What was Happening at the Carleton Place Library in 1930?

 

 

ANNUAL REPORT OF THE PUBLIC LIBRARY

Carleton Place Herald, January 14, 1930

 

Very often one reads or hears the statement that this is not a reading age.

Well, there may be something in it, because the distractions are many, but it is a difficult theory to prove in Carleton Place.

When Miss McRostie presented her annual report to the Library Board last week, it showed that over 20,000 volumes had been issued to readers during 1930.

Here is proof positive that our citizens are a reading people.

It is proof too that of all our institutions the Public Library is the one that gives, if not the most instruction, at least the most pleasure, to our citizens, and gives it at the least cost.

Considering the smallness of the sum the Library Board has to administer, it is astonishing the number of volumes (over 8,000) that have been gathered through the years.

Now, it is not intended to convey that of the 20,000 odd volumes issued during 1930, all were books of deep import.  Thank goodness, that is not the case.  How awful it would be to live in a town of 4,000 people who had read over 20,000 heavy works in one year!  The thing is too frightful to contemplate.

No, while there was a goodly circulation of works of Biography, History, Poetry, Travel, Science, etc., just enough to keep us from being too tiresomely high-brow, or too lamentably low-brow, it must be confessed that works of Fiction were in the majority; our people read for enjoyment, which, after all, is the only way to read.  Instruction is a by-product, imbibed unconsciously with the enjoyment.

As you may well judge, it is a big task to keep track of the lending of 20,000 books, to say nothing of the other duties of conducting the Library.  Here is where our Librarian comes in for some well-deserved praise.  Her good nature, patience and helpfulness are proverbial.  The books are so placed in the Library that they are not easily accessible to the public.  The shelves in the reading room reach to the ceiling, and there are some thousands of volumes shut off completely in the library office.  As a result, you know what happens.  We usually go in and say, “Good evening, Miss McRostie, what have you tonight that is good?”  Then follows the usual proffering of what Miss McRostie has on hand, book after book, until a final choice is made.  This system puts an undue amount of work on the Librarian.  It narrows down the choice of books and causes unavoidable delays.

The Library Board have realized for a long time that this system is not the best one, and have set out to improve it.

Before anything was done, the assistance of the Provincial Government Library Department was asked.  The Department sent down a Library expert who spent a day going over the whole set-up.

After congratulating the Library Board on the splendid collection of books we have, this expert made the following recommendations:

 

  1. That an inventory of all the books in the library be made, and volumes in so tattered a condition that they are unfit for circulation should be thrown out.
  2. After this had been done, the books should be put in six foot shelves and all made accessible to the public, after being reclassified in keeping with modern Library practise.

 

This is a big job, but the Library Board  have tackled it, and a very enthusiastic volunteer committee of ladies, under the chairmanship of Mrs. C. W. Bates, are working every day raising a mighty dust and making splendid progress.  In this work the Board are fortunate in having the help of Mrs. David Findlay, Jr., who is trained in modern library systems.

While these changes are going on, the Library Board asks the patience of our citizens.  When the changes are made the improvement will undoubtedly be great.

Mention has been made about the smallness of the funds the Library Board have to administer.  These changes, particularly the new shelving, will require a moderate amount of expense.

To provide for this, at least in part, and to increase funds for the purchase of books, the Library Board are considering holding an entertainment of some sort, at which they expect to present some outstanding speaker.  Announcement will be made about this later, and we feel sure that if anything of this sort is done, the Library Board can count on the whole-hearted support of the town’s people.

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Carleton Place Public Library Becomes Part of Region Co-Operative

 

Carleton Place Canadian, 10 March, 1966

 

The Carleton Place Public Library has become a member of the Eastern Ontario Regional Library Co-operative recently set up under a part section of the Public Library Act.  About fifty other libraries and associate libraries in Eastern Ontario have become members.

The purpose of this new organization is the improvement and extension of library services through the co-operative use of the area’s library resources.

