Library of Parliament – Parliament Block (Part 2)

So I briefly talked about the Library of Parliament in my Doors Open (Part 2) post, but Tuesday, I got to go on a private tour (it was just me and my coworker) getting more history and information on the library.

Services

The library provides a lot of services, primarily reference and news collation, but the research department also create internal reports, briefs, and publications for House and Senate members. More on their services can be found on their website.

Collections

As to be expected, a large portion of their collection are legislative and legal in nature for federal and provincial, as well as other commonwealth nations, particularly the UK. Obviously, there are also a lot of parlimentary documents including committee decision and evidence, and copies of MPs’ Questions and Answers. However, since they don’t have a lot of space, in terms of more contemporary reference material, they only have a specific range (E-L? I thought) with the rest in storage or at other locations (which apparently total 8).

Most of it was kept on the main library floor or in the basement using compact shelving. Most of it was pretty standard, but they had some neat shelving for microfilm.

You will also notice that some books have new binding and some old. We were told that that’s because they are focused on preserving content and not necessary the book itself, so if the book is brittle (especially if it was printed on pulp paper), they might even photocopy the pages and bind them into a new book.

Rare books are probably exception to this. The library has some really interesting pieces including old books about Canada printed in Europe in the 19th century, and early copies of exploration books. Their rare books has very restricted access though so we unfortunately didn’t get to see it.

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The Library

I previously mentioned that the library is the only surviving part of the original building, but on this tour, we got much more information on some of the smaller details. Due to remodelling, renovations, and whatever else over the years, the library was changed a few times. However, in most recent years, they have been trying to restore the library to the original look.

The railing was painted almost all black in the 50’s, but they now sport a bit more colour. The glass floors and on the tower-looking structures were also ‘put back in’ so to speak since in the 50’s they had made them all wood. Can you also imagine how bland the ceiling would look if it was all beige? Well in the 50’s it was, so they repainted it with the blues. The library also has square wood cuts along the walls, each of which is unique (100+). The reading room is an addition though, since the original reading room is now the largest party’s gathering room.

Additions were also made to make sure the building was following building codes and to help with overall maintenance/survival of the library and its books. So, brass windows were custom made for all 100+. Apparently in the past, the windows didn’t always keep out the rain especially during high winds, so they had to use tarps to keep the water off books! Some of them have evidence of water damage now. Ventilation and fire sprinklers were also added, but in an inconspicuous way so that they aren’t really noticeable (took me 2 minutes to spot a sprinkler even when it was pointed out to me).

The one thing that was removed was the card catalogue along with one wall of drawers in each area, which is a bit strange though since they left the side walls intact.

It was a great tour and if people get a chance, I would highly recommend it!

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Cynthia

A librarian learning the ways of technology, accessibility, metadata, and people

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