The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans is dismantling most of its library system. Many documents are being digitized, however scientists claim thousands of valuable books and scientific reports are being given away or sent to the dumpster.
The Harper government is shutting down seven of the 11 Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) libraries. Some of them, such as the library at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, BC, the Eric Marshall Aquatic Research Library in Winnipeg, MB, and the 100-year-old library at the St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, are already closed.
The most valuable bibliographic material is being consolidated at three DFO libraries: the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, the Maurice Lamontagne Institute in Mont-Joli, Quebec, and the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, British Columbia. Additionally, the Canadian Coast Guard College Library in Sydney, NS, will host a collection of nautical sciences documents to support courses taught at the College.
Scientific books and technical reports of the Maurice Lamontagne Library, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Mont-Joli, Quebec, thrown in a dumpster, July 2013.
However, DFO calls the library consolidation a “modernization of the library resources allowing for easier search and access to clients no matter their location.” To achieve this, according to DFO, duplicated material will be removed; universities have been contacted to determine if there is interest in acquiring some of the duplicates; and some of the material had been offered to DFO staff for work-related use.
Nonetheless, research scientists and university academics are concerned the proposed measures have not been carried out properly and insist that the closure of the seven DFO libraries is a big tragedy and it amount to what they call “libricide”. James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers says:
“What’s important is the scale of the assault on knowledge, and on our ability to know about ourselves and to advance our understanding of our world,”
Science historian Jennifer Hubbard at Ryerson University in Toronto believes the DFO claim that all material has been scanned and made available online is simply untrue.
"DFO is dumping documents, including grey literature that exists in limited quantities, just at a point when fisheries biologists around the world have been turning to historical studies, data, and graphical information to reconstruct the effects of fishing and fisheries policies, and to document environmental change,"
"I was sickened," said one prominent research scientist who had worked for the federal government for 30 years, and who did not want to be identified. "All that intellectual capital is now gone. It's like a book burning. It's the destruction of our cultural heritage. It just makes us poorer as a nation.” "There are so many willing accomplices to what's going on," the scientist added, reports The Tyee.
Tom Siddon, former federal fisheries minister in Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative government is also a critic of the library closures by the Harper government:
"I call it [closing libraries] Orwellian, because some might suspect that it's driven by a notion to exterminate all unpopular scientific findings that interfere with the government's economic objectives," "You do not extinguish national libraries of knowledge or history in an arbitrary way any more than the government would be allowed to extinguish the record of cabinet deliberations or to burn the books of Hansard," told Siddon to CBC.
According to Canada’s Past Matters, Federal libraries are an important part of Canada’s cultural heritage. "These specialist libraries house some of Canada’s most important collections. Dozens of federal departmental libraries across the country (i.e. Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development, etc.) have been closed or are destined for closure within the next year. No studies were done to assess the impacts of these closures, and for many of the libraries affected there is no clear plan for what will be done with their collections."
One cannot help but wonder if the Canadian Federal Government has something against historic records, science and knowledge. What do you think? Please leave your comment below.