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Building the Canadiana Collection

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Building the Canadiana Collection

How can a used book sale build the Canadiana Collection of Library
and Archives Canada?

by Linda Hoad

Since the Friends annual used Book Sale started in 1995, volunteers have been adding books to the Canadiana collection. Sorters screen incoming donations looking for a Canadian imprint or Canadian content. Based on knowledge of the former National Library’s collections and collecting policies, volunteers then search for these books in the library catalogue. Books which are needed for the collection are directed to the library rather than to the book sale.

The Book Sale has forwarded 500-800 titles per year, with an estimated value of $10,000 - $20,000 per year. If we did not find and forward such books, LAC would have to purchase them from book dealers, if they are offered for sale.

What kind of books are we discovering and sending to LAC?

- books which the library did not receive on Legal Deposit (usually self-published, or published by small, local presses), 100-400 titles a year of the total;

- replacement copies for titles identified in the catalogue as imperfect, damaged or commercially rebound;

- copies with dust jackets – the library did not retain dust jackets until 1979;

- books published elsewhere with Canadian content which are difficult for LAC staff to identify; and

- additional copies of expensive ‘coffee table’ books – the library did not always acquire two copies of more expensive titles.

Only books in good to excellent condition are forwarded to LAC, with the exception of titles not held at all. The work of identifying these books is fairly routine, but every now and then we find a real ‘treasure’ – a very valuable book not held by LAC or a fine copy of a book to replace a single damaged or incomplete copy.

In 2006, a rare pre-Confederation hymn book, valued at $350, was added to the Rare Music collection. A recent find was a copy of Jazzlife : a journey for jazz across America in 1960 by William Claxton and Joachim E. Berendt. (Köln; London: Taschen, c2005). Although most of the subjects are American, this 695 page book includes Canadian musicians, but was not held by LAC. Unfortunately the compact disc which was issued with the book is missing, lowering the value considerably.

Such finds make the volunteer work of book sorting not just useful, but also exciting.



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