The co-operative will be governed by a Regional Board which has been formed with the following persons as its first members:

Mr. W. J. Hodder, Chairman, Ottawa Public Library; Mrs. R. D. Butterill, Vice-Chairman, Nepean Township Public Library; Mr. F. B. Macmillan, Cornwall Public Library; Mr. M. B. Cameron, Brockville Public Library; Mr. D. E. Wolff, Pembroke Public Library; Rev. J. S. Bradley, Renfrew Public Library; Mr. Sarto Leduc, Hawkesbury Public Library; Mrs. Charles O’Reilly, Smiths Falls Public Library; Regional Director and Secretary-Treasurer, Claude B. Aubry, Ottawa Public Library.

The Public Libraries of Ottawa, Pembroke, Cornwall and Brockville have been designated “Resource Libraries”.  As these libraries are repositories of important collections they will play a major role in a rational development of library services within the region.  This will be done mainly through an active exchange of information, books and other library services among themselves as well as through the assistance they can provide to smaller libraries.

It is to be noted that the Regional Board will have no authority over the local Boards, which shall keep their autonomy.

The above information is gleaned from the first Bulletin issued by the Regional Board to member libraries.

 

 

Janet’s Last Day- 30 December 2013

I would like to take this opportunity, on the eve of Janet’s last working day at the Carleton Place Public Library, to say that I believe Janet always rose to the occasion, and enjoyed the hurly burly of it all – and her ability to make it all come together was always a source of pride. She thrived on adversity as much as on the multitude of successes enjoyed by the library over the years. From the smallest, inconsequential detail, like making schedule changes due to winter storms or staff illness, to orchestrating the mammoth rebuilding of the library after the fire of 1986, Janet was there, doing her job and working, along with all of her staff, to make a strong and vibrant library for the Carleton Place community.  Janet would see the wider picture and put it all into perspective. This, along with her compassion for others, was and is, her greatest asset. We will miss Janet, but she has certainly earned a happy, healthy, and carefree retirement!
Best wishes for the future, Janet.
Shirley Jones-Wellman
Assistant Librarian & Friend

Published in: on December 30, 2013 at 10:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Documents Showing the Establishment of The Carlton Place Library Association & Mechanics Institute-1846

Translation of the Establishment of the Carlton Place Library Association & Mechanics Institute in 1846:

 “At a public meeting held pursuant to notice at Carlton* Place in the office of Messrs. R. Bell & Co. on the evening of the 7th March, 1846.  Robt. Bell Esq. was called to the chair.  David Lawson appointed secretary.

Resolved that a Committee of three be appointed to draft a constitution for a public library.

Resolved that R. Bell Esq. & Messrs. J. A. Gemmel & David Cram form the above Committee.

Resolved that a public meeting be called on Saturday the 14th Inst. At 7 o’clock p.m. when the Committee will report proceedings.

D. Lawson, Secretary

At a public meeting held pursuant to notice at Carlton Place in office of Messrs. R. Bell & Co on the evening of the 14th March 1846.

Proposed that the Committee read their report.  R. Bell Esq. proceeded to read the following report.

 

Report

Rules and regulations of the Carlton Place Library Association & Mechanics Institute:

This society shall be called the Carlton Place Library Association & Mechanics Institute; and its object shall be the establishment and management of a public library, the acquisition of suitable apparatus in connection with the Mechanics Institute, and a supply of lectures on useful & interesting subjects.”

*Please note that Carleton was spelled without the ‘e’ in this document.

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Published in: on November 5, 2013 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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JANET BARIL’S RETIREMENT ANNOUNCEMENT

 

Retirement Poster

Published in: on October 28, 2013 at 7:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A HISTORY OF THE CARLETON PLACE PUBLIC LIBRARY

A History of the Carleton Place Public Library

In honour of Janet Baril’s Retirement, Head Librarian 1984-2013

Starting in 1829, the Ramsay and Lanark Circulation Library originally served the townspeople of Carleton Place.  It had over 500 volumes, and was located in the Anglican Church which stood at Lot 16, 1st Con. Ramsay, opposite the Union Hall and schoolhouse.

