Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2014 Issue

Canadian Decision to Close 7 Libraries Leads to Major Controversy

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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>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €

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