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Fisheries library closure is seen as loss to researchers

posted Jan 22, 2014, 4:37 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Jan 22, 2014, 4:37 PM ]

Julie Chadwick /Nanaimo Daily News 

January 15, 2014 12:00 AM

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Pacific Biological Station off Hammond Bay Road in Nanaimo.  Photograph by: Aaron Hinks/Daily News

Pacific Biological Station off Hammond Bay Road in Nanaimo.  Photograph by: Aaron Hinks/Daily News

The loss of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans library at the Pacific Biological Station has left a hole in the local research community, according to academics.

The library was closed Sept. 30 and was one of seven regional DFO libraries across Canada shuttered in the fall as part of ongoing budget cuts by the federal government.

More than 100 years old, the DFO library was one of the largest on the West Coast and a centrepiece of the research facility.

"When I was the director, all of the staff agreed that the library was the highest priority for funding. That was the one thing everyone agreed on," said Dr. Richard Beamish, former director and senior scientist at the PBS.

Things have changed with the introduction of computer databases, he added, though until his retirement in 2011 he was "heavily dependent" on both the library and its librarian George Pattern - whose position was cut - for his research.

Beamish said he considers it lucky to have completed research on an upcoming book on the Strait of Georgia before the library closed.

The library was also essential for Ontario-based PhD student William Knight.

In 2007 he was flown out to the biological station in Nanaimo from Peterborough to conduct research on behalf of professor Stephen Bocking at Trent University.

"That sort of library research - when you're in a library - it's serendipity. You can be looking at something and just happen upon a book," said Knight, who was researching the history of aquaculture at the time.

Of particular value in the Nanaimo library were the wealth of one-off reports that had very little or no circulation, said Knight. "It was a treasure trove, no doubt about it. It was chock-a-block with interesting reports and studies, and just stuff you wouldn't find anywhere else," he said.

The material has been transferred to the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Victoria and will be available by mail and online, though how much was digitized before the closure or whether the entire collection was transferred is unconfirmed.

Representatives from the DFO in Ottawa were unavailable for comment by deadline.

At the time of the closure in October, William Bennett, a fisheries researcher at the PBS, said he feared that much of the material, which largely covers research into shellfish and finfish at the facility for more than a century, would be lost or become inaccessible.

Former PBS employee Jim Morrison, who retired this year after 33 years at the facility, said in a blog post comment that he was "dismayed" at the library closure, and had provided books for it from his personal collection.

He also lamented the loss of the librarian, who he described as the unofficial archivist for the station, designated a site of national historic significance by the government in November.

JChadwick@nanaimodailynews.com 250-729-4238

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