Victoria News: Library “will be downsized”

So much for Speaker Barisoff’s  claim that no final decisions have been made.

Library closing 

By Brennan Clarke
News staff
bclarke@vicnews.com
Mar 21 2007

Ex-librarian says premier wants space for office

Plans to close the B.C. legislature’s library have raised the ire of the facility’s longtime librarian, Joan Barton, a woman who once wrote a report recommending the space be “converted to other use.”

In a 1992 report to then-speaker of the House Joan Sawicki, Barton noted that “alternative space for the library would certainly go a long way toward solving the space problems of the other legislative services.”

The difference between then and now, said Barton, is the government has no plans for a new building to house the library’s expansive collection and wants to put the bulk of the collection in storage in a Saanich warehouse, contrary to the provisions of the province’s Library Act.

“The Library Act states that these materials must be located conveniently close to the chamber. The actual wording is they’re supposed to be able to hear the bell (announcing the house is in session) ring,” said Barton, who retired in 2003 after a 30-year career as legislative librarian.

The legislature has been running out of space for decades and at one time housed the Royal B.C. Museum and the provincial archives, she said. Both of those entities were moved “in an orderly fashion” into new spaces designed specifically for them.

“They could solve their space problem by building a new library,” she said. “But absolutely no planning has been done for the library move.”

Barton said the library space, coveted by a long line of B.C. politicians, is slated to become office space for the premier, his staff and other MLAs.

“He wishes to to move his office into the library rotunda. I know because he was in there pointing out where people would be having their desks and (library) staff were present at the time,” Barton said.

Campbell’s office did not return calls from the Victoria News by Monday’s deadline.

Barton’s 1992 report, one of several to address the legislature’s space crunch and suggest moving the library over the last three decades, was dutifully given to a reporter by the Speaker’s office Monday.

Speaker Bill Barisoff, whose portfolio includes the upkeep of the legislature, said the legislative management committee “hasn’t made a decision on how we think we’ll best use the space in that building.”

Instead, Barisoff portrayed the move as a temporary measure needed to make way for seismic upgrades.

“The library was never meant to be closed. We’re going to keep operating it within the precinct,” he said.

About one-third of the library’s materials – the “core collection” – will be moved to the building on Superior Street, while the other two-thirds will be placed in storage.

The library’s 29 staff members were told Friday the facility will be moving soon.

Barisoff said none of those affected will lose their jobs. Fifteen of the employees will manage the core collection, while the other 14 will be placed elsewhere in government.

Dunc Malcolm/News staff
The legislative library is being turfed out to make room for MLA offices. A library employee who wished to remain anonymous confirmed that staff were informed last week that the library will be downsized and relocated and much of its collection will be placed in permanent storage.
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