Showing posts with label 1940s reports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1940s reports. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Review - A Survey of Montreal Library Facilities and a Proposed Plan for a Library System (1942) by Mary Duncan Carter

A Survey of Montreal Library Facilities and a Proposed Plan for a Library System by Mary Duncan (Colhoun) Carter, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 1942. xi, 180 leaves, tables, maps.

In the early 1940s Montreal's public library needs were only partially met by the 'big four,' the Civic Library, the Fraser Institute Library, the Mechanics' Institute Library, and the Westmount Public Library. Other libraries, the Children's Library, the Jewish People's Library, two dozen parish libraries operated by the Catholic Church, and a few special libraries also provided general reading. Compared to Toronto or cities of similar size in the United States--Cleveland, St. Louis, and Baltimore--there was no strong, centralized public library service. It was this particular circumstance that Mary Duncan Carter examined and sought to provide a coherent, systematic plan for metropolitan service in her 1942 dissertation.

Duncan Carter was no stranger to the Montreal situation. A native of St. Paul's, Minnesota, born in 1896, she joined the McGill library school as an assistant professor in 1927 after graduation from the University of Chicago with a Bachelor of Philosophy (1917) and then B.L.S. (1923) at the New York State Library School in Albany which later becoming the Columbia University School of Library Service in 1926. She married the Canadian photographer and fine-art dealer, Sidney Carter, in 1924 and taught at the McGill library school for ten years before leaving in 1937 to become the Director of the University of Southern California School of Library Science. Carter rose to prominence at USC and became President of the California Library Association in 1944.

Carter's thesis is a fascinating snapshot of libraries in Canada's metropolitan capital during the 1930s when statistics were available for various types of city libraries. In several chapters Carter reviewed the historical social conditions that underlay contemporary services, the resources available to Montrealers, and usage of a variety of libraries. Twenty-four parish libraries, operated by the Catholic Church, were studied in a separate chapter along with a case study of a special library at the Bell Telephone Company. Although there were an unusual number of rental libraries in Montreal during this period, Carter did not include them in her analysis of a 'public' system.

In 1933 the 'public library system' of Montreal (the four main public libraries) contained approximately 258,000 volumes. This figure was extremely small compared with public library holdings in cities of comparable size. There were 17,384 borrowers of the four main Montreal public libraries. Carter concluded

Perhaps the outstanding feature of the library pattern of Montreal is decentralization. Each of the four public libraries as well as each of the twenty-four parish libraries operates in complete independence and autonomy. Special libraries are by their very nature operated by and for separate groups. In Montreal certain special libraries, like those found in the Bell Telephone Company and the Royal Bank of Canada, even serve as general reading sources for industrial groups as well as sources for special technical material. (p.113)

Carter's plan for metropolitan service mostly worked within existing legislative constraints, e.g. in compliance with provincial and municipal laws and current administrative practices. She outlined three fundamental suggestions to provide city-wide coordination.
1. to continue the present group of libraries with increased municipal aid by removing all restrictions on the use of the libraries (e.g., removal of membership fees for users and non-residents);
2. to develop the Civic Library to fulfill its function as a municipal tax-supported
library of Montreal (e.g., establishing branches throughout the city);
3. to gradually integrate existing libraries with centralized administrative control (e.g., strengthening the collections of parish libraries).

Carter's blueprint for metropolitan service is too lengthy to elaborate in detail, but it included a variety of suggestions that seem, in retrospect, to have been possible to implement in the immediate post-1945 period in Montreal if municipal, church, and library officials could agree on its main points. The Fraser Library might service as a central reference library; the Civic Library could extend its services through new service points; Westmount might serve as a model for unserved areas in Mount Royal and Outremont; cooperative centralized purchasing, classifying and cataloging of books could simplify technical procedures, reduce costs, and make possible a unified catalogue of city holdings. Carter felt that parish libraries might be incorporated in an overall system by having the Civic Library develop deposit collections acceptable to the Church that could be made available to parish libraries that were willing to develop their physical facilities to meet certain minimum standards.

