Friday, 7 May 2010

LAC downplays Services

How well is LAC doing on digitzation? That was one of the questions posed at the House of Commons Committee on Canadian Heritage on May 4 to LAC representatives during a hearing on the committee study of Emerging and Digital Media: Opportunities and Challenges.

LAC was represented by Daniel J. Caron, Librarian and Archivist of Canada and Jean-Stéphen Piché, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Resource Discovery Sector. (The name change to Resource Discovery Sector was apparantly made on 1 April without any announcement. Is there a message in the disappearance of "Services"?)

Here are some Q/As from the hearing roughly transcribed from the English audio stream.

Q. Where are we at with respect to digitization of documents with respect to other countries?

A. That's a question I can't really dare answer. We're quite advanced though with respect to our library. We have made great progress, but its unequal throughout the world. There are many documents that are produced, and there are strategies for that, but there's not a lot of digitization. What is happenning though is there's an emerging strategy. Something is happenning throughout the country, but I'd say overall we're well positioned.

Q. (with respect to digitization) do you have the necessary funding?

A. Yes, today we have very good support. It's going to be done on a collaborative basis with colleagues so with respect to what we are doing now, I would say that the main challenge will be dealing with digitization. Digital conservation, that is something we will have to confront eventually, but we are working with what we have and we will continue to work on that.

Q. What's the situation with respect to 395 Wellington where I know you've had some real disasters with sprinkler systems that have opened up and endangered our heritage: is that settled?

A. Yes we've worked very closely with Public Works but it's going to be looked at more closely and we want to have an extension of our building in Gatineau. It will be a building with high density shelving and storage and where those documents that could have been damaged will be stored more safely.

Q. You mean the building at 395 Wellington cannot be salvaged?

A. It's not really a site for conservation, it's a site for consultation - it's a reference establishment.


It was refreshing to hear the admission that there's not a lot of digitization going on at LAC, just a lot of studies. It appears there won't be any real digitization without funding partners and with LAC unwilling to devote its own resources, Canada will fall further and further behind countries like the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand marching ahead with impressive newspaper digitization programs.

The announcement that LAC is seeking to extend its conservation facility in Gatineau was news to me. People looking for service at 395 Wellington can expect to have to wait even longer for document delivery as more documents are moved from that building to Gatineau.

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