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BriefsReportRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences

[title page]

[Exhibit A]


A Brief Presented to the
Government of Canada


The Canadian Library Association
Association Canadienne des Bibliotheques

The Royal Society of Canada

The Canadian Historical Association

The Canadian Political Science Association


The Social Science research Council of Canada

December, 1946.




      research Centre for Canada   6 - 7
      National Services   7 - 8
     (1)    Co-ordination of Existing Library Resources   8 - 9
     (2)    National Bibliography   9 - 10
     (3)    National Book Production Displays   10
     (4)    Technical Service to Libraries   10
      International Obligations   10
      Investigation of the Problem   13 - 14
      Implementation of the Recommendations   15 - 16
      (1) Supporting Resolutions   [1 - 3]
      (2) Selected List of References   [na]
      (3) "Why Ask for a National Library"   [na]
      (4) Switzerland's Tri-lingual National Library.   [na]



A Brief Presented to the Government of Canada
by the Canadian Library Association - Association
Canadienne des Bibliothèques and the Learned
Societies of Canada



A National Library is, first of all, the most comprehensive Library in the world in its own country. In co-operation with the National Archives, Art Gallery, Museum, and other institutions, its duty is to preserve and organize for use records of the country's history, distinguished citizens, natural resources, literature, arts, science and technology, social conditions, in short, of the whole life of the country.

A National Library is also a centre for services to other libraries, research workers and individuals, an information bureau, a clearing house for inquiries from at home and abroad, the agency responsible for the national bibliography, the channel for co-operation with foreign libraries as well as the means through which all the libraries of the country can co-operate, the ultimate authority on standards of library techniques in short, the nerve centre of the whole network of libraries in the country.


Without a National Library we cannot be sure that all sources of the country's history will be preserved nor that governments at all levels will be assured of the information that is now necessary to deal with the complicated problems of modern life. It is indispensable to the effective operation of all libraries in the country.

The main argument of this Brief is that, while a great building is probably not possible at this stage, it is not necessary to wait for a building to establish the National Library for Canada and that, in fact, the ultimate building will be more satisfactorily planned if the National Library is brought into being first.

The Brief therefore asks that a committee or board be set up now to investigate the practical possibilities of starting such services as the Brief suggests, and beginning the collection and storage of the book collection in temporary quarters under the supervision of a suitable staff. In other words, the National Library can begin as an Information Bureau and Bibliographical Centre, while at the same time, the investigation of the whole question of the ultimate organization of the National Library, its book stack and the building that will be needed to house its collections and its services is continued.





Precise knowledge is essential to the functioning of governments and all public and private undertakings. If the publications which flow from the presses of all countries are to serve their purpose, they must be organized for use in libraries of many kinds. In nearly every civilized nation in the world the approach to co-ordination of library services has been through the establishment of a National Library as an essential unit in the total service for the diffusion of knowledge to its citizens.

Canada has many libraries, both publicly and privately owned. The Canadian government itself owns extensive collections of books and many of its departmental libraries are now rendering important services to the nation. No one library, however, is responsible for the task of preserving everything published relating to Canada about Canada and by Canadians and the total library resources of the country are not so co-ordinated that they can be utilized to their greatest extent. The largest collection of all, the Library of Parliament, is hampered in its task of serving Parliament by the obligation to store, in an inadequate building which is not fireproof, large numbers of books and newspapers for the future National Library.*[1]


The National Library is the institution that is needed in Canada to provide services not now rendered by any agency and ensure the most effective use of our existing libraries.

In this Brief is set forth first, what experience in other countries has shown to be the FUNCTIONS OF A NATIONAL LIBRARY, secondly, THE BENEFITS that can be expected to flow from a National Library, and lastly, PROPOSALS FOR THE FIRST STEPS IN THE ESTABLISHMENT of a National Library for Canada.





Research Centre for Canada

The primary purpose of every national library is to build up the most comprehensive library in the world on its own country. Canada's National Library would work in co-operation with the Public Archives, National Art Gallery, National Museum, National research Council and other institutions for the common purpose of preserving and organizing for use all records of the country's history, distinguished citizens, political life, geography, social conditions, natural resources, literature, arts, science and technology, in short, of the whole life of the country. Every year during which Canada is without an institution to collect and preserve everything published in Canada, about Canada and by Canadians, valuable source material is lost.

