Saturday, 4 April 2009

LAC's plans and priorities for genealogy

The beginning of April marks the start of a new fiscal year for The Government of Canada. Library and Archives Canada's 2009–2010 Report on Plans and Priorities, Part III of the Estimates, was tabled last week explaining the programs that will be delivered and forming the basis on which Parliament grants departmental funding.

What does it have to say about LAC programs of genealogical relevance? Here are all three extracts from the document that mention genealogy.

1. Reference requests: Clients can make requests for information or to locate records in Reference Services (which includes the Canadian Genealogy Centre) by various channels including telephone, post, email, the LAC website and in-person.

2. LAC will increase the relevance and accessibility of LAC collection and expertise to
Canadians outside the National Capital Region (NCR)
Some 2009-10 actions:
Expand current digitization initiatives and post more items from the LAC collection online;
Develop targeted strategies aimed at groups such as genealogists, multicultural communities and teachers.

3. LAC is developing a corporate research plan to align our research initiatives with corporate priorities; among these activities we will undertake further research with clients in 2009-10. Through a Services Strategy to be completed in 2009-10, we expect to address opportunities linked to the four most common reasons that people seek out items in our collection: genealogical research, academic and educational research, research to establish rights/benefits or to support litigation (veterans' benefits, land claims), and to produce media or cultural industry products (books, films). In 2009-10 LAC will continue to value the advice provided by a volunteer Services Advisory Board representing clients and partners (www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/the-public/pcsab/index-e.html).

The document is light on specifics. For each of the three program activities: Managing the disposition of the Government of Canada records of continuing value; Managing the documentary heritage of interest to Canada; and Making the documentary heritage known and accessible for use; there is a general statement of expected results and specific performance indicators, but no indicator targets.

For "Making the documentary heritage known and accessible for use" the indicators, by client segmant, are: (1) Number of programs, exhibitions, events, digital collections, and web products developed and launched. (2) Number of clients who intend to act on their LAC experience (e.g. read more, learn more, visit again, support LAC). (3) Percentage of clients who agree that access has improved. Not only are there no targets, there's no baseline data shown against which to measure progress!

Elsewhere in the document there are two specifics of interest for genealogists:

(1) The document repeats the promise that "LAC will launch a strategic digitization plan that aims to create up to 30 million digital images of items in our collection between 2009-10 and 2013-14. This will enable us to put those images online for Canadians and users around the world with documentation that will make locating images easier."

30 million images is less than one per Canadian. How does it compare with comparable institutions internationally?

(2) Of concern, as it does not reference records of genealogical value, is the statement that "Canadians (will) have easier access to government records of business or archival value, including in support of their access to information and privacy requests. Disposal of records of no business or archival value eliminates related storage costs. There are records, perhaps old pension records, which although likely of little archival value are genealogically interesting. Will they be lost under the policy?

At some point LAC will be called to answer questions from members of a parliamntary committee examining there Estimates. What questions would you suggest?

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