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Final Report for Clearing the Path to More Accessible Government Records

1. Executive Summary

The Clearing the Path Project began as a project funded through LAC's Innovation Fund. It was made an Assessment Project in order to focus on sharing the benefits with Government of Canada institutions as well as Library and Archives Canada. The initial scope of the project was to destroy 1200-1500 metres of non-archival records, therefore freeing up valuable vault space for archival records. The early success of the project allowed senior management to expand the scope to encompass the disposition of 15,000-21,000 containers (or 5000-7000 metres). The project met that goal, identifying approximately 5000 metres for disposition, either through destruction or return to the creating institution. The disposition of these records meant annual savings of $178,000 in O & M cost for the building.

Records which were kept were processed to permanent and better finding aids were created, making them more accessible to government institutions and the public alike. The project also began to focus on the development of procedures and tools to help ensure that similar records no longer came to LAC, concentrating on tightening Records Disposition Authorities and creating Application Guides.

2. Overview

The Clearing the Path project was initiated to ensure that LAC acquires, preserves and makes available only the best archival records of the Government of Canada. The objectives of the project were to identify and destroy records identified as non-archival, and to make the remaining records that LAC would keep more accessible through creation of more complete electronic finding aids. The project employed a targeted approach to the destruction of non-archival records currently in LAC's holdings and developed a methodology for the identification and destruction of government records with no archival value.

The first phase of the project focused on those government records accumulated by LAC over time. Many were acquired through the process of selective retention, which allowed archivists to transfer records while delaying the final decision on what had archival value. Others arrived through weak disposition tools, such as inadequate, misinterpreted, or out of date RDAs, which resulted in the acquisition of non-archival records. The Project identified and analyzed potential records in our holdings, reviewing them in terms of the available disposition tools, including more recent authorities as well as MIDAs.

In its first 6 months the Clearing the Path Project was able to identify more than five kilometres of non-archival records for disposition, thus freeing up valuable space for the acquisition of information assets of higher archival value. The same process made the archival records more accessible to all Canadians and the future focus will be on putting a stop to the acquisition of non-archival material. A monitoring system will be developed and implemented to prevent the transfer of similar non-archival records to LAC in the future.

3. Benefits of the CTP Approach

  • Archival records were made more accessible through creation of appropriate on line description of the remaining records.
  • Cost savings were created as LAC is no longer storing non-archival records.
  • Savings in space with more room for actual archival records.
  • Savings in service - no more unnecessary circulation, reproduction, reference and ATIP requests for non-archival material.
  • A methodology for the efficient destruction of non-archival records will be developed for application to material in Regional Service Centres across Canada and the Government of Canada institutions.
  • Monitoring tools developed as a part of this project will prevent the transfer of non-archival records to LAC in the future.
  • Better disposition tools will enable Government of Canada institutions to better identify and segregate archival from non-archival records.
  • Lessons learned from this project will be used to inform the development of new disposition tools (e.g., new or revised Record Disposition Authorities, Application Guides and transfer guidelines) as well as to provide record keeping advice to government departments.

4. Findings: Statistical information

  • Forty to fifty percent of operational records and 95 percent of the case files identified and processed by the Clearing the Path team had no archival value.
  • Of the records reviewed by the Clearing the Path Project archival and business value records had not been segregated from non-archival records as per LACs current business rules.
  • Records of no archival value were unintentionally transferred to LAC and some RDAs were misapplied by government institutions resulting in large transfers of records with no archival value.
  • Departments had not been using appropriate disposition tools, such as the new Case File MIDA; (LAC must indicate clearly which RDAs should be superseded by the Case File MIDA in order to stop acquiring voluminous records of operational case files.)

Project Charter Objectives:

Disposal of approx. 1,200 to 1,500 metres of non-archival records

ATTAINED: 5,000 metres or 5 kilometres of non-archival records were destroyed, disposed of or returned to responsible institutions

Monitoring tools to prevent the transfer of non-archival material to LAC

In Progress: A new methodology to replace concurrence is being developed. Will be done by end of July 2008

Methodology for the destruction of non-archival material

In Progress: in progress or completed, summarized in the methodology section of this report.

