Showing posts with label Canadian libraries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canadian libraries. 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)

Friday, October 21, 2016

THE CARNEGIE CORPORATION ADVISORY GROUP ON CANADIAN COLLEGE LIBRARIES, 1930–35

The history of Canadian university and college libraries remains an understudied subject. To be sure, the "golden age" of rapid expansion of facilities and progressive professional development after 1960 has attracted attention. But, despite decades of interaction between Canada's educated elite (students, administrators, and faculty) and campus libraries and librarians, the period prior to 1960 is mostly the record of individual librarians (usually directors), iconic buildings, and underdeveloped collections. In the general history of all Canadian libraries that emphasizes the public library movement, the Carnegie building program between 1900-25, regional library growth after the 1930s, the postwar formation of the Canadian Library Association (1946) and establishment of the National Library (1953), and the dramatic contrast between library development in Quebec and English-speaking provinces, there seem to be no major events or themes of similar consequence pertaining to libraries in higher education.

In the legacy of Carnegie philanthropy, too, colleges and universities reside outside the usual historiographical library tradition. For example, there was only one Canadian library, Victoria in Toronto, that benefited from Carnegie building grants for university libraries prior to World War I. However, there is one significant period when the Carnegie Corporation of New York contributed significantly to the development of Canadian university and college libraries. During the Great Depression (1932 to 1935), 34 libraries in institutions of higher education shared in book grants totaling $214,800 (approximately $4,000,00 in 2016) as a result of a national (Canada and Newfoundland) examination conducted by an advisory group established by the Corporation. The ways in which the Canadian Advisory Group investigated and inspected potential recipients, evaluated whether they complied with conditions set, and distributed grants typically followed the policies and procedures established by an earlier American Advisory Group funded by the Corporation. Carnegie and university records document how financial aid was awarded and directed to the advancement of undergraduate print collections. Our sources can also be used to study the Canadian group in relation to the role of American philanthropic college library work, attempts by Canadian administrators to adapt library collections and organization to local circumstances, and trends in the improvement of undergraduate library services on a national scale.

You can read my article on this interesting, mostly unknown story and its contribution to the development of Canadian libraries in higher education in the latest fall 2016 issue of Historical Studies in Education/Revue d'histoire de l'éducation. HSE covers all aspects of education, from preschool to university education, informal and formal education, and methodological and historiographical issues.

The Carnegie book program was of short duration. For the first time on a national scale, it drew attention to the need to improve undergraduate library resources and elevate the status of the library in educational institutions. The book grants were tied to the caliber of local library services and looked for a number of effects and results.

  •  to awaken university administrators to the potential of a good library;
  • to provide books required for collateral reading in connection with the courses and materials faculty designated for their own instructional needs;
  • to promote the library more as a service-oriented partner with faculty and less as a passive repository of books;
  • to supply books for voluntary student reading and encouragement of their use;
  • to employ professionally educated librarians to ensure that acquisitions could be easily accessible through proper cataloguing and classification systems;
  • to promote wide-ranging book selection covering all fields of knowledge;
  • to educate students in the use of library resources, thereby better integrating holdings with academic programs.
Of course, there were many different results across Canada. In a few cases, universities reorganized their libraries to more effectively serve students. New undergraduate reading areas (sometimes called junior divisions) were established to house new holdings. A few major careers, e.g. Marjorie Sherlock from Alberta, were begun with the book stimulus program. On the whole, for a period prior to the Second World War the Carnegie program fostered library development in different ways and heightened awareness of the library's potential to undertake new directions that had not previously been in evidence. After 1945, many universities and colleges would revisit the library ideas that were planted in the difficult Depression years.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

BUILDING CANADIAN ELECTRONIC LIBRARIES; THE ONTARIO EXPERIENCE, 1960-2010

"Building Canadian Electronic Libraries: The Experience in Ontario Public Libraries, 1960-2010" by Lorne D. Bruce. Article published in LIBRARIES IN THE EARLY 21ST CENTURY. VOLUME 1, AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE [pp. 92-104], edited on behalf of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions by Dr. Ravindra N. Sharma. Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter Saur, 2012.ix, 398 p.; ill.; map.

Years ago, shortly after the disastrous financial depression of 2008-09, I was asked to write about the Canadian experience with electronic libraries in the last half of the 20th century. There are few such studies in Canadian library history, but it was agreed that I would contribute a paper on Ontario's public library experience with automation, electronic-virtual-digital libraries, and Library 2.0. Of course, a provincial outline must incorporate national and international technological developments. I tried to balance my article within a chronological framework that would identify key trends, persons, groups, and technical developments. But the 'whole story' of Canadian library technical advances (and setbacks) remains to be researched, documented, and published. A short article of fifteen pages must focus on the main issues and events.

The general editor for this undertaking by IFLA, Dr. Ravinda Sharma, who was Dean of the Monmouth University Library at this time, strove to gather and convey the different approaches many countries have taken to achieve electronic library proficiency, a difficult task indeed. The first volume (2012) represented the history and development of library work of developed nations and the developing world chapter by chapter. A second volume followed, one covering additional countries describing the modern history, development of libraries and library technology. The two volumes are a good source for international librarianship and comparative history.

