Legislative Assembly of British Columbia
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Legislative Library Timeline

Compiled by Emily Yearwood-Lee pdf version
(includes sources)

1858 Members voted on Sept. 23 to purchase "a Library for the use of the House of the Assembly." One writer suggested very little came of the fund. (The library was traditionally believed to have begun in 1863.)
1863 Members voted on Feb. 16 to use $1,000 for a library to be used by the elected members. Some writers suggested that -- although individuals were put in charge of the growing collection -- no substantial work was done until R.E. Gosnell took over in 1893.
1893 A former reporter, R.E. Gosnell took charge of the library on Nov. 1. He found it "in a very incomplete and disorganized condition." His goal was to create "a useful library, one that would largely anticipate not only the requirements of the Legislative Assembly... but [also] the enquiries of the Province at large..."
Royal Assent was given on April 11 to "An act to establish and maintain a Library for the use of the Legislative Assembly and to constitute a Bureau of Statistics."
1897 Alma Russell was mentioned in the annual report as working for the library. Trained at the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, she was called the first professionally educated librarian in the province. Gosnell published his Year Book of British Columbia, an important early record of the province's history.
1898 The new Parliament Buildings – which housed the library – were officially opened on Feb. 10, 1898. A former assistant librarian, E.O.S. Scholefield took over as head librarian. The traveling libraries service was started. Books were sent to communities that paid $6 for a case. It was believed to be the only service of its kind at the time in Canada.
1908 Gosnell was put in charge of a new provincial archive. The government designated $3,000 that year for "collection of archives."
1910 Scholefield took over the archive while still the head of the legislative library. According to a newspaper report, he would "combine in future the duties of provincial archivist and provincial librarian."
1911 In September, a group met in Scholefield's office and agreed to form a provincial library association. It would become the British Columbia Library Association.
1915 The library moved into a new wing of the legislature -- its present location -- in the summer and was open to the public in September.
The Legislature's public accounts committee investigated the construction of the Parliament Building's new wing, which housed the library. The committee found: "It was shown that the new wings were built as cheaply as other large structures built at that time; that the inspection of all contractors' work was rigid... No irregularity whatever was shown in the Department of Public Works in connection with this matter."

The Public Libraries Act was assented to on March 29. According to one researcher: "There is no doubt that E.O.S. Scholefield... played an important part in the preparation of this legislation." The law created the Public Library Commission, which took over the traveling libraries service. Scholefield died on Christmas Day after a lengthy illness.
1920 A unique legislative reference service was established. The service was believed to be the only one of its kind in Canada.
1934 Dr. W. Kaye Lamb became provincial librarian and archivist in September.
1936 Lamb was given a third job title -- Superintendent under the Public Libraries Act.
1942 Staff of the library and Public Library Commission volunteered their own time to operate the "War Services Libraries" for Vancouver Island. The library, according to its annual report, served "virtually as headquarters for this service, which in 1942 sent out over 10,000 books to naval, military and air force stations in every part of Vancouver Island."
1943 According to that year's annual report, the library served as "a collecting agency for valuable material that has been sought by the army, navy and air forces of Canada and the United States."
1954 A newspaper report hinted the provincial library might be checked for subversive material. Premier WAC Bennett rejected this idea, saying 'no investigation is necessary." Provincial Librarian Willard Ireland said in a statement: "No instructions have been issued to me regarding the probability of an investigation of the books in the provincial library, nor do I anticipate receiving such instruction."
1970 The archives moved from the Parliament Buildings to a new home in the museum precinct.
1974 The library stopped calling itself the Provincial Library and returned to its statutory name: Legislative Library of British Columbia. Willard Ireland, who had headed both the archives and library since 1946, retired this year. He was replaced by two people -- one to head the library and one to run the archives.
1985 The Standing Orders* were amended to clarify the Speaker's sole responsibility for and control over the library. Previously, the orders stated the library was under the Provincial Secretary whenever the House wasn't in session.
*The Standing Orders are rules that govern the Legislative Assembly.