|Author Becomes National
Roch Carrier brings his
literary vision to the National Library of Canada
November 12, 1999, the McGill Graduate School of
Library and Information Studies proudly
welcomed Canada's newest National Librarian, the
acclaimed author Roch Carrier. Library School
Director Dr. Jamshid Beheshti briefly spoke about
Dr. Carrier's literary accomplishments (in
particular, The Hockey
Sweater, a Canadian classic)
before introducing him to a packed classroom.
from head to toe in black, the salt-and-pepper
haired Dr. Carrier, who became National Librarian
on October 1st, 1999, after being chosen by Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila
Copps, walked to the podium engulfed in applause.
He confidently stood behind the podium and
comfortably expressed his vision for the National
Library of Canada with the style and wit of a
The future begins today
Carrier began his speech by explaining to the
attentive audience that the future of the National Library of
Canada (NLC) must start to take
shape today. He outlined several goals that he
hoped to achieve during his term.
item of importance to Dr. Carrier is the
preservation of Canada's national memory. He
recommended renovating current preservation
facilities and also proposed the construction of
an entirely new building specially designed to
realize this massive preservation goal. The
construction of a new government building,
however, will require public approval.
Understanding this, Dr. Carrier hopes to persuade
Canadians to support his plan by explaining to
them that if they do not preserve their own
cultural and historical identity, other
individuals, namely heavily funded Americans and
their vast institutions, will record, perhaps
incorrectly, Canada's past.
goal Dr. Carrier put forward would see the
strengthening of the NLC's access to information
system. Calling the current system a "wonderful
and good" system, he encouraged the
continual evolution of the dissemination process
so as to better serve patrons at home and abroad.
Dr Carrier expressed his wish to raise the
profile of the NLC and its professional staff.
"We have a beautiful product," he said,
looking at the librarians who had accompanied him
on his visit to Montreal. "We must learn to
Some concerns arise
Carrier presented some very interesting goals
that, if accomplished during his term, will
certainly have a positive effect on the National
Library of Canada. Such ambitious goals, however,
elicit mixed feelings from some members in the
library field. One issue that stands against Dr.
Carrier is the fact that he has a non-librarian
background. Some feel that this might hinder
rather than help the growth of the National
Library. But despite these legitimate concerns,
Dr. Carrier seems determined to fulfill his goals,
admitting to the audience that he afraid of the
challenges ahead but is not ashamed to admit his
fears because he feels ready to do the job.
Librarians living in
about our information age, Dr. Carrier explained
that we are living in revolutionary times similar
in terms of societal impact to when Johanne
Gutenberg invented the printing press. A world
flooded with information is emerging; that there
is no question. But Dr. Carrier wonders if people
will overdose on so much information? Will people
collapse from this information explosion? And how
will information professionals organize and
preserve and, above all, disseminate this
information? And should everything be preserved?
questions are merely a snapshot of the momentous
challenges and responsibilities librarians will
face in the 21st century. Simply put, these are
not the days for librarians to be complacent,
because these are the days when new challenges,
and opportunities, are emerging for librarians
and information professionals around the globe.
computers and other telecommunication devices are
enhancing, as well as complicating, the libraries
of the world, Dr. Carrier advised librarians to
remain true to the social and educational
responsibilities entrusted to them--that is, to
select, organize, retrieve and transmit
information in order to fulfill people's
the most profound statement of the afternoon came
when Dr. Carrier expressed his surprise at being
selected the new National Librarian of Canada.
Reflecting on his past growing up in the small
Quebec town of Sainte-Justine, Dr. Carrier
recalled that most boys his age aspired to become
lumberjacks, while he dreamt of becoming a writer,
an unusual dream for a small town boy, to say the
least. Yet, who knew that in the course of time,
after much diligent work, he would become an
internationally successful author? And today he
is Canada's new National Librarian. Sensing
something more than mere randomness to his life,
Dr. Carrier encouraged those studying library
studies (or, for that matter, any field) to never
give up on their dreams because exciting times
lie ahead. "Life is not a plan," Dr.
Carrier said near the end of his speech. "Life
is a daily invention. Anything is possible."
hope he will pursue his role as National
Librarian with a similar positive outlook.