Multicultural Initiatives, Strategic Office
Library and Archives Canada
This report summarizes the process and outcomes of Canadian cultural community consultations convened by Multicultural Initiatives, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), between October 2004 and February 2006. During this period, email, telephone and in-person focus groups were used to solicit feedback from members of specific cultural communities and organizations in Canada, as well as library and archival service providers who work with diverse cultural and linguistic communities. The purpose was to capture a current picture of the needs and interests of some of the external communities served by Multicultural Initiatives, and for LAC to use these findings as a guide to better serve all Canadians.
While the consultation process is an essential component of program, service and collection development within Library and Archives Canada, consultation sessions represent an integral relationship-building and outreach activity, the value of which can not be underestimated. The kind of qualitative feedback that emerges from this process helps to extend statistical data and allows for the introduction of a human element that is often lacking in quantitative surveys alone.
Here, this direct approach broadened the scope of feedback and resulted in a snapshot of the program and service offerings communities and professionals would like to see from Library and Archives Canada. The consultations identified: general attitudes towards archives and libraries, community needs, barriers to access, and the relative awareness of LAC as an institution within communities of interest.
It must be acknowledged that it is only through the participation of those who took the time to offer genuine and considered responses that such a picture could be established. It is hoped that participants will see their ideas and input reflected here.
"The principle driving consultation is a simple, straightforward one that acknowledges the value of communicating between the service providers and those for whom the service is proposed."1
2.1.1 Background: Setting the Stage for Consultation
The consultation process of Multicultural Initiatives follows from broader consultations conducted with Canadians in the process of transforming the former National Library of Canada and former National Archives of Canada into Library and Archives Canada, a single, innovative knowledge institution designed to reflect and serve all Canadians. On May 21, 2004, the Act to establish Library and Archives Canada was proclaimed and a new knowledge institution for Canada was formally created.
During the implementation phase of the subsequent transformation, the process of building relationships with LAC clients and stakeholders has been a primary focus and an emphasis on the client remains paramount.
In 2004, Library and Archives Canada carried out a broad consultation with its stakeholders about the strategic directions proposed for the new institution. A consultation paper, Creating a New Kind of Knowledge Institution: New Directions for Library and Archives Canada,2 provided an overview of the proposed directions for the new institution and posed questions to stakeholders. This document was made available on the LAC Web site in June 2004, and approximately 150 groups were invited specifically to comment on it via telephone, email, Web form or regular post.
With some stakeholder communities, there were additional, specific issues upon which LAC wished to consult. In these cases, Library and Archives Canada adopted a layered consultation approach, whereby the opportunity to provide written response about the strategic directions was supplemented by consultation sessions, focus groups or interviews.
For example, interviews with representatives of the publishing community were conducted that focused primarily on proposed changes to the legal deposit regulations.3 Likewise, sessions were held in every province and territory with representatives of the archival community. These sessions with archives representatives allowed for targeted discussion about the renewal of the existing grants and contributions program for that community, as well as more general discussion of the strategic directions for the new institution.
Library and Archives Canada's effort to consult with stakeholders is being complemented by a broad study of users and usage that is currently underway. LAC recognizes, however, that the effort to better know and understand users' needs will be an ongoing one as LAC pursues its strategic goal to have a clear and constant focus on the client.
Ensuring that Canadian cultural communities are both represented in the collections and served well by LAC programs and services is a priority enshrined in the Library and Archives Canada legislation. In this vein, multiculturalism has been given a high profile in the design of the new organization.
In the foundation document "Directions for Library and Archives Canada" (2004)4, a commitment to reflect the diversity and experiences of all Canadians was articulated:
"[LAC wants to] contribute meaningfully to the quality of life of Canadians of all ages, from all cultures and regions" (5).
"Canadians must be able to find their own communities' heritage and culture within our collection. They must see themselves, their past, in what we hold. We will increase our efforts to ensure Aboriginal and multicultural communities' documentary heritage, especially that which represents their experience within Canadian society, becomes better represented in our collection" (Ibid).
In this context, ongoing consultation work involves outreach to and participation from diverse community members and organizations in Canada with the purpose of strengthening relationships and awareness on both sides.
Within Library and Archives Canada, Multicultural Initiatives champions and coordinates the integration of multiculturalism across sectors and helps to establish relevant strategic directions for the institution. As an advocate for diverse communities, the unit ensures that both multicultural and multilingual perspectives are incorporated in the development and delivery of LAC policies, programs, services and collections. Multicultural Initiatives works in collaboration with cultural communities and associations, archival and library networks, language and cultural centres and other organizations that share common interests to coordinate programs, collections and services that are responsive to the interests of diverse communities.5
Consultations are used within the Multicultural Initiatives domain to facilitate better understanding of the needs and interests of cultural communities and service providers. Direct input from the communities that Multicultural Initiatives attempts to engage and serve is essential in determining LAC program, service, and collection orientations. The consultation process is also necessary to assess the efficacy of current initiatives and most importantly, to identify those who could be addressed but who are currently underserved by Library and Archives Canada. Often, these sessions represent a "first contact" and foster the foundation of long-term collaborative relationships; other times, they serve to extend existing relationships. Ultimately, focus group sessions of this nature help to foster dialogue and encourage diverse client participation in helping to shape a knowledge institution that belongs to all Canadians.
2.2.1 Consultation Structure and Highlights
Between October 2004 and February 2006, the Multicultural Initiatives unit undertook consultation sessions in three principal streams:
Each of these consultations facilitated two-way learning: 1) they enabled Library and Archives Canada to glean more about the needs and interests of cultural communities and those who work directly with these clients in public library and archival settings; and 2) they introduced communities and service providers to the LAC collections, programs and services being developed to better serve all Canadians, particularly members of traditionally underserved communities.
1. Library Board of Victoria [Australia]. (2001). Responding to our diversity: Multicultural library service guidelines for Victoria public libraries. Accessed January 12, 2006, from:
2. Here after, Directions for Library and Archives Canada (draft release, 2004), available at:
3. Legal deposit is the mechanism that requires Canadian publishers to submit copies of their publications to Library and Archives Canada. This is the means by which a comprehensive national collection can be gathered. For more information, see: www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/services/legal-deposit/Pages/legal-deposit.aspx
4. A final version (2006) of the original draft document is available at: [www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/about-us/directions-for-change/index-e.html]