Revised Records Disposition Authorities

New or revised RDAs: CCA RDA to be revised by July 31, 2008

Cost savings by freeing up valuable space in office buildings & private storage

Attained: 5,000 metres of records identified for disposition and moved from permanent stack space where they were occupying two GPC vaults to make permanent, return to creator or destroy. This means approximately $178,000 in annual savings.

More accessible government archival records

Will be attained: 350 metres of records moved to permanent and improved finding aids created

5. Methodology

  • A destruction project is identified either through system research or anecdotal request. Background research is performed in order to establish scope, the department and program involved, and the methodology to be followed.
  • Stakeholders are informed, including creating or responsible institution, the portfolio archivist and section chief, explaining the Clearing the Path project and how it may affect the department in the near future. As much detail as possible about the records identified for review (types of records, where they come from, file block, etc) is given at this time.
  • ATIP Division is also notified to request a status report of any formal or informal ATIP inquiries on the records being processed.
  • A methodology for selection is established.
  • Records are processed, segregated, re-boxed, finding aids created.
  • Destruction letter and disposition memorandum are prepared according to Government Records Branch Procedure C-5.
  • The responsible institution is notified about intended disposition/destruction and given time to respond.
  • If there has been no response from the department, the destruction memorandum will proceed to either the Archival Operations Director of the Librarian and Archivist of Canada
  • If there is a response from the department, negotiations to sort out the final disposition of the records will take place.
  • Destruction of the non- archival records is carried out.
  • The MIKAN system is updated in order to provide electronic access, and new finding aids are made available.
  • A detailed CTP Evaluation Report must be completed for each CTP project. The report will include the following:
    • Description of the records and nature of the project including the reasons the project was necessary
    • Summary of what was kept and destroyed, and under what Authority
    • Project Findings and Lessons Learned
    • Final Recommendations to ensure that no additional records of this nature will be transferred to or accepted by LAC.
  • The Evaluation Report will be provided to the Section Archivist and an Action Plan will be drawn up with the appropriate archivists and managers.

6. Lessons Learned

  • LAC needs to create better RDAs and application guides which are linked to documentation standards to allow government departments to more clearly segregate archival records from non-archival records.
  • Departments have to receive more training on the use of new RDAs and applications guides. Improved monitoring and concurrence processes for government records will ensure that we only acquire archival records from government departments.
  • The retrospective application of approved MIDAs (e.g., the case file MIDA) to records in LAC, Regional Services Centres and departments will allow for the destruction of more non-archival records and help turn off the taps preventing the future acquisition of non-archival records.
  • Better co-ordination and planning between the Clearing the Path team and appraisal and disposition activity will allow us to leverage lessons learned into turning off the taps with government departments.
  • All archivists in AO can apply the lessons learned by being more rigorous and specific in developing new RDAs and Application Guides.
  • Only limited processing work should be completed by contractors until we have had basic agreement between LAC and the responsible department about the work that is being carried out. This will allow us more flexibility to either destroy the records or return them to a responsible institution immediately following processing. A clear understanding between LAC and the department will ensure that both parties are comfortable with the disposition decisions before any resources are spent on the project.

7. Costing

Funding for this project was shared between Archival Operations Division, Government Records Branch and the Innovation Fund.

Salary Resources required Cost
  5 archivists for 6 months $150,000
  4 archival assistants for 6 months $100,000
  2 clerical staff for six months $40,000
O & M equipment $1,400
  Contract staff $150,000
Total   $441,000

8. Recommendations for Future CTP Projects

Next year the project should focus on Clearing the Path in Regional Services Centres in order to reduce space pressures and to make regional archival records more accessible to Canadians as well as to their creating agencies. Focusing on Regional Service Centres will also allow us to turn off the taps and craft disposition documents more effectively to prevent non-archival records from being transferred to LAC.

9. Appendix A: Summary Report of Work Completed by Department

Appendix A

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