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Scientists claim “libricide” in response to government’s closure of Fisheries and Oceans libraries

Scientists and researchers are speaking out against the federal government’s closure of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans regional libraries, which has been referred to by some as “libricide.”

Vancouver news website The Tyee, which has been closely following the DFO’s plans to shut down seven of its 11 libraries by 2015, reported in December that some collections have already been burned or thrown out. While the department claims most of the important material has been digitized, an anonymous DFO scientist told The Tyee: “The Department has claimed that all useful information from the closed libraries is available in digital form. This is simply not true. Much of the material is lost forever.”

According to the CBC, the libraries collectively possessed 660,000 documents, which will be consolidated into two collections to be located in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and Sidney, B.C. Jeff Hutchings, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University, is concerned about what information will be lost in the move. “We’re dealing right now with a department that has lost people, resources, money. It’s shutting down facilities. One wonders where they are going to find the resources to digitize this extraordinary amount of material,” Hutchings told CBC.

On Tuesday, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea issued a press release to correct “serious misinformation.” The release states that the consolidation was “based on value for taxpayers” and that the “few people” who used these libraries acquired 95 per cent of the material digitally. The release also disputes the means by which the books were disposed:

Duplicate materials, including books, from the libraries being consolidated were offered to other libraries and third parties if they wanted them. They were also offered to the DFO staff on site at the library, then offered to the general public, and finally were recycled in a “green” fashion if there were no takers. It is absolutely false to insinuate that any books were burnt.

The Tyee contacted four scientists to respond to the press release. Their point-by-point rebuttal is available on the website, as is a list of other federal libraries consolidations and closures.