Series GR-1387 - Library Services Branch records

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Library Services Branch records

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  • 1919-1979 (Creation)
    British Columbia. Library Services Branch

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Originals, 7.2 m

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Biographical history

The Library Services branch is the successor to the Library Development Commission, and was established in 1978 in accordance with the Public Libraries (Amendment) Act (SBC 1978, c. 35). The mandate of the branch is to “foster the vision of efficient, effective and connected library programs and services” by “overseeing the legislative and governance framework for public libraries, serving as a liaison between libraries and provincial or federal governments and offering funding, advice, and leadership to libraries and province-wide library programs and initiatives.”

Although the Library Services branch initially operated several field offices, a 1987 report recommended the closure of several of these offices. Dawson Creek was the first office to be closed following a merger with the Prince George office, which was itself closed in 1995. The 1987 report also recommended that several programs be phased out, including the Open Shelf books-by-mail program which eventually ceased all service in 1995 after 73 years.

The Branch has changed ministries on several occasions. Between 1990 and 2001, it was located within the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Recreation and Housing, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. In 2001, the Branch was moved to the Ministry of Community, Aboriginal, and Women’s Services where it remained until a 2006 move to the Ministry of Education.

The branch has changed names several times, and has been known as the Library Services branch and the Public Library Services branch. As of June 2016, the body is known as the Libraries branch and is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education.

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Scope and content

Correspondence, statistical returns, and reports of the Public Library Commission (PLC) and its successors, the Library Development Commission and the Library Services Branch. Includes files of PLC pioneers Helen Gordon Stewart, H.N. Lidster, and C.K. Morison, plus records of PLC members at Provincial Library and Archives. Also documents, relating to regional libraries in Fraser Valley, Okanagan district, and Vancouver Island, along with correspondence pertaining to provincial library schools and associations.

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Transferred by Director, Library Services Branch, 1983.


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These records are subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act or other acts and access may be restricted. Please contact the BC Archives to determine the access status of these records.

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General note

The public library system in British Columbia developed in part from the Free Libraries Act of 1891 (54 Vict., c. 29). This act empowered incorporated cities and municipalities to establish local libraries and news-rooms, which were to be open to the public free of charge. The act did not, however, provide for any financial assistance to the community libraries, nor did it encourage the establishment of free libraries outside the province's three main metropolitan centres. B.C.'s small, rural communities were not provided with effective library services until 1919, when the legislature passed the Public Libraries Act (9 Geo. 5, c. 48). This act, which was administered by the Provincial Secretary, established a Public Library Commission (PLC) and made provisions for "public library associations." With the approval of the PLC, local library associations were able to secure operating grants from the provincial government and local library associations were also able to borrow boxes of "travelling library" books from the PLC's main depot in Victoria. The first chairman of the PLC was Dr. Helen Gordon Stewart. Formerly head of the Victoria Public Library, she was also one of the founding members of the British Columbia Library Association (1911). In 1930 she was appointed director of the PLC's Fraser Valley library unit demonstration. Funded by the Carnegie Corporation, this programme was intended to demonstrate the feasibility of large, regional libraries. The demonstration was a success and led to the establishment of other regional library units in the Okanagan and on Vancouver Island. Hugh Norman Lidster was chairman of the PLC while the demonstration was underway. A solicitor by profession, Lidster helped to maintain the Commission's work during the difficult years of the Depression. Other individuals who played a prominent part in the PLC during the period were Provincial Librarians and Archivists, John Hosie and W. Kaye Lamb. C.K. Morison, the PLC.

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Accession number(s): G83-018, 91-3650

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