Attention should be given at once to the collections of the National Library.

Editions of Canadian books are usually limited and rapidly go out of print. It is of primary importance that at least two copies of every book published in Canada be pre-


served in the National Library. To achieve this, the provisions of the present Copyright Act regarding legal deposit need to be studied with a view to amendment.

Provision should be made at once for the acceptance of gifts to the nation, in order to obtain private collections which otherwise may be dispersed.

Attention needs to be given at once also to the question of rare books not anywhere available in Canada. Libraries in other countries have been diligent in collecting important works on Canada, and research workers must frequently visit foreign countries to obtain basic reference material. Plans should be made to obtain such works by gift or purchase, or failing the original works, copies by photographic reproduction.

National Services

In addition to this primary function, every national library in the world has reference and information services determined by the needs of the country*[2]. Generally speaking, through these services the National Library becomes an Information Bureau, the logical clearing house for enquiries of all kinds, answering some enquiries itself, referring others to the appropriate department or library at home or abroad.


Among the services for which there is an expressed need in Canada are:

  1. Co-ordination of Existing Library Resources and Services.
  2. National Bibliography.
  3. National Book Production Displays.
  4. Technical Services to Libraries.

(1) Co-ordination of Existing Library Resources.

The agency that is needed to co-ordinate the existing library resources of Canada is a Bibliographical Centre based on a Union Catalogue.

A Union Catalogue lists in one alphabetical sequence the contents of the important collections of the country. It is the means whereby a scholar locates his required book which may be made available through lending or a photostat or microfilm copy.

At present librarians spend many hours writing from one library to another in order to locate a wanted title. Often in the end they are forced to apply to the Union Catalogue of the Library of Congress at Washington and borrow from the United States.

A Union Catalogue of Canada's resources would result in financial savings, since costly duplication in book purchases could be reduced. Moreover, individual collections could be better planned and even quite small libraries


specialize in particular subjects, thus contributing something in return for help from the larger libraries.

Microfilm and reproductive services for the duplication of rare materials would develop in co-operation with the services of the National Film Board.

(2) National Bibliography.

A National Library is responsible for the field of national bibliography. Two fundamental national bibliographical works are a list of Government Documents and a catalogue of all books published in the country, about the country, and by its citizens.

For a brief time the Wartime Information Board published the long-desired list of Canadian government documents arranged by departments of issue. It is hoped that the resumption of this publication will be one of the first things to be undertaken by the National Library.

For some years the annual Canadian Catalogue of Books has been compiled by a local public library as a service to the nation, but this publication, now a burden on its staff and book funds, can no longer be carried. This catalogue too is a national responsibility.

Subject bibliographies which would develop from the work of a Bibliographical Centre are of great value to students


and those who are doing book selection in other libraries.

(3) National Book Production Displays

A National Library should encourage appreciation of authorship and fine book production within its nation.

A Canadian National Library could prepare and circulate within Canada discriminating exhibitions showing the achievements of Canadian authors and book designers -- illustrators, printers, publishers and bookbinders.

(4) Technical Service to Libraries.

Without going into technical details, it may be said that service from the National Library in the fields of cataloguing and classification would not only save time in every library in Canada but raise standards, increase efficiency and help to ensure uniformity of practice.

International Obligations.

A nationa1 library should keep in touch with international bibliography, facilitate international loans of printed material, act as the natural channel of communication with other national libraries as well as serve as one of the agencies of the government in its dealings with other countries. As UNESCO develops, the National Library would also undertake the communication of international projects to Canadian libraries.





A National Library for Canada would contribute to the organization of precise knowledge, thus ensuring the most intelligent use of the country's resources, human and material.

The existance of a research centre on Canada would encourage the writing not only of factual works useful to the legislator, administrator, business man, farmer, student, but also of imaginative works based on research which would help to interpret Canada to Canadians and also to the world.

The prestige of the National Library and its many activities would stimulate the whole library movement. Individual libraries and citizens in all part s of the country would receive assistance from its publications and travelling exhibitions, its reference and cataloguing services, and from the speeding-up of inter-library loans through use of its union catalogues.

The international services of the National Library would play an essential role in Canada's expanding international relations.

