Gatineau, May 29, 2011
To the Canadian Association of University Teachers:
This is further to Council minute 17(g) (2011-05) pertaining to "CAUT Campaign to Protect Library and Archives Canada – Backgrounder". There are several errors, misconceptions and misappropriations in this backgrounder which need to be corrected and rectified. While Library and Archives Canada (LAC) recognizes that some may not agree with the direction it is taking, it is LAC’s position that CAUT, as well as anyone endorsing this campaign, must commit to verifying the facts upon which it is based before providing any information to the public.
Failure to do so amounts to disinformation.
Deputy Heads appointed over the past four decades come from various professions authors, university professors or historians, etc. A minority of them were either trained archivists or librarians. Dr. Caron holds a master’s degree in economics and a Ph.D. in Human applied Sciences with a dissertation in Canadian Studies. Dr. Caron is a career federal civil servant who has spent 29 years serving in various federal departments and has taught at Concordia University, University of Ottawa, ENAP (Québec, Montréal and Gatineau campuses) and Université du Québec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue in public administration.
Library and Archives Canada can boast of being the employer of one of the most highly educated workforces in the Government of Canada.
At the Assistant Deputy Minister level (all members of Management Board):
At the Director General level:
A significant proportion of directors at LAC hold master’s or Ph.D. degrees in archival sciences, library sciences or history. Many LAC executives continue to publish in professional journals, write books, lecture in universities and speak at professional conferences. Some are recognized as international experts in their fields.
Services at LAC have in fact been expanded. Hours have remained the same and LAC archivists and librarians provide over-the-phone, in person and written support to researchers. While many other archival institutions and libraries charge for research services, LAC still provides about two hours of free staff time to clients who send written requests. On-site staff will spend the requisite amount of time to support clients who come to LAC for research. Specialized reference services are still provided when reference archivists and librarians are unable to help clients.
Furthermore, LAC has improved its services in order to allow researchers to register, order materials and prepare their visit in a more efficient manner. Digitization of finding aids allows researchers to locate records before their visit. LAC now provides digital copies to researchers (by far the preferred delivery mechanism) and allows researchers to use digital cameras in the reading rooms. Deliberate digitization of complete fonds or series increases the accessibility of these records for researchers and demands for digitized materials are increasing daily. Not only does this practice allow for more convenient access, it protects the originals from frequent handling, a priority for LAC, as the institution is dedicated to the preservation of delicate and important documentary heritage.
Since 2009, LAC has committed to renewing its service model from a one-size-fits-all service to a multi-tiered approach based on the complexity of requests. This service renewal will be fully transparent for all Canadians.
There have been no major cuts to the acquisitions sector. Staffing levels for librarians and archivists have remained stable over the last several years. Purchases of library and archival material have always represented a minor percentage of overall acquisitions, a situation which has not changed in recent years. In terms of quantities of acquisitions, legal deposit, acquisition of government records and private records acquisitions have not diminished in any significant way. An examination of acquisition statistics, as reported in LAC’s Report on Plans and Priorities, demonstrates that LAC has not acquired less material in the last few years. From the perspective of quality, LAC has made a number of key acquisitions in the last few years, including the records of former Members of Parliament, judges and important Canadian personalities. LAC has signed records disposition authorities with many government departments; legal deposit of publications has proceeded as usual. LAC seriously questions what is meant by ‘’major cuts’’, and would like to understand the evidence on which CAUT bases its statement that the quality of the collection has been compromised.
Modernization has not led to any major cuts and poses no threat to the integrity of the collection. This interpretation appears to stem from a deep misunderstanding of modernization’s objectives. Faced with a changing environment, growing expectations from its wide and varied clientele, increasing document production, the modernization initiative is meant to find pragmatic solutions to issues which could call into question the relevance not only of LAC, but of all documentary heritage institutions. LAC’s enabling legislation empowers it to consider these challenges and to adapt as it sees fit for the benefit of its present and future users. This is the purview of LAC management.
The LAC Act does not require it to be a total archive or, in plain language, to acquire the full documentary heritage of Canada. LAC has never done this and is not a storehouse of information: it is part of a large and dynamic network of libraries and archives which are responsible for collecting the documentary heritage of Canada. Within this network, LAC plays a key role: it manages the legal deposit program and is tasked with being the memory of the federal government. It is only as an addition to these two core programs that LAC may complete its collection by acquiring documentary heritage that reflects what is important and valuable in Canadian society.
Notwithstanding the fact that LAC never instituted an acquisition moratorium for either one of its two core programs, LAC seriously questions CAUT‘s assertion that a 10-month moratorium on purchases has caused gaping holes in its holdings.
LAC announced that, as of 2017, it would only acquire digital records from government departments. This applies to government records produced as of 2017. LAC has never issued any statement to the effect that it would digitize all of its holdings by a certain date.
Individual files are not removed from their fonds once digitized. Digitized files are linked to fonds and series descriptions, therefore maintaining context.
LAC’s clients have almost universally expressed the desire to see the organization digitize more material in order to make it more accessible from coast to coast. Digitization is an accepted practice in all archival institutions that want to make their materials more accessible. For students or citizens without the means to afford a trip to Ottawa, this represents an ideal mechanism by which archival materials may be consulted remotely.
Digitization renders clients increasingly autonomous. Despite this fact, there has been no reduction of specialized reference services at LAC since it began its digitization efforts.
LAC’s digitization efforts are mainly geared towards providing greater access. It should be noted that no original record has ever been destroyed after being digitized. At the same time, in the case of fragile analog records, digitization may be the only way to preserve formats that are disappearing either due to handling or simply because they were not intended to survive for long periods of time. While the stability and accuracy of electronic records is a major preoccupation for LAC, it is a reflection of the times we live in and the records we create. However, LAC is still fully committed to the preservation of its analog resources unless digitization is a last resort preservation strategy.
With about 800 archives and more than 2000 libraries in Canada, it is only natural that LAC is looking for partnership opportunities across the country. Failure to engage this vast community would be highly detrimental to the preservation of Canada’s documentary heritage and would to perpetuate the myth that LAC has been collecting Canada’s entire documentary heritage.
Many institutions have approached LAC in the past to repatriate records of importance to specific regions, areas where they will have the greatest use. These regional documentary heritage institutions wish to serve their clients more efficiently. While LAC agrees that some researchers located close to Ottawa may suffer from these transfers, moving certain records will benefit and support the work of entire regions of researchers and clients.
Over the past three years, LAC has launched more consultation exercises than ever in its recent history. These included a national tour of stakeholders by Dr. Caron as well as two stakeholder and two academic forums. Moreover, a fact-finding exercise was done by two eminent members of the professional communities (Paul McCormick and Terry Cook) to gather information on how LAC can improve the delivery of its mandate with a spirit of collaboration. Further to all these consultations, LAC will be putting in place a much more systematic and comprehensive approach to consulting clients, stakeholders and the public at large.
As a federal agency proud to uphold Canada’s democratic values, LAC will continue to make diligent use of the resources entrusted to it by Parliament in order to serve all Canadians to the best of its abilities within the boundaries of its mandate. As such, LAC will gladly enter into a dialogue with all interested parties to resolve common issues. For that dialogue to be fruitful, LAC believes that it must be based on verifiable facts. We trust the information found above will help the CAUT review its position on this matter.
Library and Archives Canada