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May Advocate 2017

460 V O L . 7 5 P A R T 3 M A Y 2 0 1 7 THE ADVOCATE islative enactments; these carefully assembled volumes contain sometimes very detailed newspaper reports of speeches from the Legislative Chamber as well as of events of the day. The Legislative Library has, as well, the largest collection anywhere of B.C. government documents, including ministry reports, public accounts and research papers. The contribution that the Legislative Library makes to the work of the Legislative Assembly and to the province was recognized in the decision to build a separate wing of the Parliament Buildings for library purposes. That separate wing was opened in 1915. The library has a long history. It was originally established in 1863 to serve the colonial legislature. It was at first housed in one room within “The Birdcages”, the colonial administration buildings that were located on the same grounds as today’s Parliament Buildings. In “The Birdcages”, books and other materials were assembled but not looked after by anyone. This unsystematic compilation and storage of materials continued even after British Columbia became a province of Canada in 1871. This disorganized collection became dusty and dirty to boot, and lost much of its utility. At long last R.E. Gosnell, a former reporter, was appointed as permanent librarian in 1893, with E.O.S. Scholefield becoming his assistant in 1894. Gosnell apparently took a pitchfork and wheelbarrow to the task of cleaning up and organizing the collection. He sought to create “a useful library, one that would largely anticipate not only the requirements of the Legislative Assembly … but also the enquiries of the Province at large … ”2 The library collection moved into the new Parliament Buildings when those structures were completed in 1898. At that time library staff also included Alma Russell, the first accredited librarian in Canada west of Ontario. As well, Gosnell instigated at around this time the establishment of the provincial archives, as he believed “a special department relating to British Columbia” should exist. (The provincial archives ultimately separated from the Legislative Library in the 1970s, moving across the street to the Royal British Columbia Museum.) Ultimately, Scholefield (by that point in charge) realized that more than the two rooms allocated in the Parliament Buildings were required, and that a new library wing had to be built. He obtained a grant from then Premier Richard McBride to fund that building project, and Francis Mawson Rattenbury, who had designed the original Parliament Buildings, was engaged for this design as well.3 In September 1912 His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught, then Governor General of Canada, laid the cornerstone for the new wing. A time capsule was placed within the cornerstone at the time (but as was learned in


May Advocate 2017
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