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Audits and Evaluations

Audit of the Deaccessioning of Private Collections

Executive Summary


The Audit of the Deaccessioning of Private Collections was added to the 2011-2014 Risk-Based Audit Plan at the request of the Deputy Head and Librarian and Archivist of Canada. The field work was conducted from January to August 2011. The objective of the audit was to determine if the governance process and internal control procedures for deaccessioning private collections are adequate and effective and comply with the terms and conditions agreed upon at acquisition.

Deaccessioning is the process of disposing of a private collection or parts of it when it is decided not to acquire the collection following the appraisal process. The decision is made by the staff of the Society and Cultural Expression Branch (SCEB) and it is executed by the staff of the Analogue Preservation Branch.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is currently undergoing a major modernization exercise and several initiatives are under way that will have a major impact on the functions of acquisition and deaccessioning. The audit took place in this changing environment. It concludes on the measures in place during the audit testing period while ensuring that credit and consideration is given to recent and upcoming initiatives.

Observations and recommendations

The LAC authority to acquire and dispose of archival material is clearly stated in the Library and Archives of Canada Act. Although the responsibilities are shared between two branches, the roles are well defined and clearly understood.

The function of deaccessioning is linked to that of acquisition and it is considered to be a by-product of that process. As a result, several elements of an effective governance structure that would normally be in place are non-existent for deaccessioning activities. However, managers indicate that deaccessioning happens as a result of the strategies and policies in place for acquisition. In addition, management considers that the risks attached to deaccessioning are very low. Therefore, there has been no risk assessment of the deaccessioning function. A major impact is that there is currently no assurance that the space and resources expended to house private collections are used in the most efficient way.

The audit recommends that the private collection appraisal and acquisition approach integrate the deaccessioning function so that strategies, work plans and risk factors are developed to ensure that collections are treated on a priority basis and the resulting deaccessioning transactions are conducted consistently and in a timely manner.

There are clear criteria and a formal process is in place for the approval of deaccessioning actions. The deaccessioning actions tested followed the established procedure and all received formal approval.

The delegation of authority for disposition to the Director General, SCEB was not renewed on April 1, 2011. As a result, deaccessioning actions are currently limited. This should be reviewed to ensure effective deaccessioning actions.

Finally, there is a need to ensure that deaccessioning is conducted in accordance with the terms and conditions agreed to with the donor at the time of acquisition as required by the Library and Archives of Canada Act. There is currently no consistency in the way the terms and conditions are captured. This process to determine terms and conditions should be formalized and consistently documented.

Audit conclusion

The audit concludes that there are adequate and effective internal control procedures for deaccessioning private collections. However, a number of governance elements need improvement and policies and procedures need to be formalized to ensure a cohesive disposal approach in compliance with the terms and conditions agreed upon at acquisition.

Statement of Assurance

This audit engagement was planned and conducted to be in accordance with the Internal Auditing Standards for the Government of Canada.

In my professional judgment as Chief Audit Executive, sufficient and appropriate procedures have been conducted and evidence gathered to support the accuracy of the conclusions reached and contained in this report. The conclusions were based on a comparison of the situations as they existed at the time of the audit and against the audit criteria.

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