Our present library began on March 14, 1846, as a Subscription Library with 65 original members.  The entry fee was 2 shillings and the yearly fee was 5 shillings.  The subscription list continued until 1850.  By 1851, the Carleton Place library was operating out of the school house on Bridge Street, later Central School, which became the site of the post office.  Some pages are missing until a partial list appears in 1864 when the record ends.

The officers and directors of the Carleton Place Library and Mechanics’ Institute for 1851 were:

President:  James Duncan (blacksmith); Vice President:  William Peden (merchant); Treasurer:  Robert Bell, M.P.P. ; Secretary:  David Lawson (store clerk, postmaster) ; Librarian:  Johnston Neilson (schoolmaster) ; Directors:  George Dunnet (merchant), Duncan McGregor, James C. Poole (newspaper publisher), Thomas Patterson (Ramsay farmer), John McCarton (Ramsay farmer).

April 5, 1865:  “The Carleton Place Library will be open on Monday next, and on the first Monday of every month hereafter.  Person wishing to read can on payment of .25 cent per quarter of a year.”

Interest in the library seemed to have dwindled until 1883 with the formation of the Carleton Place Mechanics Institute.  The object of this Association was to:  “establish a reading room and library, procure suitable apartments (sic) and deliver courses or lectures on useful and interesting subjects, as well as supply its members with the means of instruction in Arts, Sciences, Literature and General knowledge.”  They housed the library wherever there was an empty building, or an individual would take it to their home.  The Mechanics Institute looked after the library until 1895, when legislation was passed in Ontario whereby the Mechanics Institute became the Public Library, free of subscription dues.  The Town by-law taking over the Library was not passed in its’ complete form until January, 1897.  Upon completion of the Town Hall in that year, the Public Library began its’ long stay there.  At this time the book collection was 2,458 volumes, and the number of books taken out during the year was 4,418. 

In 1897, the Art Loan Exhibit, an exhibit of Lanark and Renfrew’s social and natural history was put together by the library at the Opera Hall in the new Town Hall.

Information from 1956 shows that “At present there are about 1,000 borrowers, approximately 8,000 volumes to choose from, and a yearly and growing circulation of over 20,000…on the library tables there is an excellent range of daily papers as well as periodicals of Canadian, English and U.S. origin, which can be read in the quiet and well-lighted main room…the library is housed in the town hall main floor, a central and convenient place for its users…”

In 1966 the Eastern Ontario Regional Library System was set up.  This allowed for a pooling of book resources and interests of all Public Libraries in the ten counties of Eastern Ontario. 

In 1970 the new library was built on land donated by the Town and funded by private individuals.  It measured 3200 sq. ft., four times the size of the Town Hall library.  Once again, in 1979, the Library needed more space and was expanded to double its’ size.

Then in September, 1986, the Library was vandalized and set on fire, destroying the adult fiction collection and causing water and smoke damage to the rest of the collection.  The library was moved to temporary quarters in the Mews Professional Building on Lansdowne Avenue, until the library was rebuilt and the fire damage cleaned up.  The Library returned to its’ home in February, 1987, with an official opening on May 23, 1987.

In 1994, the Library held 35,569 volumes and 93,040 volumes circulated during the year.  Also, 910 volumes were loaned to other libraries in Ontario and 966 volumes were borrowed from them.

Computerization came to the library in 1992 in the form of an automated system.  No more card catalogues, or hand-written patron library cards.  The future had arrived!

As a millennium project, the library underwent a massive renovation starting in

June 1999, and ending in February 2000.  At that time, the large Barbara Walsh meeting room on the east side of the building was turned into a much needed larger children’s area, with a new and smaller Barbara Walsh room added to the front of the building.  Glass fronted offices were added close to the new circulation desk, along with public internet access terminals and storage areas.  A local history/microfilm room was located near the Beckwith Street side of the building.

In December 2010, the library began to provide access to e-books through  Southern Ontario Library Service, for all Carleton Place and area patrons.  Ancestry Library Edition also became available early in 2011 for local family history buffs.

