–299). Economic exploitation ultimately has detrimental costs in both human life and the time frame we have to resist its oppressive framework and liberal-democratic norms. The critical step must be to recognize our current state. “Constituent power can and must struggle against constituted power, can and must make hard choices, but those choices have to arise from concrete, collective experience, and a joyful taking on of responsibility. They cannot arise from a fatal innocence.” (p. 299)

The Democratic Discourse is punctuated with a host of theorists that buttress the author’s arguments. In addition to a few mentioned previously, we should note Popowich’s reliance on the work of Paolo Freire, who wrote on the development of a critical consciousness about society with the end of creating a more democratic culture; Stuart Hall’s critical work on identities and political power; David Harvey’s interest in the postmodernization (post-Fordism) of culture and politics; Jacques Rancière’s anti-institutional criticism of political theory and suggestion of radical equality; and Giovanni Arrighi’s or Ernest Mandel’s critiques and outlines of capitalist development. In the same way, Popowich invokes many Anglo-American academics who have written extensively about library history: Wayne Wiegand, Alistair Black, Michael Harris, Sidney Ditzion, Dee Garrison, and Jesse Shera, to name a few. As well, the viewpoints of authors engaged in contemporary issues are brought into focus, particularly John Buschman, Ed D’Angelo, and Stephen Bales. Although some of these writers have been revisionist or critical in their approach to library history, they have not produced counter-hegemonic histories. Ditzion and Shera wrote during the “consensus” period of historiography in the United States that emphasized continuity and the achievements of American democratic capitalism. In this setting, libraries were reputed to be a force for democracy, equal opportunity, and individual achievement even though Bernard Berelson’s research for The Library’s Public (1949) revealed that American public libraries reached only a minority of the population, the better educated that he felt public libraries should focus on. As the 1970s dawned and social historians began to study things “from the bottom up,” (a Marxist theme in many ways) revisionists issued a challenge that public libraries had not addressed American problems or were initially fostered by the educated elite (aka, the power brokers) to enforce social controls in reading for the lower or working class. In Britain, Alistair Black authored a “new history,” one that eschewed narrative and advocated thematic, critical history in concert with the development of cultural studies and Raymond William’s Marxist pursuit of the social history of ideas, especially the interaction between intellectual life and communities. These are still valuable histories today, depending on one’s viewpoint: consensus vs. revisionism, narrative vs. analysis, social vs. institution, and modern vs. postmodern.

Popowich has authored a historiographic overview of library history intertwined with the culture of postmodernism and politics of resistance to neo-liberalism. Of course, he could have called upon others to support his ideas; for example, An Essay on Liberation (1969) by Herbert Marcuse, who decried the repressiveness of society in the postwar period and proposed new possibilities for human liberation, or Ian McKay’s influential prospectus for Canadian history, “The Liberal Order Framework” (2000) which highlights the liberal-democratic promotion of individualism, private property, and capitalist accumulation in nation building during the 19th and 20th century. As for democracy, there are many types that are attractive: participatory, social, liberal, representative, grassroots, radical, and so on. Popowich states that “Democracy, we might say, is in the eye of the beholder” (p. 2), yet he does not offer a specific preference for replacing the liberal-democratic status quo. His interest lies in ameliorating systemic inequities: “true democracy cannot be partial, cannot be exclusionary,” (p. 49). To explore the contested field of Canadian democracy I would suggest Constant Struggle: Histories of Canadian Democratization edited by Julien Mauduit and Jennifer Tunnicliffe, a collection of historical essays recently published in 2021 that raises questions about the concept of democracy.

Capitalism, Popowich asserts, must be overthrown before an authentic, truly democratic (utopian?) society can unfold. I would argue that The Democratic Discourse stands more in path of Western or neo-Marxist social theory rather than the developing field of Critical Librarianship. Critlib is reflexive and action oriented, but Sam Popowich goes further by setting forth a more powerful, transformative, innovative challenge to ingrained complacency in librarianship. Political awareness from a Marxist perspective: that’s not such a bad thing after all!

