Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2014 Issue

Canadian Decision to Close 7 Libraries Leads to Major Controversy


Photo of dumpster full of books taken by union official.

A decision by the Canadian government to shut down 7 Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) libraries has stirred up a hornets' nest of controversy among scientists, librarians, and representatives of the DFO. The DFO is close to finishing the process of consolidating 11 of their libraries down to 4.


The Canadian story reflects changing times, a tale that is being told throughout the world these days, and will undoubtedly arise even more often in the years ahead. Digitization of books is a wonderful thing, making texts more readily available to researchers. The downside is the perceived reduced need for physical copies and personal library services many in government, who prepare the budgets, believe this implies. Additionally, there is much concern in Canada that not all of this material will be digitally preserved, some possibly lost forever.


Books relating to fisheries may not sound like a major field to many, but in Canada, with huge lakes and vast coastal waters, fishing has long been the lifeblood of many citizens. The existence of 11 libraries dedicated to the field is an indication of its importance. However, over the years, these libraries have seen declining physical use. According to the DFO, most locations received only 5-12 personal visits in a year, a truly astonishing number. Most contacts – 85% - came by email, phone and mail, while other use was by DFO employees. Over 95% of documents supplied were supplied digitally. External visitors accounted for just 2% of traffic.


When the DFO announced its consolidation, it stated that all material would be preserved. Great quantities would be scanned and made available digitally, with nothing being lost. They would only dispose of duplicates, these being offered to research institutions, or if not wanted, to employees. Only if no one wanted them would they be thrown away.


Has the DPO lived up to its standards? We are not in a position to judge, but your answer will depend on whom you believe. Some harsh comments have come from critics in the science and library worlds. Equally spirited defenses have come from the DFO.


The Tyee, a western Canadian news website, quoted Burt Ayles, identified as a retired research scientist and former regional director general for freshwaters in central Canada and the Arctic, as saying, “The loss of this library and its impact on fisheries and environmental science is equivalent to Rome destroying the Royal Library of Alexandria in Egypt. It's equal to that.” The library in Alexandria was the greatest library in the world at the time it was burned. Its loss was incalculable. Those are strong words. A scientist said to be a 30-year employee of the federal government who asked not to be identified said, “It's like a book burning.” Canada.com quoted Peter Wells, described as an ocean pollution expert at Dalhousie University in Halifax as saying, “It is information destruction unworthy of a democracy,” and calling the closings a “national tragedy.” An article on the website of the Toronto Star displayed a photograph sent in by a union official displaying a dumpster filled with books and pamphlets, said to have been discarded by the DFO library in Mont-Joli, Quebec.


The DPO pledged that unwanted material would go to other libraries if they wanted it, but Marie DeYoung, association president and a librarian at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, was quoted by The Tyee as saying, “No records have been provided with regard to what material has been dumped or the value of this public property. No formal attempt was made to transfer material to libraries of existing academic institutions.”


Some have charged the process is politically motivated, that the government is unfriendly to environmental causes, and therefore is happy to be rid of scientific data that may run contrary to its interests. Kelly Whelan-Enns, lead researcher with Manitoba Wildlands, a Winnipeg-based environmental protection group, expressed concern that this is an attempt to defray criticism of such things as adding pipelines to expand oil sands production in Alberta. He was quoted saying, “If you restrict public access to information on fresh water by closing libraries, then you limit people's ability to understand the environmental impact that kind of industrial development will have.”


Perhaps the biggest controversy focuses on what is called “grey literature.” This includes material that was not published in scholarly journals, and which is very rare if not unique. Much of it is original research. Many from the library or scientific communities are dubious that all of this material will be preserved. Jennifer Hubbard, a science historian at Ryerson University, was quoted as saying about 20% of the material she had been accessing at a closed New Brunswick library is not available online. At a minimum, it appears that the process has been unclear, as several quoted scientists said they have no way of knowing whether this material is being preserved digitally or simply thrown out.


The DFO countered these claims in a series of questions and answers posted online. It stated. “There will be no changes to the size and scope of the collection.” As far as disposing material is concerned, the DFO said, “The Department may remove only content that is duplicated at one or more libraries and, in rare instances, materials which fall outside the subject disciplines pertinent to the department’s mandate from its collection.” Concerning the material to be disposed, it said, “The Department is contacting universities and other local partners to determine if there is interest in acquiring some of the duplicate or non-DFO related materials. Some materials will be offered to on-site staff of the Department for work-related use.” It further stated the 'grey literature' “will continue to be available through a variety of means.”

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 7. Ritter's unusual sun-dial world map, 1607. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 16. Fascinating Japanese satirical map published prior to WWII, 1932. Est. $1400 to $2000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 30. Newton's 2" miniature terrestrial globe, 1833. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 318. Braun & Hogenberg's first plan of Moscow in contemporary color, 1575. Est. $2750 to $3500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 346. One of the most decorative 18th century maps of Malta, 1680. Est. $1200 to $1500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 412. The first printed map devoted to the Pacific in full contemporary color, 1589. Est. $8000 to $10000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 425. Rare set of celebrated explorers of the New World, 1592. Est. $1900 to $2300
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 436. Two superb miniature atlases bound in one volume with 98 maps, 1682. Est. $5500 to $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 445. Part IV of de Bry's "Grand Voyages" by Girolamo Benzoni, 1613. Est. $2000 to $2500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 447. Tallis' "History of the United States of America" in six volumes, 1850. Est. $1500 to $1800
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 448. Mallet's miniature military masterpiece, 1672. Est. $1400 to $1700
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Malcolm X, Autograph Letter Signed, from prison, 1950. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Letter from Moses Walker, an enslaved Georgia man, to his mother at another plantation, 1854. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Signed cabinet card of Frederick Douglass, albumen photograph, Boston, circa 1879. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Placard from the Memphis Sanitation Worker's strike, 1968. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b><br><i>The North Star,</i> volume 1, issue 27, Rochester, NY, 1848. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Hand-tinted tintype of John Brown, circa 1860. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster signed & inscribed by Huey Newton, circa 1967. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Album of aerial views of the march on Montgomery, taken by federal troops, 1965. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster for the SNCC, photograph by Danny Lyon featuring John Lewis, circa 1962. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Man Within,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1929. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Mellan (Claude, 1598-1688). The Holy Face, or the Veil of St Veronica, [c. 1649 and later]. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Desaguliers (John Theophilus). <i>A Dissertation concerning Electricity,</i> W. Innys, and T. Longman, 1742. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Stumpf (Johann Rudolph). <i>Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschafft Stetten, Landen und Völckern Chronicwirdiger thaaten beschreibung, </i> Zurich, Froschauer, 1586. £3,000 to £4,000

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