Legislative Library, the Internet and the Idiots
Dark day for legislature library
March 16, 2007
"The B.C. Legislature Library is closing down to make room for a reception area for visiting dignitaries and more office space for politicians and their staff.
The 29 staff in the 90-year-old building attached to the back of the Legislature Building were informed of the decision Thursday. The bulk of the library's vast collection of historical documents will shipped to a warehouse. A core collection of essential materials will be moved to another government building on Superior Street, just behind the Legislature. Significant staff reductions are expected, but librarians have been told work will be found for anyone laid off.
The closure is apparently driven by space restrictions brought on by the steady increase in the number of politicians who inhabit the buildings. The number of MLAs has increased from 65 to 79 over the last 20 years. An electoral boundaries commission currently reviewing B.C. constituencies could increase that by another four.
The library was founded in 1863 for the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island and includes hundreds of thousands of historical documents, microfilmed newspaper archives going back 100 years and a reading room. It now primarily serves the needs of the MLAs and their staff and researchers.
The reorganization of the venerable institution has outraged a former head librarian. Joan Barton, who ran the library for more than 30 years, said that successive legislatures have ignored the space problems in the building. "It was the optics. They were worried about building grand new offices for politicians."
Several plans were drawn up over the years to build new quarters and make more room, but nothing was done. "Now they're in crisis mode, and the premier's office is driving this agenda." Premier Campbell and senior staff spent some time touring the library several weeks ago.
One of the arguments advanced in favor of the reorganization was that much of the reference material often asked for is available on line. But Barton scorned that explanation.
"There is no such thing as 'everything is on the Internet.' When you say that to a librarian, they're too polite to say so, but their first thought is; 'I'm dealing with an idiot."
Legislative Library website