Plans to close 144-year-old BC Legislature Library
Date: Friday, March 23 2007
Conspiring politicians and the land grab at the legislature
Friday, March 23, 2007
Philistinism -- actually, the street term "creeping meatballism" sounds better -- spreads through British Columbia's political class like some zombie virus in a B-grade movie.
Consider plans to abruptly close the 144-year-old legislature library for up to two years and warehouse its irreplaceable collections.
Now, a case for moving the library can be made -- if it goes into a new building with the provincial archive and creates a leading-edge research facility for both politicians and public in the 21st century.
But what's underway is diminishment, not enhancement. The legislative chamber is the heart of democracy, the library its brain. These collections are B.C.'s memory. Making it less accessible invites political Alzheimer's disease.
This sorry process began when the provincial archive was rolled into the Royal B.C. Museum and saddled with cost-recovery demands that resulted in fee schedules that discourage public use.
Want a copy of a historic map? The fee is $35 to $75. Want a simple photocopy? Forty cents a page, twice what Vancouver Public Library charges, four times the fee at UBC's library. Want to review some cabinet minister's briefing notes or some society's annual report? That might cost $50 an hour.
And don't expect research help --unless you can afford a day off work. Cost constraints mean archivists are there only four days a week between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on March 26, 2007]