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Audits and Evaluations

Assurance Report: Processes to Promote and Make Documentary Heritage Available

Findings and Recommendations


Criteria: An effective governance structure is established to promote and make documentary heritage available.

Finding: The governance structure in place during the assurance engagement period went through some changes that affected its effectiveness. Specifically, the current strategy to promote and make documentary heritage available did not fully address the intent of the LAC Act as it did not adequately provide access and make documentary heritage known to Canadians and to anyone with an interest in Canada. Moreover, the current RDS planning regime and organizational structure does not provide an effective accountability framework for all of the sector’s activities. Finally, the organization was proactive in seeking feedback from stakeholders and users of its services and in leveraging collaborative opportunities. However, these actions were limited to the current client base.

Our assessment of the governance structure was based on the presence of the following elements: strategic direction, objectives and work plans supporting the strategic direction, clear roles and responsibilities, and finally, evidence that planning is driven by client interests and requirements.

The 2011-2012 Report on Plans and Priorities states: “Resource Discovery supports a client focus approach that enables Canadians to explore and interact with the collection LAC manages in trust for Canada”.

The report also indicates that “Under modernization, LAC is exploring how best to facilitate access to Canadians documentary heritage by the largest number of people”.

To facilitate the achievement of this objective, LAC is looking at a pan-Canadian and whole of society approach that includes use of LAC’s online facilities and digitization and collaboration with others to organize exhibitions and programming events at sites across Canada. The use of non-technical language to describe the items in the LAC collection will also facilitate access by more people.

LAC facilities and collections have been accessed and used by a small segment of the Canadian population, mostly members of academia, lawyers, historians and researchers, through LAC’s website, reference and reproduction services, exhibitions as well as some of the partnering activities related to exhibitions and services. The LAC website is also used by Canadians who are searching their ancestry or are interested in the digitized collection of the Portrait Gallery of Canada. A survey conducted by LAC approximately three years ago concluded that, while 20% of Canadians are familiar with LAC’s mandate, less than 2% know about the services it offers. These figures compare to those released by the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States. The LAC website should be more client-focused to encourage client participation. During the assurance engagement period, LAC website home page was clustered with a combination of corporate matters, collection information and activities for promoting documentary heritage.

The LAC 2007 Access Policy Framework that defined access as the “primary driver” and LAC’s commitment to provide, “whenever possible, free and open access to its rich heritage collection” was never operationalized. LAC has since recognized the need to implement an access strategy through its modernization initiatives.

Under MII 8, the RDS is responsible for developing a new service model to provide Canadians with access to its documentary holdings today and in the future. The premise is that all incoming material will be openly and immediately discoverable and accessible and that all government documents must eventually be accessible. The sector has undertaken steps to achieve this objective. In August 2011 an Access Policy Framework was discussed at the Management Board meeting. The document defined the core principles underpinning the policy as well as an assessment of the options and risks involved. The RDS is also developing a new Service Delivery Model, which was discussed at the Management Board meeting in October 2011.

A review report on Governance of Service Delivery, issued in May 2010, by the internal audit function, made recommendations regarding the Services Advisory Board and Services Committee. These two advisory bodies, which were in place to ensure that LAC’s strategies are appropriately and effectively citizen-focused, were: dismantled in the fall of 2010. Instead of establishing another advisory body, it was decided to use the Stakeholders Forum, as part of the external engagement strategy (MII1), under the responsibility of the Director General, Stakeholder Relations, during the modernization period.

There is a need to ensure that a new access strategy respecting the overall intent of the LAC Act, to make the collections accessible to Canadians and to anyone with an interest in Canada and to respond to the needs of current and future users, is implemented and supported by a robust and time-sensitive action plan and by an appropriate governance structure.

Recommendation 1:

The Resource Discovery Sector should complete the development of its global access strategy designed to respect the intent of the LAC legislation and to meet the current and future needs of Canadians. This strategy should be supported by an appropriate governance structure and by an Implementation Plan that will clearly set accountabilities and timeframe.

Management Response:

Agreed. On November 28, 2011, Management Board approved the new Service Delivery Action Plan which includes an implementation plan, accountabilities and deadlines. The Action Plan is based on the four principles stated in the Access Policy Framework:

  1. Documentary heritage must be discoverable—meaning that LAC communicates essential information about a documentary heritage resource, in the form of metadata, user-contributed content, or other contextual description;
  2. Documentary heritage must be available—meaning that LAC addresses legal or policy constraints to ensure that documentary heritage can be consulted as soon as possible;
  3. Documentary heritage must be accessible—meaning that LAC ensures that its holdings can be used by as many people as possible, including Canadians with print disabilities;
  4. Discovery must be supported by collaboration—for example, LAC is collaborating with the Library of Congress on a global initiative to establish a new bibliographic framework to better serve its clients.