To coordinate planning and operations, Carter proposed formation of a central authority, a Metropolitan Library Commission, to be composed of a delegate from each of the four main libraries, a Catholic representative to administer the parish plan, a provincially appointed member and a professional librarian appointed by the Quebec Library Association. Individual boards of the four libraries would continue to function and to decide matters relevant to the operation of each library within its functions in the overall library system. Commission decisions pertaining to the entire system would then be better coordinated. Carter concluded optimistically, "there is reason to suppose that regional library cooperation entered into voluntarily by the existing public and parish libraries should not be difficult to accomplish." Regional libraries were already in operation in Canada and cooperative schemes were successful in reaching many unserved or underserved areas.

Duncan Carter's proposals for metropolitan library service were an important instance of planning in Canadian library history to improve services and provide more equitable access for the public. A summary 25-page version of her work was published in 1945 by the University of Chicago Graduate Library School. Like many potential planning documents, however, it was destined to gather dust and be forgotten in the course of time. Carter's subsequent career in the United States, at USC, as a cultural attaché with the US Embassy in Cairo, author and faculty member of library science at the University of Michigan (1956-66) removed her from ongoing activity in Montreal. The opportunity to explore regional cooperation passed as postwar priorities unfolded. The idea of metropolitan planning would reappear later in Toronto in the 1950s with the formation of a Council of Library Trustees of Toronto and District which hired Dr. Ralph Shaw to study the greater Toronto area in a landmark 1960 report, Libraries of Metropolitan Toronto.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Review - The Role of Canadian Public Libraries in Adult Education (1942) by Gordon Gourlay

The Role of Canadian Public Libraries in Adult Education, by J. W. Gordon Gourlay. University of Michigan, Department of Library Science, 1942. x, 153 leaves.

The studies of the 1930s on Canadian public libraries were mostly financed by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Very little funding came from government sources. In the 1940s, more academic degree studies on Canadian libraries begin to be conducted. Some of these were regional or local studies, others explored trends that extended across provincial boundaries. Adult education concerns had emerged as an important area for library work, first in the USA in the 1920s, then to Canada in the 1930s. William Carson, the Ontario Inspector of Public Libraries, had contributed a piece to an American Library Association study, Libraries and Adult Education, published in 1926. More than a decade later, the British Columbia Library Commission issued its Preliminary Study of Adult Education in British Columbia, 1941. Shortly after, in 1942, a national investigation appeared--one often bypassed in our library historiography.

John Wallace Gordon Gourlay, a native of Lancaster, Ontario, was the author. Gourlay had graduated from Queen's University with a B.A. in English, History, and Economics in 1940. He went on to McGill to get a B.L.S. in 1941 and then to the University of Michigan to receive his A.M.L.S. in 1942. There were no master's library programs in Canada and Michigan's reputation attracted a number of Canadians at this time. Graduating during wartime, Gourlay enlisted and saw service in the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force during Second World War. He returned to civilian life as a librarian at three American universities before becoming the director at Clemson University Library from 1954 to his retirement in 1980.

Although Gourlay's questions to Canadian libraries were made during the conflict with Germany and Japan, he got a reasonable good response by twenty public libraries from a mail out of thirty-five questionnaires. The responses were categorized into several groups:
  • library work with outside groups (e.g., YMCA)
  • special services (e.g., vocational assistance)
  • adult education work within the library (e.g., radio programs, book talks)
  • library publicity; and
  • library work during wartime (e.g., sending books to soldiers in training camps).

Gourlay also summarized some groups and programs that stood out in educational programming with adults: the Dominion-Provincial training programs for youths in areas such as forestry, agriculture and home crafts; Extension Departments at the University of Alberta and St. Francis Xavier; and the Canadian Association for Adult Education (established in 1935). Of course, he could not deal with every organization, e.g., he did not mention the activities of either Frontier College or Sir George Williams College in Montreal which began offering degrees in adult education in 1934. Library responses to Gourlay's survey were mostly positive. A future 1955 President of the Canadian Library Association, Anne Hume, replied "We used it at a Department Head Conference the other day. It gave us [Windsor Public Library] a chance to review our sins and omissions. For that we thank you."

