How about a new, modern, accessible Legislative Library?

May 3, 2007

The present Director of the Legislative Library makes a good argument for building a brand new library within the legislative precinct:

Save the library, in a new location

April 20, 2007

There has been much in the press lately about the fate of the legislative library. I want to acknowledge the concerns of the library community.

It is important for the library to maintain its collection, services and a location near the legislative chamber, not necessarily in the present location.

A new legislative library would be a welcome asset to the legislature and the province. It would provide for the long-term preservation of the collection, which has rightly been described as an irreplaceable provincial resource, the record of government from the earliest days, and the best collection of B.C. history under one roof.

The present building, though undeniably historic and beautiful, lacks climate control and any method of fire suppression and puts this remarkable treasure at risk.

The physical limitations of the present building present barriers to those with disabilities and access is heavily restricted during legislative sittings. Both restrictions would disappear in a new facility.

A modern, state of the art library building is a way to achieve all of these worthwhile goals: Preservation, service and access.

Jane Taylor, Director, B.C. Legislative Library.

I think the public would wholeheartedly support the building of a new Legislative Library next to the Legislature. If taxpayers can afford to give MLAs a 29% pay raise, surely we can afford a new library. If you haven’t already, do contact some of these people to suggest that this government has an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for future generations of British Columbians while at the same time getting the prestige office space they so desire.


More Online Opposition

April 2, 2007

The British Columbia Library Association has an excellent summary of the situation with suggestions for action (see the news section on their front page). Print it out and share it with your friends!

The B.C. Teacher-Librarians’ Association has put together a collection of news stories and letters to the editor, topped off by a great Raeside cartoon.

Canoe News picked up the story from the beginning.

More mentions in the blogosphere: UBC Library Blog, Laurie the Librarian, and Sweet Byrd.

Finally, news of this problem has reached our neighbours to the south: American Libraries Online.

Vancouver Association of Law Libraries addresses the Premier

April 1, 2007

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

Scholars, MLAs, Citizens Oppose Library Closure

April 1, 2007

Here are some recent letters to the Victoria Times-Colonist:

Closure threatens research
Times Colonist
Sunday, March 25, 2007

The long-term or permanent closure of the legislative library will seriously undermine the ability of historians to investigate the many aspects of B.C.’s past.

A heavy price for any extended closure would also be paid by current and future graduate students attending the University of Victoria and other B.C. universities. The library holds a vast amount of historical material available nowhere else in the province. The legislative library, in short, is vital to the way historians practise their craft here.

As someone who has relied upon the facility for nearly 20 years, I view any reduction of service with great concern. Journalists, scholars and concerned citizens, to say nothing of bureaucrats and policy-makers, should resist any threat to the institution.

Dr. Richard A. Rajala,
History department,
University of Victoria.

Library closing a shameful contradiction
Times Colonist
Thursday, March 29, 2007

Coverage of the pending closure or relocation of the legislative library reminded me of another closure of another important source of our provincial heritage records.

Doesn’t this remind you of how the Land Title Office was closed and moved out of Victoria? Considering that our city is deemed to be the capital of British Columbia, and therefore, keepers of the province’s treasured historical records, I find this latest pending action to be a travesty of the same impact, and a total contradiction to our responsibility.

I’ve heard that our premier is extremely supportive of the importance of literature in the life of every British Columbian, of any and every age.

I’m disappointed that schools are cutting back or phasing out professional school librarians (and relying on parent volunteers instead) and the closure or moves of these other important treasures and records in provincial care are being stored or otherwise unavailable.

From what I’ve seen of these “changes,” it’s a shameful contradiction and one that I’m sure will cause much regret in the future.

Anne Carlson,

Move the library to a new building
Times Colonist
Thursday, March 29, 2007

Instead of simply saying no to the proposed closure of the legislative library, I think there is an opportunity here for us to have an eyesore removed from near our cherished legislature.

I am speaking about the hideously ugly “temporary” buildings erected behind the legislature in the 1950s.

The clear win/win is to tear down these 50-year-old temporary tin and clapboard structures and build a new office building that would house a larger and more publicly accessible legislative library while at the same time allow for the required expansion of office space for the politicians and their staff within the legislature.

Michael Geoghegan,

Don’t desecrate this historic site
Times Colonist
Thursday, March 29, 2007

Perhaps the provincial government has decided against destroying the purpose of Francis Rattenbury’s magnificent legislative library. If more room is required for MLAs and staff then the government and opposition should use a bit of imagination.

