Featuring Inuit Authors in the Collection

On the left of the graphic, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] in traditional regalia on horse. In the middle, Iggi and girl engaging in a “kunik”, a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide stands holding a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

By Sarah Potts

Hello, out there! My name is Sarah. I am the librarian assigned to work for and with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation publishers in the Legal Deposit section of Library and Archives Canada. In this program, we have the opportunity to work with publishers and authors to build a national collection that reflects the fabric of Canada. The best part of my job is getting to read new and old classics by my favourite authors and works by others I have not encountered before. Today, I am excited to share with you a few of my top picks from Inuit authors in the collection.

What’s my Superpower?

In 2019, What’s my Superpower?, a book by Aviaq Johnston, was turned into an animated film. The film, which premiered at the Ottawa International Animation Film Festival, was produced by Taqqut Productions, a media company based in Iqaluit. What’s my Superpower? is about Nalvana, a little girl who thought she was the only kid who did not have a superpower.   

This book is vital to the collection because it connects with kids of all ages, me included. It speaks to a feeling we all have had at one time: the feeling that we are not unique, that we are just ordinary and boring. Of course, this is not true! We each have a trait or way of being unique to us, a superpower, no matter how small. What’s my Superpower? teaches us that kindness is free and that we should be kinder to others and to ourselves. (Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) 994209423) (Age range: 4+)


Another recent publication we received was bilingual. Written in French and Inuktitut, Mamaqtuq!, written by The Jerry Cans and illustrated by Eric Kim, shares a story about hunting for seal. The content is easy to follow and accessible to everyone. In case you are not familiar with them, The Jerry Cans are an Iqaluit-based band whose music features Inuit throat singing and folk rock. The book Mamaqtuq! is beautifully illustrated, and The Jerry Cans have a song by the same name on one of their albums. (OCLC 1090062562)

The book and its authors challenge common misconceptions about the seal hunt. Mamaqtuq! takes you on a most compelling adventure. I felt completely immersed and included in the friend’s journey. I also immediately downloaded the latest album released by The Jerry Cans. I hope you find the time to listen to their music, too. (Age range: 6+)


A colour picture of the spine of a black book with red and silver writing.
Picture of the book Taaqtumi. Photo Credit: Sarah Potts

Another book I want to tell you about is Taaqtumi. The title translates to “the dark.” This short-story collection incorporates the writing of well-known authors like Aviaq Johnston and Gayle Kabloona. The stories relate the journeys of several characters through a snowstorm. This book certainly leaves you checking behind you or jumping at anything that goes bump in the night! If you are like me and like horror but in doses, this is the perfect book for you. (Age range: 12+)

A colour photograph of a gray-and-white cat on a red patterned rug.
Leia, my cat, is my trusted travel companion. She makes sure I don’t travel too far into the dark and pulls me back to reality when she feels I am ready. (OCLC 1085967602)

The Diary of Abraham Ulrikab: Text and Context

Content warning: extreme acts of colonial violence, offensive language that may cause harm, images of deceased, death

The Diary of Abraham Ulrikab was written in 1880 but was not widely accessible until 2005. This book is among the earliest written material by an Inuk in Inuktitut. It records the experience of Abraham and eight other Inuit who were living in Labrador before being brought to Europe to be put on display at a human zoo. It is one of the few accounts of someone held in Carl Hagenbeck’s human zoo. The author and his family never made it home; they succumbed to smallpox in 1881. This book is important because it refutes the belief that Inuit were illiterate before meeting southern settlers in the 1950s. (OCLC 61258817) (Age range: 17+)

Le harpon du chasseur (Harpoon of the Hunter)

At the time it was first printed, in 1969, it was one of a few books by an Inuk man to be published in Canada by a major publisher. The author, Markoosie Patsauq, led a remarkable life: he was a pilot, government translator, community advocate and leader. He passed away in May 2020.

