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About Basil Stuart-Stubbs

Click here for a complete profile of Basil Stuart-Stubbs

Like his hero and mentor W.K. Lamb, former UBC Chief Librarian Basil Stuart Stubbs was one of the great figures in B.C. literary life, little-known by the public but fundamental to the maturation of literary culture in the province, and in Canada.

Inaugurated in 2013, the annual Basil Stuart-Stubbs Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Book on British Columbia, sponsored by UBC Library and the Pacific BookWorld News Society, recognizes the best scholarly book published on a BC subject by a Canadian author. Visit

Basil Stuart-Stubbs

Basil Stuart-Stubbs

Stuart-Stubb’s work outside of UBC Library was enormously constructive, making him a worthy recipient of the fourth annual Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award in 2004 for his outstanding contributions to the book industry in British Columbia.

In 1967, Stuart-Stubbs and bookseller Bill Duthie collaborated in the production of the first edition of Canadian Books in Print, working with Harald Bohne at the University of Toronto Press on its publication. As Chairman of the U.B.C. President’s Committee on University Publishing, he was instrumental in establishing U.B.C. Press, served as the founding Chair of its Board from 1970 to 1982, and was also Acting Director of the Press from January to November in 1982.

During the 1972 UNESCO Year of the Book he organized the first-ever Conference on Western Regional Publishing, which led to the formation of the B.C. Publishers Group in 1974, later renamed the Association of Book Publishers of B.C. in 1978.

He was one of the proponents of the 1986 Public Lending Right legislation that compensates all Canadian authors for having their works in Canadian public libraries, in 1974 co-writing an influential article with George Woodcock in Saturday Night magazine entitled ‘When you read a library book, should the author be paid? The case for the public lending right.’

“Basil was many fine things — a scholar, a lover of literature, a friend — but for me, his memory will always be backlit by his courage to be a librarian who understood that without writers, libraries wouldn’t exist,” says founding Public Lending Right chair Andreas Schroeder, “When all around him, Canada’s librarians were rejecting and protesting PLR, Basil had the extraordinary courage not only to support writers in their efforts to achieve PLR, but to vigorously promote the program to his fellow librarians. He took a lot of flak for that, but his support and dedication never wavered, and eventually most of his colleagues came to agree with him. Canada’s writers owe Basil a huge debt of gratitude; we will not forget him.”

Stuart-Stubbs was also one of the founders in 1978 of the Canadian Institute for Historical Reproductions in Ottawa, an organization that makes early Canadiana more accessible to the public, in microfiche and on-line; he was its third President from 1986 to 1988. From 1987 he served on the founding Board of the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing at Simon Fraser University.

He acted as a consultant to several governments and their agencies, including the BC Arts Board, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canada Council and the National Library. In 2004 he was the Chairman of the Publications Committee of the Bibliographical Society of Canada.

“Basil was a dedicated and tireless advocate for the Canadian library, publishing and book trade communities,” says UBC professor Judi Saltman. “He was a gifted Director at UBC’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, where he was supportive of and tremendously kind to colleagues and students. He will be deeply missed.”

Born in Moncton, New Brunswick on February 3, 1930, Basil Stuart-Stubbs left Moncton at age sixteen with his parents and moved to Vancouver. He received his B.A. (Hon. Phil.) from U.B.C. in 1952 and his B.L.S. from McGill University in 1954. His library career commenced at McGill University where he was a reference librarian from 1954 to 1956. He joined the staff of UBC Library in 1956 as a cataloguer, became the first Head of the Special Collections Division in 1960, and then the Coordinator of Collections in 1962.

He was responsible with Earle Birney and Anne Yandle for the creation of the archival collection on Malcolm Lowry at UBC Special Collections, the world’s foremost reference source for research about Lowry. In 1964, at the age of 34, he was appointed University Librarian.

