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13 February 2007

500,000 Books and CDs are Buried in a Landfill Deliberately by the City of Longueuil, Québec

La Presse

Tuesday, 13 February 2007
by Émilie Côté

500 000 livres au dépotoir

Paul Saindon, in front of the landfill site at Saint-Nicéphore where his 500,000 books and 30,000 CD disques were dumped.
Photograph Robert Mailloux,

La Presse


Blogaulaire was book picking in a 'friperie'. He began discussing 'better' places (better prices)with the only other customer, a man searching titles next to him on the next shelf over. And then the guy told him about all these books being trashed on the South Shore, near Longueuil, Québec. So I am blogging this horrible story.

Yes, it is horrible and the City of Longueuil did not have to destroy this huge stock of music, literature, history . . . and who knows what other documentary treasurers! The city had possession of the material, the city was storing the entire lot on city property and decided, through its ultimate domain (and ignorance) to trash everything!

Paul Saindon had a bookstore on Chambly Road in Old Longueuil with a floor-space of 4,600 square feet. Saindon himself (Blogaulaire never visited it) describes the local as a bookmans 'Ali Baba Cave'. As is typical, the landlord raises the rent 25% after the first 5 years of operation and the bookstore owner finds cheaper digs, but smaller; in fact so small he cannot accomodate his stock.

The collection, which runs the gamut from the mid 19th centure to today and includes all the highs and lows of North American literature as well as music - - with all the greats of Québec culture represented in multiple editions and formats - - is left to the whims of an unsympathetic landlord and a city administration uncertain of its role, uncertain of anything it seems.

The city did pressure Saindon to claim his property after putting it in storage. When Saindon could not find a buyer and was unable to come into the municipal warehouse with enough helpers to sort the books, according to the City Clerk, nonprofit cultural associations in the area were offered the books free of charge.

The whole story suddenly becomes confused and cloudy. Interviews to track down who was offered what by whom seem full of contradiction. It does appear that Saindon was making an honest effort to save the collection by contacting community centres, cultural groups, probably the municipal libraries.

Whoever did or did not refuse the collection (which was a total mass of tumbling piles by now) the final decision was taken and acted upon. Everything was dumped like so much rotting refuse into the Saint-Nicéphore landfill dump and is now utterly beyond salvation.

Everything was carted off on January 29, 2007, which is close to the date that on the north side of the St. Lawrence River, Montreal was throwing George Butcher out of his apartment for stockpiling nearly 15,000 books and documents in his home. See the article HERE.

There is nothing yet that I can offer as a conlusion or summary to these stories. These situations are both personal and collective challenges in this and probably in your own community. I blog the news; I invite discussion. I will pick up this thread again.

Consider using the Google Language Tool to read the La Presse article in English if you find wading through the French text onerous. Just copy the address url of the title of this post into the 'Translate this page on the web' box under the language page options offered by Google. Most of the translation will be useful. Just prepare yourself for half a dozen 'false friends' between English and French. A couple phrases are real gems (I tried it) and you will have at least one hoot while you cry over the tragedy of this heritage being destroyed totally by mindless boobs who are paid by the public purse.


Neath said...

It s very disturbing to think that a community in this day and age could actually have a chain of command on an issue that allows 500,000 books and 30,000 CD's go in the garbage.

Looking forward to hearing more about this!


Blogaulaire said...

Hi neath: I think matters are getting worse 'in this day and age' regarding the preservation of any heritage whatsoever. Once it was possible to borrow the photo collection on Verdun's past and exhibit it at Black Rock. Today, it would require a whole series of meetings and a byzantine chain of command. The libraries are not allowed to buy books from any but the authorised suppliers who are licensed (assuring a percent of stock in Québec-published authors, et cetera).

Elected and appointed officials make everyone jump through hoops, while a senator or cabinet-level politican hands out discretionary funds to cronies at will (plus the whole sponsorship scandal). Our bibliotheque nationale looks as much like a bunker as the PM's bunker does, both with guards at the doors.

If we ask the city hall types why the bookstore stock was not donated to the Sally Ann or to Renaissance, do you think they would have an answer? Maybe they don't want to see the low-rent charity sector expand - if they take a look, the strictly commercial vendors are having trouble competing with the dollar stores and reduced price outlets.

BTW, it looks like Paul Saindon was not and is not selling books on-line. At ABE no one is there from Longueuil, though from Chambly there is an active bookdealer and a dealer in genealogical material is on ABE from Brossard. I would bet, though, that people on-line use Saindon as a supplier and have an idea about the documents that have just been destroyed.