Showing posts with label theses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label theses. Show all posts

Monday, August 28, 2017

Review—World War II Theses on Schools and Public Libraries by Two Albertans: Louise Riley and Jack Brown

Mutual Relationships between Public Libraries and Schools in Providing Library Service to Boys and Girls in Canadian Cities (Columbia University, M.A. thesis, June 1942, 113 p. with tables) by Margaret Louise Riley and The Extension of Public and School Library Services in the Province of Alberta (University of Chicago, M.A. thesis, August 1940, 161 p. with tables and map) by Jack Ernest Brown.

Margaret Louise Riley was born and educated at St. Hilda's High School for Girls in Calgary. She attended McGill University (B.A. 1921) and received her library diploma at Madison, Wisconsin in 1928.  After graduation, she worked at the Calgary Public Library as a children's librarian throughout the 1930s. Riley's articles on library work for children and teens helped her attain a Carnegie Fellowship and she graduated from Columbia University Library School in 1942. Her thesis, Mutual Relationships, dealt with the subject of cooperative work by school and public libraries in Canada.

Jack Ernest Brown was born in Edmonton in 1914 and graduated from the University of Alberta with a B.A. in 1938. He attended McGill University Library School, receiving a B.L.S. in the following year. Brown was awarded a Carnegie Fellowship and graduated with a MA from the University of Chicago Graduate Library School in 1940. His thesis focused on the development of public and school services in Alberta.

Children's librarianship was a well-established public library service by 1930. Louise Riley introduced a room for young adults readers and enthusiastically improved Calgary's children's library at a time when money was hard to come by during the Depression years. It was during the 1930s when schools in Alberta, and elsewhere in Canada, began to develop a "new program" in elementary and junior high schools that emphasized the use of many books rather than rote learning and use of  one class text. Because many elementary school libraries were deficient (or practically non-existent), students and parents often turned to public libraries to secure good reading. This practical consideration inspired Riley to research cooperative educational efforts between schools and public libraries. Her thesis at Columbia examined the relationships that were being developed in Canadian cities with more than 10,000 population (52 in total) through the use of questionnaires and a literature search of leading professional opinions about school-public library cooperation.

Riley's detailed compilation and analysis of statistics received from across Canada yielded useful information about the state of children's work in 1940. For example, larger city pubic libraries were open for children on average from 20-40 hours per week and the average number of books per registered child ranged from 1.5 to 2.2 books/borrower. Fifteen school boards were developing centralized school libraries, an option many library planners favoured. Data on classroom libraries, children's sections in public libraries, and public library branches in schools were included. There were twenty-six tables in all.

Mutual Relationships explored solutions for cooperative efforts to improve children's work. Riley surveyed the experience of American and English libraries and presented the advantages and disadvantages of similar Canadian efforts especially inter-board representation on school and library boards, public library branches in schools, and cooperative administration of school libraries. Often, the crucial element missing was leadership at the local level. Based on her findings, Riley recommended conducting local community surveys and devising a cooperative plan for discussion and eventual implementation. She suggested the newly formed Canadian Association of Children's Librarians and Canadian Library Council could provide assistance in developing cooperative work.

Riley's conclusions did not surprise many informed librarians and administrators. However, the data she presented was the first Canadian study of its kind that buttressed many arguments about school-public library cooperation. It was another instance of the use of social science methodology to study libraries and demonstrate the value of "library science." Of course, Mutual Relationships was confined to cities--smaller communities, rural places, counties, and regions were not included. The thesis was a practical exploration of an issue that would continue throughout the 20th century and be resolved locally in many different ways.

Louise Riley returned to Calgary Public Library to develop children's services after graduation. One successful effort was the establishment of general reading sections with visiting librarians to advise student readers in some schools which was financed by school board grants. She became Calgary's Assistant Librarian in 1949, served as President of the Alberta Library Association, taught courses for children's librarianship for teachers at the Calgary campus of the University of Alberta, and authored an award-winning children's book, Train for Tiger Lily (1954). Louise Riley died in 1957 and shortly afterward a new branch library in Hounsfield Heights was named in her honour.

