Hooked on collecting

When Bruce Dancik wanted a good home for his beloved fishing books, he turned to Bruce Peel Special Collections.

By Matt Rea - 08 December 2020

The Dancik Collection features hundreds of fishing books that are of research interest to freshwater biologists, limnologists and ichthyologists as well as to book historians.

There’s no wasted space in the basement room where Bruce Dancik houses his fishing collection. The room is jam-packed with his favourite fishing things: photos, carvings, flies, memorabilia and a library’s worth of angling books. His most prized possessions are housed in that modest room, and that makes him nervous. A fire or a flood could easily wipe out a lifetime’s worth of collecting. 

A couple of years before retiring, Dancik decided he needed a new home for his most valuable pieces, but not just any home would do. He needed to know his books would be repaired, kept safe and also appreciated by other book lovers. A place where the books could live forever.

“That’s every book lover’s dream,” Dancik notes. “That they’re not lost. That they’re kept and used.”

That’s why Dancik turned to the Bruce Peel Special Collections library at the University of Alberta. As a professor emeritus from the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, Dancik already had some familiarity with the library. He was particularly attracted to the level of professional care and repair a special collections library at a major university could provide to his cherished books, ensuring their continued use. 

Since his first donation in 2009, Bruce and his partner, Brenda Laishley, have donated hundreds of rare books to the Bruce Peel Special Collections library, as well as funds to acquire additional angling books for the collection. Altogether, the books in the Dancik Collection give a history of angling and are a valuable resource for the study of ecology and wildlife resource management. They are of research interest to freshwater biologists, limnologists and ichthyologists as well as to book historians in general. 

Though the collection lives at the university, Bruce knows he can see them when he visits, including when the library puts his materials out for public display. It brings him comfort to know his prized possessions are not only safe but also being used by scholars and the general public.

“You know they’re appreciated, you know they’re well-stored,” Bruce says. “And now I’ve got room on my shelves to buy some more books!”