Vancouver Association of Law Libraries addresses the Premier

The Vancouver Association of Law Libraries has formally expressed its concerns about the downsizing and splitting up of the Legislative Library in this letter (original online version here):

Vancouver Association of Law Libraries
Box 48663, Bentall Centre
Vancouver, B.C. V7X 1A1

March 29, 2007

The Honourable Gordon Campbell
Premier of British Columbia
Parliament Buildings
Victoria BC V8V 1X4
Re: Legislative Library

Dear Mr. Premier:

I am writing on behalf of the Vancouver Association of Law Libraries (VALL) to address the recent announcement about the relocation and service reduction of the Legislative Library for the purpose of seismic upgrades.

The Legislative Library has played a pivotal role in providing access to government information to the citizens of British Columbia since its inception in 1863. Prior to the creation of public libraries throughout the province, the library was the sole provider of access to government information. As public and ministry libraries developed, the library focused on its statutory mandate, namely, the provision of services to the legislature.

Notwithstanding the legislative focus, the library continued to serve the public interest by collecting, organizing and making accessible government documents. The library has provided access to government related information for all the other libraries in British Columbia as well as members of the public, academics, press and MLA’s who use the library on site. With the development of the internet, public access to government information has been enhanced. However, much of this government information is only available via the internet for a limited period of time thus making it more difficult for the public to access this information. The library has continued its core service by downloading and archiving all of these valuable government documents, thereby preserving them for future use, and making them available for the public.

The historical collection is unique. Many libraries, archives and academic institutions rely upon it as the central depository of our cultural heritage. The absence of a central location for this information with a staff to facilitate access will oblige a plethora of libraries to maintain collections of documents that are more effectively located in one central repository. While we appreciate the need for seismic upgrades we urge you to make appropriate arrangements to maintain the collection and the services provided by library staff during this process. We also encourage you to have a long term plan for this large collection and related services before undertaking the seismic upgrade. Moving a library of this size and nature is a very significant undertaking.

The bulk of the collection is not available online. Books that are packed in boxes in offsite warehouses are not easily accessed. Staff will not be in a position to answer questions from legislative staff, members of the press, or other government staff with any degree of confidence. While opportunities to digitize parts of the collection exist, they require staff and the use of the collection to succeed. Digitization may help reduce the space required for this library but it also requires careful planning and funding.

In closing, we would encourage you to consider this temporary closure as an opportunity to reevaluate and enhance the Legislative Library as a cornerstone of our cultural heritage.

Yours truly,

Johanne A.C. Blenkin, LL.B., M.L.S.

President, Vancouver Association of Law Libraries
cc: Hon. Bill Barisoff, Speaker of the House
E. George MacMinn, Clerk of the House
Hon. Caroles James, Leader of the Official Opposition
Hon. Michael De Jong, Legislative Assembly Member Services Committee (LAMSC)
Randy Hawes, LAMSC
John Yap, LAMSC
Jenny Kwan, LAMSC
Mike Farnworth, LAMSC

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