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Friday, April 19, 2024

Citizen Participation in Library Decision-Making: The Toronto Experience by John Marshall (1984)

Citizen Participation in Library Decision-Making: The Toronto Experience edited by John Marshall. Metuchen, New Jersey: School of Library Service, Dalhousie University in association with the Scarecrow Press, 1984. p. 392., illus. and maps.

John Maitland Marshall, n.d.

In the early 1970s, reform-minded politicians began to dominate the old city of Toronto council. Strong mayors, such as David Crombie (1972-78) and John Sewell (1978-80), as well as new city councilors were concerned with the direction of urban development, expanded social services, and transparency in politics. They believed community initiatives and citizen action trumped centralization and bureaucratic management. In the previous decade, the Toronto Public Library (TPL) had committed to a long-range plan of building larger regional libraries to better serve the growing population. However, there was a legacy of many older, smaller branches extending back to the Carnegie era and the administration of George Locke that had been neglected during this phase of planning. With the influx of immigrants after 1950, Toronto had become a more diverse city with many different neighborhoods that identified with the idea of ​​‘community.’ Progressive municipal politicians were interested in expanding citizen participation in government; thus, a number of reformist citizens were appointed as library trustees in the first half of the 1970s.

The idea of ​​citizen surveys, public consultation, or ‘friends groups’ working in concert with library boards and library personnel was limited, not new. Yet, the style of political action leaned more  to responsiveness with local community advisory groups. With the ongoing construction of a Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library scheduled to open in 1977, TPLs trustees could forego district branch construction and focus on refurbishing local branches and services. During the next five-year planning cycle, there were major renovations to older branches such as Earlscourt, Dovercourt, Yorkville, Gerrard, Wychwood, and Eastern, and new branches such as Spadina Road, a timely partnership with the Native Canadian Centre. As well, the library’s focus turned to purchasing more Canadian books, decentralizing authority within the TPL pyramidal management structure, equalizing services across the city population, and offering better services to ethnic groups. TPL had a good reputation for Canadiana and George Locke had emphasized Canadian writers, but renewed nationalist sentiment in the 1970s demanded more attention to these resources.

John Marshall, a professor at the University of Toronto library school, noted this reform trend and edited a series of essays by contributors who had participated in this remarkable period which lasted for a brief decade. One might argue that urban reformers had more impact on library services than on other major city services, such as policing and housing. The essays demonstrate the concept of urban reform in relation to library services had many aspects and was by no means a uniform political perspective. Services attuned to local public viewpoints was not a new idea, but library planners now would significantly enlarge the scope of ‘stakeholders,’ a term which quickly gained currency after 1980. John Marshall began his career as a public librarian in 1952 and he retired in 1983 after contributing many insightful library publications. His biography is available at the Ex Libris Association .

My book review on Citizen Participation which follows was first published in Canadian Public Administration 28(3) September 1985, pp 497–499.

* * * * *

Public participation in the delivery of library services in Ontario has evolved in a variety of ways since the late nineteenth century. The concept that citizens participate to some extent with elected municipal officials and administrators in decision-making or program implementation has become firmly entrenched. Initially, the main thrust was political. A tax-supported free library was established by local referendum and its board of management was appointed by school trustees and municipal councillors. In theory the library trustees were broadly representative of their community, and the power vested in the board itself was politically significant: it controlled all aspects of policy-making, planning, raising funds, budgeting, personnel management, and so on.

This participatory model served the library community for a few decades before 1914. It satisfied the general liberal democratic consensus that municipal government was an educational process, the radical position that demanded participation as a right, and the conservative preference for non-elective offices by which prominent persons could exercise some social control. With the advent of scientific management and the growth of the library profession, political/administrative functions were shared to a greater degree. During this period, the model of citizen participation was reshaped and internalized. In larger urban centers “Friends of the Library” support groups were mobilized with some success after the beginning of the Depression. In rural villages and townships, where it was not feasible to establish public libraries, voluntary organizations such as women's institutes were encouraged to incorporate as Association Libraries to provide limited services as a substitute for municipal leadership.

When local government reforms commenced in the 1960s, important changes challenged traditional library governance. Local special purpose bodies were believed to fragment effective planning by municipal councils. Trustees, especially those appointed by greatly enlarged school boards, were held to be unaccountable to the local electorate. In larger regional governments the inherent community-based representative nature of boards was dismissed. In this environment genuine non-elective contributions to the political process became a low priority. Incorporating citizens in government planning by using technical needs assessments or performance evaluations was more prevalent. Feedback, not decision-making, was the rationale for citizen involvement.

Viewed in this context John Marshall’s Citizen Participation in Library Decision-Making is an essential anthology documenting the unprecedented transformation that occurred in the Toronto Public Library between 1974 and 1981. Fifteen contributors, who were either directly involved or close observers, recount their experiences in detail and give various opinions about the value of citizen participation. The editor does a fine job of unifying these disparate views by adding six chapters that explain events and analyse trends. Generally, Marshall and his contributors found participation a worthwhile activity with significant consequences for libraries.

The introductory chapters by James T. Lemon and Michael Goldrick acquaint the reader with the political context of the urban reform movement at Toronto City Hall and the neighbourhood citizen power groups that came into prominence in the early 1970s. As Marshall points out, at this stage the library board and administration were ill-prepared to accommodate any reformers — one participant, Alderman Dorothy Thomas, described the board as “dominated by north Toronto professionals.” But by 1975 reform-minded trustees were in a majority, and dramatic change was under way.

James Lorimer and others describe the entire affair as a turnaround. Over a period of five years TPL was transformed from a closed to an open system, from a hierarchical to a reasonably decentralized structure. Citizen interest in newly formed committees and public input at meetings reordered library priorities at both the system and neighbourhood levels. The library’s administrative practice was reorganized and a staff union created. The concept of district libraries was abandoned; in its place renovated or newly constructed community branches appeared. Inequalities in service were identified and long-range plans set in motion to equalize resources. Library collection policies were reassessed to place greater emphasis on multilingual, Canadian and popular (as opposed to quality) items. By the end of this period, citizens’ advisory committees became a standard feature at TPL.

Throughout this process management was in a state of flux. So too were old-guard trustees and “Friends” groups that supported the traditional political/administrative structure which had evolved. Lorimer concludes that library managers and trustees need to reassess their basic rationale for providing service — that is, they must involve the public to relate collection policies and services to enlarge the community base. Meyer Brownstone stated that TPL's trials and tribulations show that one advantage of an appointed library board is its flexibility vis-à-vis “the more rigid, political, bureaucratic character of the municipal government with its general centralizing tendencies and its pseudo participation.”

Marshall agrees with their analyzes and suggests one way to encourage more responsiveness in libraries is to foster the concept of active advisory committees. Another proposal is to promote administrative commitment to include staff and public in planning and evaluation of services, a parallel structure of decentralized decision-making at the neighborhood (community) and branch (system) levels. Naturally, the major institutional hurdle is to set in place this scheme and keep it operating, Marshall advises the employment of area-based library community organizers to coordinate this activity.

There are a few lessons to be drawn from the Toronto experience. A decade ago, a comprehensive survey by Jane Robbins, Citizen Participation and Public Library Policy, found that participation was the exception rather than the rule. Since 1975 library administrators and trustees in larger urban centers have gradually moved toward involving the community in more significant ways by using committees, meetings or needs assessments. However, the Toronto experience remains unique for the degree of change introduced in institutional goals and objectives, organization, staffing and interface with the public. The drawbacks of participation — the costs in terms of expected money, energy, staff time and so on — are not examined by Marshall at length. In rural libraries where the heritage of voluntarism lives on and the theory of trustee representativeness remains plausible, there is some skepticism about the necessity to adopt participatory methods. What is clear today is that the traditional trustee/administrator monopoly in policy and management is in transition. New forms of citizen participation, use of marketing approaches, and program evaluation techniques offer hope for more responsive and accessible public libraries.

Lome Bruce, McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph

Saturday, April 13, 2024

One Place to Look; The Ontario Public Library Strategic Plan (1990)

One Place to Look; The Ontario Public Library Strategic Plan. Prepared by the Ontario Public Library Strategic Planning Group. Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Culture and Communications, 1990. 68 p., illus. Also published in French with title: Une voie d'accès à l'information.