Sunday, April 30, 2023

The Ontario Public Library: Review and Reorganization by Albert Bowron (1975)

The Ontario Public Library: Review and Reorganization. Prepared for the Ontario Provincial Library Council by Albert W. Bowron. Toronto: Information, Media and Library Planners, December 1975; p. 184; maps; tables; paper.

In June 1974, the Ministry of Ministry of Colleges and Universities approved a provincial research study on Ontario’s public libraries. Albert Bowron, a prominent library consultant, was hired to complete a general investigation. He was well qualified for the task, having worked in Ontario libraries for more than a quarter-century. Bowron had graduated from the University of Toronto Library School in 1949, worked at Toronto Public Library, and headed the Scarborough Public Library in the 1960s before establishing his consultancy in 1969. He was well known across the province, for he had served as president of the Ontario Library Association in 1966-67. By the mid-1970s he had issued reports on more than a dozen library systems in Ontario, large and small.

The proposed provincial survey was very broad. It was to encompass societal features relevant to the future development of libraries; to assess the quality and variety of library services; to evaluate legislation and financial support; and to analyze government programs pertaining to library development. Crucially, the library community as well as the Ontario government, wanted to receive advice and recommendations regarding the organization, financing, and coordination of public libraries that would outline a plan for development for the next decade. The current act, adopted in 1966, had emphasized regional development, but new developments such as automation, networking, and services to minorities were coming to the fore and often outstripped the resources of municipal and regional library services.

However, before Bowron began his major study, two major factors occurred: one at the provincial level, the other in Metropolitan Toronto. First, at the end of 1974, a new Ministry of Culture and Recreation (MCR) was established. The idea of placing libraries in a “Ministry of Culture” had been floated for some time, and the news that the Provincial Library Service Branch (PLS) would become a unit within the MCR in early 1975 came without much consultation, even though the library component consumed about twenty percent of the new Ministry’s total budget. For the PLS, this move was the last in a series of shuffles that situated it in three different ministries in four years. This reorganization occurred when the staff of the PLS had dwindled from thirteen in 1965 to eight in 1975. For Bowron, there were many unknowns because the new MCR would be developing its own program priorities. Second, in September 1974, the former Premier of Ontario, John Robarts, became chair of a Royal Commission on Metropolitan Toronto to review responsibilities in the two-tier structure encompassing the six boroughs and city. As a result, Metro libraries became less interested in Bowrons study because the Royal Commission took precedence. Regarding consensus, the Metro library and lower-tier boards had not agreed upon a metropolitan strategy. North York had consistently advocated that the Metro board support the technical services, research, and coordinated needs of borough and city libraries. In the city itself, the construction of the Metro Central Library, scheduled to open in 1977, had always been a major objective to provide resources and information. The new Commission effectively meant Bowron’s observations on Metro libraries would not have much impact.

At the same time, divisions were becoming more apparent in the library community. The Administrators of Large Urban Centre Public Libraries in Ontario immediately came together in April 1975 to present the MCR with a brief that indicated the proposed study did not sufficiently address important library issues, such as financial support for urban libraries that bore the burden of resource networking. A year later, in May 1976, another grouping of public libraries, Administrators of Medium-Size Public Libraries, formed to speak for its constituency.

It was against this backdrop that the Bowron study began in 1975. There were some positives. The MCR was offering library base funding in 1975 at $19 million. In addition, it would make $400,000 available to regional libraries for Canadiana. Money for Outreach Ontario programs in libraries would continue in the MCR, and a new program with $234,000 would be available for summer student employment. Many were relieved to hear that the MCR supported direct provincial conditional grants to public libraries rather than transfers to municipal councils which might reduce the amount distributed to libraries by the MCR. In October 1975, the Ontario Commission on the Legislature issued a report on government information service; it proposed that the government consider establishing a network linking libraries by telephone and telex to furnish public information and referral service. Its purpose would be to give every Ontario citizen a source to call for information on anything to do with all levels of government.