Statistics from 2011 show the Library holding approximately 63,000 items, with 108,280 circulating throughout the year.  As well, patrons borrowed approximately 2,440 e-books, and Ancestry Library Edition saw approximately 11,691 research hits.  Also, 1,273 volumes were loaned to other libraries in Ontario and 1,245 volumes were borrowed from them.

Librarians:

 David Lawson          1846-1851

Johnston Neilson    1851-1887

Peter McRostie       1887-1909

Emma McRostie     1909-1941

Louise Elliott           1941-1960

Barbara Walsh        1960-1984

Janet Baril                1984-2013

 

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK TWENTY-SEVEN

 

 Story of the Telephone in Carleton Place District

Carleton Place Herald, 18 October, 1962

By Howard M. Brown

 

Within the lifetimes of our present elder citizens, telephones first came into public use in Carleton Place and nearby Ontario communities in 1885.

Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone in this province in 1874 at Brantford was followed by convincing proofs of its commercial usefulness within two years in Ontario and Massachusetts.  In Lanark County, only one year later, “one of Prof. Bell’s telephones” appeared in 1877.  It was obtained by Mr. F. A. Kennedy, Perth dentist.  With the sensational new devise he talked between his office and his house in Perth.

At Ottawa the possibilities of the telephone were demonstrated by electrical pioneer Thomas Ahearn (1855-1938) in a talk in 18778 over telegraph wires with the Montreal Telegraph Company’s agent at Pembroke.  The Bell Telephone Company of Canada, of which Mr. Ahearn was a director until his death, was formed in 1880.

Musical Overture

The company’s lines spread rapidly through southern Ontario and Quebec.  The Carleton Place Herald early in 1885 reported that Mr. S. S. Merrick of Carleton Place was “obtaining 3,300 first class poles for the 106 mile contract” awarded to him for the Ottawa Valley telephone line then being built, that would connect Ottawa and Brockville, Perth, Smiths Falls, Carleton Place and points northward.  The new telephone service in this district was proposed to be placed in operation with a musical programme by telephone, according to Mr. W. W. Cliff of the Carleton Place Central Canadian.  Listing the subscribers and intending subscribers of Perth, Smiths Falls and Carleton Place, he wrote in June:

“Mr.  Marshall has been pushing the business of the Bell Telephone Company in this County with much success.  When all connections have been made Mr. Marshall intends to carry out a musical programme in Almonte and have the Hall connected with the system, so that subscribers in any of the places mentioned may sit in their offices and houses and be a part of the audience as enjoyably as if present in body.”

An Instant Success

With or without the musical overture, the district lines went into use in November, 1885.  The revolutionary convenience and speed of communicating by telephone conversation was an instant popular success for business purposes.  William H. Allen in his Carleton Place Herald nine months later reported:

“When first introduced here last November there were only ten names on the local exchange.  Towards spring the ten line switch was replaced by a twenty.  Now, as all these lines have been taken and more are in demand, a fifty line switch is to be placed in the central as soon as it can be manufactured.”

The company’s first published telephone directory for Lanark County subscribers was that for “Ottawa and Connections, June 1886.” Local and long distance calls were made by name instead of by telephone number.  It listed seventeen Carleton Place telephones, all at business premises excepting the residence of the McLaren sawmill manager, and similar numbers of telephones at Almonte, Perth and Smiths Falls.  Pakenham had ten telephones.

Trunk Line Business

The first Carleton Place exchange was located in the McDiarmid block, Bridge Street, in the jewelry store of Mr. R. J. E. Scott.  This office was said in 1887 to be “owing to its central location, transacting next to the largest trunk line business in the Ottawa Valley.”  The Canadian company at the beginning of that year had a total of twelve thousand telephone subscribers.