The development of electronic processing and digital services in Ontario's public libraries for half a century began slowly in the postwar period. By 1960, visionary concepts were beginning to coalesce into practical solutions. Toronto Public Library, under the leadership of H.C. Campbell, was particularly active in thinking about applying new technology to in-house work, especially technical processing. At a national level, the National Library and Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information were prominent exponents of computerized applications and potential networking in the 1970s. For public libraries in general, the establishment of a Network Development Office in Toronto, funded by the province, marked an important step in the move towards cooperative planning in regions and in the province shortly before 1980.

Less than a decade later, the province of Ontario funded two major conferences--Libraries 2000 and the Electronic Library--that may be regarded as idea-generating and synthesizing efforts at a time when 'second generation' computerized catalogs and information systems were being introduced into libraries. By the mid-1990s, library automation advanced rapidly with the development of the Information Highway (or World Wide Web) and the profound influence of the Internet. Studies about the public library's capabilities (and liabilities) appeared frequently. Fears about the decline of the public library proved to be inaccurate as the service aspect (the virtual and later digital library) became more apparent to the public and library critics. Digital services could be interactive, not passive ways of using libraries, and a way of better connecting with local communities.

In the early years of the 21st century, the term Library 2.0 appeared. This appellation added a further layer of ideas about how libraries, now closely tied to the success of second generation web-based technologies, could serve clienteles. Library 2.0  was concerned with user-centered change and client participation in the creation of content and an enhanced sense of community.

Over fifty years, Ontario's public libraries have been able to keep pace with technological developments during periods of fluctuating financial fortune. The prospect of multi-type library services and more collaborative networking with public libraries and university, college, and school libraries remains one area where Ontario's public-sector libraries could achieve future improvements.

 A Google preview of "Building Canadian Electronic Libraries" with limited page views is available: LIBRARIES IN THE 21ST CENTURY.

Bail Stuart-Stubbs, "Learning to Love the Computer: Canadian libraries and New Technology, 1945-1965," in Readings in Cannadian Library History 2 ed. by Peter F. McNally, pp. 275-301 (Ottawa: Canadian Library Associaton, 1996).

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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

CELEBRATING A HALF-CENTURY: THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF CANADA, 1953-2003

As the National Library of Canada (NLC) moved inexorably to its golden anniversary in 2003, it was still a viable institution despite years of cutback management. In line with neoliberal philosophy, services had been reduced or eliminated (e.g. the popular Multilingual service) but many basic functions remained that made it a recognizable national entity. Although it was aging technology, AMICUS, Canada's national database, contained 25,000,000 records for more than 1,000 Canadian libraries. The NLC's Union Catalogue was a reliable source for bibliographic information and locations for books and periodicals that could be used by other libraries. The NLC's comprehensive Canadiana collection was largely due to Legal Deposit Provisions whereby Canadian publishers were required by law to send, as a general rule, two copies of all published works in various formats. The Library's Canadian Cataloging in Publication program was a collaborative effort with publishers and other libraries that permitted books to be catalogued pre-publication. The Canadian Theses service coordinated the microfiche reproduction and loan of theses on a timely basis. The NLC's Canadian Book Exchange Centre offered a utilitarian service to libraries for the distribution and exchange of surplus publications. These, and other services, aligned the NLC with other major Canadian libraries on a reciprocal basis. Together with the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI), comprehensive national library services were available for Canadians and others working beyond Canadian borders from Ottawa.

For the public at large and researchers the old building on 395 Wellington Street shared with the National Archives remained a valuable service point. The second floor Reading Room allowed for consultation of 'closed-stack' resources from the general collection by retrievals submitted through an on-site AMICUS. The Music and Rare Book Divisions provided in-depth reference, referral, and consultative services to Canadian and foreign researchers, libraries and organizations. The Reference and Information Services Division provided reference in Canadiana and Canadian studies to researchers and libraries within Canada and abroad. Inter-library Loan filled requests for materials by lending a copy, providing a photocopy, or giving referrals to other libraries that might loan items.

The fourth National Librarian, Dr. Roch Carrier, sought various improvements. He encouraged expanding the reach of the NLC to Canadians through travelling exhibitions and the newly formed Digital Library of Canada, an effort to document Canadian heritage and culture and to provide access on the NLC website. Carrier also advocated for literacy and reading through improved school libraries. His effort to stem the leaks at 395 Wellington was more successful when the roof was repaired in 2002. Two years earlier, more than 2,500 publications had been damaged after a broken pipe allowed water to enter three floors. The NLC's administration was changing and its staffing attempting to accommodate changes, such as the Internet and the advent of digital publishing. Nevertheless, ominous clouds were gathering. It wasn't just the frequent newspaper stories of water damage that were endangering Canada's national collections at '395' or the atrophied budget NLC was struggling with that were cause for alarm. The NLC's parent body, the Department of Canadian Heritage, a neoliberal creature in search of prominence, continued to take a 'fresh look' at Canada's cultural institutions and heritage.

While some officials, such as Auditor-General Sheila Fraser, stated many federal heritage buildings (including the NLC) were in a poor condition and recommended the government 'do something' before cultural heritage resources might be lost to future generations, Canadian Heritage was developing new concepts. Sheila Copps, the Minister and MP for Hamilton East, preferred to ignore the problems inherent in merging the NLC with the National Archives, something the 1999 report by John English had emphasized along with his recommendations on updating mandates of the library and archives. In fact, on October 21st, 2002, minister provided a simplistic, inaccurate rationale for MPs when she rose to explain the proposed merger in the context of reduced funding for the Canadian Archival Information Network.