Soon after the passage of the seminal Public Libraries Act in 1985 by the Progressive Conservative government in Ontario, provincial library planners in the Ontario Library Association (OLA) began focusing on information policy and strategic planning in 1987. The strategic plans which the newly formed provincially-funded Ontario Library Service (OLS) areas began after 1989 were limited in scope, and, as a result, librarians and trustees from municipalities, the OLA, and professional groups began to concentrate on all of Ontario. An agreed upon strategic vision for all types of libraries would further cooperative work and develop consistency and direction that was absent in legislative library provisions. After the Ministry of Culture and Communications (MCC) agreed to finance a province-wide plan through the OLA, the public library community actively began the difficult task of finding common ground. The previous 1982 extensive process and report by Peter Bassnett in the early 1980s, Ontario Public Libraries: The Provincial Role in a Triad of Responsibilities, had struggled to find consensus and dealt with a simpler technological environment. There now was a new opportunity at the outset of a new decade when the term ‘electronic library’ was gaining increasing parlance.

By the start of the 1990s, public-sector strategic planning meant the development of a mission statement, a more complete analysis of the factors influencing library service, specific recommendations about goals, long-term objectives to achieve these goals, and recommendations for implementing the new vision. An inclusive method could lead to agreement about principal services and structures. By mid-1988, a small planning group chaired by Elizabeth Hoffman, a founding member of the Association of Canadian College and University Ombudsmen and a Toronto Public Library trustee, came together to plot Ontario’s first strategic plan for library service. For many years, librarians and trustees had looked to briefs, regulations, and legislative provisions to define the library’s role and functions. Now, legislative provisions were not to be the outcome. Now, planners had to submit convincing recommendations to many partners and hope for a successful implementation process on the part of many libraries across the province—large or small!

An Ontario Public Library Strategic Planning Group (SPG) began its process in March 1988, forming teams to prepare reports, such as technology, and developing a mission statement that later became a Statement of Purpose. Elizabeth Cummings for the Libraries and Community Information Branch (LCIB) and Margaret Andrewes for the OLA maintained a communication plan and helped coordinate the work of the SPG to support its deliberations. For months, the SPG attended meetings to outline the process and collate information on areas of fundamental interest, such as service to northern Ontario, equity of access, education for staff, technology, or funding. The task groups studied and analyzed major issues, and by summer 1990, the SPG was ready to finalize its drafts after receiving more than two hundred briefs and presentations at local public hearings. A final document, One Place to Look, was released in time for the November 1990 OLA Toronto conference. At this convention, there was some optimism about the organization’s strategic document. So, plans were commenced to form a consensus and implement as many SPG recommendations as possible. All stakeholders, i.e., the provincial government, municipal councils, library boards, and library users, needed to be proactive in developing their strategy for implementing One Place to Look in their community.

One Place to Look was a progressive vision that sought to situate libraries on “the crest of the information wave” that was beginning to sweep the globe. In 1989, the National Science Foundation’s NSFNET in the United States had gone online, and in the following year, Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, unveiled the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). In 1991, CERN introduced the World Wide Web and the number of websites began to proliferate. The development of Netscape Navigator, Yahoo!, and a Microsoft browser for Windows 95 quickly followed. The ‘electronic library’ would soon give way to the ‘digital library.’

Nevertheless, several themes in One Place to Look were familiar. The mantra of “access to the right information at the right time” harked back to an earlier 20th-century motto about books: “the right book for the right reader.” The cornerstones for progress would be:
(1) equitable access to information; (2) helping people find the right information; (3) provision of materials for pleasure and relaxation; (4) free access to resources; and (5) the library as a lifelong educational agency (p. 13). Four goals were to achieve these societal purposes, each with basic objectives and several recommendations. It was a plan with a purpose, ways and means to get there, and a collaborative approach that would give all participants a common purpose and direction. Its four fundamental goals were:
1. Every Ontarian will have access to the information resources within the province through an integrated system of partnerships among all types of information providers;
2. Every Ontarian will receive public library service that is accurate, timely, and responsive to individual and community needs;
3. Every Ontarian will receive public library service that meets recognized levels of excellence from trained and service-oriented staff governed by responsible trustees;
4. Every Ontarian will have access to the resources and services of all public libraries without barriers or charges.

Detailed objectives were the key to the entire strategic planning process because they linked goals with outcomes. There were twenty objectives, which were grouped around several major concerns:
—development of an information policy and strategy for Ontario;
— an integrated, province-wide public library information network;
— promotion of effective units of service;
— effective, electronic access to all collections in the province-wide network;
— a program to preserve printed and electronic information;
— programs to encourage innovation and removal of barriers to service;
— an education program for trustees to provide leadership;
— development of staff expertise;
— removal of barriers to service due to “race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, or handicap;”
— equity of access to service for all Ontarians, regardless of geography;
— public library service and access to the provincial network for all Ontarians without charge;
— funding to support the integrated, province-wide public library information network.

One Place to Look was an inspired visionary document. At a time when a 1989 Gallup Canada Survey revealed that only 43% of the people it interviewed were aware that they could phone the public library for information, the SPG was saying that people would be able to access materials in their libraries from the comfort of their homes. For many people, the futuristic vision was difficult to square with current conditions. Unfortunately, the strategic plan was rolled out just as North America entered a major recession that ravaged Ontario between 1990–92. Government revenue at all levels shrank; consequently, hard choices were made, and cutback management became more important. Although the MCC announced in early 1991 that its funding for libraries would not be cut and that money for Indian Bands and libraries would be increased, government per capital library revenue peaked in 1992 and remained flat for another three years. At the same time, some library services, such as reference and circulation, continued to grow.

Financial considerations came to the fore because revenue was stagnant; thus, library boards and CEOs seriously investigated other sources, such as budget trimming and user fees. Deliberations on strategic planning were also lessened by the rapid development of the Information Highway and the need for libraries to develop Internet services and expend more on technological considerations. One Place to Look required two critical structures for successful implementation: first, a central provincial office to coordinate and manage an integrated provincial network; second, a Strategic Planning Council with representation from all library organizations to advise and recommend policy to the coordinating body based on an agreement in the broader community. However, provincial governments for decades had been unenthusiastic about establishing a central coordinating body to provide province-wide administration for library services. The two 1990s provincial OLS agencies (South and North) were a means, not formal agencies, to carry out liaison, coordination, and advisory services across the province. Generally, the period 1991–95 was punctuated by cabinet shuffles and ministry realignments; consequently, there were few opportunities to prioritize libraries or expand the Libraries and Community Information Branch’s (LCIB) role. From its reorganization in the late 1970s, the LCIB (especially under Wil Vanderelst) had actively promoted coordination among Ontario library boards and had worked to improve their efficiency. In 1993, the LCIB did publish a short statement, One Place to Look: Ontario Public Library Strategic Plan, 1990: 3 Years Later, without much fanfare. As well, work towards formation of Network 2000, an an effort to connect Ontarians to the global information highway through their public libraries, had commenced. However, in 1995, the LCIB was reformed into a new Ministry and its functions merged with a new, broader-focused Cultural Partnerships Branch.

For strategic planners, the recession, the lack of government continuity, plus the absence of a major coordinating body at the provincial level were major impediments. One promising development was the creation of an Ontario Public Libraries Strategic Directions Council (SDC) in 1992 that began working on marketing, telecommunications, and revision of the strategic plan. This group consisted of representatives from all library sectors: all public libraries; the OLS and LCIB; Metro Toronto Library; and the OLA. As a practical consideration, additional project money for a second-generation network, INFO, the Information Network for Ontario, was put into place in 1992 by the MCC to create a provincial database for distribution on cd-roms. INFO could then connect with a regional high-speed network, ONet, to become part of a larger publicly accessible enterprise. Later, in February 996, the SDC released a short discussion paper: A Call to Action: Specific Initiatives to Advance Public Library Development in Ontario, but it failed to generate sufficient attention during the ‘Common Sense Revolution’ turbulence unleashed by the Progressive Conservative government.

