The effects of the continuing cutbacks at Canada's central library have trickled out to local users.
As of Dec. 11, Prince George Public Library clients could no longer make requests from the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Interlibrary Loan service. That means residents are unable to borrow the free books or microfilms housed at LAC or make use of their interlibrary loan-related photocopying services.
The service will close permanently Feb. 15, and all loaned materials will need to be back in Ottawa.
While there is a very small portion of requests for LAC materials in Prince George, library communications co-ordinator Andrea Palmer said it is still a significant loss.
"We have a few people who come to the library and are very diligent on their work on genealogy and also some local writers who write from an historical perspective who are well known to staff here," Palmer said. "They use microfilm very frequently and those individuals are deeply disappointed. Specifically those people who rely on newspaper information."
The loss of the archive access to detailed historical information will also hurt journalists, historians, academics and future policy makers, she added.
"People need to know and have access to information from our history and how the public has reacted to it."
There is still a great deal of information available online, such as census materials and shipping lists, but many newspaper archives will be inaccessible to those unable to make the trip to Ottawa.
"And that's significant and too bad, essentially," Palmer said.
While there has been talk of digitizing, Prince George Heritage Commission member Sharon Dow said it may not be a reliable solution.
"They've [LAC] reduced staff in a great many departments... partly in the digitization," she said. "So the information won't be available online as quickly or there won't be nearly as much available there because the staff and that program has been cut back badly as well."
Palmer also said digitization, especially of newspapers, is very expensive. "They're so big and there's so much material and so much detail and once you incorporate photographs into that equation it just becomes a bigger deal."
Prince George newspapers and other local historical archives remain available at the library and other B.C. papers are housed in Victoria. But Palmer said that those Victoria-based archives are never loaned out.
Things are getting increasingly fragmented and the government cutbacks are serving to dismantle something that isn't broken, said P.G. chief librarian Allan Wilson. "Why would you cut off supplies to people who are only doing public good?"
According to the Canadian Association of University Teachers, LAC gave notice to 450 members of their staff, with 215 positions eliminated, including archivists, preservation and conservation staff.
Dow, who said she wasn't using LAC material for her particular scope of research, said the cuts were going to "hurt the research community in a large way" without the necessary bodies to source and collect new historical material.
"An archive and a library isn't a static thing. You don't just say, 'okay, we're finished now,'" said Dow. "Historical material is always being found and it's always being created. Our history isn't just a dead thing."
Wilson agreed, saying that though the interlibrary loans were a small part of the national archive's business, the element of inaccessibility would render it useless.
"Why have a national library if it has no appeal to Canadians?" he asked. "If you're not lending... what are the ties that bind us to the national library?"