Early in his career his interest in publishing was spurred by his involvement in the production of the British Columbia Library Quarterly, designed and printed by Robert R. Reid from 1957; Stuart-Stubbs became its editor in 1963/64. In 1959 he became the first Circulation Manager for the two U.B.C.-based magazines Canadian Literature and Prism INTERNATIONAL.

In 1965 he was one of the founders of the Alcuin Society, and worked with the fine printer Wil Hudson in producing its first publications; today among its many other initiatives the organization provides awards for excellence in Canadian book design.

Professionally, Basil Frederick Stuart-Stubbs served as University Librarian at UBC for 17 years (1964-1981) and was Director of the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (1981-1992). During the former period, in 1977, he oversaw the creation of an inter-library lending network for provincial universities and colleges on behalf of the B.C. Ministry of Education.

During the latter period he implemented the first post-graduate degree program in North America in the field of archival studies. For a dozen years he taught at the School the only course available on publishing in British Columbia.

As an author, Basil F. Stuart-Stubbs was co-author of The Northpart of America (Toronto: Academic Press Canada, 1979) with Coolie Verner, a limited edition atlas of historical maps, and he provided the introduction for A Short Account of a Northwest Voyage Performed in the Years 1796, 1797 & 1798, by Ebenezer Johnson (Vancouver: Alcuin Society, 1974). He also compiled Maps Relating to Alexander Mackenzie: A Keepsake for the Bibliographical Society of Canada (Vancouver, 1968).

Basil Stuart-Stubbs died at Marion Hospice in Vancouver on May 29, 2012, at age 82, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. His wife, Brenda Peterson, a librarian with UBC Library, and his family were at his side. He was predeceased by his parents, Thomas Edward and Amy Jubilee, sister Eileen Cooke, and daughter Kathleen Amy, and survived his wife Brenda, daughter Megan, son-in-law Nick Murphy, grandson Alexander, first wife Nancy, sisters Patricia Prince (Bob) and Joan Symons, and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and in-laws.

The UBC flag was lowered in his honour on June 1st. In lieu of flowers, he proposed that friends consider buying a book by a Canadian author or making a donation to a library.

Privately, he spent decades researching his family’s genealogy and enjoyed many travels abroad. As an amateur pianist and avid concert-attendee, he had a lifelong passion for collecting sheet music, recordings, and books by and about pianists. Revered and loved for his gentlemanliness, Basil Stuart-Stubbs refrained from playing the piano for others, including his piano instructor.

“While gentle in voice and manner,” said Paul Whitney, former Chief Librarian of Burnaby and Vancouver Public Libraries, “Basil was a giant in the world of libraries and books. He will be greatly missed by us all.”


Canada Medal, 1967
Royal Society of Canada. Fellow, 1984
Miles Blackwell Medal for Outstanding Academic Librarian, 1987 (from Canadian Association of College and University Libraries)
Helen Gordon Stewart Award, 1992 (from the BC Library Association)
Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award, 2004
Order of Canada, 2005
Honorary Life Memberships: The BC Library Association and American Library Association
Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal, in 2012.

by Alan Twigg


Stuart-Stubbs, Basil. Maps relating to Alexander Mackenzie: a keepsake for the Bibliographical Society of Canada/Société bibliographique du Canada (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Library, 1968).

Developments in Library and Union Catalogues and the Use of Microform in
British Libraries (Ottawa: Research and Planning Branch, National Library
of Canada, 1973)

A Short Account of a Northwest Voyage Performed in the Years 1796, 1797 &
1798. By Ebenezer Johnson. With an introduction by Basil Stuart-Stubbs.
Illustrations by Fritz Jacobsen. Edited by M.S. Batts. (Vancouver: Alcuin
Society, 1974)

A Survey and Interpretation of the Literature of Interlibrary Loan. With K.
Nichol, D. McInnes and M. Friesen. (Ottawa: National Library of Canada,

The Northpart of America (Toronto: Academic Press, 1979). With Coolie Verner.

Editor of: Changing Technology and Education for Librarianship and Information Science (Greenwich, Conn.: JAI Press Inc, 1985).

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2012] “Library”