REVERSING THE DECISION TO CLOSE THE LIBRARY AT THE ST.ANDREWS BIOLOGICAL
STATION (SABS, DFO), ST. ANDREWS, NB.
I am writing to you to request three actions pertaining to maintaining St.
Andrews, NB, as a leading marine fisheries and aquatic sciences hub in
(1) Reconsider and reverse the decision to close the Marine Science Library
at the Biological Station, St Andrews NB;
(2) Reverse the decision on job layoffs and give the affected highly
trained information professionals back their positions; and
(3) Move towards developing and implementing a policy of running the
Library with other groups in the St. Andrews community, especially the
Huntsman Marine Science Centre (HMSC).
I am a former Environment Canada marine scientist, now located at Dalhousie
University in Halifax, NS. I started my career at St. Andrews in 1969,
conducted my doctoral studies there until 1974, maintained connections
through various research interests and Board of Director activities with
both SABS and the HMSC, and most recently was involved in the 100th
Anniversary celebrations of SABS in 2008. While a graduate student at
Huntsman and SABS (in pre PC and Google times), I relied heavily upon the
resources of the Library and realized the value especially of their grey
literature and archival materials to my research goals and data
interpretation. My graduate work could not have been accomplished without
Library support, a story I am certain is common for all researchers, young
and old, who have studied and started their careers at St. Andrews.
Importantly, while working on a contribution to the SABS Marine Science
History Conference in 2008, now the computer and Google era, I was heavily
dependent upon the Library and its trained information professionals to find
materials crucial to writing a historical overview of some of the scientific
contributions of SABS (a work in press with the University of Toronto
Press). This work renewed a deep appreciation of the value of the SABS
Library information holdings. This is information that is not digitized and
likely never will be, information that has value primarily at the SABS
location, information of inestimable value to new researchers at SABS and
HMSC, information critical to science historians, and information that if
distributed and lost would be a profound loss to the marine science
community in Canada and the global ocean commons.
On this point, it appears that DFO, in making the decision to cut back on
its libraries and the SABS one in particular, is relying solely on
information presented to them by Ottawa staff in information management,
following the DFO Library Collection Development and Management Policy.
This policy is fundamentally flawed in that it does not take into account
the full functions of a marine science library to the health and vitality of
the research institute, and the needs of its scientists, as well as not
understanding how a scientific research library functions and what it is
truly worth. In the absence of a defensible audit, the closure is based on
the premise that reducing the number of research libraries will be a
cost-saving for the department. What is not considered is the total value
of the Library to the research productivity of the science community, and in
the case of St. Andrews, the whole community of private citizens, local
resource industries, the universities and colleges, and the new Aquarium and
Discovery Centre at HMSC. I believe its value far exceeds the cost of its
Hence, in my opinion, the SABS Library closure is indefensible,
undemocratic, an unlawful act of information destruction, an action highly
damaging to the local economy, and a major setback to regional marine
science and to Canada's reputation in the ocean's sector internationally.
The decision to close the Library and lay off staff should be reviewed and
reversed, without delay. The Library could be run by a joint community group
and this option should be considered as an immediate priority. The
alternative is continued and more visible protests on this issue, costly
economic impacts in the region, and further erosion of Canada's reputation
in the ocean science field. DFO's actions on this issue, one way or the
other, will be noted in the polls and by future generations of Canadians.
Please reconsider - make the right decision and keep the SABS Library in St.
P. G. Wells, Ph.D., FAAAS.
(1) Conservation and Protection, Environment Canada (retired).
(2) Adjunct Professor and Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Management and
International Ocean Institute, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS.
(3) Former Member, Board of Directors, HMSC, St Andrews, NB.
(4) Member and Past Chair, Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership.
(5) Canadian Co-Chair, Gulfwatch Contaminants Monitoring Sub-Committee, and
Member, Working Group, Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment.
(6) Former Member and Chair, United Nations Joint Group of Experts on
Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection, International
Maritime Organization, London..