Mr. W. J. Warwick, a year or so later succeeded Mr. Scott in the same location as a jeweler and as holder of the Bell Telephone Company’s local agency.  An early private exchange in the town was that installed in 1890 by the H. Brown & Sons firm between its flour, feed and cereal mills and the offices and residences of its two senior partners (with the modern colour feature provided by receivers which were solidly ringed in gay colours).

After six years of daytime public service a Carleton Place day and night telephone service appears to have been started early in 1892.  An effort was put forth then “to add a few more subscribers to the telephone exchange to make fitty, when the company have promised us a night operator, giving us continuous service night and day.”  Within a few weeks it was reported that Mr. Warwick had succeeded so admirably in impressing the usefulness of the telephone upon our citizens that nearly sixty will be in operation this week.  A feature of the increase is the number of private dwellings that have secured it.”

Trial By Fire

When fire in 1897 destroyed a Carleton Place business section from the old frame McDiarmid block at the corner of Bridge and Franklin Streets south to and including the Keyes building, the Bell Telepone Company with a loss reported at $2,000 was one of the lesser victims of the destruction.  Editor W. W. Cliff’s rhetorical news report in December 1897 said in part:

“Mr. Moss of the Central Telephone was brought into instantaneous action, and his first thought was to wing a message to Mr. McFadden at the Fire Hall, who was up and at the engine in a few minutes and, all alone, pushed the monster out upon the platform and applied the torch.  The Chief and several others were aroused by Mr. Ross and the electrical alarm, which worked well.  In a little while two streams were playing.

As the Chief saw the fire was in a nest of wooden buildings, he had Mr. Brown’s splendid equipment brought out into the action, with five hundred feet of hose from the Gillies factory, hitherto unsoiled.  While all this was proceeding, the occupants of the doomed buildings were getting out what they and the crowds could lay violent hands on.

The firemen fought the flames with undying vigour.  The hook and ladder was on the spot in five minutes, thanks to the speed of Mr. McGonigle, whose alarm went off early and who had a team hitched up and away in the twinkling of an eye.  This apparatus was of inestimable value and one of the most agile and fearless in the contest was Mr. Mort. Brown, ‘the best fireman in Canada’, says Mr. Graham, who risked his life in climbing ladders and hurling the hooks.

The firemen were soon coated with ice, and in this awkward condition worked with tireless energy, the branchmen especially doing brave and effective service.  Towards daylight all danger of further inroads was over, but streams were poured steadily into the debris until noon.  The engineer and Mr. Virtue stood steadily at their freezing posts on the river from three o’clock until noon, the noble engine old Sir John, not once stopped his powerful motion all that time.

There were several narrow escapes.  The most thrilling was that of Mr. Galloway, a Presbyterian clergyman who had preached the night before in the Methodist church and who was sleeping at Mr. McGregor’s.  He is a cripple, and helpless in such a crisis.  Mr. Howe, jeweler, and Mr. Hartley, book-keeper at the Shops, heard of his condition and rushed up after him.  They grabbed him and carried him out, the roof falling in just as they left his room.

The Bell Telephone showed their quick resource.  Burned out at three, everything swept but the books and a box with two new switchboards, at ten in the evening they were going almost as usual.  General Manager McFarlane, of Montreal, and Mr. Winters, Superintendant of Construction, arrived within a few hours.  The present abode is temporary.  The old Mechanics’ Institute flat has been rented, and the plant will be installed there in two weeks.”

Continuous Service On Sundays

Telephones had been in use in Carleton Place for some thirteen years before continuous service including Sundays became available.  This newspaper in March of 1899 reported:

“The Bell Telephone Company announces in this issue a continuous service on Sundays the same as on week days.  This is due to the very rapid growth of their business and its persistent success.  Carleton Place is the central point between Pembroke, Ottawa and Brockville, and stoppage here means the holding up of this entire system.”

The Bell Telephone Company’s present Carleton Place office, when twenty-nine years of ‘continuous service on Sundays’ had passed, was opened in its new building at the corner of Beckwith and Albert streets in January, 1929.  The lot on which the building stands had been vacant since the great fire of May 1910, which swept this section of the town, destroying in its path the McNab home which is said to have stood at the precise site of the present building.  There were some eight hundred town and rural telephones in direct connection with the exchange in 1928 when it was moved to its present location, and six operators.

LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA’S CODE OF CONDUCT, POST 2

Three more must reads if you are following the ‘code’ controversy:

Here is a link to the actual LAC Code of Conduct:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/130187655/LAC-Code-of-Conduct-Values-and-Ethics

This blog “Troubled Times at Library & Archives Canada”, by Kimberly Silk, Data Librarian at the Martin Prosperity Institute, a think-tank at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, has lots more links referring to the ‘code’:

http://kimberlysilk.com/librarians/troubled-times-at-library-archives-canada/

A public statement jointly issued by Association des archivistes du Québec, Association of Canadian Archivists, and Canadian Council of

Archives concerning the Library and Archives Canada Code of Conduct: Values and Ethics.

http://www.cdncouncilarchives.ca/JointStatement_CodeConductLAC_EN.pdf

Library and Archives Canada’s Code of Conduct: Values and Ethics — March 2013

The code — “Library and Archives Canada’s Code of Conduct: Values and Ethics” — came into effect in January, says Richard Provencher, LAC’s senior communications adviser.  He says the code was written by  LAC in response to the April 2012 Values and Ethics Code for the public sector, which called for federal departments to establish their own codes of conduct.

One thing the code says is:  “As public servants, our duty of loyalty to the Government of Canada and its elected officials extends beyond our workplace to our personal activities.”  Now federal librarians and archivists who set foot in classrooms, attend conferences, or speak up at public meetings on their own time are engaging in “high risk” activities.

What exactly is the risk?  What is LAC afraid of?  What is the federal government afraid of?  The truth will out, no matter what.

The following articles explore what the new code means for federal librarians and archivists:

Canada’s federal librarians fear being ‘muzzled'” by Margaret Munro, Postmedia News, March 16, 2013,”

http://www.canada.com/news/Canada+federal+librarians+fear+being+muzzled/8105500/story.html

The Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) concerning the LAC Code of Conduct), March 18, 2013:

http://archivists.ca/sites/default/files/Attachments/Advocacy_attachments/lacrecode_of_conduct.web_.pdf

 
No Need For Muzzle on Librarians
By Bob McClelland, The Ottawa Citizen, March 19, 2013:

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/need+muzzle+librarians/8117715/story.html#ixzz2O7S7QBIi

Give a listen to this CBC broadcast from last night (March 20), for an even better understanding:

http://www.cbc.ca/player/AudioMobile/As+It+Happens/ID/2352464065/

 
 

LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA

LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA

March 2013

 

The following two articles are updates on the status of changes at Library and Archives Canada, and how these changes are being interpreted by critics as limiting the access of academics, genealogists, and the public at large, to its Ottawa-based materials.  Also, fear is expressed that because of the changes in determining what historical materials will or will not be acquired by LAC, the future of our national documentary heritage is in jeopardy.

First Article is by Joseph Hall, News reporter for the Toronto Star, Published on Sun Mar 10 2013 :

“Many of his comrades were sick from fouled water after breaking camp on Lake Erie that fall.

But as his 21st U.S. Infantry Regiment prepared to attack Canada, — perhaps at Montreal, though Kingston and Prescott were also rumoured targets — Sgt. John Bentley took time in late September 1813 to write a four-page letter to his wife back in Thomaston, Me.

With a price tag of $1,500, that War of 1812 missive was offered for sale as a quill-and-ink first draft of our history.

The body charged with accumulating and preserving such Canadian artifacts turned it down.

It also rejected a collection of personal narratives from fugitive slaves in Upper Canada dated 1856. The same goes for the correspondences from 1836 to 1839 between senior British officials on the state of Indian tribes in the colonies.

Indeed, since 2009, Library and Archives Canada hasn’t wanted a whole lot of the historic letters, journals, books and maps it once collected so dutifully, critics say. It has also, they charge, stopped collecting a comprehensive array of this country’s current cultural and artistic output and limited the access that academics and genealogists have to its Ottawa-based materials.

