Exploring Canadian connections to the published record


At OCLC, we emphasize the importance of connection. Connecting a reader to a book. Connecting a librarian to other librarians. Connecting all libraries, period. In our latest OCLC Research report, we illustrate another kind of connection: connecting creative works to nations.

Maple Leaves: Discovering Canada through the Published Record explores the presence of Canadiana in the collections of libraries around the world. This presence is significant—10.9 million distinct publications all told, rolling up to 6.9 million distinct works, and including materials published in Canada, by Canadians, and/or about Canada.

Connecting to Canada

Back to connection. In a series of reports, of which Maple Leaves is the latest, OCLC Research has explored national contributions to the published record. Studies of Scotland, New Zealand, Ireland, and now Canada have utilized the rich resource of WorldCat bibliographic and holdings data to identify and describe the books, films, music, and other types of creative expression that form the published output of these nations. Common to all of these studies is the theme of connecting publications to the country with which they are associated.

In Maple Leaves, we make some interesting connections. For example, we explore the significant connection between comic books/graphic novels and Canada, led by the work of award-winning Canadian authors and illustrators like Jeff Lemire. And did you know that Joe Shuster, who co-created Superman, was Canadian? Or that the Metropolis skyline was modeled after Toronto? Or that the newspaper where Clark Kent worked was originally named the Daily Star (after Toronto’s newspaper) before it was switched to the Daily Planet?

Other connections call to mind treasured classics and remind us of their Canadian origins. Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables is the most popular (measured by library holdings) work by a Canadian author, while Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which has enjoyed renewed interest with a recent television dramatization, ranks second. Glenn Gould, the renowned classical pianist, is the most popular Canadian musician. The Call of the Wild is the most popular literary work featuring Canada as the setting of the story.

The importance of language

Francophone authors are another important aspect of the Canadian contribution to the published record. Michel Tremblay, a novelist and playwright, is the most popular (measured by library holdings) Canadian author writing in the French language, with fellow Québec-born writer Marie-Claire Blais ranking second. We also found thousands of publications with a primary language of content associated with the Indigenous peoples of the Arctic or North America, as well as prominent authors of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation heritages such as Richard Wagamese, Lee Maracle, and Richard Van Camp.

All told, the Canadian presence in the published record accounts for nearly 100 million library holdings, distributed across collections in 128 countries. This is another important form of connection: Canadiana manifests itself in library collections all over the world, connecting the creative outputs of Canada and Canadians to audiences well beyond Canada’s borders. Connection is also made through language: we found that the publications in the Canadian presence, although predominantly in English and French, also included nearly 350 languages and dialects. Lucy Maud Montgomery is the most translated Canadian author, with nearly 3,500 publications appearing in languages other than English or French.

What can library metadata tell us about the popularity, importance and spread of the Canadian published record? Click To Tweet

The most influential Canadian author

And speaking of Lucy Maud Montgomery, if we were to bestow an award for the most influential Canadian in the published record, the author of Anne of Green Gables would be a leading candidate. She is the third most popular Canadian author, while her novel Anne of Green Gables is the most popular work by a Canadian author. The popularity of her work endures: in the last three decades, no Canadian has been published more. She is the most translated Canadian author, and her work has been adapted into film and other media. A core strand of Canada’s connection to the published record is Lucy Maud Montgomery.

A presence in the published record is lasting testimony to a country’s rich creative heritage, and it is often the mission of national libraries like Library and Archives Canada/Bibliothèque et Archives Canada to gather and steward these materials for generations to come. Establishing a connection between a publication and a country—on the basis of where it was produced, who conceived it, or what inspired it—is made possible through the massive aggregation of data about library collections available in WorldCat.

Visit our OCLC Research web page to read the Maple Leaves report and other work exploring national presences in the published record.