After a year, Albert Bowron produced a general investigative report with forty-three recommendations covering ten key areas. His report also covered general societal changes, an examination of Canadiana resources in libraries, and a review of Metro libraries; however, these chapters were mostly ignored in the debates that followed the submission of the what became known in early 1976 as the “Bowron Report.” Reviewers quickly noted that data used in the report often was not reflected in recommendations. For example, the composition of boards. In an analysis of 1,296 board members, Bowron found 19.2 % were housewives, 18.2% involved in education, 16.1% to be business persons, 12.6% were retired, 4.1% were farmers, 4% from skilled labour, and 25.8% “other.” Middle-income members prevailed: “The typical board member in Ontario in 1974 was a man, 30 to 50 years old, with a university or college education, who worked in the field of education.” (p. 80-82). Still, this observation did not lead to a clear-cut recommendation.

From the vantage point of almost half a century (2023) the Bowron Report is mostly forgotten: the fate of many reports. The library landscape he surveyed is mostly a matter of history. Of course, public libraries have been continually reshuffled in reformed ministries since the 1970s. Provincial library grants to boards have not kept pace with inflation, especially after the mid-1990s. Yet his report warrants re-examination because it did emphasize change and pointed to new directions that are firmly in place in the 21st century. Bowron stated libraries needed to adjust to changing societal trends and augment the traditional image as a place to borrow a “good book to read.” There needed to be concerted focus on cooperative work, technology, work with the disadvantaged and minorities, and service to students (p. 4-6). The image of libraries was an important element in transforming the its status with the citizens of Ontario.

Thus, a synopsis of all Bowron’s work, The Ontario Public Library, which is difficult to find in a library today, follows on a chapter-by-chapter basis.

3-1 MCR and a new Ontario Public Library Board (OPLB) and native organizations sponsor a study of their services and propose recommendations for future development. 
4-1 The MCR and local libraries work to develop better community services.
4-2 Regional system establish contact with MCR field officers and offer co-operative activities of mutual interest.
4-3 Standards for CICs be framed to permit local libraries to offer this service with supporting provincial grants.
4-4 The Minister of the MCR seek advice on the certification and recognition of librarians.
5-1 The PLS would be responsible for community information centers (CICs), thus becoming a Public Library and Community Information Services branch (PLCIS).
5-2 The branch would supervise library legislation and CICs; conduct research; support the proposed Ontario Library Board; and liaise with ministry officials. Additional staff for electronic data processing, networking, and CICs, was urged along with service to Franco-Ontarians.
6-1 The report advised the Minister to appoint an Ontario Public Library Board to replace the OPLC.
6-2 The Minister of MCR appoint all OPLB members.
6-3 OPLB members to usually serve four-year terms and be reappointed once.
6-4 The Director of the PLCIS would be sec.-treas. of the OPLB with appropriate staffing. The Board would establish minimum standards, coordinate research, study financing, and establish province-wide policies for public library and information service.
7-1 All library boards be composed of nine members appointed by the municipal council.
7-2 Union boards be comprised of nine members appointed by each council.
7-3 Five citizen board members be appointed for three years and frequent reappointments eliminated.
7-4 Bowron recommended that a board serving less than 15,000 receive a two-year provincial grant but must exceed its provincial grant with local revenue thereafter or contract for services or join a county system.
7-5 Independent boards under 15,000 population must provide twice the provincial grant financing after two years of operation.
7-6 Payment to board members should be allowed, and all boards should be composed of nine members appointed by municipal councils to ensure accountability. Appointing bodies should exercise care to make boards more representative of their communities.
8-1 New regional systems and OPLB adopt better program budgeting.
8-2 Funding separate from regular grants be spent on projects with possible long-term growth instead of supplementing ongoing expenditures on materials or equipment.
8-3 The provincial government continue to support regional systems and develop a province-wide network of libraries.
8-4 Provincial grants be transferred directly to local boards and be sufficient to allow for long-range planning of library service.
9-1 Bowron urged greater efforts by the MCR and other ministries to form county libraries.
9-2 The appointment of members to county boards by county councils, including lay members, after three years.
9-3 Library service in newly restructured regions should become the responsibility of the upper tier.
9-4 Service levels in local communities in new county libraries be supported at the same levels or better for three years.
9-5 Special funding for initial county development was necessary for three years.
9-6 The repeal of Part IV, Clause 52, Sections 1-3 [the process to form a county library established in 1966].
9-7 Provincial support for the legacy Simcoe County Library Co-operative be withdrawn.
9-8 The PLCIS encourage the formation of county systems.
10-1 The OPLB and PLCIS monitor electronic data processing to ensure a coordinated approach to automation.
10-2 Provincial support for cataloguing, inter-library lending, circulation control and acquisitions using automation be studied by working groups in concert with the University of Toronto Library Automated Systems development.
10-3 The OPLB sponsor a workshop to develop a unified approach to automation.
12-1 Franco-Ontario staff member be added to the PL and Community Services Branch to serve French-speaking citizens better.
12-2 Libraries established in significant French-speaking areas employed Francophone staff
12-3 An annual grant for Francophone library service be transferred by MCR to libraries where more than ten percent of the population is French-speaking.
12-4 Two members of OPLC be Franco-Ontarians, and Francophone membership on library boards be instituted where feasible.
12-5 A provincial study be undertaken to identify Franco-Ontarians’ needs.
13-1 There be an integrated public library system in all thirteen newly restructured municipal governments (Metro excepted).
13-2 The reduction of fourteen regional library systems to seven federated ones based on the new MCR’s regional offices.
13-3 There be one resource library in each federated system financed by the province.
13-4 Each resource library to be funded on a per capita basis as determined annually by the OPLB.
13-5 The OPLB establish meaningful qualitative and qualitative standards to act as minimum levels of service to be attained by public libraries.
13-6 The OPLB standards adopted by the MCR would be incorporated into legislation on which grant qualification would depend.

