Parliamentary Bookshelf: Reviews.

AuthorMcDonald, David

Government Information in Canada: Access and Stewardship. Amanda Wakaruk & Sam-chin Li, Editors. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 376pp.

Last summer when Nova Scotia hosted the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Canadian Region) annual conference I worked the information desk. There were times when we weren't very busy, so I started to read Government Information in Canada: Access and Stewardship edited by Amanda Wakaruk and Sam-Chin Li. As an information professional, the subject area was of great interest to me and I ended up reading it avidly at the desk. Some delegates asked me what I was reading so intently, and I think I may have disappointed them when I showed them the cover. But, they shoudn't have been.

Now, I'm sure you're thinking, "I can understand why you, a librarian, would be interested in this book, but why should a parliamentarian be interested in this material? What's in it for me? "

In a democracy, publicly accessible information is not a want, it is a necessity. This became very clear to me a few years ago when I participated in a cycling tour in the Baltic states organized by librarians for librarians. We cycled from library to library through the countryside of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Throughout this tour, 80-odd cycling librarians were treated with the utmost respect by the citizens and the politicians. As librarians, we were lauded and praised wherever we went. People cheered everywhere we cycled, the red carpet was laid out for us, and we had many police escorts. The Baltic people, so long subjugated by Soviet rule, had been denied freedom of information and the freedom to access that information. They recognized access to information as necessary for democracy. They weren't closing libraries; they were opening brand new national ones and they were ensuring that all citizens have the access to information they need. In short, they understood the enduring value of access to government information--a principal goal of this book.

This book will help you, the parliamentarian, understand why and how libraries curate and store government information for present and future generations. This work, in turn, helps ensure a functioning democracy for years to come. Because the book's contributors are all librarians who work in the field, and their comments and conclusions are based on years of experience and knowledge, the parliamentarian can get a first-hand glimpse of the challenges and issues that...

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