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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.