A variety of responses to the report surfaced extending into 1977. One weakness soon became apparent: a noticeable lack of public input into the actual report-gathering process. Fewer than forty briefs and letters were submitted during the survey, mainly from libraries, regional systems, or educational groups like the Ontario Library Association. Two major groups with conflicting views caught the attention of the provincial government. Some issues, especially unconditional grants, drew attention outside library circles. A new municipal group formed in 1972, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), weighed in with its preference to deconditionalize grants. The Association believed that municipalities should have the right to appoint all board members and have the option to dissolve a board and to make it a committee of council. Further, the AMO rejected most of Bowron’s recommendations on county libraries. The AMO would remain vigilant on library questions by issuing reports countering ideas that library groups proposed. Another group, the OLA, also concentrated on funding, primarily increased provincial conditional aid for assessment-poor municipalities as well as capital grants for construction. Yet, the final report had little recognition of OLA’s specific funding suggestions. The MCR was prepared to receive post-report submissions, but the onus was on the OLA and library agencies to assess responses.

Generally, the library community was indecisive and reacted negatively to Bowron’s recommendations. It was felt that the report lacked clear direction, employed a somewhat faulty methodology, covered too broad a spectrum, and was seriously underfunded. Vociferous critics denounced the restructuring of regions, criticized the lack of reference to capital funding, and decried Bowron’s criticism of county library developments before 1974. Bowron had intended to “reduce the number, the types of library authorities, the ways in which members are appointed, to change the term of appointment and other regulations” (p. 69). He pointed out that in 1975, 308 boards were serving less than 10,000 people, a Depression-era number despite thirty years’ counsel about the wisdom of larger units. How would boards react to a change in the method of appointment that might lessen their independence?

The surveyor had made judgements that were difficult to construct a consensus about, i.e., the federated library systems. Meetings within regions often produced conflicting ideas related to coordinated services or the value of centralized processing. In northern Ontario, the achievement of basic service needed proper funding to overcome distances and income disparities, not further study as Bowron advocated. The lack of rationale for the seven federated regions and the complexities of board composition for the new regional entities puzzled observers who had spent most of a decade fostering closer relationships in the existing regional environment. Many trustees felt Bowron’s report did not sufficiently strengthen the PLS. Trustees and librarians were content with encouraging, not legislating, larger units of service.