Gourlay offered mostly factual evidence gathered in the course of his survey; however, he did provide a limited explanation about the difficulties encountered in the field of adult education that were shared by libraries and related organizations. Through his inquiries he found that there was a lack of co-ordination among the organizations; that distance hindered effective delivery of programs; that provincial regulation of education led to different approaches and funding for programs; and that Canada's heterogeneous, scattered population often was unrecognized and unassisted through want of proper organization for this type of work. Nonetheless, the variety of library programs in large cities such as Toronto and Vancouver, and even the contributions of smaller ones in northern or rural settings (e.g., Timmins and Lethbridge) demonstrated that libraries were alive to the need of adult learning. Gourlay's study showed that libraries had continued to develop work in the adult education field compared to an earlier national study by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics (Library Cooperation with Adult Study Groups in Survey of Libraries, 1935)

Adult education would continue to be an important topic on the agenda of Canadian libraries in the postwar period and beyond with many studies and plans being conducted at the local, regional, provincial, and federal level. However, as Gourlay discovered, the library as adult educator was a concept not easy to define and put into practice. Working with adults to identify needs, like selecting books from the universe of publications to build collections, could spin off into many directions that required funding beyond the traditional reach of library budgeting.

Further reading

The Role of Canadian Public Libraries in Adult Education is available full text at Hathi Trust.
American Library Association, Libraries and Adult Education (Chicago, 1926) at the Internet Archive site.
 British Columbia Public Library Commission, A Preliminary Study of Adult Education in British Columbia, 1941 (Victoria, 1942) at Hathi Trust site.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Review - Report on Canadian Libraries (1941) by Charles F. McCombs

Report on Canadian Libraries, 1941, 81 p. Originally unpublished with three appendices, index, letter of transmission, and schedule of Canadian travel by Charles F. McCombs, New York Public Library, on behalf of the Rockefeller Foundation. Reprinted photographically with extensive commentary by William J. Buxton and Charles R. Acland, Philanthropy and Canadian Libraries: The Politics of Knowledge and Information Montreal: Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, and The Centre for Research on Canadian Cultural Industries and Institutions, McGill University, 1998. 51 and 88 p.

The Charles McCombs Report was the last of many American philanthropic Canadian studies begun in the 1930s. It was undertaken in 1941 to discover if further assistance might enable Canadian libraries to work with American institutions, especially the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) which previously had not been active on Canada's library scene. At the outset of WWII, the Foundation was exploring the development of international exchanges through librarianship and, with the development of microfilm systems and readers, it was interested in capturing the historic record of countries using this relatively new technology for newspapers, books, and periodicals. But before taking action in a new theatre of operation, the RF needed to explore the state of Canadian libraries and the merits of their newspaper holdings.

The senior administrators at the RF, especially John Marshall, the Assistant Director of the Humanities Division, felt more thorough examination of Canadian libraries (particularly research collections) was necessary in terms of collections, staffing capabilities, and national coordination before recommending courses of action. Accordingly, in May 1941, $2,750 was allocated to allow for the secondment of Charles McCombs from the main reading room of the New York Public Library to conduct at study of Canadian libraries. McCombs was an experienced librarian, born in 1887, noted for his bibliographic talents. In four trips, from June to November 1941, McCombs visited almost seventy libraries in eight provinces (omitting P.E.I.), submitting his report shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the American entry into WWII.

What did Charles McCombs report on? Because his report remained unpublished for almost six decades, its contents were never adequately referenced in postwar Canadian studies. Two researchers, William Buxton and Charles Acland, finally dealt with the context and importance of McCombs' work in their admirable study published in 1998. They took care to reprint the 1941 report in its entirety while at the same time discussing his recommendations and the aftermath of the Rockefeller Foundation's and Carnegie Corporation's subsequent financial aid to Canadian libraries and librarians. They demonstrated that the impact of American philanthropy on Canadian library development in the 1930s and 1940s was directed to particular projects that intersected with Canadian aspirations for progressive steps, coordinated assistance from the American Library Association, and also the policy interests of the two foundations in the immediate postwar period. The intersection of this multiple engagement provided crucial, initial assistance for the formation of the Canadian Library Association in 1946 and the subsequent legislation for a National Library in 1953.