To sum up, the National Library would be a centre


of intellectual life of Canada, and a guarantee that the sources of its history will be preserved, and a symbol of our national concern with the things of the mind and the spirit.





The ultimate objective should be the creation of a great national institution which will require a large building and substantial annual appropriations. A site for the building should be provided in the new war memorial plans for Ottawa even though it may not be possible to begin building immediately. In the meantime, however, we believe that the NATIONAL LIBRARY SERVICE can be started by utilizing temporary quarters and a suitable staff.

Investigation of the Problem.

In order that the whole question of a National Library be thoroughly investigated by competent persons, this delegation asks that a suitable committee or board be appointed

  1. to study the whole situation,
  2. to act as the channel between the Government and interested bodies throughout the country, and
  3. to make recommendations.
We suggest that it might be responsible to a Cabinet Minister, or committee of Ministers and have power to employ experts and sufficient clerical staff.


To assist the committee in its investigations we further suggest that other National Libraries be studied.

The experience of Great Britain, France and the United States will be of value to this investigating committee. The policies of Switzerland and Belgium are also particularly relevant to our problem, since these are two countries with small populations and more than one language. Their National Libraries have been established more recently, and they have proceeded in the pragmatic way which is here advocated, that is they have established services to meet ascertained needs. The National Library of Australia is another recently established institution of interest.

The Recommendations of the Committee or Board might well cover the following points:

  1. The general organization and function of the National Library.
  2. The most desirable form for a permanent advisory body.
  3. Necessary legislation, including amendments to the Copyright Act.
  4. The immediate services to be instituted, with estimates of costs.


Implementation of the Recommendations

The investigation may take some time. These are complicated problems. Their solution will require professional competence and executive ability of the highest order. But as soon as the recommendations of the Committee or Board on the establishment of even one service have been accepted, the National Library can come into being. Then, step by step, as one service after another is instituted, the National Library will grow and develop and when the time comes to erect a great building the living organization will be there, ready to occupy it.

Moreover this preliminary study and the gradual institution of one service after another is the most practical method of achieving the ultimate aim and will in the long run avoid many costly errors in building and administration.

At the present time no one can say with authority how much space should be provided for the collections, nor what services will be established. The ultimate organization will determine the number of departments and their inter-relationship. Although modern library buildings permit a great deal of flexibility, by means of movable walls and other devices, the organization, type and extent of services and the system of shelving and classification should be determined before the building is designed. The planning that must precede


the architect's work is too exacting to be delegated to a voluntary committee. It will require full-time professional advice. The National Librarian and his staff already operating National Services will be acquiring the knowledge and experience which will ensure a much more satisfactory type of administration and plan of building than could be obtained without such preliminary experience.

In support of this Brief we append Resolutions by the collaborating associations and other interested bodies, and a selected list of articles, speeches in Parliament, briefs and resolutions from a number of organizations showing the wide interest that has been taken in this proposal over a long period and two recent articles.

[ 1. ]




WHEREAS     The Canadian Library Association - Association Canadienne des Bibliothèques is convinced that the services a National Library could render to Canada are of the utmost and immediate importance to the country.

BE IT RESOLVED        that the Association ask the Government of Canada to appoint a suitable committee to investigate thoroughly the whole question of creating such a Library in Ottawa.


        The statement of this Society forwarded to the Government last spring presents "the urgent desirability of creating in Canada a National Library. "


        "At the meeting of the Council of the Canadian Historical Association on November 2 it was agreed that the Canadian Historical Association send a resolution to the Prime Minister in support of the Canadian Library Association's plea for a National Library."


         "Whereas the Royal Society of Canada has taken action with a view to recommending to the government of Canada the establishment of a National Library, be it resolved that this Association authorized its executive to act with the Royal Society of Canada or with any other learned society or public body in urging upon the Government of Canada the establishment of a National Library at an early date, and the desirability of making provision for a suitable site and appropriate buildings in the plans for the development of Ottawa as the capital of the nation."


        "The Social Science research Council at it Meeting November 2 decided to support the proposal of the Canadian Library Association."


        "That . . . Canada can no longer afford the unique position of not having a national library so essential to the integration and guidance of libraries throughout the nation. "



        "The Canadian Congress of Labour is convinced that a National Library is essential to our national life. Adequately housed, staffed and financed, it could make as important a contribution to national unity, a high standard of education and a rich and vigorous national literature as the Library of Congress is doing in the United States. The Congress therefore warmly endorses the proposal to establish such a National Library, and urges that it should be given a leading place in the Government's proposed National War Memorial plans."