In 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, senior management asked sectors to give priority to innovation projects. Therefore, the regular planning cycle was interrupted in all sectors to focus instead on MII priorities.

The RDS developed charters for the MIIs under their responsibility, which provided high-level estimates for resources and deliverables. However, these were not integrated with the on-going activities of the sector. Consequently, the RDS planning process was incomplete and the RDS did not submit operational work plans for the fiscal year 2011-2012.

Historically, planning was done independently by the directorates of the sector resulting in inconsistencies in process and a lack of coordination and integration between plans.

A more comprehensive and integrated planning process fostering coordination would ensure that resources are allocated to the higher risk areas throughout the sector. It would also enhance the accountability framework by increasing the ability to measure performance against clear objectives, work plans and deliverables.

Effective governance also requires an accountability regime based on clear roles and responsibilities. The organizational structure is based on the current service model, which is under revision, and it does not clearly allocate responsibility for deliverables and outcomes. Even during a transition period, mechanisms should be in place to ensure that roles and responsibilities are clear in terms of performance and results.

The RDS has recognized these deficiencies and is developing a new organizational structure and an integrated planning regime, in collaboration with relevant corporate functions. This planning format will allow the measurement of set performance indicators with expected results and objectives.

Recommendation 2:

The Resource Discovery Sector should finalize and approve its organizational structure to reflect the access strategy under development and implement an integrated planning process to ensure that responsibility for results is clearly assigned and to promote accountability.

Management Response:

Agreed. The re-organization of the Resource Discovery Sector, announced to staff on June 28, 2011, was intended to be “an internal realignment with a view to deliver on our modernization and access mandates.” This process will be re-examined following the LAC-wide re-organization announced in January 2012.

The mandate of the Engagement and Coordination Office, which reports to the Chief Operating Officer, is to provide integrated sector-level planning functions. Beginning in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, all planning will be fully integrated.

The RDS has developed mechanisms to collect user comments and suggestions via the website, regular mail, on-line surveys as well as survey questionnaires given to visitors on site and public opinion research (POR). These comments, suggestions and data collected from surveys, questionnaires and POR are regularly reported to the sector’s managers via the Quarterly Performance Report.

The organization has also established lines of communication with key stakeholders. Four times since the fall of 2010 LAC has met with participants from the archival, library and research communities to discuss how they can work together to enhance services to users. LAC also participates in conferences organized by national, provincial and territorial archives and library associations and meets regularly with representatives from these groups.

LAC has established a number of collaborative arrangements with provincial governments, universities, historical and archival associations, public and private companies and with other government departments to facilitate the promotion and access to documentary heritage. Examples include the Interlibrary Loan Services, the Portrait Gallery Program, the Ancestry collaborative arrangement and the TD Summer Reading Club.

However, these initiatives are aimed at a segment of the population already familiar with the services that LAC offers and already part of the LAC network. With the main objective of modernization being to make the collection known and accessible to the general Canadian population now and in the future, new and more pro-active instruments will be required to reach and sensitize this potential client pool. In addition, there is a need to ensure that the results of client surveys and consultation processes are formally integrated into planning processes to reflect client expectations. Together with a new organizational structure, this will serve to strengthen the accountability framework.

Recommendation 3:

The Resource Discovery Sector should develop new instruments to identify the needs and interests of the current and future Canadian population.

Management Response:

Agreed. LAC will be undertaking a benchmark survey to progressively better understand the needs and interests of the Canadian population in February 2012. It will deliver statistics on Canadians’ expectations, awareness, perceived value of LAC and their willingness to support LAC’s mandate. The survey will also gauge the attitude of Canadians to LAC’s policies, programs and services.

Recommendation 4:

The Resource Discovery Sector should integrate the results of client surveys and consultation processes into the planning process.

Management Response:

Agreed. Senior managers are involved in all LAC consultations. Management Board members participate in Stakeholder and Academic fora. Each executive leads or co-leads a project of the Pan-Canadian Documentary Heritage Network, which consists of collaborative projects underway with stakeholders.

The results of the routinely-administered client survey “LAC Listens”, including satisfaction rates and analysis, are provided to senior managers regularly in the RDS Quarterly Reports. The client satisfaction rate with Web services is reported by the RDS to LAC senior managers through the Corporate Dashboard. Finally, client satisfaction measures are part of the corporate report to the TBS through a Management Accountability Framework indicator. Client and stakeholder needs, as expressed through consultation and surveys, have influenced the choice of service improvements for many years at LAC, and will continue to do so. Service improvements made during the period under review are announced to the public in a “What’s New” article at:

All survey results will be compiled and circulated to service managers and directors. A comparative analysis will be conducted on survey feedback and service trends to validate results and identify organizational performance issues. The planning documents for fiscal year 2012-13 will include performance measures and management’s assessment of their significance.

In February 2012, a LAC-wide review and subsequent decision is expected regarding performance indicators.

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