Bowron’s analysis of pro-forma (non-operating) boards upset many library trustees who relied solely on provincial conditional grants. He had noted their formation in eastern Ontario, the Georgian Bay area, and along Lake Ontario had effectively stalled the creation of union or county boards. Another deficiency raised in the Bowron review was the interconnection with federal libraries and organizations outside the MCR. Public libraries across Canada sought new services supported by the National Library and the new $15 million national science library erected in 1974, the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information. A recurring question during the review process was whether the provincial government would fund recommendations to make services more effective. Planning systems development and networking, automation projects, equitable funding, and revising provincial grants was not inexpensive.

An autumn 1976 session at the OLA’s Toronto annual meeting, “Bowron and Beyond,” agreed that a strengthened provincial library board and the MCR’s lead in networking development was necessary. Some issues, such as the need for standards or guidelines, were not contentious. There was also wide-based agreement on some points, e.g., networking and infrastructure need. But support was tepid: there were too many divisions of opinion and reliance on the status quo to fashion new legislation or fund large projects. Like many government efforts, the Bowron study was consigned to office shelves as current activities and events continued to unfold that diverted interest or steered energies in new directions.

Building consensus and unity was essential because the MCR was a new entity with different policies. The sixties and early seventies had been a search for general public library purpose, structure, and role definition: circulation had surpassed fifty million and almost eight million people were reached. Bowron had emphasized change, but it would be another decade (1984-85) before public library legislation would be entirely revised and a handful of his recommendations, such as the composition and method of trustee appointments, larger regional operations, service to indigenous libraries, strengthened Francophone service, improvements for minorities, and provincial funding for automation, was adopted. In his pursuit for change Bowron was partially successful and, in the long run, the public library benefited the most from his work and ideas.

There is an informative review by E. Stanley Beacock, “The Ontario Public Library: Review and Reorganization,” Library Quarterly 46-4 (Oct. 1976): 452–454

Terrence B. Verity, ed. Libraries at the Crossroads: Proceedings of a Workshop on the Report The Ontario Public Library, Review and Reorganization. Toronto: Ontario Library Association, 1976.

Bowron’s work is the subject of a review in the March 1976 issue of the Ontario Library Review 60, no. 1: 5-10 with a correction in the June issue p. 116.

A subsequent provincial study by Peter Bassnett, issued in 1982, is the subject of a previous blog. He studied many of the same issues which led to a new library act proclaimed in 1985 that remains the basis for current public libraries in Ontario.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Biography: James John Talman (1904-1993)

James John Talman

James J. Talman was an archivist, librarian, and professional historian who made many scholarly contributions to Canadian history. He was the Western’s University’s chief librarian from 1947 to 1970. Three of his major works continue to be studied today: Anna Jameson, winter studies and summer rambles in Canada (1943); Loyalist narratives from Upper Canada (1946, reprinted 1969); and The journal of Major John Norton, 1816 (1970). His papers are held in the J.J. Talman Regional Collection at Western’s Weldon Library. The J.J. Talman Library at the Archives of Ontario is a research and reference collection for the general public. His graduate BA portrait is taken from Western’s Occidentalia yearbook in 1926. My biography first appeared on the Ex Libris Association site in 2017.

James John Talman

Born September 15, 1904, Beira, Mozambique; Died November 21, 1993, London, ON

1925 BA (University of Western Ontario)
1927 MA (University of Western Ontario)
1930 PhD (University of Toronto)
1960 DLitt (Hons) (University of Waterloo)
1972 LLD (Hons) (University of Western Ontario)

1931–1934 Assistant Archivist, Ontario Provincial Archives
1934–1939 Provincial Archivist of Ontario (1934-1939) and Legislative Librarian of Ontario (1935–1939)
1939–1947 Assistant and Associate Librarian, University of Western Ontario
1947–1970 Chief Librarian of the University of Western Ontario
Professor in History Department and Faculty of Graduate Studies in post-retirement, University of Western Ontario

Publications (selected):
J.J. Talman authored more than 300 publications. A comprehensive list was compiled by Hilary Bates, “Bibliography of academic and journalistic writings by James J. Talman” in Aspects of nineteenth-century Ontario: essays presented to James J. Talman, ed. by Frederick H. Armstrong, Hugh A. Stevenson, and J. Donald Wilson: 334-50. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974.

