Health Library Closure is Latest Blow to Canada’s Researchers
The weather in Canada has been more bitter than usual this winter—Toronto experienced its coldest December-January period in 20 years, Calgary had its snowiest December in a century, and temperatures in Winnipeg fell below minus 30 Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit) for 12 days in January—but the country’s researchers and librarians have been experiencing an even deeper chill.
The main library of Health Canada, the country’s federal health agency, closed its doors at the end of last year, forcing the department’s scientists to rely on university libraries and on contacts in other agencies and in private industry for information. The library’s closure was preceded by layoffs and departures of its librarians, whose ranks dwindled from 40 in 2007 to 6 in April 2013. With the library’s collection now housed in the National Science Library, Health Canada researchers must pay upwards of $25 for a book and more than $10 for a scanned document.
Health Canada became the latest agency to lose its library as the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper seeks to further reduce government spending. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans plans to close 7 of its 11 libraries within the next year, Environment Canada shuttered its library in March 2013, and the libraries of Transport Canada, Citizenship and Immigration, and Public Works and Government Services all closed in 2012.
The library closures and reductions are raising concerns that books, journals and other critical information materials will be lost or destroyed. The government has promised that necessary information will be preserved through digitization, but the digitization budget for Library and Archives Canada was cut in half in 2012 as part of a modernization initiative.
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