Better know a Canadian functionary: the Parliamentary Librarian, General Librarian and National Librarian of Canada

The Library of Parliament was founded by Act of Parliament in 1871 as an amalgamation of the provincial colonial libraries. It was reorganized in 1885 to have two co-Librarians of Parliament: the Parliamentary Librarian, who was in charge of parliamentary archives and legal and civil research facilities, and was always English; and the General Librarian, who was in charge of the Library’s non-governmental and historical collections, and was always French. The post of General Librarian was abolished in 1955, after the National Library of Canada was founded in 1953. Its duties were transferred to the National Librarian, who held them until the merger of the National Library with the National Archives in 2004.

The Parliamentary Librarians of Canada have been:

Alpheus Todd, 1871-84. Todd was grandfathered into the job, serving as Provincial Librarian of Canada since 1854.

Sir Martin Joseph Griffin GCMG, 1885-1920. Griffin, a trained lawyer, was editor of the Halifax Express (1868-74), the Halifax Herald (1874-78) and the Toronto Mail (1881-1885).

Hon. Martin Burrell PC, 1920-38. Burrell was the Conservative MP for Yale, BC, from 1908 to 1920 and served as Agriculture minister under Sir Robert Borden. He was badly injured in the Fire of Parliament of 1917.

Félix Desrochers, 1938-44. Desrochers, the General Librarian, filled the role on an interim basis for most of the Second World War.

Francis Aubrey Hardy, 1944-59. Hardy, a graduate of Dalhousie, was a lifelong employee of the Library, hired after serving in the Cyclist Corps in World War I.

Erik John Spicer, 1960-94. Spicer, the first Librarian with a degree in library sciences, was deputy chief of the Ottawa Public Library at the time of his hiring.

Richard Paré, 1994-2005. The first French Parliamentary Librarian, Paré had been head of Quebec’s documentation service before being appointed Associate Librarian in 1980.

William Robert Young, 2005-11. At the time of his appointment, Young had been an analyst at the Library for 18 years.

Sonia L’Heureux, 2012-now. L’Heureux is a career civil servant, working in a number of departments culminating with four years as the head of the Library’s Research and Information Services branch.

The General Librarians of Canada were:

Sir Alfred Duclos DeCelles GCMG, 1885-1920. A lawyer and journalist, DeCelles also wrote a history of the United States and biographies of Papineau, LaFontaine and Laurier. His son, Alfred DeCelles, was a linguist who studied the relationship between French spoken in Quebec and French spoken in the Channel Islands.

Joseph de la Broquerie Taché, 1920-32. A notary and editor, Taché was the publisher of the Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe from 1902 to 1914, and the King’s Printer for Canada from 1914 to 1920. His son, Louis-Joseph-Alexandre-Hyacinthe Taché, was the MNA for Hull and Speaker of the National Assembly from 1945 to 1955.

Félix Desrochers, 1933-56. Desrochers, an assistant librarian at the Civic Library of Montreal, spent 25 years as a political organizer for the Conservative Party, and got the General Librarian job by lobbying R.B. Bennett. He served as acting Parliamentary Librarian from 1938 to 1944.

The National Librarians of Canada were:

William Kaye Lamb OC, 1953–1968. Lamb held the job concurrently with that of the Dominion Archivist, in which he had served since 1948.

Jean-Guy Sylvestre OC, 1968–1983. Guy Sylvestre was a well-known poet, intellectual and literary critic and worked as a translator for the Senate and the Wartime Information board during World War II, then served as private secretary to Louis Saint-Laurent. He oversaw the Library’s move to its Modernist headquarters next to the Supreme Court forecourt in Wellington Street, Ottawa, and an influx in Canadiana acquired by the Library.

Marianne Florence Scott, 1984–1999. A graduate in library sciences from McGill University, Scott was Director of Libraries at McGill before joining the National Library. She was also founding president of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in 1963 and President of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (1978-79) and the Canadian Library Association (1981-82).

Roch Carrier OC, 1999–2004. A famous playwright and short-story writer, the first line of Carrier’s “The Hockey Sweater” (“The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons. We lived in three places – the school, the church and the hockey rink – but our real life was on the hockey rink”) was on the back of the five-dollar bill from 2002 to 2013. His 1992 collection of short stories, Prayers of a Very Wise Child, won the 1992 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Carrier was also head of the Canada Council for the Arts from 1994 to 1997 and has two elementary schools named after him in Ontario.

Hurray! My 50th post!


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