Talman, J.J. and Elsie McLeod Murray, eds. (1943). Winter studies and summer rambles in Canada, by Anna Brownell Jameson. Toronto: Nelson.
Talman, J.J., ed. (1946). Loyalist narratives from Upper Canada. Toronto: Champlain Society.
Talman, J.J. and Ruth Davis Talman (1953). ‘Western,’ 1878-1953, being the history of the origins and development of the University of Western Ontario during its first seventy-five years London: University of Western Ontario.
Talman, J.J. (1963). Huron College, 1863-1963. London: Huron College.
Talman, J.J., ed. (1959). Basic documents in Canadian history. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.
Talman, James J. (1968). “Twenty-two years of the Microfilm Newspaper Project.” Canadian Library 25.2 (September-October): 140–148.

1937–1940 President, Ontario Historical Society
1945-1946 President, Ontario Library Association
1954-1955 President, Canadian Historical Association
1956-1959 Treasurer, Canadian Library Association
1956-1959 Chairman, Governor General’s Award Board
Member of the Canadian Historic Sites and Monuments Board and Ontario Conservation Review Board

1949 Fellow of Royal Society of Canada
1963 Honorary Fellow of Huron College
1968 Cruikshank Medal, Ontario Historical Society
1970 Order of British Empire
1977 Award of Merit, Alumni Association, University of Western Ontario
1991 James J. Talman Award established by the Ontario Association of Archivists (now Archives Association of Ontario)

James J. Talman was an outstanding scholar-librarian whose career began during the Great Depression. It was, he said, a time when there were more positions for librarians than historians. Dr. Talman was a successful Canadian university library administrator in the postwar period. During his 23-year tenure, 1947-70, the Lawson library was expanded twice, new libraries were opened for law (1961), business (1962), health sciences (1965), education (the ‘flying-saucer library’ at Althouse College, 1966), and the natural sciences (1966). In the same period, the University’s holdings grew from 172,000 volumes to 1,500,000 and the library budget from $40,000 to $3,200,000. Dr. Talman was instrumental in expanding Western’s Regional Collection housing the history of southwest Ontario and it was later named in his honour. Construction of the D. B. Weldon Library (opened in 1972) was planned and underway before his retirement in 1970. In conjunction with his wife, Ruth Helen (Davis) Talman, he wrote Western 1878-1953; Being the History of the Origins and Development of the University of Western Ontario during its First Seventy-five Years (1953).

“James John Talman, 1904-1993.” In Proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada, 2000, 6th Series, vol. 11: 153-156. Ottawa: Royal Society, 2001.
“James John Talman, 1904-1993.” Ontario History 86.1 (March 1994): 1-8.
Stevenson, Hugh A. (1974). “James John Talman: historian and librarian.” In Aspects of nineteenth-century Ontario edited by Armstrong, Stevenson, and Wilson: 3-18. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Saturday, April 08, 2023

Biography: Fred Landon (1880-1969)

Fred Landon

Fred Landon was a journalist, librarian, a historian-teacher-administrator at the Western University, and an author. After graduating from Western in 1906, he worked at the London Free Press before attaining the post of chief librarian at the London Public Library in 1916. At LPL he established a local history collection and earned a Masters degree at Western in 1919. Then he became the university’s chief librarian in 1923, a position he held until 1947. During this time, he oversaw the development of the new Lawson Library; as well, he taught in the History Department until 1950. He was President of the Ontario Historical Society, 1926-28, and, in 1948-49, he was President of the newly formed Bibliographical Society of Canada. A branch of the London Public Library on Wortley Road was named in his honour on September 8th 1955. Landon’s portrait is taken from Western’s 1941 Occidentalia yearbook, p. 117. My biography appeared originally at the Ex Libris Association website in 2017.

Fred Landon

Born November 5, 1880, London, ON; Died August 1, 1969, London, ON

1906 BA University of Western Ontario
1919 MA University of Western Ontario

1907-1916 Reporter and editor, London Free Press
1916-1923 Chief Librarian, London Public Library
1916-1923 Lecturer in History and English, Western University
1923-1947 Librarian of the University and Associate Professor, Department of History
1946-1950 Vice-President, University of Western Ontario
1947-1950 Dean Graduate Studies, University of Western Ontario

Fred Landon published hundreds of articles, news stories, reviews, and books. A comprehensive listing was compiled by Hilary Bates, “A Bibliography of Fred Landon,” Ontario History, 62.1 (March 1970): 5-16.