        "Resolved that our University Women's Federation urge the Federal Government to implement recommendations for a National Library and also a broadened National research Council."


WHEREAS        "The Canadian Library Association has petitioned the Government of Canada to appoint a Committee with a view to investigating the whole question of a National Library in Ottawa."

BE IT RESOLVED        "that the executive of the Alberta Library Association heartily endorse this petition."


WHEREAS        "the establishment of an adequate National Library in Canada would provide guidance and aid in organizing library work in districts not now served, and would vastly augment the usefulness of existing libraries by acting as a clearing-house for information and for inter-library loans."

BE IT RESOLVED        "that the British Columbia Library Association urge upon the Prime Minister and the Government of Canada that such National Library be established as a post-war project; and be it further resolved that copies of this Resolution be forwarded immediately to the Right Honourable W.L. MacKenzie King and to each B.C. member of the House of Commons."


        "At a general meeting of the Manitoba Library Association on November 15, it was unanimously resolved that the Association endorse the action of the Canadian Library Association in seeking government action in regard to the creation of a National Library."



        "What a really good national library could do would be of great benefit. It would give the public a recognized centre of culture. It would enable research students to do advanced work within their own country. It might well induce more and more competent students to concentrate on the literature and history of Canada and help to develop a sense of pride among all Canadians."

        "It might as well produce a greater reverence for the literary arts and for those who profess them, and so help to restore the balance of our thinking." Halifax Chronicle, June 25.


        The Executive of the Ontario Library Association meeting in Toronto on November 1, reaffirmed its belief in Canada's need for the services of a National Library.


WHEREAS        "The Canadian Library Association is convinced that the services a National Library could render to Canada are of the utmost and immediate importance to the country."

BE IT RESOLVED        "that the Association ask the Government of Canada to appoint either a Royal Commission or an interdepartmental Committee with a view to investigating the whole question of creating such a Library in Ottawa."


        "Resolve that the Association ask the Government of Canada to appoint either a Royal Commission or an interdepartmental Committee with a view to investigating the whole question of creating such a Library in Ottawa."


        "The Saskatchewan Library Association heartily supports the action of the Canadian Library Association in regard to the National Library, as reported from the Canadian Library Association Conference in June 1946, and at their Executive meeting in October 1946."



        "That this institute of Public Library Trustees, composed of representatives from forty public library boards in eastern Ontario sincerely urge the Dominion Government to submit at the next session of Parliament the legislative requirements for the institution and foundation of a national library in Canada."

[This particular resolution was missing from the National Library's copy of this brief, and is taken from the brief as published in Ontario Library Review, Vol. 31, no. 1, February 1947, pp. 3-10. The resolution is found at the end of page 8. - Ed.]




[The "Selected List of References" was missing from the National Library's copy of this brief, and is taken from the brief as published in Ontario Library Review, Vol. 31, no. 1, February 1947, pp. 3-10. The list is found on pages 9 - 10. - Ed.]

[ Ontario Library Review, XXXI:1, Feb. 1947, page 9]

  • Alberta Library Association. Resolution, November 18, 1946.

  • Brebner, J. B. Scholarship for Canada, p. 77-9 has section on a National Library.

  • British Columbia Library Association. Brief : submitted to the Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial relations at the hearings in Victoria, B.C., March 1938. (15 pages).

  • British Columbia Library Association. Resolution, Annual Conference, 1944.

  • Burpee, L. J. Only Canada has no national library. University Magazine, February, 1911.

  • Canadian Association for Adult Education. Building Community Programmes. "The Federal Government should also establish a National Library", p. 16.

  • Canadian Congress of Labour. Resolution, December 5, 1946.

  • Canadian Federation of University Women. Resolution, August, 1946.

  • Canadian Historical Association. Resolution, November 2, 1946.

  • Canadian Library Association. Proceedings of the Organizational Conference, June 14-16, 1946. Resolutions of the Cataloguing Section, p. 61.

  • Canadian Library Association. Resolution, October 31, 1946.

  • Canadian Library Council, Inc. Canada needs libraries, reprinted from Ontario Library Review, November, 1944.