During this period, the OLA emerged as the biggest booster of library strategic planning. At OLA’s 1991 conference, a new division, the Ontario Library and Information Technology Association (OLITA), was created to address the impact of the burgeoning Information Society. In May 1992, OLA published A Proposal for an Information Policy for Ontario which updated a report from the 1989 exercise leading to One Place to Look. To interest small libraries under 10,000 in strategic planning, OLA’s conferences in 1991 and 1992 featured “The Hometown Library” mini-conference sessions for trustees and staff. To raise information awareness and sustain One Place to Look, OLITA began to promote interdisciplinary exchanges, research, standards, monitoring of new technologies, and development of models for library systems and networks. In 1992, it joined with the ALA to sponsor a series of meetings on international technology, “Ten Days to 2000,” which heightened consciousness about networking, the Information Highway or the Internet. In the following year, 1993, OLA formed the Coalition for Public Information with representatives outside libraries as a voice for public participation in the emerging telecommunications-information field. Partnerships like the Coalition represented one of the objectives the Strategic Planning Group had recommended to broaden the action base on important issues. Thus, on some fronts, the strategic planning process was progressing despite challenging economic conditions.

Nonetheless, the effects of the recession hampered OLA’s ability to promote libraries at a crucial time. Public sector realignments exposed libraries and librarianship to the rationalization of work and technological expertise in an increasingly unionized workplace and magnified the weaker form of tiered library governance (province-municipality-board) and multiple professional and trustee associations. For a time, OLA was coping with declining membership and finances. Staffing levels for librarians and technicians had moderated after the Bassnett Report in the early 1980s, and there was little flexibility in personnel budgets. One Place to Look continued to be a rallying cry into the early 2000s. Many of its objectives were a work in progress for many years: improved guidelines for smaller libraries, certification programs and better training for staffing, more effective electronic access, a program to preserve printed and born-digital information, and other worthy activities. For the most part, the strategic plan was eventually a successful endeavour and a model for future library planners. References to it still appear in library publications, and the catchy phrase, ‘One Place to Look,’ continues to reverberate in library language, in many ways supplanting older library mottos that emphasized reading and books.

One Place to Look has been digitized and is available for viewing on the Internet Archive.

My earlier 2022 blog on the Bassnett Report is also available for viewing.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Raymond Tanghe on Québec libraries and librarianship, 1952–1962

Pour un système cohérent de bibliothèques au Canada français by Raymond Tanghe. Montréal: Fides, 1952, 38 p.

Le bibliothécariat by Raymond Tanghe. Montréal: Fides, 1962. 117 p.

Ralymond Tanghe, c.1962 Raymond Tanghe (portrait at right c.1962) was born in France in 1898 and came to Canada in 1920 after serving in the French army during the First World War. He was an academic by choice and earned a PhD at the Université de Montréal in 1928.  His professional writings were in human and economic geography, especially urban planning, at the l’École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Montréal in the 1930s. He became a professor and later Director of the central library of the Université de Montréal from 1942 to 1953. He had a flare for popular and scholarly writing and worked with Radio-Canada during the Second World War. Tanghe worked to centralize holdings at the University and expressed his opinion that it would benefit faculty and students at the Quebec Library Association meeting in 1945. In 1948, he became President of the Association canadienne des bibliothécaires de langue française (ACBLF) for two terms before he moved to Ottawa in 1953 to become the Assistant National Librarian at the National Library of Canada.

In this more expansive role in Ottawa, he became better acquainted with Canadian librarianship and the close relationship many librarians had with bibliographic work during the 1950s. He served as President of the Bibliographical Society of Canada from 1958 to 1960. Under his editorship, the Bibliography of Canadian Bibliographies was published in 1960 with 1665 entries, almost half authored by library school students in two major centres, Montreal and Toronto. Tanghe began his third career after retiring from the National Library in 1963 to return to France by taking up the direction of the Maison des étudiants canadiens à Paris, where he mentored students in a congenial learning environment until his retirement in 1968. He died in Montreal in 1969 after a short illness.

Raymond Tanghe did not possess formal training in librarianship. Like many of his male predecessors in Canada, he was an academic, a man of literary tastes who learned about the operation of libraries from administrative experience and personal observation of an emerging profession. In the course of a decade, he penned three valuable library works: one to propose a plan for a province-wide public library system, one to describe and publicize the library profession, and one to outline the history of a professional French-speaking library school in Montreal. In many ways, Tanghe’s contributions to Canadian librarianship represent the nationalist sentiment and growth of secularism in Quebec during the 1950s and early 1960s. The fifteen years before the beginning of the ‘Quiet Revolution’ in 1960 was an evolutionary time to a more liberal, worldly-minded society in which the role of the Catholic Church was reduced. In 1945, Quebec society was deeply influenced by the Church; for example, parish libraries substituted as public libraries in most parts of the province, and the Index Librorum Prohibitorum continued as an authoritative catalogue to censor reading authors such as Émile Zola or Jean-Paul Sartre. Changes came gradually: in 1948, Quebec adopted its provincial flag, the Fleurdelisé; in 1952, Radio-Canada began television broadcasting from Montreal, which accentuated Quebec’s political, cultural, and social affairs; and in 1956, the Tremblay Commission called for greater provincial government control of social and financial affairs. Influenced by this report, Quebec eventually adopted its first general public libraries act in December 1959.

Tanghe’s major publication in 1952 by the firm Fides, Pour un système cohérent de bibliothèques au Canada français, first appeared as three articles in the 1951 issues of the journal Lectures. His pamphlet represented a blend of current and retrospective library views. The traditional concept of library service, parish libraries, had existed since the 19th century in Quebec communities, embodying a Catholic humanism that emphasized moral and spiritual principles. By 1950, mid-century modernist library thought invoked the concept of systematic operations, professionalism, and the more secular philosophy of public service. Generally, Tanghe was sympathetic to the traditional course but recognized libraries as basic public sector institutions. His introduction emphasized the need for libraries to educate both rural and urban workers. He believed it was important to elevate people’s reading to counter the harmful influence of cinemas or radio by enriching their intellectual, moral, and spiritual lives. As a primary starting point, Tanghe took up the cause of the brief ‘Manifesto’ published first in 1944 and again in 1947 by l’École de bibliothécaires (formed in Montreal in 1937) and supported by the Quebec library community he was most closely associated with, the ACBLF. This wartime statement expressed the idea that public libraries were essentially an educational responsibility of the province and its municipalities, although religious considerations, Catholic and Protestant, remained vital elements. The statement proposed that the Catholic Committee of Public Education organize a Provincial Office of Libraries, overseeing urban municipal library commissions and regional library councils in rural areas, responsible for one or more counties or a regional church diocese. Establishing a provincial body in conjunction with the formation of municipal and rural authorities would facilitate the promotion of legislation, surveys, policies, distribution of grants, and operation of libraries.

Tanghe elaborated on this basic scheme in more detail. He proposed provincial library legislation (p. 16) to:
(a) to authorize municipalities to establish and maintain libraries with municipal revenues after taxpayers first presented a petition to municipal councils to establish a library;
(b) to create a Library Service (“Service de bibliothèques”) within the Department of Public Education to be responsible for the administration of general assistance to public libraries, free of charge. A Board of Management (“Bureau de direction”) would head the Service and be admitted to sit on the Roman Catholic Committee of the Council of Public Instruction. The delivery of services would be the responsibility of larger ‘provincial libraries’ (such as the renowned Bibliothèque Saint-Sulpice in Montreal), a Central agency (to be organized), and local libraries used by the public in municipalities and parishes. The provincial libraries (p. 19–21) had a dual responsibility to serve the public directly and foster cooperative efforts with other libraries.

The formation of a central establishment (“Centrale”) was the heart of Tanghe’s système cohérent (p. 21–22). It was an efficient system for selecting, purchasing, binding, cataloguing, and distributing books by well-trained specialists. As well, it was charged with sending books in travelling libraries to municipal or parish libraries and book-impoverished rural areas (p. 24–26). At the head of the system, the Library Service needed competent personnel at five different levels (p. 29–31): administrators, ‘inspecteurs-propagandistes’ (people skilled in public relations and able to provide library advice), librarians, technicians, and warehouse workers. Interestingly, Tanghe recommended that technicians possess a diploma in library science to carry out clerical tasks such as recording loans. Librarians required good judgement and a broad culture for good book selection (an elitist view held by the author), classify resources, and acquire an in-depth knowledge of library resources and sources of bibliographic information. Librarian candidates (Tanghe seems to assume these came from the École de Bibliothécaires) needed to take an introductory course at the end of their studies in one of the provincial libraries.

