One of the three pillars of our mission at Vintage Wings of Canada is education. To this end, we want to teach young and old alike the incredible history of aviation and in particular, Canadian aviation. To that end Mike Potter instructed architects to include a library component in the design of our new hangar facility at the Gatineau Airport and now after nearly a year of collecting and cataloging the library's inaugural volumes, work is completed and the facility ready for researchers.
For the better part of a year, cardboard boxes filled with books have been unceremoniously dumped on the library floor, table and even the hangar. The books, numbering more than 2,000 volumes came from 12 separate collections and have one thing in common - they all share the same subject - aviation. There are coffee table books, encyclopedia, novels, rare tomes, reference books, biographies, manuals and magazines - about aircraft, aviators, engines, battles and even the odd humourous book.
At one point, Vintage Wings was made an incredible offer by the estate of a recently deceased collector of his complete 50,000 volume collection. At first excited about the prospect, we soon realized that we could not adequately house this many books, nor care for or manage such a collection. We had to decline the offer and start at a more manageable size. But even that was daunting.
It fell upon two dedicated and well-organized women, Marie Garbutt and her daughter Christina Nicholson, to sift through the sometimes musty, always interesting stacks to determine what categories they fit into and to devise a system for cataloging their contents, titles, authors and cross referencing them in an electronic database.
You'd expect this task to be taken on by retired Dewey-decimalized librarians with hair in buns and and a permanent "Shhh!" on their lips. These two are anything but. Marie is a retired school teacher with a penchant for aircraft who came to Vintage Wings to be near airplanes and to volunteer her services. She is a licensed pilot who got her ticket at Mount Hope airfield back in 1952 and followed that with a glider license. She shanghaied her daughter Chris to help her sort through the boxes and come up with a plan. Chris, a long-time Fedex employee born with a natural inclination towards organization, input all the data collected from the donated books.
The books are divided alphabetically within subject categories such as Bombers, Engines, History, Battles, Pilots etc. - ten major colour-coded categories. Though the library will continue to grow as we acquire new books and manuals - in particular on the subjects of our aircraft and Canadian aviation history, Marie and Chris can take a respite from their labours as the library is now fully catalogued and open for business.
For now, it is a great resource for our own staff like historian Don MacNeil and the maintenance crews, but we hope that once the word gets out, school children, writers, older students and historians will spend some time at the table researching, learning and rolling this incredible history forward.
The library is a "read-in" resource center and not a lending library, so we welcome all those who want to spend a while with history to call Hangar Manager Carolyn Leslie to make arrangements to utilize this unique facility. You will not only be surrounded by volumes of history, but also touring aviation art collections displayed on the walls and aviation memorabilia.
Above all, you can read about aircraft like the Spitfire while one cranks up on the ramp outside the hangar doors or read a book about Merlin engines all the while watching mechanics strip one down across the hangar floor.
Beat that Smithsonian!