And as of February, it’s barely even lending out books anymore.

A decade-old service, LAC’s interlibrary lending program gave libraries across the country access to its unparalleled Canadian book collection, a reservoir that includes at least two copies of any piece of literature published in the country since the 1950s.

The lending volume has been declining, in recent years, but LAC still loaned out more than 20,000 books last year through the program, says James Turk, head of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

“And the Library and Archives Canada just cancelled it, full stop.”

That “full stop” is not an entirely accurate description of the LAC policy, says Daniel Caron, the organization’s head. He says discussions are underway to ensure books are still travelling across the country.

In the meantime, Caron says LAC will continue to provide electronic search engines that allow outside librarians to find books and documents in other centers.

But only if searches of all other libraries show the sole copy rests in LAC stacks, will the national centre lend it out. The decision to radically alter its lending program is the latest twist in what many Canadian librarians and academics see as a deliberate move by a secretive federal government to gut the institution, this country’s equivalent of the U.S. Library of Congress.

“The Library and Archives Canada is most assuredly being dismantled,” says Turk, whose organization is helping lead a growing pushback.

“Every country, their equivalent of the LAC . . . is a national treasure,” Turk says.

The first blow, Turk says, came when the decision was made after Caron’s 2009 arrival to alter LAC’s mandate to collect and keep the full gamut of the country’s cultural offerings, past and present.

“They are moving to a much narrower approach. They use terms like ‘well, we’re going to have a representative acquisitions model. We’re going to have essential documentary heritage.’ ”

The problem with eschewing the comprehensive collection model, Turk says, is we don’t know now what might prove “essential” decades down the road.

“Fifty years ago, had there been this approach, we may not have collected material about residential schools, for example.”

Caron, however, says that in its various incarnations over 140 years, LAC has never been completely comprehensive, a task he labels impossible.

“This idea of comprehensive . . . it was a dream,” says Caron, whose budget took a $9.6-million hit over three years in the 2012 federal budget.

“We had a collection (in the past) that was built differently because in (the) . . . pre-digital world, we were able to control to some extent the printed environment,” he says.

The digital world is changing the picture. Caron points, for example, to LAC’s six-decade old legal right to receive two copies of all books published in Canada – a practice which continues today.

With the proliferation of electronic media, however, the organization has much more material to choose from than ever, and has to be more “selective,” he says.

“It’s not everything that is of enduring value,” Caron says with understatement “We need to have the tools to be able to appreciate, to appraise, to evaluate what is being produced there.”

Moreover, Caron says, electronic materials give LAC a new opportunity to be more rigorous and revelatory with its collections, not less. It can now, he says, go beyond government documents and newspaper stories to blogs and other electronic analysis, to chronicle today’s important events for future generations.

Caron admits, however, that the experts needed for this web-based archiving have not yet been hired. And he does not know when they will be.

“These competencies honestly are not easy to find on the market,” he says.

In the meantime, Caron says he has “invited” current LAC archivists and historians, used to dealing in the analog milieu, to help on the electronic retrieval side.

Caron also points out that there are 800 archives and some 25,000 libraries in Canada that can help serve as a collective repository of our culture and history.

But with its perceived reluctance to purchase materials from our past, LAC is also directing important pieces of Canada’s shared history into private hands, experts say.

First offered to LAC, the Bentley letter, for example was later sold to a private collector.

Liam McGahern — who sold the letter — is president of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Canada and says collectors in his organization would routinely offer their Canadiana finds to the national archives first.

McGahern, however, says LAC placed a nine-month moratorium on such purchases in 2009 to assess their acquisition policies.

“And really since that started they’ve really just stopped,” he says.

Caron says LAC is still acquiring historic material, although with a more discerning eye.

He suggests that previous regimes often spent money unwisely, with materials of questionable historic value being purchased simply because “year-end budget” surpluses were available.

“Someone told me once that seven copies of a rare book is not too many copies,” he says.