"Mr. Speaker, we are of course talking about two different issues when we refer to the National Archives and the National Library. Three years ago, it was decided that it would be a good thing to merge these two institutions to present to the general public everything is part of the wealth of historical information belonging to the National Archives and the National Library. This is what we will do."

During the Parliamentary debates on the merger (Bills C-36 and its successor C-8) a few MPs actually got beyond the political obfuscation and bombastic visionary goals of a long-term plan to combine administration, storage, and preservation work in an area around the former National Archives' preservation centre in Gatineau and to establish a Portrait Gallery of Canada. Critics addressed the most obvious and long-standing problems, lack of funding and intertwined mandates. Also, NLC was a weak player in national information policy development and infrastructure. The general perception that a new administrative entity, Library and Archives Canada, would get enhanced visibility, relevance and accessibility carried the day. A single agency would allow for improved and innovative changes on a collaborative basis for the humanities and social sciences. Alternative schemes, such as combining CISTI (the country's 'other' national library) and the NLC were not considered. "Toward a New Kind of Knowledge Institution" outlined typical promotional views for Canadian heritage operations in Ottawa. All would be well in time: there would be
  • synergy of collections, skills and constituencies;
  • easier access to integrated holdings, both for researchers and for millions of ordinary Canadians;
  • enhanced service delivery to Canadians; and
  • better use of scarce resources.
Later, in summer 2004, LAC released a discussion document, Creating a New Kind of Knowledge Institution, about key future directions and initiatives to be taken. A new era was beginning--Canada proposed to be a leader in new knowledge (or memory) institution implementation with information technology as a major driver. An older era, still viable in other countries and capable of harnessing technology in its own manner (even today in 2015), was out of favour in Canada's capital. Time--perhaps a decade or two?--would reveal the wisdom behind the merger and plans for the future that might be celebrated in their own right.

Further information on post-2004 developments

Library and Archives Canada at Wikipedia
Timeline: Library and Archives Canada Service Decline after 2004 at Ex Libris Association website
Slide History of CISTI, 1924-2009 available on Internet Archive

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF CANADA IN THE 80s AND 90s: THE REALITIY OF NEOLIBERAL REFORM

By the time Guy Sylvestre retired at the end of 1983 many ideas crafted in the Future of the National Library (published in 1979) were no longer achievable. In the early 1980s, Canadian political and social life was in a state of flux. The election of a Conservative government in 1984 was a harbinger of change. In western countries the welfare state, often associated with Keynesian economics, had reached its apogee. The era of neoliberal economic reforms, also embraced often by neoconservatives such as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, had arrived. For the majority of people, including librarians, this critical change in political decision making was at first slowly perceived. But, by the time Bill Clinton's campaign slogan "It's the economy, stupid!" helped him win the American 1992 Presidential election, everyone began to realize that market issues trumped social and cultural issues in the North America. The success of the Reform Party of Canada in the 1993 election was another indication of new national policy priorities.

The concept of reduced government services--government as an enabler not a provider--and the primacy of economic market-based policies became evident in the 1980s and 90s with the privatization of crown corporations such as Air Canada, Canadian National Railway, and Petro-Canada. Politicians and public servants alike expressed less enthusiasm for the qualitative nature of the 'public good' and more interest in furthering the success of federal institutions in a market economy and the rhetoric of 'free trade.' For a service organization like the National Library (NLC), government restructuring required some different thinking about core services and a reassessment of its activities. When a national study, Report of the Federal Cultural Policy Review Committee (the Applebaum-Hébert Report) appeared in 1982, it had little to recommend about the NLC except that a more suitable building should be provided. Obviously, the new National Librarian, Marianne Scott, faced many challenges after her appointment in 1984. A new building was just one.

On the surface, the budget situation for the NLC did not seem too precarious at the outset of the 1980s. Total funding for fiscal 1981/82 was just over $21 million. By 1991 it was almost $41 million; but, adjustments for a decade of rapid inflation consumed 3/4 of new funding. The 1990s were to prove even more difficult: by 1999 the total budget had been reduced to $38 million. In real terms, over two decades, there had been no revenue growth. As a result, the NLC applied the logic of neoliberal management and businesslike trimming: it streamlined operations, reduced collection building, and approached new developments, such as internet services and new digital initiatives, with caution. The rhetoric of "'Doing more with less!'; 'Empowerment!'; 'Partnerships!'; and 'Right-sizing!" were the order of the day.

The NLC's situation was not unique, all libraries and federal organizations encountered problems, but effectively national leadership was slipping away from the NLC. Although a variety of national and regional reports still emanated from Ottawa, an internal report, Orientations: a Planning Framework for the 1990s, which appeared in 1989, focused on NLC's own core activities: the development of a decentralized Canadian library and information network; resource sharing; preservation; and a commitment to Canadian studies. This short report was very different from The Future of the National Library. It was not a surprise when The Friends of the National Library of Canada was founded in 1991 to raise awareness and encourage public support of the Library. It was a necessity.

