Nfld. & Labrador·Blog

Baker: A DFO library gets checked out

Ottawa's decision to consolidate DFO's regional libraries will have a substantial impact on the fisheries centre in the White Hills in St. John's, writes Jamie Baker.

Some 50,000 local fisheries files moved or discarded as part of consolidation of libraries

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea says efforts have been made to find new homes for surplus materials in DFO's regional library collections. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

We all learned this week that more than 50,000 files have been moved or discarded from the library at the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in Newfoundland and Labrador as part of the federal government plan to consolidate the country's fisheries libraries.

There's been a lot about all this in the news and on The Fisheries Broadcast in recent months. 

Basically, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is consolidating its 11 library locations across Canada into four locations: the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, B.C.; the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Halifax; the Canadian Coast Guard College library in Sydney, N.S.; and the Coast Guard technical library in Ottawa.

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea has said the move is based on saving taxpayers' money and will not affect services; the fisheries and scientific community have argued the move makes little sense fiscally, and creates problems for research and historical review.

The library at DFO in the White Hills in St. John's is among those eliminated. 

A total of 22,721 files were moved from the N.L. library to one of the remaining department libraries. The bulk of those files are expected to end up at the Bedford Institute in Halifax.

In the meantime, 28,177 other files from the local library were offered to both Memorial University and local branches of the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries. None of those files was accepted by either institution.

While it was not known how many items were actually discarded, $11,810.76 was spent to discard "surplus items" from the library in St. John's — by far the highest discard expense of any of the libraries.

Shea said previously that the department went through a specific process when determining what to do with any duplicate or surplus materials.

"Duplicate materials, including books, from the libraries being consolidated were offered to other libraries and third parties if they wanted them," she said. "They were also offered to the DFO staff on site at the library, then offered to the general public, and finally were recycled." 

Valuable records

Still, there had also been questions raised about the fate of several valuable files at the Newfoundland and Labrador library including the Wilfred Templeman collection, and some documents that pre-date Confederation.

A DFO spokesperson told CBC news that the department here in the province has made "provisions to protect truly unique material, including the Templeman collection."

"This material will ultimately be digitized and available to a wide audience," the spokesperson said.

"Additionally, these historically significant collections as well as high demand volumes that are accessed on a regular basis for research at DFO in Newfoundland and Labrador are easily accessible here and readily available to our research scientists."

However you may view the issue, it's ironic that such noise has been made about a library, given that a library's stereotypical mantra is one of serene quiet. 


Jamie Baker


Jamie Baker hosts The Broadcast each weekday on CBC Radio.