Sunday, November 23, 2008

Introduction to libraries: History of books and libraries

Socio-Economic Conditions Favourable to Libraries
Libraries have been in existence since the ancient world. Jean Key Gates states that libraries tend to prosper when any of the following economic and social conditions occur:

1. When the value of preserving, transmitting and enlarging the body of knowledge is recongized.
2. When the people have the time and money to pursue cultural and intellectual activities.
3. In periods of high levels of intellectual creativity and scholarly activity.
4. When society emphasizes the need for self-improvement and well-informed citizens.
5. In large urban areas which have sufficient cultural and intellectual interest and the financial means to support libraries and their use.
6. When economic conditions allow for substantial individual and corporate wealth and encourage charitable donations.
7. When distribution and use of information and knowledge is viewed as a key factor in sustaining economic growth and national power and status.
Jean Key Gates, Introduction to Librarianship, 3rd ed. (New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, c1990, 5-6)

Highlights of Canadian Library History
This section is based upon information found in Chapter 2 of Lorraine M. Williams, The Library trustree and the public librarian: partners in service, (Ottawa: Canadian Library Association, 1987)

French settlement and early British rule
Like the settlers of the American colonies, early French explorers, missionaries and priests brought books with them on their voyages to the New World. As early as 1635 the Jesuits created a library at their headquarters in New France. The first libraries in Canada were small religious collections and private libraries of officials.

After the British conquest in 1763, Governor Frederick Haldeman helped to establish the first subscription library in 1780. The cost of belonging to the library for French and English subscribers was a down payment of 5 pounds Sterling and 2 pounds Sterling a year. Governor John James Simcoe donated his private collection to the Legislature of Upper Canada in 1791. The collection consisted of primarily legal and historical works.

Many of the United Empire Loyalists, who sought refuge in Canada during the American Revolution, were affulent families who valued book ownership and education. They established many private and social libraries in their new communities.

Highlights of Canadian Library History
As institutions of higher learning were formed, such as the College of New Brunswick (founded in 1795) and King's College (circa 1802) in Nova Scotia, scholars donated collections of books which evolved into libraries.

As in Great Britain, the early nineteenth century witnessed the development of Mechanics Institutes Libraries. Mechanics Institues sponsored lecture series and provided reading material for the working class. Several of these agencies received governmental funding and their collections became some oef the first public libraries in Canada.

In the mid-1800's school district libraries were developed in Ontario and eastern Canada. Although operated by schools, these libraries were created to serve the general public.

In western Canada, early explorers and fur traders brought a few books with them. The Hudson Bay Company made books available to traders at their outposts. Agent John McLaughlin had a sizeable collection of reading materials for private use and for the use of his many visitors. In 1847, the Red River Library was established in Manitoba. The collection was a donation by Peter Fidler, a trader and land speculator. As in eastern Canada, governmental officials, professional men and businessmen often had large private collections, which they donated to assist in the development of public and college libraries.

It was not, however, until the last quarter of the nineteenth century that significant development of libraries occurred throughout Canada. New colleges and universities were founded, school libraries developed, and governments passed legislation providing for the development of municipally supported libraries. In 1882, the Ontario Free Libraries Act authorized towns to raise taxes for free libraries.

Twentieth Century to World War Two
By 1900, there were nearly 400 public libraries in Ontario alone and there was such significiant interest in libraries that the Ontario Library Association was formed. In 1901, McGill University received an endowment to create the McLennan Travelling Libraries. Collections were loaned for three months for a fee of $4.00. Shipments of thirty to forty books were sent to any place in the Dominion of Canada. Western provinces established similar travelling services in the early 1900's. The Saskatchewan Travelling Library Service began in 1914.

Andrew Carnegie's Foundation greatly assisted the growth of public libraries in the United States, and to a lesser extent, Canada. It gave over $56 million to finance more than 2,500 libraries across North America in the early twentieth century. In Canada, 125 Carnegie libraries were built between 1901 and 1923, although only 13 were located outside Ontario. Carnegie money financed the William Avenue Library (1905), the St. John's (1914) and Cornish (1914) branch libraries in Winnipeg, and the Selkirk Carnegie Library (1909, now demolished).

This paragraph is mostly drawn from Donna G. Strike, ed. Directions: a guide to libraries in Manitoba, (Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1998). Note that the William Avenue Library at 380 William Ave. now houses the City of Winnipeg's archives.

By the 1920's larger libraries hired trained librarians. Public Library Acts were passed providing provincial government grants. Urban centres often found it necessary to establish branch libraries to serve the needs of a growing urban area and population base. However there was still a large part of the population which had no local library.

To overcome this disparity, two regional library services, in Prince Edward Island and the Fraser River Valley in B.C., were created with Carnegie Funds in the 1930's. The Prince Edward Island service was province-wide with central libraries in Charlottetown and Summerside. The Fraser River Valley system served over 40,000 individuals and had seven branch libraries and a bookmobile. Most provinces in Canada have adopted the regional library concept. For example, in Manitoba, there is the Public Library Service Branch of the Department of Culture, Heritage and Tourism. It provides assistance in the development of rural public libraries in Manitoba and makes materials available to remote areas of the province.

Highlights of Canadian Library History Since World War Two
This section is based upon information found in Chapter 2 of Lorraine M. Williams, The Library trustree and the public librarian: partners in service, (Ottawa: Canadian Library Association, 1987)

The Second World War produced great advances in technology and a heightened recognition of the importance of research and exchange of scholary information. Computer technology assisted the development of the atomic bomb and enhanced scientists' ability to perform extremely complex calculations. The postwar era in North America was one of remarkable economic prosperity. There was also a sharp increase in the birthrate, known as the baby boom. One consequence of this, in Canada, was a phenomenal growth both in the size an din the number of colleges and universities during the 1960's.

In 1953, the National Library of Canada was created, serving as a legal depository for all copyrighted materials produced in Canada. One of its many other services is to provide and coordinate interlibrary loan among Canadian libraries.

As government bureaucracies grew in size, so did the number of libraries serving the specialized needs of civil servants within departments of ministeries. Industrial and economic growth also created the need for corporations and businesses to quickly access critical information to ensure their competitiveness. Special libraries grew dramatically in size and in number during the 1960's and 1970's.

Although school libraies were slow to develop in some provinces, in the 1970's and 1980's, they were often centralized and became multi-media resource centres.

Perhaps the most challenging issue facing all libraries in Canada today is the ability to provide information in a wide variety of formats, while at the same time, experiencing continuing budgetary restraints and cutbacks.

Accompanying this module was chapter one of Guide of use of Libraries and Information Services by Jean Key Gates. It focused on the very beginning of libraries from approximately 3600 BC through to today. From the September 1997 issue of American Libraries, a article by Patricia Martin entitled Is Bill Gates the New Andrew Carnegie? and a Library Life Cycle, a graph from "Accentuate the Positive: Marketing Our Services, Marketing For Change" by Patrick O'Brien, in Public Library Quarterly February 1992.

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