A second study--Canadian Information Resource Sharing Strategy, released in 1994--was more consultative and client oriented. It outlined a framework for Canadian libraries to develop coordinated resource sharing systems that would allow Canadians access to information. The NLC was retiring the DOBIS system and replacing it with AMICUS for its collections and union catalogue. However, the report arrived at the very time that the "Information Highway" exploded on the library community and the world. People began to envisage different ways to get rapid, convenient access to information required for research, business or leisure purposes without libraries. Nevertheless, the NLC was one of the first Canadian libraries to establish a website in June 1995. It was 'keeping up with the times' but unable to leverage government support for new identified roles, especially in the digital environment where Industry Canada was playing an important role.

Shortly before Marianne Scott prepared to set down after fifteen years, in April 1997 the NLC submitted a brief, The Role of the National Library of Canada in Support of Culture in Canada, to a committee of the Department of Canadian Heritage, to which it now reported. Scott emphasized the NLC had a vital role to play in the nation's cultural information and communications environment. The preservation of materials in the current building was threatened by water damage in collections areas. Canadiana acquisitions were much reduced. Canadian Heritage, under the minister Sheila Copps, was reviewing its own general role and, of course, applying neoliberal standards to its activities. Ironically, the processes the NLC had assiduously applied to its own internal operations and administration would be applied to the portfolio of cultural agencies in Canadian Heritage.

On 12 March 1998, Sheila Copps announced the launch of consultations on the "future role and structure" of the National Archives of Canada and the NLC. Some people in the cultural field understood the coded language that this entailed: amalgamation. However, the subsequent report, by John English, The Role of the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada, completed in 1999, looked to the future, especially in digital terms, and explicitly rejected the idea of unification. The report had many good ideas, but was obscured--sidelined in political parlance--by the prior announcement of a new appointment. Roch Carrier, an award winning author with minimal library expertise, stepped into the position of National Librarian in July 1999.

"We have to build a vision, but I'm not ready to talk about it yet," Carrier first advised the press. Then he went on a two-week cross-Canada tour to discover ideas and opinions about libraries and the NLC. "My role will be to help them [NLC staff] build the future" he wrote in the National Library Bulletin in November 1999. His 'Bridge to the 21st Century' would prove to be a short span to a barren shore.

Further Reading

The English Report recommendations are available on the web at the University of Alberta.
Read news about the National Library in the late 1990s archived on the web.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Review—The Public Library in Canada in Relation to the Government (1939) by Jean E. Stewart.

The Public Library in Canada in Relation to the Government by Jean E. Stewart. Chicago: Fellowships and Scholarships Committee of the American Library Association under the direction of the Graduate Library School, University of Chicago, 1939. 106 p. and map.

Following the completion of a number of Canadian library studies during the Great Depression, there was increasing interest in the formation and development of library services, especially for public libraries. The need for better planning at the political level, stable tax-based financing, improved staffing, increased coordination, and a broader perspective applied to services was more evident. Academic interest in library aspects related to the social sciences was also beginning to develop. The Dominion Bureau of Statistics had collected and published information on the growth of library service for a decade-and-a-half. Now, the opportunity to analyze libraries rested on a firmer basis. The observational approach use by John Ridington, George Locke, and Mary Black in their national 1933 report, Libraries in Canada, would no longer satisfy most planning needs.Stewart's work marked the increasing use of statistics in library studies and American interest in Canadian developments.

In 1939, a young graduate from the University of British Columbia, Jean Eileen Stewart, originally from Alberta, undertook a study on the Canadian public library in relation to federal, provincial, and municipal jurisdictions. Stewart had worked for several years as a librarian in British Columbia libraries, becoming the first director of the new Vancouver Island Union Library when it opened in 1936. Although she had trained at the McGill University Library School, to bolster her credentials, she also went to the United States where she sought a scholarship from the American Library Association under the direction of academics at the University of Chicago Graduate Library School, a leading institution in library science research. The resulting report, The Public Library in Relation to Government, appeared exactly when Canada entered the Second World War, September 1939. Consequently, Stewart's report was never really distributed or cited to any extent. In retrospect, however, much of her work remains of value in terms of understanding the Canadian public library in the first part of the 20th century. In 1940, Jean Stewart married a teacher, William J. Mouat, and returned to British Columbia. She died in 1981 at Abborsford, BC.

What did Stewart set out to do? She investigated 37 public libraries across Canada, all over 30,000 population except for Verdun, Three Rivers, and Quebec City for which she was not able to find data. In her own words:

In an analysis of governmental relations of public libraries in Canada, an effort will be made to find answers to certain questions: (1) What is the relationship between the library and the provincial government? (2) What place does the library take in municipal government? (3) What are the advantages and disadvantages or the library board system or control? (4) What are the possibilities in the development of larger units or library service? (p. 7)

In her first chapters, Stewart documented the historical and legal development of public libraries finding that they closely followed British and American patterns, i.e. libraries were enabled, not mandated, by legislative provisions at the local and provincial levels. The Canadian situation was simpler than the US where home rule municipalities and special charters complicated planning at the state level. Later chapters included information on corporate and association libraries (e.g. in Montreal), board managed municipal libraries (especially in Ontario), and larger units of service (the union libraries and regional demonstrations in BC, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island). Stewart relied on DBS data but also received various responses to a questionnaire she mailed out to in 1938. She presented this information in several tables sprinkled in her report. With respect to municipal-library relationships, she found that boards with active members were often influential in promoting services. Only two cities, Westmount and Winnipeg, used committees of council to administer libraries.