In a nod to the practical reality of everyday life in Quebec, Tanghe accepted the continuation of parish libraries as ‘public libraries’ (p. 31–35) for mostly rural Catholic, French-speaking Canadians, hardly an innovative program even by 1950s conservative standards. In fact, a more influential contemporary, Edmond Desrochers, published a study, Le rôle social des bibliothèques publiques in 1952 which concluded that parish libraries should be replaced by municipal public libraries. These were different perspectives because Tanghe perceived Quebec’s parish system as a cohesive centre of life fostering solidarity in many communities. From his academic planning viewpoint, social collectivism was a primary goal which libraries could contribute to within the parishes (p. 13): “Dans la province de Québec, la paroisse est une collectivité socialement organisée, qui a un centre de ralliement, qui possède ou peut fonder des œuvres adaptées au groupe humain qui la compose.” Recognizing that many parishes were underfunded and could not form working libraries, he recommended small collections of about 1,000 volumes and provincial subsidies for parish libraries, which could sustain and invigorate their activities; for example, Tanghe calculated for $60,000/year about 500 parishes could be supplied with rotating travelling book collections on a monthly basis. But, in fact, most existing parish libraries held only meagre collections and were poorly administered, as the Tremblay Commission discovered a few years later in 1956. Chaired by Justice Thomas Tremblay, this report called for further study and the passage of public library legislation to form the basis of future growth.

Even with approval from Catholic authorities (Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger authored an introduction to the pamphlet), Tanghe’s systematic plan that included parishes did not attract much attention at a political level because many officials recognized the era of parish libraries was passing as society became more secular and the power of the Church lessened, and the role government increased. This transition is illustrated by the National Film Board 1959 production, Il faut qu'une bibliothèque soit ouverte ou fermée, which depicts the efforts of the townspeople of Montmagny to create a municipal public library. However, the ideas of a central commission, municipal libraries, and regional entities—a common North American trend by this time—as operatives of library services did foreshadow future directions. In 1959, the Quebec Legislature adopted a law for public libraries which contained three important clauses:
(a) the creation of a Quebec Library Commission to investigate problems relating to the establishment, maintenance and development of public libraries;
(b) the formation of a Quebec Library Service headed by a director of public libraries who can maintain staffing to carry out its proper functioning;
(c) the establishment of a budget line of $200,000 for the fiscal year 1960-61 to cover the cost of implementing the new law.

This law was a modest, progressive step. The many details and mechanics that Tanghe laboured to provide in his pamphlet were not dusted off for action, which was the fate of many reports. However, his underlying confidence that there was a French culture and identity for Quebec libraries to foster and maintain set his program apart from other contemporary Canadian library 1950s reports in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick. This belief was a lasting legacy in its own right.

Watch the 26 minute NFB film directed by Raymond Garceau in 1959, Il faut qu'une bibliothèque soit ouverte ou fermée, which illustrates the changing views on public library service in the small town of Montmagny.

* * * * *

Towards the end of his twenty-year library career, Tanghe published a work that revealed the nature of his views on librarianship after a decade at the National Library in Ottawa. In Le bibliothécariat, a short book—really an essay—of just over 100 pages that appeared in 1962 (reprinted in 1964), he outlined the major aspects of librarianship he had observed over almost two decades. This French language book was the first publication of its kind in Canada; indeed, it reflected a consensus of Canadian librarianship in mid-century. For the most part, Canadian trained professional librarians relied on publications from the American Library Association. Thus, Tanghe was breaking new ground, although his primary aim was to reach students, especially those in Quebec interested in choosing librarianship as a career, his own scholarly way of mentoring. In his introduction, he declared that he would primarily discuss the qualities and training required to be a librarian and offer his views on the true nature of librarianship (p. 7) instead of publishing a textbook. Then, he makes his case for librarianship in eight chapters: the general field, required skills and qualities, basic training, professional development, the actual work, administrators, salaries and working conditions, and a brief proposal for a collective services project for Quebec.

In his survey of the field in Canada, Tanghe raised some interesting points. He noted the shortage of librarian professionals to fill positions (a problem that existed throughout the 1950s) and made three observations (p. 16) that characterized librarianship at the time:
1) there was an overall lack of librarians in relation to the population served by all types of libraries;
2) professional librarians only accounted for a third of the total staff in public libraries;
3) positions were filled predominately by women.
Tanghe felt administrators were addressing the persistent shortage by having library assistants assume more duties. In a period when the demarcation between clerical routines and professional duties in North American libraries was known to be ambiguous, the author made his position clear for larger libraries (p. 18–19):
Library assistant duties: 1) short cataloguing, 2) classification of files, 3) circulation and loans, 4) checking-in periodicals, 5) controlling receipts, 6) inventorying.
Librarian duties: 1) directing library assistants, 2) detailed cataloguing, 3) classification, 4) reviewing magazines, 5) preparing bibliographies, 6) reference and orientation services, 7) acquisitions, subscriptions, exchanges, and 8) cooperating with other libraries.
Finally, he asserted that the traditional stereotypes associated with librarianship, often attributed unfairly to women, were no longer applicable. Librarianship now was more dynamic with challenging positions requiring more intelligence, initiative, and imagination on the part of young women and men interested in collaborative work in the humanities and sciences. However, despite this progressive view shared by most in the field, Tanghe restated the dated arguments that women were mostly responsible for lower salaries and that men were often candidates for administrative positions because women frequently left the profession for marriage (p. 20).

In discussing librarian characteristics and necessary skill sets, Tanghe declared libraries are service organizations, a generally accepted attribute by mid-century. Thus, a primary personal quality is serviabilité, the need to provide helpful assistance—service with a smile and an outgoing personality. The ability to approach work methodologically and follow directions were two more essential personal traits. Respect (perhaps love) for books was an obvious aspect of daily work given the state of collections in the 1960s. Intellectual curiosity and the need to be adaptable were also requisite personal attributes for success. With the idea of la tolérance, the ability to be fair, understanding, and well-balanced, Tanghe broached the subject of library neutrality and censorship at a time when societal changes were sweeping North America. He concluded that judgement about resources and a person’s right to read should be considered within the context of morality and the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Notably, he was writing shortly before Canadian courts began ruling more liberally concerning the censorship of books and before the Catholic Church ended the authority of the Index in 1966. Finally, the author suggested that a stable, career-driven curve best served the individual librarian, especially from the standpoint of employers. One noticeable characteristic that appeared in the contemporary library literature that Tanghe ignored was the capacity for leadership, although he dealt with the practice of administration in a separate chapter. Otherwise, his six attributes were all conventional when Le bibliothécariat was published in 1962. But, with the passage of time, we know employers now look to different workplace requirements that situate his observations in a historical period of mid-century modernism which libraries have passed through.

Similarly, the book’s focus on basic training for semi-professionals and professionals now seems dated, although it was considered standard when he was writing. Possession of a degree before entering library school was a regular practice by 1960. He provides background on two French-language library schools in Montreal and Ottawa which were beginning to attempt to secure accreditation from the American Library Association (ALA). Today, the 1951 ALA requirements seem dated, but at the time they were not easily achieved in a Canadian context:
1) a library school must be an integral part of a recognized university;
2) a school must have secure financial funding, adequate premises and equipment;
3) a school must have a sufficiently large faculty with authority and jurisdiction to establish and conduct its programs.
It would be many years before the University of Montreal or Ottawa achieved accreditation, but their older histories are interesting in their own right due to their French-language emphasis. Also, Tanghe went into some detail about the need for professional development after entry into the workplace. He suggested that additional education and broader interest in the human sciences, namely anthropology, and social, economic and political science, would benefit many. He raised the issue of librarianship as a profession at some length (p. 57–61), citing the work of Father Jacques Lazure (University of Ottawa), a sociologist who had spoken to a conference of Quebec librarians in 1961. Lazure (and many others) stated librarianship was not yet a profession. Yet, Tange felt that professional status, especially the adoption of its ideals and the feeling of group solidarity, eventually could be attained. Librarians needed to be proactive and recognize that service was the essential feature of librarianship and required requisite collective professionalism. He pointed to the Quebec library group, L’Association canadienne des bibliothécaires de langue française, as an organizing force in this direction (p. 63).