Jack Brown's thesis at Chicago was centered on Alberta where about sixty percent of the population lived in rural conditions. A plan for the extension of library services through schools and public libraries based on governmental, economic, educational and social conditions was his primary aim. He made a lengthy study of Alberta's geography, its educational system, municipal and school authorities, and economic conditions. It was a time when Edmonton and Calgary were small cities under 100,000 population and when agriculture and cattle ranching were dominant economic activities.

Brown applied the concepts of 'modern service' and 'efficiency' to Alberta's library scene in a thorough manner by stressing the educational role of public libraries and the development of regional systems. Brown surveyed the province's public libraries and found that only 30.3% of the total population of 772,782 were served by libraries and only 8% were actually registered borrowers. Half of Alberta's book stock resided in Edmonton and Calgary and the per capita expenditure on libraries based on total provincial population was fifteen cents. School libraries were at a rudimentary level. Larger school divisions held the promise of better funding but these were only in the initial stages of development. One successful venture was the small travelling libraries and 'open shelf' system operated by the University of Alberta's Extension Department.

Brown concluded that the existing public library 'system' was completely inadequate and suggested that cooperation between rural sections and urban communities should be adopted and promoted by an independent appointed provincial library agency. He strengthened this argument by reviewing British Columbia's pioneering effort in the Fraser Valley as well as American library organization in Vermont where regional services were introduced on a voluntary basis during the Depression. Brown was particularly impressed by work in California where county library systems and city libraries were supervised by the State Library. By 1940, California's system of county libraries and city libraries had reached 98 per cent of the state's population and had been adopted by many other American states. Brown also provided a brief account of the coordinated system of rural and larger centralized libraries in Denmark.

Using his findings, Brown adapted international library planning to suit Alberta's needs. To remedy the permissive nature of current library legislation, he suggested establishing an independent provincial library agency to supervise and coordinate an integrated public library and school library system based on larger units of service. Brown presented the idea of eleven districts each with a headquarters and branches, a reasonable tax base, populations in excess of 20,000, and areas ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 square miles to minimize the problem of distance. He knew that his divisions were personal decisions, not necessarily ones that a potential provincial agency and new library director might implement. However, Brown stated "If a public library system were established in each of the eleven regions, then approximately 80 per cent of Alberta's population would receive public library services (p. 154)." His specific recommendations, which were shared by other Alberta librarians, were never put into action; however, an Alberta Library Board was formed in 1946 and eventually, after passage of a new library act in 1956, the process of establishing regional libraries began, first in the Lacombe (now Parkland) regional library and area similar to Brown's "District 2" centered in Red Deer.

Jack Brown returned to Edmonton Public Library after graduation, establishing the popular street car branch library that was publicized in the January 1942 issue of Library Journal. Shortly thereafter, Brown left to work at the New York Public Library until 1957 when he returned to Canada as chief librarian with the National Research Council in Ottawa. At the NRC, Brown oversaw the development of a National Science Library for Canada in the 1960s and in October 1974 a new library building opened with a new title: the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information. He retired from CISTI in 1978 at a time when a national information system had become a practical reality. Jack Brown passed away in 1996

The two theses by Louise Riley and Jack Brown were completed when Canada was at war--not a reasonable time to expect any action to result from their publication. However, Mutual Relationships and The Extension of Public and School Library Services marked another step in the direction of the application of more rigorous scholarship to Canadian library issues and planning that had begun in the late 1930s.

Further Information

View the 1942 Paramount Pictures video of the Edmonton's Street Car Library on YouTube.

Read about Margaret Louise Riley's career in the Ex Libris Association Newsletter (page 9).