The final two chapters summarized most of her findings. With regard to the expansion of regional systems in Canadian provinces Stewart found many basics -- for example public demand for services -- lacking. "The first steps in regionalism in Canada must be to stimulate and integrate existing institutions, and to extend library service to districts where it is completely lacking." (p. 94) The regional model was clearly an important feature for future planning. As well, Stewart commented that "Library affairs should be administered by a distinct branch of a government department, and, according to general opinion, the provincial departments of education should be given this responsibility. A trained staff should be maintained in this department to supervise, co-ordinate, and direct public library affairs in the province." (p. 99) Stewart's findings and assessments would prove accurate for the most part during the postwar era of public library development in Canada.

The Public Library in Canada remained unpublished. Like other Canadian reports that appeared during WWII (e.g., Gordon Gourlay's 1942 University of Michigan AMLS thesis, "The role of Canadian Public Libraries in Adult Education" and the Rockefeller Foundation "Report on Canadian Libraries" in 1941 by Charles F. McCombs, a New York city public librarian) it found a space to rest on some office shelves. Eventually, a few copies made their way into academic libraries. Stewart's work disappeared from view, but it was not entirely forgotten. Today, along with other Depression-era studies, it continues to be an important resource for understanding early twentieth century public libraries in different parts of our country. Stewart's use of national based statistics and her own survey methods marked another step forward in Canadian library studies.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Review—Four Canadian Maritime Library Surveys during the Great Depression

Gerhard Lomer, Report on a Proposed Three-year Demonstration of Library Service for Prince Edward Island. Montreal: McGill University Library, 1932. 52 p., illus, folding plan.

Nora Bateson, The Carnegie Library Demonstration in Prince Edward Island, Canada, 1933-1936. Charlottetown: Prince Edward Island Libraries, 1936. 52 p., illus. with an Appendix: The Public Library Act (assented to April 4, 1935; p. 50-52).

Nora Bateson, Library Survey of Nova Scotia. Halifax, Department of Education, 1938. 40 p., map; with an Appendix: An act to provide for the support of regional libraries: p. 40.

Nova Scotia Regional Libraries Commission,  Libraries for Nova Scotia, 2nd rev. ed. Halifax: the Commission, 1940.12 p.


The Depression in Maritime Canada presented enormous obstacles to library development. This period did, however, spur important new thinking about how public library services could be established and maintained by public funds and management. As the national survey and report funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Libraries in Canada, proceeded after 1930, it became evident that regional demonstrations might better serve as a stimulus and program for future courses of action. The commissioners, John Ridington, George Locke, and Mary J.L. Black, suggested that Prince Edward Island would an ideal area for such a testing ground for public library service.

Accordingly, The Corporation, under the presidency of Frederick P. Keppel, requested Dr. Gerhard Lomer, the library director of McGill University, to visit P.E.I. and give a second opinion on the issue. Although Lomer only spent a short time on the island in September 1932, he produced a detailed typewritten assessment of current services and facilities, talked with a variety of officials, critiqued operations such as the provincial School Days program for libraries, indicated potential sites for development, and even provided an up-to-date bibliography of regional services. While his work was not as extensive as an earlier Canadian report, British Columbia Library Service 1927-1928 (Victoria, 1929), Lomer provided practical details on organization and offered a program suited to Islanders' needs which explained regional service and showed how it could be put into action by a three-year demonstration of province-wide public library service. His report recommended that provincial education department take the lead in organizing a demonstration and training branch personnel. Part of Prince of Wales College could be used as headquarters. Lomer's astute observations, plus personal interest on the part of P.E.I.'s premier, W.J.P. MacMillan, were persuasive factors in the subsequent announcement by the Carnegie Corporation in January 1933 that it would grant $75,000 for an endowment for the Prince of Wales College (destroyed by fire in 1931) and also $60,000 to start up a provincial library demonstration. Nora Bateson, M.A., a staff member at the McGill library school, who had worked in Canada's first regional demonstration in the Fraser Valley, B.C., got the nod to head the demonstration in P.E.I.

Bateson's activities from 1933 to 1936 were later documented in her report, Carnegie Library Demonstration in Prince Edward Island. She began work out of Charlottetown in June 1933. A few branches were set up; then, Bateson began the arduous task of promoting services at group meetings and presentations across the island. She drove a modified car that could carry 300 books in shelves fitted onto the rear of her auto to give people a sense of the type of books that could be provided by a central service. Her report details how coordinated action functioned to establish branch libraries, create book lists, and refresh school libraries with good reading. It also highlights the parts played by the two main libraries at Charlottetown and Summerside as well as Women's Institutes in remoter area. Throughout the first years, Bateson was the catalyst for improved services.

