loss of scientific information that DFO staff use to support their research, lack of preservation for taxpayer-funded research
Seven research libraries with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) were closed in 2013, and much of the material dumped. An internal government document marked “secret" and released under the Access to Information Act outlines plans to close seven of the department's nine research libraries, “culling materials” and relocating the remainder to two locations. DFO estimated its collection at about 660,000 journals, books, reports and other items. Much of this collection — it is unclear what percentage — was either discarded or destroyed. The move saved $443,000 annually, amounting to 0.04% of the $4 billion in projected savings under a 2011 plan for cuts to the department. One of the libraries closed had just undergone a multi-million dollar renovation.
The government claimed that all of the contents of the DFO libraries would be digitized and preserved.
“"Users will continue to have completely free access to every item in DFO’s collections," stated then-Fisheries Minister Gail Shea. However, she then said, "All materials for which DFO has copyright will be preserved by the department," which would include only documents produced by the department. According to the Fisheries and Oceans web site, about 30,000 – just under 5% - of the documents in the collection have been digitized to date. No information has been provided to account for the cost or timeline of digitizing the remainder of the collection.
Many of the culled materials – including taxpayer-funded academic papers, maps, books and other documents — were “hastily” loaded into dumpsters at various locations, according to eyewitness accounts by employees and images recorded by Radio-Canada. According to Fisheries and Oceans, 80% of these books were duplicates of volumes contained in other libraries.
Kelly Whelan-Enns, a public researcher with Manitoba Wildlands, witnessed the cull at the Freshwater Institute, the Fisheries Department's central and Arctic regional headquarters in Winnipeg. She described “bookshelves in shambles, periodicals strewn across the floor of the library and maps — old and new— left lying around.” Another DFO employee, who wished to remain anonymous because he feared reprisals, notes he was not asked to return or account for materials he had checked out prior to the cull.
According to the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians, “…not all collections were assessed before dismantling, not all materials could be digitized (due to copyright issues) and not all materials have been preserved.”