Nora Bateson

“There is nothing more enriching, more really dynamic in the life of a community than an adequate library”.

The struggle to establish regional library systems in Canada was won slowly, province by province, beginning in the 1930s. Nora Bateson, a colourful leader of the library profession, established a regional library system in Prince Edward Island in the early part of the twentieth century and set the stage for regional libraries in Nova Scotia. Grounded in adult education and a passion for social justice, she championed a vision of libraries as agents of personal and community development. Her zeal, commitment and clashes with those in power speak of the qualities needed by activists today, and of the challenges faced by those who see libraries as centres of change.

Bateson formed a lasting partnership in activism with Rev. James John Tompkins (fondly known as Father Jimmy), the fiery inspiration behind the Antigonish Movement. They had a good deal in common: both were short, feisty, principled and passionate adult educators – and both were fired at the age of about 50! While Father Tompkins’ story has been recorded in full-length, Nora Bateson’s is not well known. Eminent library historian Peter McNally has called her "one of the great under-appreciated figures in Canadian library history".