Monday, 1 October 2007

LAC funding decreases underlie service cuts

An open letter from Craig Heron, President of the Canadian Historical Association to Ian Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, was posted as a comment on this site last week. Folks remain upset about Library and Archives Canada's reduction in service hours imposed at the beginning of September. The issue made Saturday's Globe and Mail.

The article points out further budget cuts LAC is anticipating. "Meanwhile LAC's total spending on managing Canada's documentary heritage, currently estimated at $119-million (2007-08), is projected to drop by $20-million to $99-million by 2010, according to Treasury Board estimates."

Government funding is declining, but those figures are misleading. Check them out for yourself in Table 1 here. There's a one time spending blip in 2007-08. When I asked about it a couple of weeks ago I was informed the extra money is earmarked for the National Portrait Gallery.

Reports are that the Gallery, in the former US Embassy across from Parliament, may never happen. Another hit on our history. Instead the building is being eyed as an elite diplomatic reception hall, Stephen Harper's "Great Hall of the People."

Ignoring the 2007-08 blip, LAC's expenditures for "Making the documentary heritage known and accessible for use" were $29-million in 2006-07 and are forecast to decline to $28-million in 2008-09 and 2009-10. Inflation continues to erode the spending power of the declining allocation. It's no wonder service is declining.

One last thing, since the cut in hours LAC security staff have been facing irate clients, especially from out of town, finding the facilities closed. Frustration at the change is understandable, but that shouldn't be taken out on the security or other client service staff, many of whom are as unhappy with the reduced service as the clients.

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