Selected Books
Middleton, Jesse and Fred Landon (1927-1928). The Province of Ontario: a history, 1615-1927. Toronto: Dominion Pub. Co. (5 vols.)
Landon, Fred (1941). Western Ontario and the American frontier. Toronto: Ryerson Press.
Landon, Fred (1944). Lake Huron. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.
Landon, Fred (1960). An exile from Canada to Van Diemen's Land: being the story of Elijah Woodman … 1837-38. Toronto: Longmans, Green.
Landon, Fred (2009). Ontario’s African-Canadian heritage: collected writings by Fred Landon, 1918-1967 edited by Karolyn Smardz Frost, et. al. Toronto: Natural Heritage Books.

Selected Articles
Landon, Fred (1917). “The library and local material.” Ontario Library Review 1.3 (February): 61-62.
Landon, Fred (1918). “J. Davis Barnett's gift to Western University.” Ontario Library Review 3.1 (August): 16.
Landon, Fred (1921). “A city library’s work.” Ontario Library Review 6.1&2 (August-November): 10-13.
Landon, Fred (1924). “Adult education - University of Western Ontario.” Ontario Library Review 9.2 (November): 34-35.
Landon, Fred (1927). “The Toronto Conference–II: Canadian Library Association.” Library Journal 52: 749–750.
Landon, Fred (1930). “Public libraries and the extension activities of universities.” Ontario Library Review 15.1 (August): 6-8.
Landon, Fred (1935). “Lawson Memorial Library.” Ontario Library Review 19.3 (August): 118–120.
Landon, Fred (1939). “Lawson Memorial Library, beautiful building, is enduring monument.” Ontario Library Review 23.1 (February): 9–10.
Landon, Fred (1945). “The library at the University of Western Ontario.” College & Research Libraries 6.2 (March): 133–141.

1918-1920 President, London & Middlesex Historical Society
1926-1927 President, Ontario Library Association
1926-1928 President, Ontario Historical Society
1941-1942 President, Canadian Historical Association
1948-1949 President, Bibliographical Society of Canada
1950-1958 Chair, Historical Sites and Monuments Board of Canada

1929 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
1945 Awarded J.B. Tyrrell Historical Medal, Royal Society of Canada
1950 D.Litt. (University of Western Ontario)
1950 LL.D (McMaster University)
1955 London Public Library branch on Wortley Road is renamed Fred Landon Branch Library
1967 Awarded Cruikshank Gold Medal, Ontario Historical Society

Fred Landon excelled at many careers during his lifetime: he was a public and university librarian, journalist, editor, historian, teacher, administrator, and active leader in professional and scholarly associations. He is best known for his academic contributions to the history of Ontario, especially its southwestern region. At London Public Library, he began to assemble local history materials that form part of the present day Ivey Family London Room. Fred Landon was instrumental in persuading James Davis Barnett to donate his 40,000-volume library to the Western University in 1923. Under his administrative tenure at Western, the Lawson Library opened in 1934. Fred Landon was an articulate lecturer and colleagues found him to be an efficient administrator. The libraries at Western were small in size, just more than 20,000 volumes, when Landon assumed control in 1923; when he stepped down in 1946 there were almost 170,000 volumes.

Armstrong, Fredrick H. (1970). “Fred Landon, 1880-1969.” Ontario History 62.1 (March): 1-4.
Skidmore, Patricia. (1992). “Mind and manuscript: the work of historian-teacher Fred Landon, 1881-1969.” Ex Libris News no. 12 (Fall): 10-21.
Banks, Margaret A. (1989). The libraries at Western 1970 to 1987 with summaries of their earlier history and a 1988 postscript. London: University of Western Ontario.
Giles, Suzette (2015). “Libraries named after librarians.” ELAN: Ex Libris Association Newsletter no. 58 (Fall): 7-8.