There were 41,000 volumes in the main collection by 1935 with 23,517 registered borrowers--about 35% of the population. The 1935 annual circulation was 261,029. Because of the success of the demonstration, The Corporation provided additional funds and the government authorized library legislation creating a provincial library commission in April 1935. However, after the next provincial election, this Act was repealed by the new government, partly on the grounds that funding should be administered directly instead of by an appointed Commission. The report deals with legislative activity at the end (pp. 38-42).

The Prince Edward Island Libraries demonstration showed the potential for success of a province-wide library service. As well, the report offered interesting insights on the relationship of libraries and adult education. Nora Bateson had become acquainted with the library extension efforts of St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, and begun to apply similar methods with the demonstration's study groups. A short chapter on this work indicates the variety of meetings and activities in particular Island subjects such as fox-farming, oyster culture, co-operation, and fishing. As well, the report concluded with comments on regional libraries that might be applied in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In June 1936, the demonstration ended and the libraries that had been created came under the direction of the Dept. of Education with limited funding in succeeding years. Unpublished records relating to the reading habits of participants in the successful creation of branches to reach people were digested and reported later in 1940. In retrospect, The Carnegie Library Demonstration documented a systematic scheme of library promotion and provided a blueprint for action as well as data that could be used for research purposes in A Regional Library and Its Readers issued in 1940. Nevertheless, Bateson's report became the basis for library development on the Island until the 1960s ushered in change.

In the adjacent province of Nova Scotia, the Superintendent of Education, Henry F. Munro, and Dr. James Tompkins, the founder of the Antigonish Movement, were anxious to establish better library service, especially in Cape Breton. Father Tompkins, together with Nora Bateson, issued a pamphlet--Why Not a Co-operative Library?--to convince Nova Scotians that a public library system could be built at a reasonable cost and operate effectively. In 1938, the province agreed to sponsor a provincial survey targeting existing conditions, facilities, regional systems, and suggesting a plan for future service. Nora Bateson was the logical choice to conduct the survey. A half-decade before, Libraries in Canada had scant praise for Nova Scotia libraries. In September-October 1937, Bateson found little change. The Citizens Free Library in Halifax lacked staff, finances, accommodation, and needed to be run on "up-to-date professional lines." She found much the same situation in Sydney. The majority of colleges and universities had less than 500 students and small collections. Library extension programs at Acadia and St. Francis Xavier were bright spots. There were 300,000 books in school libraries. Bateson concluded: "It seems reasonable to suppose that when the possibilities of public library service ... is made known, the numerous organizations which have already shown their interest will combine to lift libraries in Nova Scotia out of the amateur class and put them on an efficient professional basis."

To complete her report, Bateson highlighted the state of current library issues--adult readers, children's services, the need for trained librarians and staff, typical service costs, and county and regional organization that had been demonstrated in B.C. and P.E.I. A suggested plan for public library service was put forward: (1) appointed public library commissioners with authority to hire a director and oversee library development; (2) county or regional libraries funded locally with provincial aid and managed by district boards; (3) a library system for Cape Breton with headquarters at Sydney' and (4) improved provincial public library legislation. Nova Scotia already had an enabling Act (1937) to permit regional libraries, but no provision for commissioners, a library director, or designated powers. After considering the report, a new Act was passed in summer 1938 and Bateson hired as library Director of Libraries for Nova Scotia.

To promote and establish libraries, Bateson realized public relations and accurate information was essential. Thus, the small pamphlet, Libraries for Nova Scotia, began to make a regular appearance in hamlets, villages, and towns across the province. This booklet went through various printings before 1945. It included brief outlines on topics such as "Why We Need Libraries," "Information," "Books as Wage Earners," "Leisure-Time Reading," "Country-Wide Library Services," and "Nova Scotia." Because the Second World War intervened, Bateson and her staff spent years assisting the Canadian Legion in providing books to the armed forces in the Maritime region.  Library expansion in Nova Scotia would have to wait another decade for the plans formulated in Library Survey of Nova Scotia could be realized.

The regional surveys conducted in P.E.I. and Nova Scotia during the hard years of the Great Depression showed the success of coordinated library services and value of mobilizing public acceptance to advance libraries. The Carnegie funded projects presented a regional perspective in contrast to the national study, Libraries in Canada, which had detected little interest in libraries. The two studies clearly indicated there was a latent need and potential for public support when energetic efforts were made to introduce better collections and services on a regional scale. Unfortunately, economic conditions and the realities of wartime Canada blunted immediate efforts to implement the ideas presented by Nora Bateson and others. Associated library legislation was incomplete or lacking to permit the formation of county or regional entities for libraries. Potential aids, such as bookmobiles, were ruled out due to transportation difficulties during winter and were not available at this point. Yet, these reports were vital additions that charted library development and served as a basis for eventual library improvements in the Maritimes after the Second World War. Together, with other studies in the west and at the national level, they marked a new era in planning for library service.

Further reading:

Violet L. Coughlin, Larger Units of Public Library Service in Canada; With Particular Reference to the Provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1968

Sue Adams, "Our Activist Past: Nora Bateson, Champion of Regional Libraries," Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research 4, no. 1 (2009). [accessed 2014-06-24]

Maxine K. Rochester, "Bringing Librarianship to Rural Canada in the 1930s: Demonstrations by Carnegie Corporation of New York," Libraries & Culture: a Journal of Library History 30 (1995): 366-90.

