Extensive collection of Canadian children’s books now available at U of A

Nearly 16,000 children’s books published in Canada since 1976 are now available for loan from U of A Libraries.


A collection of almost every children’s book published in Canada since 1976 is now available through a library at the University of Alberta.

The books are part of a collection curated by the Toronto-based non-profit Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC), which has books in regional collections in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Halifax along with the one at the U of A.

The collection at the U of A is made up of 15,800 items and has been, since its creation in 1976, a depository collection: its items could only be accessed within the library and couldn’t be lent out. But now, that policy has changed.

“We’re all ecstatic. It’s one of those things that happened very quickly. And that means members of the public have access now too,” said public services librarian Kim Frail.

Meeting demand

Recently, the regional libraries found they had the same issue in common: a demand for increased access to these books, Frail explained. When they voiced this to the CCBC, the centre decided to change the policy.

The books had not been available to be lent out mainly because of preservation concerns.

“Now, because the centre in Toronto maintains their whole full collection, we don’t have that preservation mandate anymore. So we can just let the books be free,” said Debbie Feisst, interim head of the H.T. Coutts Library, where the collection is housed.

The changes reflect wider changes in library use more generally, added Feisst.

“Times change, catalogues are available online now so everyone can see your collections. All the depository collections were facing the same challenges—people wanting access to these books and not having it. We really just wanted the material to be shared,” she explained.

Teaching children’s lit

Feisst and Frail see the CCBC collection as valuable to library patrons including parents and students, but also to teachers from all over Alberta.

“For an elementary teacher in a small town you could say, ‘I really want to do a unit on Inuit art,’ you can bring in all the items and then send them back when the unit is over,” Feisst said.

While the books in the collection are newly lendable, Frail noted Albertans have always had access to the regular children’s collection at the Coutts Library, which also includes many Canadian children’s books.