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Webcast: Videos and transcripts of the Panel Discussion, December 3, 2008

Closing speech by Mr. Ian E. Wilson


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--- Beginning of the presentation

MR. WILSON: Well, thank you.

I want to thank our speakers this morning for their inspiration, their reflection as to where we have been, the reminder that it has been a long time wait (102 years) and it's time we, in terms of library (the Canadian Library Association, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Library and Archives Canada), do in fact deliver on the promise and on the expectation.

I also want to add one thing I was reminded of Monday evening when I was speaking at the University of British Columbia about efforts to digitize. I think one of Paul Whitney's colleagues was there that evening. He reminded us, through me, to the whole library community that as we put more material online we have to make sure all of that is fully accessible to everyone who wants to use it.

And that, I think, will be a challenge as we go forward with increasing amounts of Canadian content being placed online. How do we ensure that accessibility?

The other thing you might pick up from the comments here this morning – and I am not sure we planned it for lunch today or not – is the importance of the four or five Martini lunches in terms of inspiring action and moving things forward.

--- Laughter

MR. WILSON: I am sure Roch is willing to buy –

--- Laughter

MR. WILSON: -- if we can find the appropriate caterer.

But it does seem to be a theme here, and it has brought us to this point and resulted in, I think, some great cooperative action among the various groups involved in working with government and now in moving us forward.

Because, by promoting equitable library service and access to information in multiple formats for people with print disabilities, this strategy can pave the way for millions of Canadians to participate fully in the knowledge economy.

This participation in turn means that our country grows as a free and democratic society, not to mention improving the quality of life for so many of our fellow citizens.

The purpose of the Initiative for Equitable Library Access is to promote equitable and sustainable access to library services. We have asked Library and Archives Canada to develop a national strategy, while also estimating its costs, on partnerships, activities and services for meeting print-disabled Canadians' long-term information-access and library needs.

The strategy will establish ways to improve access to information and documents in alternative formats and include the implementation options associated with their promotion, sponsorship, production and distribution. It will also present the detailed options and cost protection related to equitable library access, and it will examine measures with which other government levels or external partners can support sustainable access.

A lot of work has been going on by our staff here and by others across the country. There are consultations on-going on a regular basis within the library community, with publishers and producers of materials in multiple formats and with the groups that represent people with print disabilities to ensure that we are meeting the needs of all of these partners in this process.

Other key activities include a fully accessible Internet portal to serve as a gateway for information, a set of service models, standards and training materials for use by libraries and an electronic clearing house for multiple format production.

Each of these activities is designed to reduce the disparity between those who can easily access information and those who cannot, and to allow all Canadians to share in the free exchange of knowledge, information and ideas.

We live in a knowledge society. We need to be informed as citizens. This is what democracy is all about.

I would now like to introduce Ralph Manning – tireless, phenomenal energy, phenomenal commitment to this cause – who will give you some further details about the Initiative for Equitable Library Access and describe some of the exhibits in kiosk that are available here.

I hope you will all have time afterwards to get together, to meet each other. There are some extraordinary people in the room today, and I hope you all have a chance to meet, to talk and to look at possibilities.

So, with that, back over to Ralph.

--- Applause

--- Presentation by Mr. Ralph Manning