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Banner: National Library of Canada 1953 - 2003

Guy Sylvestre

In Sondages, a slender volume published in 1945 at the very beginning of his career, Guy Sylvestre served notice that his aim was, first and foremost, "to understand what a man or a work contributes that is enduring." Canada’s second National Librarian was born on May 17, 1918, in Sorel, Quebec. He attended university in Ottawa (B.A., 1939; M.A., 1942) and began his literary career as writer and critic there. By his early 20s, he was already the author of several articles in journals and newspapers, literary critic for Le Droit, and founder of his own journal. Publication of Anthologie de la poésie canadienne d’expression française established him as an intellectual and a specialist in Canadian poetry. In 1956, he became the Associate Parliamentary Librarian, and in 1968 he became Canada’s first full-time National Librarian. In his 15 years as National Librarian, Guy Sylvestre oversaw the development of the National Library of Canada as a national resource: he built a dynamic organization whose influence was felt everywhere in Canada, even as he continued to promote Canadian culture through the many cultural and literary associations in which he remained active. He gave the members of his team the task of developing sophisticated technological tools and he worked unceasingly to ensure that they would be made available to every library in the country, and he placed the National Library at the vanguard of large libraries providing international leadership. In The Future of the National Library of Canada (1979), he wrote, "The National Library should be a vital force in the promotion and direction of a national network of libraries encompassing all disciplines."

For additional information on Dr. Sylvestre, please refer to The National Library of Canada and Canadian Libraries: Essays in Honour of Guy Sylvestre / La Bibliothèque nationale du Canada et les bibliothèques canadiennes : Essais en l’honneur de Guy Sylvestre edited by Jean-Rémi Brault, Gwynneth Evans and Richard Paré, co-published by the Canadian Library Association and the Association pour l’avancement des sciences et des techniques de la documentation, 1996, from which this excerpt is taken.