Showing posts with label Canadian Library Council. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canadian Library Council. Show all posts

Monday, April 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading:

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

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Review—Libraries in the Life of the Canadian Nation (1946) compiled by Canadian Library Council, Inc.

Libraries in the Life of the Canadian Nation. Part I, Public Libraries: An Interim Report Presented to the Organizational Conference of the Canadian Library Association by the Canadian Library Council, Inc., June, 1946. Canadian Library Council, 107 p.

At the end of the Second World War the pattern of public library service in Canada varied tremendously--from the acclaimed Toronto Public Library, a North American leader in services and collections, to cities such as Fredericton and Quebec City that had no municipally supported service. Halifax had a room in a municipal building. In Manitoba, only Winnipeg and Brandon had a tax-supported library. Estimates varied, but across the country, almost 10% of people living in cities, about 60% living in towns and villages, and about 95% living in rural areas were without direct library service. To remedy the situation, the newly formed Canadian Library Council, Inc. (CLC), developed a survey to ask all libraries about their community services. The result, Libraries in the Life of the Canadian Nation, pointed the way to postwar planning by cooperatively planning services on a regional basis in many rural areas where there were no libraries or by federating small services (especially the ubiquitous 'association public library') that could not develop effective, expanded, progressive library services.

The CLC had been formed to create a Canadian library association across the nation, a bilingual organization that would proselytize a course of action to develop library services and advocate for a National Library in Ottawa. To this end, its small, capable executive, led by Margaret Gill from the National Research Council, Ottawa, organized a national meeting at McMaster University in June 1946 to rally librarians, trustees, administrators, adult educators, school authorities, and anyone interested in books and media.

We meet in Hamilton in June, 1946, to consider 'libraries in the life of the Canadian nation' at a conference called to organize a Canadian Library Association [CLA]. It is to be hoped that from the decisions of this gathering will come a policy of realistic and courageous nation-wide promotion of effective library service through public, university, school, special and government libraries, not overlooking the establishment of a national library.

Libraries in the Life of the Canadian Nation provided the basis for the newly minted CLA to advance its ideas in briefs to provincial and federal governments in the immediate years after 1945. Today, many decades later, the report's information serves to remind us that libraries were present in their communities in many ways through community cooperation in the first part of the 20th century. The range of groups allied with libraries was diverse and extensive. The types of services, of course, depended on local funding, donations, or limited provincial grants. A small sample of the report's replies gives an impression of the state of public library service and interaction with community life and agencies from west to east:

New Westminster: "The University Women's Club has, for a number of years, donated about $30.00 worth of books to the Boys' and Girls' Department. Of recent years this gift has been to the Young Moderns' Alcove. The books are chosen by the Children's Librarian and bear a special book plate."

Calgary: ". . . has its teen-age groups divided into 2 sections, Junior High School and Senior High School or Young Adults. There is a librarian in charge of the library work with this first section who spends full time on the work. Grades 7 to 9 are served--they have a separate room know as the John Buchan Room. A librarian spends part-time on the work with the young adults, grades 10 to 12. This section has an alcove in the circulation department know as "The Corral."

Regina: ". . . provides information, catalogues, etc., about education and documentary film: it also provides loan of films but not preview facilities. Films as part of the regular library programme is used for special subject display. The library provides collections of photographs, but not of lantern slides, films strips, photostats or microfilm. The library does not have a reading machine or a film projector. Copies of its materials are provided by typescript."

Manitoba libraries under 5,000 population: "Only 1 (Gimli Icelandic Library) is housed in a separate building. 1 has a room (125 feet of shelf space) in the post office and Red Cross building. . . .6 are in need of larger quarters. Kenton, Gypsumville and Shoal Lake hope to build community halls (the latter 2 as [war] memorials) which will house the library. Langruth hopes to have a municipal building in which the library will be located. Neepawa has plans to take over the room used by the Red Cross when that organization finishes with it."

Toronto: "Two radio programmes. 'Stories for You'--Sundays, 5 o'clock, CJBC, since Jan. 1945. 'Junior Story Period'--sponsored by Dept. of Education, during Fall terms, 1944, 1945. 'One of our most rapidly growing projects is our service to parents of pre-school age children. Hundred of parents take advantage of this service every week.'
Toronto Beaches branch: "An active drama organization. Professional and student concerts. Co-operation in the field of music."

Montreal Children's Library: ". . . public relations--talks, articles, radio programmes, displays, etc.--have been an important part of the work of Committee and Librarian in an effort to make citizens more conscious of the value of libraries and their lack in this city. We were started as a 'demonstration'."

Moncton and Saint John: "Both have a Friends of the Library group and Saint John has held open house for the community." . . .Both have a separate reference room, but neither has a reference librarian. Saint John has the following specialized collections: Loyalist biographical material; local and provincial history in scrapbook form; Maritime history in manuscript (typewritten)."

Reserve Mines: "This is a small library mainly supported by our Co-operative Institutions--with a modern equipped School Library branch in the school building. The librarian is a graduate in Library Science. . . . [this library supplies books to] Women's Institutes, Farm Forum Groups, Citizen's Forum Groups, Labor groups, church groups, study clubs, adult education groups."

Prince Edward Island Libraries: ". . . serves 23 community libraries, 4 deposit stations (56 collections loaned to Women's Institutions or community groups during 1945) and 272 schools. They do not give book van service. The library is housed in 3 rooms in Prince of Wales College, Charlottetown. . . . The headquarters library selects and purchases all books and catalogues them. It maintains a central deposit of books to answer reference questions and to supply special requests. . . . Headquarters library assistance with community activities: loan service to [several groups]; talks on the library; book displays at various meetings."

Libraries in the Life of the Canadian Nation documented proactive library work that was happening on a sporadic basis across the country at the end of WW II and it showed what additional roles libraries could play with better organization and financial support. In many ways, the data in this report supported the ideas about library development recommended by the 1933 Commission of Enquiry. Unlike the previous report, issued in the depths of the Great Depression, Libraries appeared during improved national economic circumstances, and, even more importantly, it could used by the newly formed Canadian Library Association to assert its ideas and plans for the future growth of libraries.

Further reading on the Canadian Library Council:


Nora Bateson, Rural Canada Needs Libraries (S.l.: Canadian Library Council, 1944)