Alberta government library closure to save $1.2 million

The pending closure, which was revealed via a leaked internal email and later confirmed by government, has been met with dismay by public servants and academics.

Library was a resource for public servants and academics

The government plans to close the provincial book depository and turn over its holdings to other libraries. (CBC)

The Alberta government is closing its library in downtown Edmonton at the beginning of July in order to save $1.2 million a year. 

The facility in the 44 Capital Boulevard Building at 108th Street and 100th Avenue holds current and historical Alberta government reports and documents.

It also gives Alberta public servants access to libraries and databases across the country, and access to academic journals, which is often prohibitively expensive. The Government of Alberta library is a different facility than the library at the Alberta legislature which remains open. 

The pending closure, which was revealed via a leaked internal email and later confirmed by government, has been met with dismay by public servants and academics.

Jared Wesley, an associate professor of political science at the University of Alberta, worked for the provincial government for six years in roles with executive council and the Alberta Public Service Commission. 

Wesley said he used the library's services at least once a week. Taking away resources such as public policy academic journals will diminish the quality of government decision-making, he said.

"One of the first questions you get asked when you're preparing a briefing for a minister or for cabinet is, 'What is the rest of Canada doing? What is the rest of the world doing?'" Wesley said. 

"(Public servants) rely on academics who have published in journals like Canadian Public Administration and Canadian Public Policy to provide them with that information so they can feed it into their briefings. 

University of Alberta political science professor Jared Wesley spent six years working for the provincial government. (Samuel Martin/CBC)

"And without that, the Government of Alberta is going to do without the kind of knowledge they need to make an informed decision."

Tricia Velthuizen, press secretary for Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish, said while the public can use the Alberta Government Library, the facility is used mostly by "a small percentage of government employees," about 1,000 over the past two years. 

 "Its closure will save taxpayers about $1.2 million each year, ensuring that government is prioritizing spending on the services that everyday Albertans use," she wrote in an email to CBC News. 

The government plans to turn over the library's holdings to other libraries. Some material will be available on the province's open data portal. 

Wesley said sending a collection to another library without the resources to manage them isn't helpful. 

He said the government librarians have an expertise in assisting with public policy research. In addition to being a valuable resource, the librarians could locate and deliver materials without the requester even needing to set foot inside the physical location, he added

Velthuizen said the library employed 12 full-time equivalents. Two of those staff members will be moved elsewhere in government. Five of those positions had been left vacant.