A lengthy chapter (p. 67–91) on library work is now mainly of historical interest. Mid-century modernization in acquisitions work, cataloguing and classification of books, binding and other routine techniques were technical aspects that involved a large portion of staffing. Departmental responsibilities for public services involved reference, research, circulation of books, reader orientation, bookmobiles, and audio-visual service. Of more interest is Tanghe’s brief account of ‘information science’ or ‘documentation’ as it was better known at the time. He mentions the work of Mortimer Taube who developed coordinate indexing in the 1950s and wrote about information storage and retrieval. Tanghe believed scientific libraries were being established more frequently, and their newer concepts of library work would expand traditional librarianship (p. 83). Of course, the author noted the excellent work of the National Library, especially its union catalogue and close working relationship with the Public Archives of Canada.
A chapter on the role of administrators reveals a more personal approach by the author, who had worked as Assistant National Librarian for a decade. Tanghe knew it was a practical matter for aspiring librarians to recognize administrative ability and tasks to advance their careers. His ideas generally followed the classic public sector organizational theory, POSDCORB, developed in the 1930s. This management acronym stood for Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Co-Ordinating, Reporting and Budgeting. By applying these general tenets, Tanghe describes what he considered to be the main functions of management: (1) the recruitment of new staff and personnel direction, promotion, and management; (2) budgeting and financial control; (3) the organization of equipment, furnishings, and buildings; (4) the development of collections; (5) establishing and maintaining library policies and regulations; (8) and public relations. His mention of the Farmington Plan, a cooperative effort to acquire and store foreign language materials for American libraries, is of historical interest because it set a pattern for subsequent cooperative collection development programs before it ended in 1972.

Two brief chapters follow. One was on salaries and working conditions circa 1960, and the other was entitled Collective Services Project for Quebec. It offers some of his prescriptions for library development in his home province. Leading by example was a central point in Tanghe’s mind: in Le bibliothécariat he was passing the torch to a new generation of leaders at an opportune point in time. The École de bibliothéconomie of the Université de Montréal had just been founded in 1961; afterwards, more university-trained librarians began to adopt a scientific approach to their profession, and, in 1969, they formed the Corporation of Professional Librarians of Québec. Tanghe’s publication followed in the footsteps of Library Science for Canadians published in 1936 but his focus was upon the nature and working conditions of the profession, not the emerging academic field. These two publications were significant landmarks in the literature of Canadian librarianship before the rapid growth of the 1960s.

My earlier post on Library Science for Canadians, composed by two University of Western Ontario librarians, Beatrice Welling and Catherine Campbell, appeared in 2016.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Public Libraries and Marxism by Joe and John Pateman (2021)

 Public Libraries and Marxism by Joe Pateman and John Pateman. London and New York: Routledge, 2021. 119 p., indexed.

Cover Public Libraries and Marxism

Public libraries offer an amazing range of information and services in Western society, but to what end? Library organizations and librarians mainly focus on the functional aspects of library services and professional activity while ignoring power relationships and the institutional framework of libraries within society. Public Libraries and Marxism analyzes the public library from a Marxist perspective by challenging our conventional liberal-democratic views that focus mostly on delivering services while ignoring its hegemonic basis of authority. John Pateman has extensive administrative experience. He headed libraries in the UK before he came to Canada in 2012 to be the CEO of Thunder Bay Public Library in Ontario. He has written articles and books with a Marxist viewpoint, such as Public Libraries and Social Justice (2010) and Developing Community Led Public Libraries (2013). Joe Pateman is a professor of politics at York University in Toronto, Ontario, and his main research interest concerns the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism. Together, they have crafted a valuable introductory handbook for those interested in a Leninist version of Marxism and public librarianship. As well, each chapter has a useful bibliography that readers can pursue to navigate the complexities of Marxism.

The Patemans’ argument unfolds in six chapters  — (1) Introduction (2) The Marxist Interpretation of the Public Library (3) V. I. Lenin and Soviet Socialist Public Library System (4) Kim Il-Sung and Socialist Public Libraries in North Korea (5) The Vanguard Library (6) Conclusion. The authors dedicated this book to V.I. Lenin with a following quote from the leading Marxist-Leninist historian of the 1920s, Mikhail Pokrovskii, concerning the importance of libraries. Pokrovskii is quoted from time to time but there is no mention that he suffered the fate of many Russian intellectuals—his work was quickly discredited and his historical school eclipsed during the 1930s then rehabilitated to some extent after Stalin’s death.

The Introduction provides the essential features of Marxist-Leninist ideology, the interpretation of Marxist thought developed by Vladmir Lenin that emerged from Russia at the beginning of the 20th-century. Some readers may be familiar with the terminology of (a) dialectical materialism and its three laws; (b) the base and superstructure of historical materialism; (c) the hierarchical order of class analysis; (d) the creation of a classless, stateless society under scientific communism; and (e) the revolutionary leadership of Vanguardism. This exposition has the quality of brevity and clarity; however, I find the claim that Marxism is a scientific account of social change to be highly problematic. For me, Marxism is essentially a speculative philosophy because of its well-known imprecision (it can lead to many deductions or variants, yet no critical examination can entirely refute it) and its reliance on patterns, purpose, and meaning in history which the vast majority of historians reject because they see no purpose of goal in history. Further, Marxism-Leninism is less a philosophy and more a political ideology that calls for the creation of a Communist state; it is action oriented and analytic thought is mostly a handmaiden. The authors conclude this chapter by discussing other theoretical approaches used in library and information studies (LIS), such as Western Marxism, which they firmly repudiate likely because it is less focused on class or political struggles and more on cultural-social development, philosophy, or art.

Chapter 2 focuses on the library and librarians as historical entities. From the typical Marxist model of the forms of society, there are ancient, feudal, capitalist or bourgeois (Traditional Library), socialist (Community-Led), and communist (Needs-Based) public libraries. Library professionals emerged during the era of capitalism, even in socialist nations, but eventually, in a communist society, the previously exploited working classes will manage public libraries. At the centre of this argument are the teachings of Karl Marx, who introduced the concept that human society consisted of two parts: the base (the economic substructure that comprises the forces of production which provide the necessities of life and give rise to the relations of production, that is relations between people) and superstructure (the political, legal, religious, and cultural institutions of society). Marxists hold that productive forces are fundamental and determine the superstructure; however, some Marxist theorists (e.g., especially the Frankfurt School) postulate that the superstructure is of more interest: it may gain some autonomy and, on occasion, influence the base. Applied to public libraries as part of the superstructure, this generally means that the economic base ultimately shapes the library’s societal goals and objectives, its policies and procedures, as well as its staffing and services.

Because Marx and his followers viewed human history as a long-term class struggle, the public library, in its various incarnations in capitalist societies, evolved as an instrument of the power of the ruling bourgeoisie to control the working-class proletariat which comprised the majority of people in most countries: “the public library, as a cultural institution, functions in order to stabilise the economic base and, by extension, the rule of the property-owning class.” (p.29) As part of the authors’ thesis, the ruling elites and acquiescent petite-bourgeois librarians mostly excluded and ignored the voices of the unserved, disadvantaged and minorities. This is consistent with the capitalist idea that the individual and competitive self-interest are the central ingredients in society.

Although the modern public library in Western capitalist countries is theoretically supposed to serve everyone in society, in reality the authors observe that its failure to do so is all too evident. The ‘Traditional Library,’ the state-supported public libraries that emerged in the mid-19th century, served the same function as the mechanics’ institutes — they were instruments of social control. Today, the public library as an institution is often widely regarded as a mainstay of democratic values (i.e., liberty, freedom, pluralism, and equality), yet critical scrutiny of its actual history in LIS literature belies this entrenched belief. Consequently, the authors propose transformative ideas to completely rework the practices of public librarianship and the unconscious operation of ‘capitalist’ libraries. The Marxist perspective emphasizes group conflict through class struggle and the eventual success of the proletariat in seizing the means of production. The authors assert, “It is only under communism that truly public libraries can exist.” (p. 26)

Chapter 3 outlines the Leninist model followed by socialist/communist countries in the 20th-century. Because Vladimir Lenin believed that socialist public libraries and librarians could be a leading force in developing the cultural, educational, and technical knowledge of the masses, the Soviet Union created a centralized, state-controlled library service that drew initial praise even in the West. After Lenin’s death, his widow, Nadezhda Krupskaia, a Communist commissar of education, was largely responsible for the direction of library development and better training for librarians. Her writings are quoted extensively throughout the book. She infused libraries with new ideas about their goals and functions and helped promote a rapid expansion of literacy in the Soviet Union before she was discredited during the dictatorial regime of Stalin. Krupskaia felt that understanding readers, selecting books to suit readers’ interests by promoting communist thought, and better organization of resources would improve services. Today, the basic Marxist-Leninist model she helped establish in the Soviet Union continues in socialist countries such as Cuba, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, and North Korea.

