Then, a few weeks ago, a sharper statement was released by Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, in response to the controversy. Shea wrote, “Serious misinformation was spread recently about the consolidation of Department of Fisheries and Oceans libraries. Let me correct the record.
“DFO owns one of the world's most comprehensive collections of information on fisheries, aquatic sciences and nautical sciences. Our Government values these collections and will continue to strongly support it by continuing to add new material on an ongoing basis.
“The decision to consolidate our network of libraries was based on value for taxpayers. The primary users of DFO libraries, over 86%, are employees of the Department. An average of only five to 12 people who work outside of DFO visited our eleven libraries each year. It is not fair to taxpayers to make them pay for libraries that so few people actually used.
"Duplicate materials, including books, from the libraries being consolidated were offered to other libraries and third parties if they wanted them. They were also offered to the DFO staff on site at the library, then offered to the general public, and finally were recycled in a 'green' fashion if there were no takers. It is absolutely false to insinuate that any books were burnt.
"Our Government is proud to stand up for taxpayers while retaining our important scientific knowledge.”
We don't know who is right. Perhaps no one does. The scholarly community wants, at a minimum, greater transparency and participation in what is happening. This can be annoying, even burdensome to officials. The kind of accounting scholars want can be taxing on those tasked with carrying out the consolidation. However, it is their job to monitor the process closely. If they don't protect what may be unique documentation in their field, who will? Radical changes in the environment over the past couple of centuries may make older studies impossible to duplicate. Original observations made at the time for one study may be the only data available today for a study targeting a completely different issue. Perhaps this material may seem dated or of no real use. Still, one lesson I have learned is that the sure way to guarantee that you will need something you believe will never be used again is to throw it away.