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Review—Two 1940s Canadian Theses on Academic Libraries by Dorothy Hamilton and Winifred Snider

Dorothy I. Hamilton, The Libraries of the Universities of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. A Report. (Ann Arbor: Department of Library Science, University of Michigan, 1942). 2, 2, 137 leaves with tables.

Winifred H. Snider, Extramural Library Service in Libraries and Extension Departments of Canadian Universities. MA thesis (New York: Columbia University Library School, 1948). 64 p. with tables.

Until the Second World War, it could be said with a measure of assurance that librarianship in Canada was dominated by interest in public library development. Libraries in higher education were mostly the reserve of an educated minority of Canadians. It was the public library that was known by the popular notion, the "people's university." There were, of course, occasions when academic librarians, such as Stewart Wallace, Gerhard Lomer, and Kaye Lamb, rose to prominence in provincial organizations during the Depression. And, in the early 1930s, the Commission of Enquiry had explored universities to some degree. These episodes, for the most part, were short lived. However, the long slumber of university and college libraries on a national stage was about to change after 1939.

Two librarians, Dorothy Isabel Hamilton and Winifred Helen Snider, produced studies that provide valuable information on the state of university collections and services during the war and immediate postwar period. Hamilton was first into the field: a native British Columbian, she earned her BA at Alberta in 1929 and then went to the University of Washington for her BSLS in 1931. After working at the university library in Edmonton in the 1930s she was awarded a Carnegie grant for an ALA fellowship in 1941 to complete her AMLS at Michigan on four Canadian western university libraries. Winifred Snider came from a prominent family in the Kitchener-Waterloo region. Like many young women in Ontario, she went to Victoria College, and graduated with a BA in 1923. After holding various positions, she went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for a Library Diploma (1928) and worked briefly in the Fraser Valley regional demonstration at Chilliwack, BC, before taking up cataloging at Waterloo College [now Wilfrid Laurier University] in 1932. She left shortly afterward to be the assistant librarian at Mount Allison from 1934-42, taking time to be president of the Maritime Library Association (1940-41). In 1942, she became the university's head librarian until the end of WW II when she resigned to work and study at Columbia University where she earned her MSLS in 1948.

These two theses are valuable records of academic library work in the 1940s. In the first part of her work, Dorothy Hamilton briefly considered how higher education developed at each western university: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. In the second part of her thesis, Hamilton looked at several aspects of library development on each campus prior to WW II:
  • the historical development of libraries and their accommodations;
  • an examination of library finances, financial standards, and a comparison with eight American universities;
  • the legal basis of the library in university acts, and the status of library committees and the head librarian;
  • the general management of the library and its staff resources and activities;
  • book collections in relation to checklists and special collections;
  • services: circulation, user regulations, hours of operation, interloan, reference, and reserve work.
Generally, there was room for improvement. At one point, Hamilton concluded that "Unfortunately, Canadian university administrators do not seem to be aware of the importance of the library in university instruction." (p. 45) Her lengthy exposition of the role of librarians, frugal budgets, and smallish collections helped to fortify this opinion in all areas, but we must remember throughout the Great Depression managerial thinking leaned to making ends meet.

One solution for improvement that Hamilton pointed to was the use of emerging college and university library standards by the American Library Association (ALA), recommended guidelines or principles by American librarians, and new accreditation processes of the North Central Association used in the United States. Hamilton used ALA statistics to compare the four Canadian universities were similar counterparts south of the border (e.g., Arizona, Colgate, Wyoming, Southern Methodist, etc.) rather than the usual parade of the highest ranking American universities with budgets and operations far beyond the expectations of Canadian faculty or librarians. In this regard, British Columbia did fairly well and the other three western libraries were inadequately supported. Hamilton also reviewed book, reference, and periodical collections using checklists for American college libraries developed by the North Central Association which had begun accrediting colleges before WW I. Again, the percentage holdings in relation to these checklists found British Columbia doing reasonably well with the other three universities mostly clustered in the median range or lower range.