Le harpon du chasseur is a coming-of-age story, where the narrator comes to grip with loss, colonization and thoughts of suicide. The content can be challenging to read because it is very raw. However, the story shows the resilience of its characters and the importance of community in trying to overcome adversity. A new English translation (Hunter with Harpoon) is also available. (Age range: 17+)

Unikkaangualaurtaa = Raconte-moi une histoire : voici 26 histoires et chansons du Nunavik accompagnées de suggestions d’activités pour les jeunes enfants (OCLC 710886602)

A colour photograph of two homemade toy ducks, one white and one brown, facing each other, with a blue sky in the background.
Two handmade toy ducks c. 1960. From the Rosemary Gilliat Eaton fonds. (e010799828)

The main aspect of this book is that it is an educational resource for teachers working in Inuit communities throughout Canada. It contains 26 stories written by elders that serve to educate both teacher and student. Each of the 26 stories is considered a classic and includes suggested activities like crafts to do after reading. (Age range: 3+) (OCLC 1032020866)

“The Caribou taste different now”: Inuit Elders Observe Climate Change

Welcome to Pond Inlet, Nain and Baker Lake, just a few of the remote communities located in the Arctic. These communities share one common theme: they all feel the most significant impact of climate change. “The Caribou taste different now” shares the knowledge of 145 elders who have watched the Arctic transform, permafrost melt, new flora begin to take over and, critically, migration patterns of wildlife change. Elders speak about how climate change impacts traditional ways of life and what they believe can be done to stop it. (Age range: 17+) (OCLC 945583292)

This post barely scratches the surface of the knowledge that authors have shared in their writing. Do you want to learn more about books by Inuit authors available in your area? Check out your local library, and, if you are in Ottawa, book an appointment and visit us once restrictions are eased! You can also search our catalogue, Aurora

Writer’s note: This blog would not be possible without the assistance and feedback of Heather Campbell, a former LAC employee, and Jennelle Doyle, an archivist with Listen, Hear our Voices. Heather now works for the Inuit Art Foundation. Heather and Jennelle are from Nunatsiavut, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Sarah Potts is an acquisitions librarian in the Legal Deposit section of the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Retrospective publications: better late than never

By Euphrasie Mujawamungu

Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) mandate includes the acquisition of all documents published in Canada, regardless of format, subject or language. This mandate also covers foreign works whose authors, publishers, translators, illustrators or performers are Canadian, or whose subject matter is related to Canada. We call these publications “Canadiana.”

The collection of retrospective Canadiana covers various types of documents published between 1867 and five years before the current year:

  • documents published before the establishment of legal deposit in 1953
  • documents published after legal deposit was adopted but that were not acquired at the time of publication
  • documents not subject to legal deposit, such as works published abroad by Canadian authors or on Canadian subjects

Since LAC aims to be a source of permanent knowledge accessible to all, it must have as comprehensive a collection as possible, to accomplish this mission.

Shaped by our past

The present is shaped by the past: each period has its history … a history that is as vast as it is rich in events. Consider, for example, the first Stanley Cup, the first French-Canadian prime minister, the Klondike Gold Rush, the first female MP, the winning of the right to vote by women, the two world wars, or the bestselling novel Anne of Green Gables by Prince Edward Island author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

The daily life of yesteryear has left its imprint on many areas: art, literature, fashion, transportation, cooking and more. This is reflected in the retrospective publications in LAC’s collection, which open windows to good times and bad times; they cover topics as varied as travel, our great-great-grandmothers’ recipes, epidemics, famines, trophies won and games lost.

As guardian of the past and our recent history, LAC is a vital resource for all Canadians. It makes it easier for Canadians to search its rich collection, helps them to discover the most relevant documents and provides access to these. That is the core of its mandate.

However, gaps in the national collection must be addressed, to ensure that no aspect of our history is overlooked or undervalued. And this is not a one-day job or a one-time activity. On the contrary, constant attention and vigilance are required to identify opportunities to enrich the collection.

Colour photo of a variety of hardcover and softcover books.

Some titles acquired retrospectively by LAC in the summer of 2019. Photo credit: David Knox

The tools

From near or far, history is always interesting, making the search for publications truly exciting. As a librarian, I have several resources to identify retrospective publications to be acquired:

  • used bookseller catalogues
  • antique dealer catalogues
  • websites specialized in selling used books
  • publications given to LAC (I then look through donations to find documents missing from the collection)

The acquisition of vintage publications is subject to strict conditions: each work must be an original edition and in good condition. There is a good reason for this requirement, since contaminated or mouldy publications will not only deteriorate, but they will also damage other publications.

In addition, for a work to retain its full value, it is important to preserve all of its original components, such as the cover, illustrations and edition statements.

If LAC does not acquire it, who will?

LAC collects and preserves Canada’s documentary heritage, with the ultimate goal of meeting the needs of its users.

From vintage to contemporary publications, this heritage is a legacy for current and future generations. And there is always room for more!

