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BriefsReportTable of ContentReport IndexRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences

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The Library of Parliament


1. The Library of Parliament, as its name implies, is a collection of books intended principally for the use of Members of Parliament in their legislative duties, although it is not confined strictly either to these individuals or to this purpose. Its usefulness, as has been said in Part I, is seriously affected by extremely limited space which results in overcrowded shelves and makes it impossible to provide those facilities considered essential to a modern library. This condition is harassing to the staff, injurious to the public service, and dangerous to valuable books which are now exposed to a serious fire hazard. We are informed by the Parliamentary Librarians and the Chairman of the National Advisory Committee that it would be desirable ultimately to remove the bulk of the books to a National Library, retaining a relatively small working collection on the premises which could then be much better adapted to the purposes which they now serve imperfectly. These books when removed would, of course, be available on request. We understand, however, that a large part of the present collection is relatively inactive owing partly to the overcrowding, and partly to its exclusively scholarly interest.

We therefore recommend:
a.That the librarians select a working collection of volumes to be retained on the premises, and that the rest of the collection be removed and deposited for safe-keeping in a proper fireproof building thus leaving space in the library for suitable and accessible stacks and for adequate library services.

2. We are aware of the labour problem involved in this project, and of the fact that the segregated books will not be immediately accessible. We would point out, however, that this division of the Library into a working and a deposit collection is contemplated as soon as a National Library building is available; and that a large part of the collection is now inaccessible for practical purposes.

3. The Library of Parliament, like many others in this country and elsewhere, laboured for years under the disadvantage of operating with


staff members of low academic qualifications and with inadequate professional training, or none at all. In mentioning the disadvantage of a lack of training we do not wish to disparage the services of the distinguished and scholarly but untrained librarians in the past. We must, however, emphasize that the present day multiplication of books of all kinds and the increasing use of libraries for informational as well as for scholarly purposes makes formal training in library methods essential for the modern librarian. But even today the public may too easily accept the idea that library assistants need only be persons of goodwill who are tolerably diligent and intelligent.

4. The Library of Parliament now engages for professional purposes only individuals with appropriate professional training. We find, however, that the annual salaries paid by the Parliamentary Library to trained librarians holding university degrees and engaged in professional work are, on the average, $120 below the average salary of the entire staff (including those engaged in unskilled work); and that they are nearly $350 less than the average salaries of persons without professional training performing similar duties. It appears, moreover, that only two trained people are engaged uninterruptedly on the important work of cataloguing and that reference and information services are not infrequently performed by those with no education above the high school level. We do not believe that such a system can yield good results in practice. As the Library of Parliament is at the moment the only library comparable in any way to national libraries in other countries it seems to us of particular importance that it should be enabled to maintain appropriate standards of service in all departments.

We therefore recommend:
b.That in future no untrained person be engaged for professional duties in the Library of Parliament even on a temporary basis; and that any temporary untrained staff members be transferred to other employment.
c.That in general such changes be made in the control and direction of the library as may enable it in these matters to conform to the practice of the best modern libraries.

5. A very important part of any modern library, particularly of a library serving a legislative body, is the reference department. People come to a library with all sorts of questions, some of them simple and readily answered from ordinary works of reference, others complex and requiring prolonged study from a number of sources. It is customary even in small municipal libraries to provide for reference purposes a room apart equipped with special collections of reference books and staffed


with trained and experienced people. The present Library of Parliament is physically incapable, in its present state, of offering such facilities. It has, however, been suggested by the officials of the Library that a research department be added for the assistance of Members of Parliament. We are agreed that it is of the greatest importance to afford ample reference services, that is, the answering of simple factual questions, and the selection and assembling of sources necessary for answering more comprehensive inquiries. To the principle of adding research assistants to the Library we hesitate to commit ourselves. If a research department is necessary for the assistance of Members, it should probably be organized as a unit separate from the Library, although making full use of its resources. It must be emphasized, however, that the regular reference department in such a library as the Library of Parliament must be prepared to deal with every kind of question and to use every type of source. Such a service requires knowledge, ability of a high order, and much time and patience.

We therefore recommend:
d.That as soon as practicable the Library of Parliament establish a reference department, and that this department be staffed by individuals possessed of such special qualifications as may be deemed necessary by the librarians.

6. We have heard something of the problem of preparing a modern catalogue for the Library. We understand that lack of space and working facilities as well as staff shortages are making it difficult to do much more than keep pace with new accessions. We assume moreover that many of the present holdings of the Library of Parliament (notably those referred to in recommendation a.) will ultimately be transferred to the National Library. The present need, it seems, is for a complete modern catalougue [sic] of those volumes which the Library of Parliament should retain as a working collection.