  • Canadian Library Council, Inc. Library service for Canada; brief . . . as forwarded August 2, 1944 to the House of Commons, Special Committee on Reconstruction, 1944. (10 pages)

  • The Canadian Political Science Association. Resolution, May 24, 1946.

  • Comment on Canada's need for a national library by the press of Halifax, Brantford, Ottawa. Canadian Library Association Bulletin 3:6, Oct. 1946.

  • Dafoe, Elizabeth. A national library. Food for Thought, 4:4-8, May 1944. (off-prints may be obtained from the Canadian Library Association.)

  • Desrochers, F. A national library for Canada. Canadian Historical Review, 25:105-6, March 1944.

  • Esdaile, Arundell. National libraries of the world. London: Grafton & Co., 1934.

  • Graydon, Gordon and Fournier, Hon. A. (On a national library.) House of Commons. Debates, 1944, vol. 5, p. 5224-5226.

  • Hamilton, R. M. A national war memorial library. Ontario Library Review 28:3-4, February 1944.

  • Humanities research Council. Correlation of resources: a national library. The Humanities in Canada. (In manuscript)

  • Joint Committee on the Libary of Parliament Report, 1943. House of Commons. Journals, 1943, p. 712. Adopted by the Senate, 26 January, 1944 but never adopted by the House of Commons.

  • Joint Committee on the Libary of Parliament Report, 1946. Senate Minutes of the Proceedings . . . 29 May 1946 p. 249. (Adopted by both Senate and House. See Recommendation number 2.)

  • King, Rt. Hon. W. L. MacKenzie, and Graydon, Gordon. (On a national library.) House of Commons. Debates, 1944, vol. 1, page 109 (25 lines).

  • MacDonald, Sir John A. (On a national library.) House of Commons. Debates, 1883, p. 630-1.

  • Manitoba Library Association. Resolution, November 15, 1946.

  • Martin, Paul. Some thoughts on a national library. Ontario Library Review 28:126-7, May 1944.

  • National Libraries; their functions. Canadian Library Association Bulletin 3:6-7, October, 1946.

  • Ontario Library Association. Brief: submitted to the Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial relations at its hearings in Toronto, Ontario, April 1938 . . . (3 pages)

  • Pouliot, J. F., and Coldwell, M. J. (On a national library.) House of Commons. Debates, June 19, 1946, p. 2711-2712, unrevised.

  • Quebec Library Association — L'Association des Bibliothécaires du Québec. Resolution.

    [ Ontario Library Review, XXXI:1, Feb. 1947, page 10 ]

    Regina Library Association. Resolution, November 13, 1946.

  • Royal Society of Canada. Brief presented . . . in regard to establishment of a national library. 1946.

  • Saskatchewan Library Association. Resolution, November 13, 1946.

  • Scollard, R. J. Cataloguing for the Canadian nation — the catalogue of our proposed national library. Proceedings of the Canadian Library Association, 1946, p. 21-25.

  • The Social Science research Council. Resolution, November 2, 1946.

  • The Trades and Labor Congress. The Trades and Labor Congress Journal, v. 25, no. 10, October 1946. Report of the Standing Committee on Education of the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada, 1946 — Resolution no. 12.

  • Trustees Institute of Eastern Ontario. Resolution, November 30, 1946.

  • Wallace, W. S. Need for a national library is urgent. Saturday Night, October 6, 1946, p. 28.

[Appendix (3) is not available, but was published as: "Why Ask for a National Library", Ontario Library Review, vol. 30, no. 4, November 1946, pp. 346-347. The article was contributed by the Canadian Library Association. - Ed.]

[Appendix (4) is not available - Ed.]

*[1]Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament, Report, 1943, 1946.

*[2]These national and international services have been well set forth in "Service national et collaboration internationale" by Suzanne Briet, an official of the Bibliothèque Nationale, in Revue du livre et des bibliothèques, 3(1935).

*From: Canadian Library Association. A National Library for Canada : A Brief Presented to the Government of Canada. [Ottawa : s.n., December, 1946]. 16, 3 p. [Included as] "Exhibit A" in: The National Library of Canada, its Eventual Character and Scope : a Brief Submitted to the Chairman and Members of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Ottawa : Canadian Library Association, 1949. By permission of the Privy Council Office.

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