Nora Bateson : Biographies of Librarians and Information Professionals at the Ex Libris Association site [accessed 2014-06-24]

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review—A Book in Every Hand by Don Kerr (2005)

A Book in Every Hand: Public Libraries in Saskatchewan by Don Kerr. Regina: Coteau Books, 2005. 279 pp.; $19.95. Still available via email from Saskatchewan Library Trustees' Association.

At the start of the 1930s, a national study funded by the Carnegie Corporation, Libraries in Canada, reasoned that Saskatchewan, which had almost a million people, might prosper in the years ahead if public library proponents worked hard to achieve services outside a few major communities. A base existed. Regina and North Battleford had Carnegie library buildings. Saskatoon, Prince Albert, and Moose Jaw were major centres with book collections. But the vast majority of people were rural dwellers who depended on a Travelling Library service of boxes of books for loan, an Open Shelf system of 'books by mail' operated from the provincial Legislature, and small struggling mostly subscription funded libraries. One solution highlighted by this report seemed to be the development of regional libraries through cooperative efforts--of course, 'cooperation' was a buzz word during the Great Depression. It became a byword for library progress in the latter part of the 20th century.
     Don Kerr's welcome volume on public library development in a large province with a small population outlines the successful efforts of library supporters, politicians, governments, trustees and librarians over seventy years up to 2005. Canadian provinces have distinct public library systems and Kerr (a former Saskatoon library trustee) best describes Saskatchewan's development as a 'one-library system' with administration centralized and public services decentralized. The Provincial Library, formed in 1953, is a central coordinating body. Regina and Saskatoon serve as resource centres. Eight unified regional systems gradually formed after 1950 are important hubs. Three in the south: Chinook (1971), Palliser (1973), and Southeast (1966). Four in the centre: Wapiti (1950), Wheatland (1967), Parkland (1968), and Lakeland (1972). Lastly, in the north an autonomous board for the Pahkisimon Nuye?áh Library, a federated structure of communities and school libraries, formed in 1991. Initially, the province provided the majority of funding for regions. Today, the regions are funded principally by local levies supplemented by provincial aid. Kerr concludes that Saskatchewan has one of the best library systems in Canada.
     This study is organized in a chronologic-geographic mode with theme chapters from the very early days when Saskatchewan was a territory to early 21st century arrangements based on a union catalogue, reciprocal borrowing, and interlibrary loan. As mechanics' institutes changed to community libraries, as travelling libraries and the open shelf service disappeared in the 1960s, a provincial-regional partnership emerged. A Regional Libraries Act (1946) and formation of a Provincial Library (1953) set the stage for growth in the 1960s. As the system expanded, periodic reviews took place to update legislation in 1984, in 1996, and to create a multitype library authority to coordinate work and access by all types of libraries to collections and information. For Canadian library history readers there are familiar names scattered through Kerr's history: J.R.C. Honeyman, Marion Gilroy, Mary Donaldson, Don Meadows, and Frances Morrison. In many ways, the success of equitable service throughout the province is underlined by the personal commitments by strong-minded individuals. Although individual effort and local initiative was essential in building Saskatchewan's libraries, Kerr credits the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation governments with much of the initial impetus towards equitable service in rural areas. The CCF under Tommy Douglas was sympathetic and ready to assist library planners.
     A Book in Every Hand details the arduous efforts to form and create regional systems one by one over three decades. 'Planning from below' was never easy--mandatory participation by municipalities in regions did not come into being until 1996. Often, local autonomy trumped universal access, a familiar library theme. The development of urban services in Saskatoon and Regina provide insights into library planning and community building through branches and online access via the internet. Also, budget struggles with city elders! There are interesting separate chapters devoted to the Saskatchewan Library Association's (SLA) contributions; the development of a provincial multitype system in the 1990s; and aboriginal library service that began to function in the 1960s. The SLA was an early supporter of the creation of a National Library in Ottawa in the 1940s and, and along with the Canadian Library Association, a constant source of professional development for the province's librarians. When the federal government began assistance in earnest for Indian band libraries in the mid-1960s, there were plans to train persons, to build suitable collections, to finance and assist aboriginal communities. These efforts usually (but not always) met with success. The short chapter on multitype service offers some information that is comparable to efforts in neighboring Alberta.
     Don Kerr is an excellent writer-poet-scholar, with many books to his credit. His text sweeps the reader along with personable comments from his own interviews and from documentary sources he consulted. He offers a personal account at the outset about his love of libraries and a general outline of his history. Book chapters are interspersed with tables, black and white illustrations, and some beautiful colour plates of public libraries provided by the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation. More on library architecture would have been a definite plus for A Book in Every Hand. There are frequent scholarly footnotes that will lead researchers to additional information and sources of study. A great index too! Kerr's work impressively documents the development of equitable access and better services hinted at by Libraries Canada in the depression years. There are not many histories of public library development for an entire Canadian province but this is one that makes me wish there was a digital version.    

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

THE CASE FOR A NATIONAL LIBRARY OF CANADA 1933-1946

In the midst of the Great Depression a Carnegie funded project to study Canadian libraries appeared. In a hundred and fifty pages this report, authored by John Ridington, George H. Locke, and Mary J.L. Black, surveyed the landscape of library service across the country. Its two chapters on government libraries still make sober reading today. The surveyors reported there was “very little enthusiasm for either a scholarly or a democratic book service in most of the libraries of the various government of Canada.”