We therefore recommend:
e.That adequate staff and facilities be provided for the speedy completion of a modern and efficient catalogue for all library holdings except those which may (under recommendation a) be removed elsewhere for safe keeping.

The Bibliographic Centre and the National Library

7. On June 9, 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. Some three months later, the present Dominion Archivist on receiving his appointment was given the special assignment of establishing a National Library Advisory Committee. This Committee was set up in November, 1948, and consisted of thirteen members, including a representative from every province. Under this advisory committee a staff of four librarians and three clerical assistants has been established, work on a National Union catalogue has begun, important bibliographical publications have been planned and arrangements have been made for a branch centre at Montreal. As noticed earlier, the Bibliographic Centre was officially established on May 1, 1950.

8. The importance of establishing a National Union Catalogue and of producing bibliographical guides to Canadian publications has been discussed in Part I. If an adequate National Library building were now completed, and if funds were available for the purchase of books, it would still be a prudent measure to advance this catalogue through its first stages before acquiring many books. Operating on limited funds and often needing books now very rare, the National Library must avoid all unnecessary duplication and aim rather at supplementing existing Canadian collections, including the varied and rich holdings of the Federal Government. The development of a relatively complete union catalogue as explained in Part I is an essential foundation to any sound acquisition policy. It will also offer immediate and valuable service to all Canadian libraries, as will the bibliographical guides.

We therefore recommend:
f.That the Bibliographic Centre continue its work on the union catalogue as rapidly as possible; and that adequate funds be made available for increase of staff, accommodation and equipment if these increases are shown to be necessary by the Advisory Committee and the Director of the Centre.
g.That adequate staff and funds be made available for the publication at regular intervals, and in such form as may be approved by the Advisory Committee and the Director, of complete bibliographical information on:
 (i) all periodicals published in Canada,
 (ii) all books published in Canada,
 (iii) all government publications, federal, provincial and municipal as far as this may be deemed practicable and desirable by the Advisory Committee and the Director.

9. The various steps already taken in appointing a National Library Advisory Committee, in setting up a Bibliographic Centre and in compiling a union catalogue and bibliographical guides, are, we understand,


regarded as measures preparatory to the creation of a National Library. We feel that the time has now come for this final step. The present position of the Advisory Committee and its Chairman seems to us anomalous in view of the important work now in progress and of the plans for the future.

We therefore recommend:
h.That a National Library be established without delay; that a librarian be appointed as soon as may be expedient; that the National Library Advisory Committee be reconstituted as a board of trustees of the National Library with the Librarian as Chairman ex officio; that the librarian be charged with the direction of the bibliographic centre which shall be responsible through the librarian to the Board of Trustees.

10. We have given careful thought to a policy of acquisition for the National Library. It has been suggested to us (as explained in Part I) that the National Library should secure as complete a collection as possible of books published in Canada, of books published by Canadians, and of books on Canadian themes. To these should be added other important works in all fields appropriate to a library designed to encourage scholarly pursuits. It should be the immediate responsibility of the Librarian and of the Board of Trustees to make these collections.

11. As already explained, preliminary work on the National Union Catalogue and even some measure of completeness are necessary before books are acquired on any large scale. There are, however, certain steps which should be taken immediately.

12. At present, Section 11 of the Copyright Amendment Act of 1931 requires the publisher of every book published in Canada to deliver two copies of the first edition and two copies of any altered subsequent edition to the Librarians of Parliament within three months after publication. There is however no penalty expressly provided in the copyright legislation. We understand that as a result of this omission there are a number of books published in Canada which are not delivered to the Librarians of Parliament and that no proceedings are taken to enforce compliance with the Act. Although there are means available in criminal law to punish wilful violation of this or of any other Act of Parliament, compliance with the provisions of Section 11 could be made a required preliminary to the granting of copyright, if this does not contravene international copyright conventions; or sanctions could be added to the Copyright Act. At the same time, existing copyright legislation should be reviewed in order to make clear that it covers more than books in volume form, and that it does cover books imported into Canada for sale or other distribution.


13. There are certain categories of evanescent material published in small quantities for distribution to their members by historical and other learned societies. These may, however, contain very valuable items of information on bibliographical and other matters. At the moment of publication they can be secured at little or no expense, but in a very short time they may disappear completely.

