Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Case Study No. 0889: Alice Bacon

Library Book-Alice
Alice Bacon introduces the launch of The Library Book with a stirring account of the value of libraries and librarians. The book is by Dave Obee, and is a project of the British Columbia Library Association and the British Columbia Library Trustees Association, with help from the Public Library Services Branch. The launch was on April 7, 2011 in Victoria.
Tags: British Columbia Library History
Added: 1 year ago
From: BCLibraries
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[Alice Bacon is standing at a podium and speaking to the audience]
ALICE BACON: Good evening, everybody. My name is Alice Bacon, and I'm a retired ... or should I say, long-retired member of the staff of the British Columbia Library Services branch, and it is my great pleasure to welcome all of you to this very special evening as we celebrate the launch of "The Library Book: A History of Service to British Columbia Libraries." And it has been written, as you all know, by Dave Obee and published by the British Columbia Library Association. For many of us here this evening, this is a long-awaited and highly anticipated special event. Over the past two years, we feel like we have been a small part of this very exciting library project, because many of us - either individually or in groups - attended sessions with the author Dave Obee, where Dave asked us lots of questions as part of his meticulous research in the writing of this book. And Dave also kindly shared with us at the time his idea and his hope for what the book, the final product would turn out to be. And now, this evening, we are going to have the real pleasure of seeing the book finally in person. Now, some of us who attended the retired librarians' luncehon had a sneak preview of the book, but all the rest of you who didn't I'm sure are really looking forward to seeing the book tonight. And as well, those of you who have not already met Dave, will have an opportunity to meet and speak with him later on this evening. But before all that, we have an evening of celebration planned. An evening in which we will pay tribute to a century of the British Columbia Library Association, we will meet some of the important characters that have been part of the history of British Columbia libraries, and we will also through a very beautiful new video show you the public library as it is today, what it is and what it does. And perhaps even indicate a little bit about what the future might hold for libraries. Libraries today, as I'm sure all of us know here this evening, are no longer just about books. The provide collections utilizing every imaginable kind of format. A full range of services, as well as a wide variety of programs, are also offered to people of all ages and all walks of life. Libraries are all about sharing - sharing of information, resources, and programs that will educate and inform us, and entertain and enlighten us. It was my very great privilege to be part of the planning and organization of the British Columbia Centennial Citizens Conference on Libraries, that was held here in Victoria, and I can't believe it, forty years ago almost to the day.
[audience laughs]
ALICE BACON: And the theme of that conference was "Libraries: Vital to Tomorrow's World." And I feel that even forty years later, that that theme, that concept, is as relevant today as it was then. And so this evening, as we reflect on the history of British Columbia Libraries, and we take a close look at the modern public library, perhaps most importantly we should think of this evening as a springboard to the future, and ask ourselves what we can do to see that libraries continue to be an important and vital part in tomorrow's ever-chaning world.



Philanthropist gave birth to city's libraries
Andrew Carnegie played vital role in building network across North America
By Dave Obee, Times ColonistApril 2, 2011 9:00

This is an excerpt from The Library Book: A History of Service to British Columbia, being published this month by the B.C. Library Association.

The book, written by Dave Obee, editorial page editor of the Times Colonist, will be launched during the association's annual conference, which takes place in Victoria this week.

The public is invited to the launch at 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church at Douglas and Broughton streets. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at the door.

A ndrew Carnegie never visited British Columbia, but he had a great influence on its public libraries. By providing money for library buildings in Vancouver, New Westminster and Victoria, he established the importance of libraries in a province that was still quite young.

In all three cities, Carnegie helped move libraries from crowded, second-floor spaces to buildings erected specifically to serve their patrons. The libraries built with Carnegie's money served for more than half a century. Two of the buildings are still standing, and one is again providing library service as home to the Carnegie Centre, a beacon of hope in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, on Nov. 25, 1835, the first son of William Carnegie, a linen weaver, and his wife Margaret. In 1848, William and Margaret Carnegie moved to Allegheny, Pa. The next year, when Andrew was 13, he began working as a bobbin boy in a cotton factory and later as a Western Union messenger boy and a telegraph operator. When he moved to Pittsburgh, he began borrowing a book from a free library every Saturday, and said later that the experience inspired his love of libraries.

Carnegie rose to become superintendent of the Western Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad and invested in a company that manufactured railway sleeping cars and built bridges, locomotives and rails. In 1865, he established the Keystone Bridge Company, and in 1873, a steel factory. The steel business prospered, and when Carnegie sold it to John Pierpoint Morgan in 1901, the Carnegie Corporation was valued at more than $400 million.

After the sale he devoted his life to giving away his fortune, in keeping with a theory he expressed in his 1889 book The Gospel of Wealth. Carnegie said the rich were merely "trustees" of wealth and had a moral obligation to distribute that wealth to promote the welfare and happiness of the common man. Carnegie created several endowed trusts and institutions bearing his name.

His first public library gift, in 1881, was to his native Dunfermline. In the years that followed, he gave library gifts to 2,508 other communities in the English-speaking world, including 125 in Canada. In British Columbia, three offers from Carnegie were accepted in 1901 and 1902. His money was to be spent on buildings, not library collections, and Carnegie would not provide funds unless the recipient municipality agreed to provide an annual amount equal to 10 per cent of his donation to cover salaries, maintenance and book purchases.

Some municipalities balked at that requirement and rejected his offers. In other cases, his money was turned down because of his reputation as a tough businessman. Many labour leaders condemned Carnegie because of his role in the Homestead strike in Pennsylvania in 1892, which escalated into a battle between strikers and private security agents.