Thus, it can be said that McCombs' work helped advance two vital postwar developments. He observed that the most pressing concern in Canada was "lack of national coordination of activity" and recommended financial aid for the new Canadian Library Council, which had coalesced in June 1941 and held its first meeting later in October with RF financial support. The RF was quick to promise $17,500, funneled through the ALA, for use by the Canadian Library Council in 1942 with the objective to establish microphotography and general advisory services (e.g., fellowships and field visits) for Canadian libraries, another important concern of McCombs. Subsequently, the Carnegie Corporation made five payments from 1944-48 to the Canadian Library Council, through the ALA, totalling $20,000. With this seed money, the CLC transitioned into the Canadian Library Association, hired Elizabeth Morton as executive director, and opened an office in Ottawa. CLA published its first list of microfilmed newspapers in 1948 and championed the cause of a national library.

Buxton and Acland make the case for American influence on Canadian activities in their well documented study. But the McCombs study also is revealing at many points for it was conducted through personal interviews and observations: "I did not submit a questionnaire, or make my visits armed with notebook and pencil" (p. 2). His use of statistics was brief, confined mostly to larger universities and colleges. Many comments appear in his report that otherwise would have been expunged before publication. McCombs seems to have been influenced a good deal by André Siegfried's Canada (translated into English in 1937) which treated the English-French divide, Canada's nascent nationality, our national east-west and north-south economic pull, and our British-European and North American ties. McCombs referenced these points throughout his report, e.g. the regionalism of the "five Canadas," isolation, and absence of cooperation, even amongst libraries on the downtown campus of the University of Toronto (p. 9). He suggested a reorganization of Ottawa's Parliamentary Library (to make it more efficient) and formation of a national library with co-equal French and English speaking directors (p. 74).

Because of the RF interest in the potential of Canadian content for researchers, McCombs spent the most part of his report on larger libraries in universities. On the personal side, he got on well with Toronto Public Library's chief, Charles Sanderson, who was enthusiastic about the prospects of microduplication in libraries. McCombs was disappointed that W.S. Wallace, University of Toronto, did "not show much interest in microphotography." Two female university chief librarians, Elizabeth Dafoe at Manitoba and Mary K. Ingraham at Acadia, were commended for their work. He found that the Citizen's Free Library, Halifax, was "a disgrace." (p.62). He spoke of the need for advanced library training and education--Canada's library schools at McGill and Toronto were a "Type II" ALA category offering only one year of professional education. McCombs judged the other schools at Montreal and Ottawa would not meet ALA standards for accreditation. He found the provincial legislative libraries lacking: "with the exception of British Columbia, they lack adequate catalogues, and pay little attention to standard library methods, although there are occasional signs of progress" (p. 48). For the most part, his criticisms and compliments were designed to foster improvements in administration, finance, and collections as well as bolstering his own recommendations.

McCombs knew the limitations of his brief travels. In his letter to John Marshall on 1 Dec. 1941 he wrote, "I am acutely aware of the shortcomings of this lengthy document; there is much more that I could have said, but I have tried to give an impartial account of conditions observed, including impressions of personalities." On balance, many of his observations updated the study, Libraries in Canada by Ridington, Locke, and Black published in 1933. McCombs died in May 1947 after a lengthy career as a reference and bibliographic expert spanning more than three decades at the New York Public Library. The CLA continued the newspaper project he had advocated into the early 1980s. The importance of his original proposal was recognized in 1958 when the newly formed Canada Council granted $10,000 to CLA to continue microfilming papers in order to further Canadian research. Some CLA newspapers from the microfilm project are searchable today in the Google digital newspaper archive, e.g. the Toronto World.

Also, Buxton and Acland, "A Neglected Milestone: Charles F. McCombs' Report on Canadian Libraries, 1941," in Peter McNally, ed., Readings in Canadian Library History 2, p. 265-74 (Ottawa: Canadian Library Association, 1996).

For a listing of CLA microfilmed papers go to http://www.cla.ca/Content/NavigationMenu/Shop/CLAMicrofilmCollectionCatalogue(2013).pdf 
 To see if a newspaper is available go to the Google News Archive Search site and type your paper, using quotations, e.g. "Toronto World" and click on the Search button.