Valerie Knowles writes this morning that, to date, the press has paid little attention to what federal budget cuts have done to government libraries:
To date, the Immigration and Refugee Board, Transport Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada, Public Service Commission, National Capital Commission and Canadian International Development Agency libraries have been closed. Other libraries, such as those at Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada are scheduled for imminent closure. In still others, staffs are being drastically cut.
Even when forward-looking library managers take into account the reality of digital publishing and act accordingly, they and their staff, to say nothing of outside researchers, cannot but deplore the consignment of valuable books, documents and photos to basements, where they will be out of reach of researchers and in danger of being lost forever.
Along with the gutting of Statistics Canada, the Conservatives are systematically destroying government data bases. And this is of no small concern. Government documents illuminate how decisions are reached. Take, for instance, the business of refugee policy. Knowles writes:
Developments in refugee policy at the Cabinet level can be tracked online, but the critical decisions made by the Cabinet were communicated to immigration officials in an “Operations Memorandum” inserted in an immigration officer’s instructions manual. “These instructions,” reports Michael Molloy, [President of the Canadian Immigration Historical Society] “governed how Canada resettled refugees from Chile, Uganda, Eastern Europe and the early phase of the Indochinese refugee movement and had a profound impact on Canadian refugee procedures down to this day. So far as we know, only one copy of the Ops Memorandum still exists: in the Immigration department’s library, which will close in September.” At this writing, it is unclear what is to become of historical material of this sort when this — and other libraries — close.
Commentators have had a lot to say about the Harper government's war on science. But that war is being fought on several fronts. In fact, the Harperites have declared war on knowledge. The reason is simple: knowledge is power. And, if the public is given access to knowledge, they can mount their own counter offensive.
We couldn't have that, could we?