LAC is a true hub of knowledge, with skilled professionals who serve the public and are dedicated to the collection. Each treasure acquired by LAC is treated with the appropriate care, and our state-of-the-art facilities guarantee preservation under optimal conditions.

In addition, LAC is at the leading edge of technology, facilitating collaboration with other organizations as well as interactions with clients.

The job of a collections librarian is dynamic and rewarding; it requires considerable dedication. In line with the services offered to the community, the work evolves as the pace of our knowledge society changes. I can say that LAC, far from being a warehouse of random items, truly enriches our collective memory. Experienced researchers, students, music lovers, or simply curious and information‑hungry citizens: everyone will find a valuable resource in LAC.

Colour photo of a variety of paperback books.

Some titles acquired retrospectively by LAC in the fall of 2019. Photo credit: David Knox

Euphrasie Mujawamungu is a Retrospective acquisitions librarian with the acquisition team in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada..

So, You’ve Published a Book

By Liane Belway

Rows of books with multicoloured covers sit on grey metal shelves ready to be processed.

The Legal Deposit team processes all kinds of books published in Canada. (Photo credit: Tom Thompson)

Did you know, when you publish a book, one of the first things you should do is deposit it at Library and Archives Canada (LAC)? Our national collection is built on Canadian publications, which we acquire and preserve for future generations. Our Legal Deposit program has been in place for decades, and publishers from all over Canada send us their publications to be included in our internationally renowned collection. One of the most popular questions we get from new publishers is simply, “Am I required to deposit my work with LAC?”

If you have recently published work in print in Canada and are unsure how to proceed, our newly redesigned step-by-step deposit instructions can guide you through the process. There is a separate process to deposit digital publications, which must also be deposited upon publication. And, of course, if you have any questions, LAC staff are always available to help.

For publishers who have published a title both in print and digitally who wonder which format to deposit, the answer is easy: both! Publishers deposit their books in each format they make available to the public, and this responsibility is becoming increasingly important as the Canadian publishing industry evolves. While the majority of Canadian publications are still produced in print, an increasing number are offered in digital formats as well, with a smaller number of publishers producing digital-only titles. There is even a trend toward publishing originally digital titles at a later date in print format: Toronto-based digital storytelling platform Wattpad Books plans to publish popular titles in print starting this fall, in partnership with Vancouver-based distributor Raincoast Books. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you probably already know that Raincoast Books is famous for distributing books that tend to be popular with Canadian readers.

Rows of books with multicoloured covers sit on wooden book carts.

Recently arrived books waiting for processing by the Legal Deposit team. (Photo credit: Tom Thompson)

If you would like to learn more about how to contribute to our national collection, who is required to deposit with us, what types of publications and how many copies are required, this information and more can be found on our newly updated Legal Deposit web page on LAC’s website.

Liane Belway is a librarian in the Acquisitions section of Published Heritage at Library and Archives Canada.

You can Contact Us with any questions you might have about LAC’s Legal Deposit program.

Found in translation: discovering Canadian literary translations

By Liane Belway

Discovering new and exciting books and authors is a rewarding experience for most readers. In Published Heritage—the library side of Library and Archives Canada (LAC)—we connect with the publishers who bring us these works and make our diverse published Canadian heritage accessible to a wider audience.

When Canadian publishers make material available, they deposit copies with LAC with the help of our Legal Deposit team. What kinds of material do we acquire in Legal Deposit? A wealth of Canadian content: books, music, spoken-word recordings, magazines and other serials, and digital material as well. Each offers a unique perspective on Canadian society and culture, reflecting the publisher’s vision, interests and identity. One source of new knowledge and literary artistry is the translation of such works, making these publications available to a completely new audience.

Canadian Translations

One way of making great literature available to wider audiences is through literary translation, an often overlooked literary skill but a highly valuable one in a multicultural and multilingual society. Translations offer a window into new perspectives and styles, and a chance to discover literary traditions and innovations often not otherwise easily accessible. In fact, the Governor General’s Awards have a category for Translation, acknowledging the value of bringing French-language works to new readers in English when they would not ordinarily have the chance to read them. Each year, this award recognizes the translation of a work into English for its literary excellence and cultural contribution.

