Canadian Library Month and the Informed Society

While the surfing the internet to learn more about the beginning of national library weeks / library months in Canada after reading about Jack McLelland’s opposition to them, I discovered a digitized copy of the Shawinigan Standard from Wed., 1 April 1959 in the Google News Archive.  The paper’s editorial (ostensibly written by Doug R. Wilson, publisher, editor, and advertising manager), speaks on the topic of Canadian Library Week, but interestingly doesn’t mention culture.  To Wilson, Canadian Library Week is an important and necessary cause that will help to develop and maintain an informed citizenry since:

“The key to our democratic government is an informed public . . . The Canadian Library Week program should remind us of the relationship between reading and knowledge and our traditions of freedom (source)

I’ve transcribed the entire editorial below since it touches on the subject of democratic values and the informed society.  The progressive librarian in me believes that libraries, although being creatures of the state (or sorts), are strong defenders of the individual’s right to speak freely as well as the individual’s right to privacy.  Wilson’s editorial refers to traditions of ‘freedom’ – a slippery word, I know – but it’s still nice to see reading and civil liberties entwined together in the public eye, as it is here in 1959.

Canadian Library Week

Less than one Canadian in every three was reading a book at the time of the last survey by the Gallup organization

This is not a situation of which we can be proud; nor is the fact that only 61 per cent of our citizens have ready access to public library service, according to the most recent government survey.

Our reading record, by almost any yardstick seems to be about the worst among western nations, save for the United States.

Whatever the reasons for this dismal picture, we are fortunate that a move is understand to change it.  Our first Canadian Library Week is to be observed from April 12 to 18. The Week is actually the finishing touch to a two-month, nationwide, “Wake Up and Read” campaign to encourage more reading of all kinds by Canadians.

It is good to see public-spirited men and women from many fields tackling this problem in a practical way.  For the question of reading should not be left entirely to librarians and educators.  It is something with which every one of us should be concerned.

The key to our democratic method of government is an informed public.  Such a state will remain but a dream if only 15 per cent of Canadians over six years borrow books from their public library (another government survey finding).

This is not nearly good enough for a country that is more than 95 per cent literate, has more leisure time and a lager national income than ever before.

The Canadian Library Week program should remind us of the relationship between reading and knowledge and our traditions of freedom.  It should help re-kindle an interest in those of us who have lost touch with books; to open the way to new, worth while experience for others who have neglected the reading habit.

Canadian Library Week is drawing support from leading citizens in business and industry, libraries and publishing houses, newspapers, radio-tv, the educational and other fields.

But it deserves – and needs – the full support and active interest of all of us.