New Brunswick

Scientists fight to save library from federal cuts

Scientists are continuing to fight to save the library at the St. Andrews Biological Station from federal funding cuts.

Conservative MP John Williamson says he will listen to opponents' concerns

Scientists are continuing to fight to save the library at the St. Andrews Biological Station from federal funding cuts.

The library is used by Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists, outside researchers and by university students for teaching and research in southwestern New Brunswick.

Dave Aiken, a retired DFO scientist, is critical of the federal government's decision to move the St. Andrews library to Halifax. (CBC)

Those fighting to save the library argue the federal government's plans to close the library will make that work a lot more difficult.

The unique collection of records is slated to be shipped to Halifax as part of federal cost-cutting measures.

Dave Aiken, a retired research scientist with the federal fisheries department, said he doubts scientists will be able to work in St. Andrews while so much of the support they need is in Halifax.

"Through interlibrary loan, you can't access in any timely way the information that you need. Essentially what you are doing is shutting down your research capability," he said.

"It all starts with the library."

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is planning to close two of its five regional offices, seven of its 11 libraries and some Coast Guard stations. A total of 1,072 layoff notices went out across the country.

In New Brunswick, there will be three jobs lost, one in toxicology and two librarians, according to Conservative MP John Williamson, who represents the riding where the research centre is located.

Conservative MP John Williamson said he's willing to listen to the opponents' ideas on saving the research library. (CBC)

Williamson said he’s been listening to all the complaints about the federal cuts and he’s prepared to study the idea of keeping the library’s collection in St. Andrews.

But he said if the two staff positions in the library aren't cut, then jobs elsewhere in the facility will have to go instead.

"At the end of the day, it all has to fit into the fiscal framework, as we say in Ottawa," he said.

"There are costs that have to be reduced and we're going to hit those."

As things stand now, plans are to begin packing up the library collection this fall.

Identifying creatures

The research library’s usefulness was proven recently when a unique creature was collected in the Bay of Fundy, according to a senior scientist.

An unidentified creature was collected two weeks ago by a joint team of researchers from the University of New Brunswick and the Huntsman Marine Science Centre.

"This particular beast, because of its particular shape and morphology, stood right out. And this is why it puzzled me because something that distinct stands right out," said Gerhard Pohle, a senior research scientist at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre. 

"We should know about this. And yet we didn't."

Pohle was able to identify the tiny creature, which is less than two millimetres long, thanks to the library next to the research station.

Pohle found the name of the species in an extremely rare, century-old book.

If the book been sitting on a shelf in Halifax, Pohle said, it would have been extremely hard to make the connection.

"Yes, we might eventually have gotten around this problem. But it basically would have impeded the work we do to an extent that we would not be able to do it," he said.

"So this is why the library is such a huge issue to us here. It allows us to do what we do efficiently."

He said the library is a lifeline for researchers and students at the centre.

Adding to the complications, Pohle said much of the library’s collection has not been digitized.