Nature’s Past Episode 41: Closing Federal Libraries

Scroll this
NP Logo 1x1 12 July 2016

Episode 41: Closing Federal Libraries

Download Audio


if_Google-Play_692176    if_Google-Play_692176    if_itunes_C_104830    if_icon-social-youtube_211929     if_073_RSS_183202   if_twitter_square_black_107068if_46-facebook_104458

In 2012, the Canadian federal government began closing and consolidating many of its departmental libraries. More than a dozen research libraries have closed at Parks Canada, Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Foreign Affairs, Citizenship and Immigration, Human Resources and Skills Development, the National Capital Commission, Intergovernmental Affairs, Public Works and Government Services, Canada Revenue Agency, Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, and Canadian Heritage (click here for a timeline of closures).

In December, the government began to close all but four of its eleven Department of Fisheries and Oceans libraries. News reports across the country showed startling images of books and other documents lying in dumpsters with rumors that others may have been burned. The culling of these libraries involved what has been described as a haphazard free-for-all with members of the public and industry scooping up abandoned books and valuable so-called “grey literature,” unique internal government publications. The process of library consolidation and closure seems to have happened so quickly that books that were still out on loan were never recalled. And beyond the loss of material, we still do not know the extent of the personnel losses. As library staff get laid off, valuable human knowledge vanishes along with the books.

One thing that stands out in this troubling story is the degree to which the library closures have targeted scientific and environmental research branches of the government. These libraries housed historical research materials of great relevance to Canada’s environmental history. As such, they are likely to have a detrimental impact on our ability to know about the past.

We decided then to find out more about this issue by speaking with Andrew Nikiforuk, a writer and journalist for who has written extensively on this topic. I also sat down with a panel of environmental historians to get their take on the potential impact these closures might have on Canadian environmental history.

Please be sure to take a moment to review this podcast on our iTunes page and to fill out a short listener survey here.


Stephen Bocking

Dean Bavington

Jennifer Hubbard

William Knight

Alan MacEachern

Andrew Nikiforuk

Works Cited:

Sean Kheraj, Canadian History & Environment

Evidence for Democracy

More on the Environment Canada archival collection coming to Western

Music Credits:

“Am120-GTR-Arps+Impro by Javolenus” by NiGiD

“Cinematic Sentimental Melancholic Emotional Grand Piano Movie Pictures Theme Soundtrack 017” by RoyaltyFreeMusic

“Cm124-FunkyGroove” by Javolenus

“Am120-GTR-Arps+Impro” by Javolenus

Photo Credit:

“A dumpster at the Fisheries and Oceans Canada library in Mont-Joli, Quebec in an image sent by a federal union official” by Tyee.


Kheraj, Sean. “Episode 41: Closing Federal Libraries” Nature’s Past: Canadian Environmental History Podcast. 3 February 2014.

The following two tabs change content below.

Sean Kheraj

Associate Professor and Vice-Provost Academic at Toronto Metropolitan University
Sean Kheraj is a member of the executive committee of the Network in Canadian History and Environment. He's an associate professor in the Department of History and Vice-Provost Academic at Toronto Metropolitan University. His research and teaching focuses on environmental and Canadian history. He is also the host and producer of Nature's Past, NiCHE's audio podcast series and he blogs at


NiCHE encourages comments and constructive discussion of our articles. We reserve the right to delete comments that fail to meet our guidelines including comments under aliases, or that contain spam, harassment, or attacks on an individual.