If you, like me,
use a library in a predominantly English-speaking city,
attended a library school outside Quebec, and
read library journals (and blogs) in English,
then it will probably come as a surprise to you that public libraries in Quebec are any different than public libraries in the rest of Canada.
So here are a few things you might not know about public libraries in Quebec.
Most public libraries in Quebec aren’t governed by a library board
Most public libraries in Quebec aren’t, in the strictest sense, public libraries at all. Yes, Quebec public libraries are free, open to all, and funded by the public. But they are more accurately referred to as municipal libraries. That is, they are governed by the municipality, not by a library board. The city’s elected officials and administrators make all of the decisions regarding the future of their city’s library.
Public libraries in Quebec are underused
When compared to public libraries in the rest of Canada, Quebec public libraries are underused.
- 33% of Quebecers and 44% of Canadians have a library card.
- Quebecers borrow 7 books a year, while Canadians borrow 11 books a year (per capita).
- Quebecers ask half as many reference questions as Canadians (per capita).
This is despite similar funding and collection sizes per capita.
Public libraries in Quebec must purchase books from accredited bookstores
According to Bill 51, public libraries in Quebec are legally obligated buy books from accredited bookstores, and they are subsidized to do so.
As a direct result of this law, most public libraries in Quebec don’t buy or lend e-books.
Public libraries in Quebec don’t lend e-books… yet
Public library users have been asking their libraries about e-books for years.
Until early this year, no accredited bookstore in Quebec sold e-books. As a result, no public libraries in Quebec could buy or lend e-books. Now that Archambault (accredited Quebec bookstore) sells e-books, and now that more accredited bookstores are bound to follow, a pilot project is underway in Quebec libraries to study the feasibility of purchasing and lending e-books. Hopefully, this means Quebec public libraries will soon be able to meet their users’ needs.
Find out more about this pilot project:
Obviously, I have only scratched the surface of the differences between public libraries in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. I could fill a few more pages regarding differences in culture, in spending priorities, in programming, in electronic services, etc. Then again, every library is different, every community is different, and I think, this is a good thing.