Chapter 4 outlines one country’s public library system, North Korea. Kim Il-Sung (1912–94), the national Supreme Leader, was mostly responsible for its development. His concept, inspired by Juche, was self-reliance in a national context. Public libraries in the Korean state must build upon a revolutionary outlook and the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea focusing on ideology and, more importantly, the authority of the Supreme Leader, a sort of allegiance on steroids. This chapter is quite helpful in explaining the development of public libraries in North Korea, a topic seldom appearing in the Western library literature. North Korean libraries have diverged somewhat from Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy but they retain many characteristics of the conventional model.

Chapter 5 discusses the ‘Vanguard Library’ and its potential in capitalist and socialist societies, especially Cuba. Lenin developed the idea of Vanguardism as a strategy whereby highly motivated, key members of the proletariat formed groups to further the goals of communist ideology. Of course, there are elements of elitism in this approach, a matter which leads back to the issue of social control of the working class and variant Marxist views about how capitalism would falter and collapse. The Vanguard Library leads the evolution of public libraries from one Marxist stage of historical development to the next. As capitalism declines and disappears, under vanguard action the Traditional Library will evolve into the socialist stage of the Community-Led library that better meets the needs of the working class. At some future point, the highest stage of public library progress will be reached under classless, stateless communist conditions and the Community-Led Library will transition into the Needs-Based Library. This latter incarnation of the public library faithfully serves the entire public without limitations. In the context of Cuba, the Vanguard Library is said to have played a critical role after the 1959 revolution brought Fidel Castro to power. The government established a network of libraries which vitalized the working class and rolled back illiteracy in short order. Vanguardism raises working-class consciousness by educating workers and by creating a ‘new man’ entirely in sync with socialist ideology and motivated by the best principles of class consciousness.

Considering what a Marxist library service would look like in the Western capitalist countries of today, Public Libraries and Marxism provides insights that help us understand the revolutionary impact of the potential for transformation in Western public librarianship. The Patemans outline why and how Western public libraries can change organizational practices, indeed their culture and mission, to better serve those in need. That is an important Marxist message for librarians to keep in mind as new challenges arise. It is not a utopian vision, but a call to understand our place in history and our communities, to reach unserved minorities and the working class, and to strive to build an authentic public library service that will finally achieve what it claims to do, to serve everyone. However, the vexed issue of who will lead the Vanguard is left open.

Although the writings of Karl Marx form the basis for Marxist-Leninist thought, e.g., the concept that the material conditions of life determine the nature of human consciousness and society, readers should note that many ideas outlined by the two authors feature the ideas of Vladimir Lenin who championed the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat led by a revolutionary vanguard party. Lenin, moving beyond the usual Marxist doctrine, theorized this action as the political prelude to the establishment of communism. Public Libraries and Marxism gives us a view of how to work toward communist public libraries, but readers must keep in mind there are many variations of Marxism to chose and follow. But for librarians or LIS scholars who may believe in the ultimate triumph of communism, this book can be a useful starting point.

A selection of V.I. Lenin’s writings on libraries and contributions by Nadezhda Krupskaia is available at the Internet Archive in a work by Sylva Šimsová, Lenin, Krupskaia and Libraries (London: Clive Bingley, 1968). Šimsová was a Czech citizen who emigrated to the UK after World War II and worked in London libraries for many years.

Friday, February 02, 2024

Four Library Development Reports in British Columbia, 1945 to 1956

Programme for Library Development in British Columbia. Victoria, B.C.: Joint Committee on Library Policy, 1945. 36 p. maps

Programme for Library Development in British Columbia, 1950: Being a Condensation and Revision of the “Programme for Library Development in British Columbia,” 1945. Victoria, B.C: Joint Committee of the British Columbia Library Association and the Public Library Commission, 1950. 10 p.

Survey of Union Libraries in British Columbia. Victoria, B.C.: British Columbia Public Library Commission, 1950. 59 p.

Programme for Library Development in British Columbia, 1956. Victoria: British Columbia Public Library Commission, 1957. 15 p. (cover illustration below)

Over the course of a decade following the Second World War, British Columbia trustees, officials, and librarians sought to improve library services across the province. The provincial Public Library Commission (PLC, est. 1919), in conjunction with financing from the Carnegie Corporation, had issued two previous surveys, one in 1927–28 and another in 1940, that had led to the geographic extension of services through the formation of three union libraries (officially re-titled regional libraries in 1951): Fraser Valley, Okanagan Vally, and Vancouver Island.

However, the wartime and postwar scene began to reveal new issues beyond simple extension: the need to serve a growing population, the need for improvement in the quality of library service, the need to address technological developments, and the need for increased provincial financial support to reach people living in smaller, isolated communities beyond the south-west corner of the province.

Under the able chairmanship of William Kaye Lamb, chief librarian of the University of British Columbia, a 1945 report by a Joint Committee of the BC Library Association and the Public Library Commission sounded the alarm that public library service was inadequate, even in the major cities, Vancouver and Victoria which were housed in decades-old Carnegie libraries. “The pages that follow amply establish the shocking fact that not one community in British Columbia at present enjoys adequate public library service. Furthermore, they show that, for practical purposes, the majority of the people in the Province have no public library service at all.” (p. 1)

The 1945 report unveiled an ambitious program to remedy the situation. The report stated that with expanded services from seven existing libraries, the addition of one new union library district in West Kootenay, and one new Commission branch in the Peace River area at Dawson Creek, about 80% of British Columbians could be served. A revitalized public library map would include:
■ three proposed metropolitan districts serviced from Vancouver, New Westminster, and Victoria
■ four union systems organized in the Fraser Valley, Okanagan Valley, Vancouver Island, and West Kootenay (proposed)
■ two Commission branches at Prince George (already in service in a North-Central district) and Dawson Creek (proposed for the Peace River district)
The remaining population, about 20%, could be better served by converting existing public library associations (e.g., in Kamloops) into free municipal public libraries. The Open Shelf and Travelling Libraries operated by the PLC could supply rural towns, villages, and settlements. To implement its plan, the report called for improved provincial library aid and legislation to authorize the formation of metropolitan districts, an innovative approach by Canadian standards.

A subsequent brief report by the Joint Committee in 1950 complained that very few bold strokes had happened since 1945. Library service remained inadequate, in part due to low public expectations. Committee members repeated the call for increased general provincial aid (a meagre $25,000 in 1948–49), especially for the start of grants for city libraries. More importantly, in the same year the PLC issued a Survey of Union Libraries under the chairmanship of Edgar Robinson, chief librarian of the city of Vancouver.  By 1950, the three regional libraries were serving about one-fifth of the total population of British Columbia, and their progress demonstrated an efficient, cost-effective way to provide library service. Like many cooperative public libraries in Canada, school library service was one of these libraries’ strong suits.

Overall, the union libraries report aimed to improve rural services, strengthen existing union libraries, provide the provincial government with information to justify its expenditures and establish a future program for regional development. Various elements of union library operations were studied — governance, book collections, buildings, finances, personnel, bookmobiles, library objectives, standards and public relations. The report reiterated the importance of regional library work but noted the lack of trained personnel, substandard provincial support, and the need for additional regional development:

Gratifying as the record is, there is still obvious need for improvement in almost all phases of regional library work, and it is to this end that the present survey is pointed. Additional rural areas need service, some now being without a vestige of libraries, while existing libraries need additional and substantial financial aid from both local and provincial sources. (forward)

Six years later, in 1956, the third “programme for development” was more optimistic about the services provided by municipal and regional library systems:

The number of municipal public libraries has doubled, and five of the present ten have embarked on expansion programmes, including four new buildings. Financial support by municipalities has risen 60 per cent, though it is still well below the minimum required for services expected of a public library. Provincial aid has been extended to municipal libraries and has gradually increased over the five-year period. Three municipal libraries are now operating bookmobile service, and have mechanized their internal procedures.
The three regional libraries have acquired, with Provincial Government assistance, new headquarters buildings, which have helped immeasurably to improve the service. Local support has improved by 50 per cent or more ... . 
(p. 7)

Generally, the better financed libraries were operating from a position of strength rather than weakness. There was a repeated call for the formation of metropolitan systems around Victoria, Vancouver, and New Westminster and new regional systems in the Kootenay and Kamloops districts. School libraries were deficient and depended too much on services provided by public libraries. The report emphasized the need to establish a graduate library school at the University of British Columbia. 