Award Winners

The 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation was awarded to Readopolis, translated into English by Oana Avasilichioaei and published by BookThug in Toronto. It is a translation of Lectodôme by Bertrand Laverdure, published by Le Quartanier, a francophone publishing house in Montreal. The Peer Assessment Committee had high praise for Avasilichioaei: “In Readopolis, Oana Avasilichioaei has risen to and matched the stylistic acrobatics of Bertrand Laverdure’s Lectodôme. The many voices of Quebecois writing sing through in this intelligent translation – a vertiginous ode to the pure, if rarely rewarded, pursuit of literature.”

David Clerson’s Brothers, a worthy finalist for the same award in 2017, also offers an excellent introduction to a new publisher’s vision. QC Fiction, an imprint of Baraka Books with a fresh perspective, is a Quebec-based English-language book publisher in Montreal. Recognizing the value of translations, QC Fiction’s goal is to publish contemporary Quebec fiction originally published in French, in English translations for a wider Canadian and international audience. Another QC Fiction title, I Never Talk About It, contains 37 stories and as many translators. As Fiction editor Peter McCambridge states, “37 different translators to translate each of the short stories published in a collection by Véronique Côté and Steve Gagnon. It’s a reminder that there are at least 37 different ways to translate an author’s voice—something to consider the next time you pick up a book in translation!”

Six colourful book covers with similar designs laid out side by side, displaying all titles: Listening for Jupiter, I Never Talk About It, Behind the Eyes We Meet, Brothers, The Unknown Huntsman, Life in the Court of Matane.

A selection of publications from QC Fiction, including Brothers (2016), the finalist of the Governor General prize for translation. Image used with permission from QC Fiction.

Providing works in translation allows audiences outside of Canada access to a large and, in our ever more connected world, growing national literature, and Canadian authors are enjoying an increasingly international audience. QC Fiction is also a great example of Canadian fiction’s global appeal. Says McCambridge: “So far the formula seems to be working: 3 of our first 5 books have been mentioned in The Guardian newspaper in England and bloggers from Scotland to Australia have picked up on what we’re doing and praised our ‘intriguing light reads.’”

With these award-winning publishers—just two examples of the innovative work in the world of Canadian literary translations—Canadian publishing remains a creative, varied, and thriving world that LAC strives to collect and preserve for readers now and in the future. To see what else LAC has in its collections, try our new search tool at: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/lac-bac/search/all.

Liane Belway is the Acquisitions Librarian for English monographs in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

The literary season has just wrapped up; did you see it go by?

By Euphrasie Mujawamungu

In early autumn or more likely in late summer,
Before the birds—great and small—pull up stakes and fly south,
Well before Parliament resumes sitting,
And on the eve of the back-to-school rush,
While some employees are still enjoying the sun,
The new literary season magazine appears,
Awaited by bookshops, readers … and especially librarians,
Not to herald the falling leaves, oh no—
New releases, new novels, new poems, new ways of doing things, and more.

Publishers release most of their books during this period, to put themselves in a strong sales and marketing position. Those few months before the end-of-year holidays give readers the chance to shop and to benefit from the recommendations of other book lovers for holiday gifts. This is also when avid readers stock up on their literary supplies so they can curl up with good books during the fall and winter.

This is the time when publishers and bookshops suggest lists of candidates for various awards, as most of these are handed out in the fall. Books that win awards or are named “staff picks” are in high demand among readers; another reason not to miss the literary season!

It bears mentioning that according to the provisions of the Library and Archives of Canada Act, all publications, regardless of medium or form, must be legally deposited by their publishers or authors. Legal deposit enables Library and Archives Canada to collect, preserve and make accessible all of Canada’s published documentary heritage.

Colour photo of a book cart with two copies of each book.

A book cart with new releases.

Many publishers and authors meet their legal deposit obligations when their publications are released. Consequently, the Legal Deposit team receives more publications in the fall than during other times of the year.

Just imagine the passion of the authors, the enthusiasm of the bookshops, the excitement of the readers!

Books in all formats have a place of prominence—the library—cared for by a devoted staff!

Our contact information:

Legal Deposit
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0N4

Telephone: 819-997-9565
Toll free (Canada): 1-866-578-7777 (Select 1+7+1)
Toll free (TTY): 1-866-299-1699
Fax: 819-997-7019

bac.Depotlegal-LegalDeposit.LAC@canada.ca (Physical or Analogue Legal Deposit)
bac.Depotlegalnumerique-DigitalLegalDeposit.LAC@canada.ca (Digital Legal Deposit)
bac.archivesweb-webarchives.LAC@canada.ca (Web Harvesting)

Euphrasie Mujawamungu is an acquisitions librarian with the Legal Deposit team in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.