14. Finally, there are the collectors' items which appear from time to time and which, if not then acquired, may later be unattainable. These collections may include original manuscripts of literary interest. We have been reminded also that since Canadian books are printed often in very small issues, the number that rapidly become collectors' items is very numerous. It may be added that a policy of gradual acquisition will undoubtedly be more economical. The launching of a National Library in Canada and the sudden announcement of an intention to make immediate and large purchases of out of print Canadiana might stimulate prices in the very sensitive book trade.

We therefore recommend:
i.That the Copyright Act be amended to make effective the requirement that there be deposited in the National Libraries two copies of every book and other work published in Canada whether printed in Canada or imported into Canada.
j.That the Librarian and Board of Trustees be authorized to pursue immediately a policy of acquisition through gift or purchase designed to secure for Canada a complete collection of all works published in Canada; of all works on any subject by Canadians; of all works by any author on a Canadian theme; and of any other works considered appropriate to a National Library; that microfilm copies of rare works be secured at the discretion of the Librarian; and that adequate funds, staff and equipment be provided for these purposes.

We further recommend:
k.That the Board of Trustees be empowered to add to its collection Canadian music, in printed or manuscript form, and such records, films and photographs as are considered necessary supplements to the printed collection of books, pamphlets and newspapers; and that manuscripts primarily of literary rather than of historical interest may be acquired by the National Library.

15. It is a normal function of any great library to carry on exchanges with corresponding institutions. Government publications are a matter of concern to the National Library and of importance to other Canadian


libraries and to leading libraries abroad. Hitherto these publications have been distributed from the office of the King's Printer; we have, however, been informed by Library Associations and by Librarians that although requests for specific publications are promptly met by the King's Printer, there is at present no ready means of determining what governmental publications are available, and that in consequence many libraries in Canada are not systematically provided with governmental publications essential to the services which they should give to the public.

We therefore recommend:
l.That the National Library confer with the King's Printer upon the establishment of a list of exchange libraries in Canada and abroad for the guidance of the King's Printer in the distribution of free publications; upon the creation of a free list and upon the most effective means of ensuring that lists of governmental publications are brought regularly to the attention of interested libraries, both in Canada and abroad.

16. In discussing the National Library, a number of voluntary organizations have suggested that, as with other federal agencies, the only way to make the institution truly national in a country such as Canada is to adopt some means of decentralization. It has been suggested, for example, that provincial libraries be regarded as branch libraries, and that books of particular regional interest be deposited with them. We believe, however, that these suggestions for decentralization are open to serious objection. Moreover, the use of microfilm copies could provide almost the same facilities to provincial or local libraries and would make unnecessary the dispersal of the national collections.

We therefore recommend:
m.That the Board of Trustees consider as soon as possible the establishment of a microfilm service to make available at a reasonable fee to Canadian Libraries and others all the resources of the National Library, and to Canadian Libraries all collections of Canadiana wherever situated.

17. The [sic--i.e. there] are certain functions, not always associated with national libraries in other and older countries, which are urgently needed in this country where library facilities are uneven, scattered, and in many areas non-existent. As we have explained, many people in Canada look to the National Library to satisfy directly their need for books and library services. We are in complete agreement with the professional librarians who have pointed out that these are not proper functions for a National Library. It seems certain, however, that the National Library will be


looked to by all those with a concern and responsibility for library work (not only professional librarians, but federal, provincial and municipal officials and private persons) as a source of information and advice on library matters in Canada. It will certainly have referred to it all questions from abroad on Canadian library conditions. It is obvious, moreover, that it must maintain close relations with voluntary professional organizations such as the Canadian Library Association and its provincial counterparts and the Association des Bibliothécaires de Langue Française, with other libraries, large and small, with voluntary organizations which have a special interest in library services, such as the Canadian Association for Adult Education, the Société Canadienne d'Enseignement Postscolaire, the Imperial Order, Daughters of the Empire and the Canadian Federation of Home and School. It will also no doubt keep in close touch with UNESCO and with library developments abroad. In short, it could render in its own way national services comparable in value to those of the National Gallery.

We therefore recommend:
n.That the Librarian and board of trustees maintain as part of the National Library a special department of information on library practice in Canada, to answer appropriately all reasonable requests for information, from government departments, provincial departments, voluntary associations and others, whether in Canada or abroad.

18. We have received a number of earnest requests for some form of direct federal aid to local libraries, especially for the provision of library services where none now exist. Although we feel great sympathy for these needs and respect for the way in which they have been presented to us, we do not believe that, within our Terms of Reference, we can properly make recommendations on this subject.

* From: Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Report. Ottawa : King's Printer, 1951. By permission of the Privy Council Office.

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