The series of British Columbia reports of the 1940s and 1950s were unique statements in Canadian library planning. With the growth of the national economy, rising levels of employment, and the improvement in the standard of living, there was also an increased interest in the development of libraries. Cultural and social changes were taking place with the arrival of television and the popularity of sporting events. When the four library reports were published, the encouragement of metropolitan library planning was in its infancy and regional library service was not firmly established in other parts of Canada. British Columbia trustees and librarians had pioneered library extension work and, coupled with the PLC’s intention to publish up-to-date library surveys, they provided straightforward statements for efficient services, better grants, and improved standards.

By the mid-1950s, British Columbia libraries had reached reasonable levels of achievement and gained better provincial support. On a per capita basis, libraries in BC persistently ranked high in Canadian public library service levels. They were spending an overall $1.28 per capita expenditure compared to the Canadian average of 91 cents in 1957, as the following table summarizes.

Dominion Bureau of Statistics Public Library Receipts and Expenditures per person, 1957
local     prov.     total        book    salary
taxes    grants    receipts   exp.     exp.         
$1.04   $0.19     $1.28      $0.23    $0.83  BC
$0.71   $0.14     $0.92      $0.15    $0.54  Canada

The 1940s and 1950s had been marked by slow progress; nonetheless, BC libraries had profited from the repeated efforts of library planners to upgrade service on a provincial scale.

Two earlier Library History Today posts on British Columbia’s libraries are at:
BC public library reports 1927 to 1941
Two iconic films on the Fraser Valley Library

Friday, January 19, 2024

Library Service in New Brunswick by Peter Grossman (1953)

Library Service in New Brunswick: A Report and Recommendations by Peter Grossman. Fredericton: New Brunswick Department of Education, 1953. 62 p., maps, illus.

Peter Grossman, n.d.
Peter Grossman, c.1953
For many years in the first part of the 20th-century, public library service lagged in the province of New Brunswick; however, in 1951 a provincial Library Association was established with Maurice Boone, the chief librarian of the Legislative Library and formerly librarian of Acadia University, elected as President. The Association pressed government officials to improve public library services, and in the following year the Department of Education invited Peter Grossman, the Director of Libraries for Nova Scotia, to conduct a survey throughout the province and devise a plan for future library development.

Peter Grossman, a native British Columbian who had experience in regional libraries in the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island, spent five weeks in the summer of 1952 investigating school, government, and public libraries. Generally, despite apathy on the part of many officials, he found an overall public desire for improved library services. He noted the frequent attempts of community groups (especially womens’ groups) to establish library services and a growing recognition of libraries’ important role in schools and universities. He flagged the essential need for cooperation for a province-wide library service to develop properly. As well, he identified a need to hire more professionally trained librarians and publicize library services.

He submitted his report at the end of the year, on December 24, 1952; subsequently, it was tabled by the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly in the spring of 1953 and published by the Dept. of Education. Upon its release to the public, it was favourably received by the provincial press and library publications and regarded as an important step forward in Canadian library planning.

Peter Grossman emphasized the necessity for a provincial library enabling law and outlined various points that should be included in a new Act. He proposed the establishment of eight regional library systems. His report stressed the need for an immediate appointment of a provincial library director, the creation of an advisory library council to the government, and a publicity campaign to raise awareness about the state of libraries. Grossman made practical recommendations concerning the organization of regional libraries and suggested a geographic administrative structure for the province. The creation of regional libraries, along with the centralized Provincial Library Service, was the key to future growth. The report recommended the eventual formation of eight regional districts with a base population of about 35,000, although districts with Saint John, Fredericton, and Moncton were larger (about 90,000 people).

Grossman’s report was not lengthy; yet, he made a number of succinct recommendations which formed the basis for library development in New Brunswick for decades (p. 45–46):

■ The establishment of a Provincial Library under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Education.
■ The creation of an advisory body to be known as the Library Council.
■ The appointment of a Director of Provincial Library Services with appropriate staffing to promote services, centralized cataloguing, and inter-library loan.
■ Cities, towns, villages, or counties should be authorized to support libraries from general tax revenue.
■ Local governments should be authorized to enter into agreements for regional services.
■ The appointment of Regional Library Supervisors to the Provincial Library when new regional libraries were formed.
■ Annual provincial grants to regional libraries be made on a matching basis as well as initial grants to establish adequate book stocks.
■ Provincial support for public library buildings should be made available.
■ More space should be allocated for the Legislative Library which would facilitate the operation of an Archives Division for the province.
■ The Department of Education Library should appoint more school library supervisors and extend the Teacher’s College Summer School library course to part-time regional library employees.

Grossman also reported on the condition of individual public libraries (pp. 47–51). He found that the underfunded Moncton library would benefit from “regional co-operation and Government support;” that Saint John was “handicapped by a poor location, an old Carnegie building, insufficient funds and a lack of professional staff;” and that Woodstock “has the best public library building in New Brunswick and pays more in proportion for library support than any other town in the Province.” The surveyor discouraged the practice by the Legislative Library of sending books-by-mail across the province or providing public library services to Fredericton (p. 29–32). Grossman was enthusiastic about the prospect of bookmobile service despite poor roads: “The real difficulty is not snow but mud, and the period of the spring thaw keeps heavy traffic off most roads.” (p. 23) Fortunately, work on the Trans-Canada Highway commenced in the early 1950s and road improvements throughout the province removed this impediment.

The government accepted many of the recommendations in the Grossman report. A director, James F. MacEacheron, who had served on the board of the Cape Breton Regional Library in Nova Scotia, was appointed to provide leadership commencing January 1, 1954. A completely revised Library Services Act was passed on April 14, 1954. A Central Library Services Office reporting to the Minister of Education was formed with responsibility for central cataloging, reference, children’s work, and regional libraries. However, many municipalities did not enthusiastically accept the formation of regional libraries. It was not until 1957 that the Albert-Westmorland-Kent Regional Library began operation: the Moncton Public Library served as the center of a bilingual system that developed slowly, with Kent finally joining in 1973. After the establishment of the Fredericton Public Library in 1955, the York Regional Library began service in 1959 from the Fredericton Public Library. The region received funding from the city of Fredericton and $7,000 from the Canada Council for three years. After consideration opposition, the Saint John Regional Library eventually was established in 1967.

The Grossman report influenced library development in New Brunswick for almost a quarter century. By the mid-1970s, regional systems were reaching a majority of citizens. By 1975 public libraries were circulating more than 2 million books per year. Peter Grossman became a significant figure in Canadian librarianship in the 1950s: he was elected President of the Maritime Library Association (1951–52), the Canadian Library Association (1953–54), and the British Columbia Library Association (1958–59). Eventually, he returned to British Columbia where he served as Director of the Vancouver Public Library for a dozen years, 1957–69. 

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Ontario Libraries: A Province-Wide Survey and Plan, 1965 by Francis R. St. John Library Consultants

St John, (Francis R.) Library Consultants, Inc. Ontario Libraries: A Province-Wide Survey and Plan, 1965. Toronto: Ontario Library Association, 1965. 182 p.

Cover Survey of Libraries in Ontario 1965

At the beginning of the 1960s, Ontario’s public, school, university, government, and special libraries were trying to cope with a rapidly growing population, changing technology, and staff shortages. The Department of Education had made a few incremental improvements after the Wallace Report of 1957, but leaders in the library sector expected more effective planning and financial support from Queen’s Park. When William Davis, the Conservative M.P. from Peel County, was appointed Minister of Education in 1962, the Ontario Library Association (OLA) invited him to speak at its 1963 conference. The new Minister did not disappoint: he spoke about the importance of libraries as community agents and stressed better planning was necessary to achieve their service goals. Most importantly, he offered to finance studies sponsored by the OLA.

