A recent study investigated the extent to which public libraries provide the resources that peace activists consider essential for an informed public.
The project had two stages: compiling a master checklist of materials, based on recommendations from Canadian peace groups; and surveying the 258 public libraries across Canada. The checklist comprised 22 titles, recommended by 44 peace groups, and the 1987 White Paper on Defence. The survey ascertained ownership of the titles on the checklist.
Overall, 127 public libraries, serving 12 million Canadians, participated in the survey. Virtually all (94 percent) of the responding libraries reported that they collect materials relating to peace and nuclear disarmament. About 75 percent of the respondents had had at least some patron demand for materials in this area over the previous two-year period, with students identified as the main source of demand.
Peace groups assigned the highest importance to two periodicals: Peace Magazine and Ploughshares Monitor. Despite the recommendation of so many groups, they were owned by less than 10 percent of the responding public libraries. Certain books, on the other hand were owned by over half of the public libraries, but had been recommended by a much smaller proportion of the peace groups. (See table.)
The proportion of checklist titles owned by the respondents was 30 percent. Such rates of ownership suggest that peace and nuclear disarmament are important to Canadian public libraries. Nevertheless, there is room for more involvement. Canadian public libraries have an important opportunity to enhance citizen self-education about nuclear issues.
Professor Schrader teaches Library and Information Studies, U. of Alberta.