Photo credit: University Archives

Basil Frederick Stuart-Stubbs, the eighth University Librarian at UBC, passed away on May 29, 2012. He was 82.

A Professor emeritus and University Librarian emeritus at UBC, Stuart-Stubbs will be remembered as a bibliophile, scholar and librarian. His writings encompass Canadian history, historical cartography, historical bibliography, library history, copyright law, library automation, union catalogues, resource sharing and computerized networks.

“I had the honor of knowing Basil for many years, admiring his achievements from across the country. He was truly unique, an icon in the evolving story of librarianship in our country,” says Ingrid Parent, UBC’s University Librarian and President of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. “I considered him to be a generous mentor, a revered colleague, and a dear friend to many. He will be missed.”

Tributes have been published, including “Basil Stuart-Stubbs: 1930-2012″ in Quill & Quire and “Remembering Basil Stuart-Stubbs” in ABC Bookworld.

Stuart-Stubbs spent his first 16 years in Moncton, New Brunswick and moved with his parents to Vancouver in 1946. He attended UBC (B.A. Hon. Phil.) and McGill University (B.L.S.). After working at McGill University Library for a few years, he returned to UBC and worked in positions specializing in collections and rare books. In 1964, at the age of 34, he was appointed University Librarian. His 17 years as University Librarian coincided with the computer revolution and the rapid growth of the staff and collections dispersed over many new branch libraries on the expanding Point Grey campus.

In 1981, Stuart-Stubbs moved to a faculty position when he was appointed Professor and Director of the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, a position he held for two terms, and from which he took early retirement in 1992.

Stuart-Stubbs had a leadership role in many national and regional library and publishing activities. During his exceptional career, Basil took particular interest in the production and distribution of Canadian books, and was associated with several initiatives beneficial to authors and their readers, and to Canadian publishing. Significant accomplishments included: 

  • chairing the UBC Publications Centre, which created UBC Press (Stuart-Stubbs was Chair of the UBC Press Board for 10 years and Acting Director for a year);
  • collaborating with Bill Duthie and Harald Bohne to establish the Canadian Books in Print directory;
  • serving as first President of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries;
  • organizing the first conference on regional publishing in Western Canada, which led to the establishment of the Association of B.C. Book Publishers;
  • serving as founding member and second President of the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproduction;
  • serving as founding member of the Alcuin Society;
  • serving as founding Board member of the SFU Centre for Canadian Publishing;
  • participating in the establishment of the scholarly journal Canadian Literature (he was the first Circulation Manager);
  • and serving as a leading advocate for the establishment of the Public Lending Right for Canadian authors.

A particular highlight was a journey through Europe in the mid-1960s to acquire precious manuscripts and books using funds from the $3-million donation for UBC Library collections provided by industrialist H.R. MacMillan.

He served the federal and provincial governments in an advisory capacity on bodies such as the National Research Council’s Advisory Board on Scientific and Technical Information, the National Library Advisory Board, the Canada Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the British Columbia Arts Board.

Basil received many awards and honours, including: 

  • the Order of Canada in 2005;
  • Fellow, Royal Society of Canada in 1984;
  • the Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award by the Association of Book Publishers of BC;
  • the first Miles Blackwell Medal for Outstanding Academic Librarian by the Canadian Library Association;
  • the Helen Gordon Stewart Award by the BC Library Association;
  • Honorary Life Memberships from the BC Library Association and American Library Association;
  • the Canada Medal in 1967;
  • and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Music was Stuart-Stubbs’s lifelong passion – in particular the piano, and his collection of sheet music, recordings, and books by and about pianists. Attending concerts in Vancouver and while travelling were among his life’s greatest pleasures.

He leaves as a legacy to his family his passion for genealogy, having spent decades – partly in the pre-Internet era – sleuthing his roots and discovering the existence of many additional family members in the United States and abroad.

The UBC flag will be lowered in Basil’s honour on Friday, June 1.

Photo courtesy of University Archives


Read The Tyee’s post about Rip! A Remix Manifesto! : a documentary exploring issues regarding copyright, the media, piracy, intellectual property, and freedom of expression. A related article by Micheal Geist about copyright in Canada here.

National Film Board of Canada film credits and information here.

UBC Library Holdings information here.

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