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Audits and Evaluations

Condition of Archival Records in Federal Institutions (CARFI)
Introduction and Background

The Condition of Archival Records in Federal Institutions (CARFI) project is an inter-branch initiative of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) with working group members representing the Government Records Branch, Corporate Management Branch, Care of Collections Branch, and Information Technology Branch. (Endnote 1)

1.1 Impetus for CARFI project

A number of initiatives within LAC led to the formation of the CARFI Working Group in 2006. In particular, there were two primary drivers:

  • The need to respond to the Auditor General's Report on the condition of cultural heritage (November 2003, released February 2004)
  • and
  • The need for clarification of Section 13.3 of the Library and Archives of Canada Act (enacted 21 May 2004)

The Auditor General recommended that the then National Archives of Canada (NA) should implement mechanisms to obtain comprehensive information on the nature and condition of archival heritage, whether it is under their control or not (6.91), because it was found that the NA did not have specific information on the nature or condition of archival records kept on departmental premises or in the Regional Service Centres (6.89).

To address the issues raised in the Auditor General's Report, LAC's Corporate Performance and Information Division prepared a Planning Report to conduct an "Assessment of the Condition of Archival Records in Federal Institutions, Planning Report" in July 2005. (See Annex A for a copy of this report.) The methodology outlined in this plan involved a documentation review, interviews with departmental officials at LAC and in federal institutions, and a survey of records in federal institutions. The information gathered as a result of this assessment would then become the basis for LAC's response to the Auditor General.

Shortly after the release of the Auditor General's Report, the new Library and Archives of Canada Act (LAC Act) came into force. Section 13.3 of the Act gives additional powers to the Librarian and Archivist of Canada:

If the government records referred to in subsection (1) are, in the opinion of the Librarian and Archivist of Canada at risk of serious damage or destruction, the Librarian and Archivist may require their transfer in the manner and at the time that the Librarian and Archivist specifies.

In January 2006, the then Government Archives Division (GAD) acknowledged that although LAC had some knowledge of "records at risk" because of its Government Records Appraisal and Disposition (GRAD) Program, this knowledge was not comprehensive for all archival records of the Government of Canada in all media. Richard Brown, the Director of GAD, recommended the undertaking of a comprehensive multi-media Impact Study to address the policy and program issues regarding section 13.3 of the LAC Act.

1.2 Addressing the Issue of "Records at Risk"

Although LAC has discussed the issue of risk, it has never defined risk to archival records in federal institutions in any qualitative or quantitative way. The CARFI project was primarily tasked with obtaining information concerning the condition of archival records in federal institutions and to identify the risk factors. The CARFI Project determined the nature of risk principally through the development of a survey questionnaire.

1.3 Development of the Survey Questionnaire and an On-line Version

The main focus of the CARFI Working Group during 2006/2007 was the development of a survey questionnaire to obtain an overview of the condition of archival records in the Government of Canada (GC). The survey questions covered three main areas:

  • general requirements for recordkeeping;
  • specific criteria for storage and handling; and
  • requirements for specific media including text (paper), electronic, microform, photographs, maps, plans and technical drawings, audio-video, art, and motion picture film.

To facilitate the completion of the survey, the questionnaire was developed as an electronic survey. (Endnote 2)

Decima Research was contracted to program and manage the data collection of the survey for the CARFI project. (Endnote 3) The questionnaire was launched as an electronic survey to a select group of Government of Canada institutions on 22nd February 2007. The on-line data collection period ended on 24th March 2007, at which time Decima forwarded the data file to LAC.

The CARFI project continued to receive surveys in paper and Microsoft Word versions from survey participants until 7 May 2007. All the results of the surveys received were incorporated into the analysis of the survey data for this report.

1.4 Formation of an Advisory Group

The CARFI Working Group held consultations inside and outside of LAC to assist the development and testing of its questionnaire. In December 2006, the Working Group established an Advisory Group consisting of records management representatives from eight federal institutions:

  • Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
  • Correctional Services Canada
  • Department of Finance
  • Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Department of National Defence (Endnote 4)
  • Privy Council Office
  • Public Works and Government Services Canada
  • Transport Canada, and
  • Treasury Board Secretariat

The Advisory Group provided advice and comments on the content of the questionnaire, and tested the electronic version of the survey prior to its launch. The advice has been important to the CARFI project because of the valuable feedback on the feasibility of the project and also for the Group's contribution to the project report. (See Annex B (link) for Advisory Group Terms of reference.)

1.5 Survey Methodology

The survey was the primary means through which LAC collected data from a stratified sample of 61 federal institutions (Endnote 5). GC institutions were selected to participate in the survey based on the size of the institution (small, medium and large) and the media types identified in the specific Records Disposition Authorities (RDAs) which combined to form part of the stratified sample. Included in the sample were 210 RDAs which were selected on the basis of media type and representativeness of the Office of Primary Interest, Location, Size, Status of Authority, and Age of Authority. The results of the survey were intended to be a snapshot, of the condition of archival records in the Government of Canada: that is, to provide an overview and a baseline of information which when combined with other data would form the basis of the LAC response to the Auditor General.

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