The current elected members are but fleeting users of the parliament buildings. The legislative library has a 144-year occupancy and is one of the treasures of the people of B.C.

Common sense and respect, please, members of the assembly. No desecration of one of our important historical sites.

Jim Nielsen,
MLA 1975-1986,

Wonderful resource with excellent staff
Times Colonist
Friday, March 30, 2007

I wish to express my deep concern at the provincial government’s plan to change the legislative library from its original purpose as a wonderful reference source with excellent staff.It was always a delight to walk into that beautiful room. I know that many other former members also share my concern.

Eileen Dailly,
MLA 1966-1986,

“Barbarians threaten legislative library”

March 24, 2007

Letter to the editor of the Vancouver Sun:

Barbarians threaten legislative library

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Re: Historic legislative library faces uncertain fate, Westcoast News, March 17

The legislative library is an architectural treasure. Specifically designed to house a library, this is more than a building, it is grand, illustrious and noble, lifting soul and spirit. I never fail to go there when visiting Victoria.

And now it is to be converted to offices. Is someone mad? It is akin to turning Christ Church Cathedral into shops or Stanley Park into a condo strip. Is nothing sacred? Have we no regard for history, culture, beauty? Barbarians are in the garden city.

Nick Loenen

B.C. is about to lose a historic treasure that is also a gold mine of information. As a former member of the B.C. press gallery, I found the legislature library to be an invaluable resource when researching articles for the Victoria Times Colonist and later when reporting for television under tight deadlines.

The library’s central location is crucial since reporters often have very little time to spare, much like MLAs preparing for committee work, legislative debates and question period. It’s important to have immediate access to materials.

In addition, I believe the library should be maintained in its prominent location in the heart of the legislature for symbolic reasons. The B.C. government should be applauded for its recent efforts promoting literacy. But if we allow the library to be shut down or shunted aside to an ancillary building, it sends a signal that we as a province do not hold libraries in high regard.

Of course, a library is only as good as its staff. At the B.C. legislature library, the level of service is exemplary. The librarians were always most helpful, ensuring I got my facts straight. I hate to think what their loss will do to the quality of research by reporters, MLAs and legislative staff.

Susan Danard

B.C. Library Association responds

March 23, 2007

Inba Kehoe, President of the B.C. Library Association, has sent a formal letter to Premier Campbell expressing her association’s concerns about the future of the Legislative Library.

March 21, 2007 

Dear Mr. Premier,

The British Columbia Library Association (BCLA) would like to take this opportunity to address the recent announcement concerning the relocation and service reduction at the Legislative Library of British Columbia.

The situating of the Legislative Library within the Legislature is symbolic of the importance of knowledge and learning to the founders of our province.  These values continue to be important to our present government and citizens.  As international attention to our Province grows, it is important that the world knows of our collective commitment to literacy and the quest for knowledge.

As I’m sure you would agree, in our democratic society it is the responsibility of government to protect the public record and ensure that it is freely accessible to all citizens.  The BC Legislative Library preserves official publications of the province and makes these available for the use of current legislators, their staff and for those who will succeed them.

We recommend that you offer clear and continued assurances that:

• The collections of the Legislative Library will remain fully intact and readily accessible

• Services which benefit everyone in the province, including the collecting, cataloguing, and indexing of government information in all forms, will continue without interruption

• The Legislative Library will be restored to its original prominence once the seismic upgrades have been completed.

The British Columbia Library Association requests you demonstrate your support for the services provided by the Legislative Library implementing our recommendations when you announce your plan for the future of the library known affectionately throughout the province as “the Leg”. 

Respectfully yours,

Inba Kehoe
President, British Columbia Library Association

via LibTech Life

More coverage by bloggers

March 23, 2007

Librarian Activist: “MLAs need access to all the information that a parliamentary library provides, and the assumption that all relevant information is available online is made by those who don’t work in libraries or use them enough. Such assumptions undermine what we vote for: representatives who we count on to inform themselves adequately and then make decisions on our behalf.”

Paying Attention: “There’s something nastily symbolic about the politicans’ plan to shut down the magnificent legislative library so they could have better offices.”

Ballad in Plain E, CLA Montreal, and Access to Government Information also raise the alarm in their corners of the blogosphere.

Good work, people!