Caron says LAC has now implemented protocols to judge the historical importance and rarity of materials to best use its budget. But that budget tells a story.

In 2008-09, before Caron’s appointment, LAC spent $385,461 on historical items. In 2011-12 it spent nothing; in the 2012-13 fiscal year it spent $12,000.

But critics say the shift they see in collecting strategies also take LAC down a different path than its U.S. and European counterparts, where a more comprehensive approach continues to be sacrosanct.

“The whole world is going through modernization and digitization,” McGahern says. “But the great libraries, the Library of Congress, the British Library, they’re still actively engaged in acquiring things. You can’t document and archive and digitize what you don’t have.”

The Library of Congress’s acquisition budget hovered steadily between $18 million to $19 million annually from 2009 to 2012.

Critics also charge LAC has limited its hours and redeployed its seasoned archivists from specialty to generalist roles.

As a result, Turk says, many requests for information, from historians or genealogists for example, go unanswered. Hours reductions, staff cuts — from 1,192 in 2009 to 946 this year — and a decentralization of collections have added to the headaches, Turk says.

And LAC’s move to a new, digital age is far too slow in coming, Turk says.

Caron admits that, even now, only about 1 per cent of his collections have been digitized, but says priority is being given to those materials that are most in demand.

Caron also says some of the digitization will also be farmed out to private-sector and non-profit groups who donate to the archives.

Critics believe LAC’s perceived diminishment is symptomatic of the current Conservative government’s reluctance to divulge information of any kind.

As Ottawa shifts to electronic record keeping and communications, Caron says LAC will rely more on officials to decide what materials to send to his collections.

“People are working on Twitter, they are working on Facebook, they are working on many social media,” he says.

“And so we force them to say ‘if it is a decision that is of importance, if it is something that has enduring value . . . you need to bring it to us, so make sure you keep it.’ ”

How much Ottawa will keep and share has become a burning questions with some top librarians, who worry its move to online-only access by 2014 can lead to a loss of information by government fiat.

“You can take down the content or whatever before (we even) notice,” says Sam-Chin Li, government publications librarian at the University of Toronto’s Robarts Library.

Li and colleagues at the University of Alberta had to scramble to save documents from a federal aboriginal website that was shut down with minimal warning last month.

Many would be tempted to use LAC budget reductions — from $172.64 million in 2008-09 (which included some special capital costs) to $117.7 million in 2012-13 — to explain changes made at the organization, Turk says. But that would be a mistake.

“For what they’re cutting Library and Archives Canada they spent more than that ($28 million) in their celebration of the War of 1812.”

 

Second article: Canadian Library Association Responds to Article on LAC in Toronto Star:

CLA submitted the following Letter to the Editor of the Toronto Star, in response to a recent article featuring Library and Archives Canada (see above article).

“Letter to the Editor

The Toronto Star

In response to the story on Library and Archives Canada (see story above), the Canadian Library Association (CLA) is deeply concerned about the significant reductions being made within the institution.  The changes being implemented as part of LAC’s modernization plans (e.g. the sharp reduction in purchased acquisitions), in addition to cuts to services and activities due to their 2012 budget reduction (e.g. ending interlibrary loan services), result in the inability for LAC to meet its mandate.  Public stewardship of Canada’s documentary heritage, ensuring the long-term preservation of materials and facilitating access to them, is central to LAC’s mission.  Decisions such as ending interlibrary loan services are being taken unilaterally, and consultation with stakeholders on how to fill the service gap only happen once the decision has been made.  The future of our national documentary heritage is in jeopardy.  CLA was founded in 1946 and one of our first activities was advocacy for the establishment of a national library; the National Library of Canada was established in 1953.  Sixty years on, we must continue to advocate for a strong national institution that has the capacity, both financial and professional, to meet the mandate set out in its legislation.  Dr Caron does not have to look far for people with the competencies to manage documentary materials in the new digital environment:  they are librarians and archivists.

Pilar Martinez

President, Canadian Library Association”