Hamilton also explored services and personnel. In many cases, services (e.g., library instruction) were less developed or were reliant on manual procedures (e.g. circulation). Professional librarians, often in short supply, were regarded as "clerks" by most faculty. On balance, western Canadian university libraries in the early 1940s could best be described as being in the developmental stage. Hamilton concluded her analysis with the observation that all the universities required (1) a good central building; (2) a readjustment of the university budget to provide adequate support; and (3) increased staffing with adjustments as to status and salaries to attain at least minimum standards. The contemporary guidelines, of course, were American--it would not be until 1965 that the Guide to Canadian University Library Standards published by the Canadian Library Association appeared. Hamilton's exploration confirmed the need to improve services but her report was seldom referenced. After graduating at Michigan, Dorothy Hamilton returned to Alberta and worked at the library in public service areas, including head of reference, until 1969. She died in Victoria, BC, in 1974.

Winifred Snider's thesis at Columbia was less extensive than Hamilton's work and was descriptive rather than analytical. But she chose a subject, extramural library services, that was national in focus and included university extension departments that mostly organized these services and relied on library support. Snider worked under the general mantra of Reconstruction in the postwar period and aimed to provide information for a national plan of library service to rural Canada to which university libraries could contribute. Since the inception of McGill's McLennan Travelling Libraries to smaller Canadian communities in 1901, university libraries had participated in a sporadic manner to a wide range of adult education activities in rural and remote areas. Extramural Library Service studied thirteen universities that offered a wide variety of extramural public services. A few libraries were active participants, others provided limited support for the work of extension departments. British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Toronto, Queen's, Western, Ottawa, McGill, Laval, Acadia, St. Francis Xavier, Mount Allison, and New Brunswick all participated in Snider's survey. Of these, Manitoba, Acadia, and New Brunswick did not have extension departments.

Essentially, in the immediate the postwar era, two main types of programing had evolved in Canadian universities. One grouping was course related--night classes in urban areas, correspondence courses, regular extension lectures for a short period, and summer schools. Mostly, academic credit was offered for advancement. McGill, Toronto, and Queen's were important in this regard. A second grouping of programs revolved around responses to the interests of users anxious to learn on their own or develop knowledge and skills related to local activities. Snider's definition for "extramural" emphasized this cultural work: she focused on library services to people who were not faculty, students, or staff attending university sessional classes. This perspective involved programming with reading clubs, handicrafts, films, debates, summer camps, music, commerce, entertainments and sports, short conferences and discussions for like-minded groups. In the east, St. Francis Xavier's Department of Extension was nationally recognized for its correspondence courses and lecture program especially on Cape Breton Island where branch libraries were established to support small, organized groups in a cooperative effort. To the west, the University of Alberta extension service was an acknowledged leader supported with a large library managed by its extension department. Also, British Columbia was an important source for provincial adult education and extramural work.

For academic libraries, providing resources for all these types of programs was a challenge. Snider's survey identified six main types of library borrowers--correspondence work, graduates, high school students, private individuals, formal library applicants, and clubs-study groups-community residents. For the most part, especially correspondence courses, there were specific requirements: "packet or package libraries" containing necessary reading and information were distributed to people and groups at a distance. Book lending was an ingredient in library activity, but not the major factor. But for the most part, extension work was not given priority in academic library work. Snider acknowledged her review presented an individualized portrait of institutions on a national stage where policy development presented "a rather primitive state of service" (p. 43). In fact, over the next quarter-century, university travelling and package library services began to wind down as regional public library services improved and students consulted better resourced regional and small public libraries. This likely accounts for the rare references to Snider's thesis because no comprehensive, coordinated Canadian plan of library development for rural Canada was developed in the postwar period.

After Snider completed her graduate work, and with a quarter-century of library work behind her from coast to coast in two countries, she left Columbia to return to Ontario to care for her father after her mother's death. She and her sister, Lillian (a teacher), became fixtures in local community life and heritage to the north of Kitchener. Winifred Snider died in 1994.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 11, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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.