By the time he died in 1919, about $350 million of Carnegie's fortune had been given away. Through trusts and institutions, his legacy continues to provide benefits -almost a century after his death.

Victoria was the second B.C. city to ask Carnegie for money. His offer of $50,000 was received in March 1902, but it took three months for council to say yes. The problem was that the book budget had to be approved by voters. As Mayor Charles Hayward noted, the Carnegie deal would require $5,000 a year for books and maintenance, but the city could spend no more than $1,600 a year. In June, the $5,000 annual expenditure was approved in a plebiscite, but a bylaw to provide $15,000 for the purchase of a site was turned down. That meant the library would have to be built on land already owned by the city.

The choices were narrowed down to lots on the northwestern end of the Inner Harbour causeway, where Government and Wharf streets meet; at Yates and Blanshard streets; and at Pandora and Chambers, which had been purchased for use as a water reservoir.

The cost of developing the Yates site was estimated at $700 more than the Government Street site. Stephen Jones, the proprietor of the Dominion Hotel on the south side of Yates at Blanshard, offered to cover the difference so the library would be built across from his hotel.

His strategy worked. In April 1903, voters chose the Yates site, which had previously been home to a brewery, a grocery store and a second-hand store. "There is a very strong desire on the part of the people to see the last of the grimy hole which at present is the only temple of polite literature available to the general public in Victoria," the Daily Colonist said, referring to the library on the second floor of city hall.

Architects Thomas Hooper and Charles Elwood Watkins designed the new building. The plans called for sandstone from Saturna Island. In April 1904, after a delay because the foundations had to be dug deeper than planned, the cornerstone was laid by William W. Northcott, the city building inspector.

While the building was going up, council chose a new librarian, Dr. J. Griffith Hands. He had no experience running a library, but he beat 45 other applicants. The Colonist noted that Hands was "considered in every sense an excellent man for the place, being splendidly recommended."

Council named Ald. Thornton Fell, Canon Arthur Beanlands and provincial librarian Ethelbert Olaf Stuart Scholefield to the library board, and they tackled the next problem. "For years the city of Victoria maintained what purported to be a free public library, but today, when we examine the stock of books in that institution, we find that fully 50 per cent of the volumes are completely worn out and only fit for the rubbish heap," Scholefield wrote.

The new library could hold 15,000 books, but the old one had only 5,000, including the ones Scholefield wanted to discard. He called for donations to stock the shelves, and delayed the opening of the library until new books could be obtained.

The reading rooms -one for men, another for women -were finally opened on Dec. 4, 1905, four months after the old library closed.

Years later, Robert Connell, a local minister who was chairman of the library board -and later became the first leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in B.C. -reminisced in the Victoria Daily Times about what it had been like to get a book when Hands was in charge.

Patrons would walk to the counter, choose from a printed catalogue of 5,000 books, fill in a slip and pass it to Hands. If the book was on the shelves, the patron could take it.

"I filled in my slip one day with the name 'Charles Keene Layard' and gave it to the Doctor," said Connell. "In a few minutes he handed me my book, and without scrutinizing it I walked off. As soon as I went along the street I noticed that I had got the life of Charles Kean, the actor, instead of Charles Keene, the artist of Punch, so back I went. I explained the error to Dr. Hands, but he resolutely shook his head.

"'A book taken out can under no circumstances be exchanged the same day,' was his reply . and the mistake was his! But rule three said: 'Only one volume may be taken out on one card and only once a day.' "

It was a challenge to establish order in Victoria's spacious new library. Then Helen Gordon Stewart arrived, as an assistant to Hands, and soon brought order to the mayhem. In 1912, when Hands retired, Stewart succeeded him.

Under Stewart, the library added a children's room, opening it on July 8, 1913. Cases filled with books loved by boys and girls were supplemented by pictures around the walls with scenes from popular stories.

"There are many homes where knowledge of books and especially books for the young is small, and the children's librarian has to be mother and father to the young minds as they turn towards the wonderland of books," Connell wrote later. "To implant in children a love of books with a sense of values is to give them the very crown of education, citizenship in the democracy of books."

In the same year, Stewart started British Columbia's first systematic training course in librarianship. Applicants had to be high school graduates. The courses lasted 11 months, with eight months in the Victoria library and three more in at least two other libraries, such as the ones in Seattle and Portland. Students were paid $10 a month for the first three months, $20 a month for the second three months, and $30 a month for the remainder of their instruction.

A few years later, the Spanish flu epidemic reached British Columbia near the First World War's end in November 1918. In an attempt to stop the spread of the disease, most public places -including libraries -were closed. The provincial cabinet had ordered on Oct. 8 that all "places of assembly" had to be shut.

"The health officer does not fear the dissemination of the disease by the circulation of books, but only as a result of the collection of crowds," the Daily Times reported. The Victoria library provided reference service by telephone five days a week.

Patrons urgently in need of a book could request it by telephone and pick it up at the library.

The restrictions were lifted on Nov. 19, although health authorities still warned against unreasonable crowding in theatres, churches, stores, cars and anywhere else where people gathered. Still, British Columbians were allowed to go back to their normal lives -including visits to libraries -for the first time in five weeks.

Stewart resigned from the Victoria library in 1924, heading to the United States to further her education. She returned in 1930 to run a radical experiment -a library service to serve an entire region, namely the Fraser Valley.

The successful model she created helped inspire regional libraries around the world, including the Vancouver Island Regional Library. From 1940 to 1948, Stewart ran the library system in Trinidad and Tobago, and even started a training course like the one she had offered in Victoria.

She retired to Saanich in 1948. In 1963 she was made an honorary life member of the Canadian Library Association. The ceremony was held in Victoria's Carnegie library, still in use after 60 years.

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