The union representing federal scientists says the agriculture research library in the southern Alberta city of Lethbridge has been quietly closed.

The Agriculture and Agri-Food Lethbridge Research Centre was created in 1906 and provided scientific information to scientists with Agriculture Canada, as well as technicians and students.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) — which represents approximately 15,000 federal scientists — says the closure brings the number of federal science libraries lost due to cuts, closures and consolidations to 16 since 2012.

"The Harper government continues to target government science at every turn," PIPSC president Debi Daviau said in a release.

"It is time Canadians understood the cumulative loss to federal science — and this week to agricultural science, in particular — of a government whose priorities are clearly out of step with both public scientists and the public interest."

The union claims the change will make access to relevant research more difficult for scientists studying beef, soil chemistry and ecology, rangeland, wheat, canola, potatoes, beans, insect pests and greenhouse gases.

"While some items appear to have been shipped to government facilities in Ottawa, on Monday most of the library's contents had been either discarded in a dumpster outside the building or sent to recycling," said PIPSC in its statement.

Centre not closing, says federal government

However, the federal government says the union's version of events is incorrect.

"The Agriculture and Agri-Food Lethbridge Research Centre is not closing," Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada spokesman Patrick Girard wrote in an email to CBC News.

"The Government of Canada is modernizing the delivery of library services by moving towards a digital service delivery model, while keeping all materials of business value to all employees, including our scientists. This will allow for easier and cost efficient search and access to library resources by employees, no matter their location."

Requests for items from the print collections have declined by more than 83 per cent from both government and outside users, Girard wrote.

"Traditional library services are changing and AAFC is moving towards services being delivery virtually and as a self-service feature," he wrote.