Indifference and neglect continued to prevail in government circles on the topic of a national library. Libraries in Canada (1933) did not issue a rallying cry for a national library—it was content with offering advice that a national librarian should be appointed and put in charge of all the libraries maintained by the Dominion government. In this way, all their activities could be coordinated, their holdings catalogued and made available nationally over a period of time. A system of legal deposit would ensure a comprehensive collection of printed resources. Eventually, a new building could be erected to house material and provide reference and reading services. It was an opportunity, but one unlikely to be a priority in the early 1930s.

But the times did change. A Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations was struck in 1937 to examine the underlying financing for the federal and provincial basis of Confederation and the distribution of legislative powers across Canada. Amongst the many submissions were two on forming a national library by the British Columbia and Ontario Library Associations in March and April 1938. These briefs envisioned four national functions. There would be a central repository of library information together with a national union catalogue of holdings. As well, the national library would issue books and liaise with cultural organizations, such as the National Museum, National Gallery, Public Archives, and Library of Parliament. The Commission sympathized with these points and stated a national library was within the federal mandate when it reported in 1940.

During the Second World War, the Canadian Library Council and prominent university librarians continued to press the case from Queen’s and Manitoba. The Ontario Library Review published E. Cockburn Kyte’s “A National Library for Canada,” in 1939 and Elizabeth Dafoe argued for “A National Library” in the May 1944 issue of Food for Thought. The General Librarian of Parliament, Felix Desrochers, added his support in the Canadian Historical Review in 1944. But it was the Canadian Library Council, the predecessor to the Canadian Library Association, that best defined the activities that a national library might undertake in its visionary Canada Needs Libraries in 1945:
  • collecting national literature and history cooperatively with the Dominion Archives, National Gallery, and other national bodies;
  • assembling a central national reference collection;
  • lending items to other libraries;
  • providing microfilm, photostat, and other copying services for clients;
  • compiling a union catalogue to identify materials available through inter-library loan on a national scale;
  • co-ordinating book information with audio-visual aids in co-operation with the National Film Board, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, etc;
  • administering collections of Canadian books for exhibition abroad
  • publishing bibliographical works about Canada, e.g. Canadian Catalogue of Books,Canadian Periodical Index, etc.
After the formation of the Canadian Library Association in June 1946, these points were adopted and resubmitted in an influential brief to the federal government in December 1946. This particular effort, A National Library for Canada, elaborated on the benefits of a national library and the broad support the concept had garnered from other national groups: the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Historical Association, the Canadian Political Science Association, and the Social Science Research Council of Canada. This grouping of professional organizations was a influential catalyst in convincing federal Members of Parliament in the value of a national library. There were many benefits to Canada (p. 11):
A National Library for Canada would contribute to the organization of precise knowledge, thus ensuring the most intelligent use of the country’s resources, human and material.
The existence of a research centre on Canada would encourage the writing not only of factual works useful to the legislator, administrator, business man, farmer, student, but also of imaginative works based on research which would help to interpret Canada to Canadians and also to the world.
The prestige of the National Library and its many activities would stimulate the whole library movement. Individual libraries and citizens in all part s of the country would receive assistance from its publications and travelling exhibitions, its reference and cataloguing services, and from the speeding-up of inter-library loans through use of its union catalogues.
The international services of the National Library would play an essential role in Canada’s expanding international relations.
To sum up, the National Library would be a centre of intellectual life of Canada, and a guarantee that the sources of its history will be preserved, and a symbol of our national concern with the things of the mind and the spirit.
To expedite matters, the CLA's 1946 brief concluded that a national service could begin immediately and be housed in temporary quarters: "the National Library can begin as an Information Bureau and Bibliographical Centre, while at the same time, the investigation of the whole question of the ultimate organization of the National Library, its book stack and the building that will be needed to house its collections and its services is continued" (p. 3). The brief urged the government to form a committee reporting to a cabinet minister(s) to investigate its establishment. By June 1948 a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament approved a plan for a Bibliographic Centre as the first step towards the creation of a National Library.

In September 1948, Dr. W. Kaye Lamb was appointed Dominion Archivist, a position which he accepted on condition that he should pave the way for the establishment of a national library. Dr. Lamb had served as Provincial Archivist and Librarian of British Columbia from 1934-40 before becoming Librarian of the University of British Columbia. He had helped author British Columbia’s brief to the Royal Commission in March 1938. He set to work by establishing the Canadian Bibliographic Centre in May 1950. Dr. Lamb presented another statement to the Massey Commission in support of a national library program, a project the Royal Commission on Arts, Letters, and Sciences (1951) endorsed. Then, Dr. Lamb helped draft the National Library Act passed by Parliament in 1952 and officially became Canada’s first National Librarian on 1 January 1953.

Further Reading:
A National Library for Canada; A Brief Presented to the Government of Canada by The Canadian Library Association/Association Canadienne des Bibliotheques, The Royal Society of Canada, The Canadian Historical Association, The Canadian Political Science Association, and The Social Science research Council of Canada, December, 1946 is available online at Library and Archives Canada as a submission to the Massey Commission.