The OLA accepted the offer of financial assistance from the Minister and formed a Research Committee in 1964 under John Parkhill, head of Toronto Public Library’s (TPL) reference library, to consider study options for the province. This committee chose Francis R. St. John, the former director of the Brooklyn Public Library and a well-respected American library consultant, to conduct a provincial-wide study of all library types, which included universities because William Davis had added the newly formed Ministry of University Affairs to his cabinet duties in 1964. St. John’s firm began work in January 1965 and released a final report in February 1966.

While the American consultant surveyed libraries in the province, major educational changes were being planned. William Davis was a dynamic minister: during his tenure, he oversaw the formation of a new community college system and two new universities, created an educational television network, increased education spending dramatically, and amalgamated thousands of small school boards across the province. The Provincial Library Service (PLS), headed by William Roedde, studied legislation to eliminate less relevant clauses (e.g., the per capita free library rate, free library status, and local plebiscites to establish libraries), to abolish Association Libraries, and authorize the establishment of five regional library co-operatives. In the library sector, studies proposed a new library school for the Western University and strengthened existing university library education in Toronto and Ottawa.

Francis St. John’s work was the comprehensive study of school, university, special, and public libraries that OLA had sought for a decade. The report was a singular milestone in large-scale library planning in Ontario, especially for public libraries. The major trends in the early 1960s—regionalism, coordinated provincial planning, and service to smaller libraries in rural areas—were emphasized in 63 specific recommendations. Through his consultations, St. John emphasized the need for cooperative development and promotion of larger service units. The report specifically recommended the encouragement of larger regional units (p. 37-39) and that conditional provincial grants be directed to regions rather than individual public library boards. Association libraries (154 in 1964) were to lose their grants and be encouraged to contract with county or regional libraries (p. 31-34). No more county library co-operatives could be formed; the report recommended their operation should be transformed into stronger county library boards. The task of centralized processing for all school and public libraries within a region was assigned to the regional library co-operatives (p. 43-51). Each regional system would have a reference centre responsible for information resources within the region (p. 52-58). St. John revisited the idea of TPL serving as a central provincial resource centre and receiving provincial funding for this task (p. 59-61). TPL would also maintain a central bibliographic database of holdings to facilitate provincial interloan and interaction with the National Library union catalogue operation. The report advised that orientation programs be developed for new library trustees for governance. A chapter on library legislation put forward 15 recommendations, especially regarding regional governance and operations.

Within the Department of Education, St. John advised the consolidation of all library functions in a single Library Division where the PLS, public libraries, elementary and secondary schools, universities and colleges, and government libraries would integrate their work and develop plans (p. 19-21). The Travelling Library service was to be eliminated (p. 13-15), and the PLS upgraded with more staff.  Provincial direction would improve after the creation of a new Ontario Provincial Library Council (OPLC) to make recommendations to the Minister respecting the development and coordination of library service (p. 22-24).

Libraries in elementary and secondary schools and those in higher education required a different approach than regionalism. St. John was critical of school libraries and proposed that schools with at least 150 students be required to maintain a centralized school library with holdings of 3,000 to 5,000 books or ten books per capita in larger schools. A school with 250 pupils should have at least one full-time librarian. Centralized cataloguing at the University of Toronto was proposed for colleges and universities supported by government financing. St. John recognized the Toronto library had already been asked by the government to compile basic collections of 35,000 volumes each for three new universities (Trent, Guelph, and Brock) and two Toronto regional campuses (Scarborough and Erindale). The Ontario New Universities Library Project began in October 1963 with a budget of $1.3 million for book purchases over the following 3-1/2 years. The Committee of University Presidents was urged to support the concept of collection building to avoid duplication of resources. Further, the report proposed that the government provide financing to build in-depth research collections. St. John also recommended the government finance a long-distance facsimile experiment between the three largest collections at Toronto, Western, and Queens for at least five years. As well, the report agreed with plans for higher library education in the three universities, and it recommended the appointment of trained librarians and specialists to school districts and regional co-operatives to serve as area supervisors and field advisors.

St. John’s approach to government and special libraries proposed more efficient, systematic operations: a system of depository libraries to receive provincial publications overseen by the Library Division in the Dept. of Education; centralized cataloguing and classification of documents by TPL for designated depository libraries; and submission of holdings into the proposed TPL bibliographic database. However, the report’s influence was limited. It was not until 1970 that the Ontario government established a depository library system, and, in the following year, the Ministry of Government Services began to publish its Ontario Government Publications Monthly Checklist. Also in 1970, an Ontario Government Librarians’ Council was established.

The initial press reaction to the report acknowledged that Ontario had fallen from the ranks of library leadership. It was a shock to some. William Davis immediately announced that provincial funding would be increased by 50% to $5 million, a new Public Libraries Act would be introduced in the legislature, another supervisor would be added to the PLS, and that the Globe and Mail journalist, J. Bascom St. John, would head up a committee to study the recommendations. Davis relied on policy advisors because his departments were expanding rapidly to reshape Ontario’s educational system. The Department of Education was about to examine all aspects of education through a Provincial Committee on the Aims and Objectives of Education (the Hall-Dennis Committee) established in 1965. The concept of “open education,” whereby students learned on their own progress rather than adhering to standardized grade steps, was on the march. When the OLA met in Ottawa to discuss St. John’s findings in April 1966, it endorsed and amplified many recommendations, although the president, Leonard Freiser, Librarian at Toronto’s Education Centre Library, criticized the report’s focus on organization, not service delivery.
After a short time, on 7 June 1966, William Davis announced a completely revised Public Libraries Act, 1966: “It [the St. John report] recommended that legislation be provided for an Ontario provincial library council and advisory council and that provisions for regional library service be improved. We have accepted these recommendations and followed certain other recommendations in the report.” He described the four main legislative sections:
▪ the powers and responsibilities of library boards;
▪ the role of the newly designed 23-member OPLC to develop and coordinate service under the Minister’s control;
▪ the role of the 14 regional library co-operatives with Metro Toronto included in current amendments to the Metropolitan Toronto Act;
▪ the strengthening of county libraries.
The new Act eliminated some prominent vestiges of the past—the need for local plebiscites to establish libraries (1882), the requirement to be a British subject (1905), the voluntary Library Association form of governance (1909), and the minimum per capita library rate of 1920. However, the PLS would continue to play a limited leadership role because St. John’s concept of a strengthened Library Division coordinating library activities in all types of libraries was rejected. The primary duties of the Director of PLS were to supervise the Act’s operation, promote and encourage the extension of service, serve as non-voting secretary of the Ontario Provincial Library Council, and oversee grant regulations.

There was little time to criticize or analyze the recommendations made by St. John. The new Libraries Act essentially refined the existing one initially formulated in 1920 and amended frequently over four decades. It was apparent the government did not intend to implement recommendations proposing the integration of library services across all educational sectors. Significantly, university and college libraries were moving independently: they rejected the idea of centralized coordination from the provincial government because they felt their interests lay within the post-secondary sector rather than regional groupings suggested by St. John. After the the Commission to Study the Development of Graduate Programmes in Ontario Universities (the Spinks Commission) reported the weak state of most Ontario university libraries in November 1966, the Committee of Presidents of Provincially-Assisted Universities in Ontario (CPUO) began to develop a co-operative approach to sharing existing resources and to initiate planning for expansion. This Council approved the creation of a provincial-wide university system to include reader services, an interlibrary transport service, a bibliographic centre at the University of Toronto, and the formation of the Ontario Council of University Librarians, composed of the chief librarians, as an advisory body to the CPUO.

Community colleges agreed to form a Bibliocentre to acquire and process books centrally shortly after 1967. As well, school libraries remained outside regionalization efforts. The Ontario Teachers’ Federation published School Library Standards in 1966. The Dept. of Education increased funding for school resources and library facilities, followed by publication of The Library Handbook for Elementary Schools in Ontario in 1967. More courses for teacher-librarians were introduced to bolster assistance for students in learning to use library resources. Regarding government or special libraries, St. John was criticized for omitting reference to federal libraries, many of which were located in Ottawa. The public library sector became the main beneficiary of the St. John findings, although the OPLC as an advisory, coordinating body did not live up to its potential.

The report framed by Francis R. St. John served as a general guideline for a centralized system of libraries within a province. However, the Ontario government, indeed, librarians, trustees, and officials at all levels chose to continue in the traditional ‘type of library’ sectoral organization entrenched across North America. A multi-type library development model was laid to rest with the prospect that technology, not administrative organization, would suffice to develop all types of libraries into an interconnected network.