Saturday, 25 June 2011

Why is Daniel Caron hiding?

The following item contains opinion.

Daniel J Caron is more than two years into the job of Librarian and Archivist of Canada. We know that as it was announced, and he keeps popping up in press releases.

Yet in two years as far as I can determine Mr Caron has yet to participate in any genealogical event, or meet with the genealogical community, even though genealogists comprise the largest single LAC user group. I would occasionally meet his predecessor in the building at 395 Wellington, even after his office moved to Gatineau. I have never seen Mr Caron there.

At last Monday's annual general meeting of the Friends of LAC Mr Caron did not appear and was represented, as was the case the previous year. FLAC is about as friendly an audience as you could hope for, they all make annual contributions, and many work to fund raise, to support the mission of LAC. But Mr Caron's absence is wearing the patience of even these supporters thin. There were pointed questions from the audience at that meeting, mostly regarding rumours which proliferate in the atmosphere of secrecy which seems to now permeate LAC.

One example of the lack of information dissemination is regarding unavailability of part of the LAC reference collection. Rumours have been circulating about closure of the reference collection, or LAC doing away with consultation. At the FLAC AGM the LAC representative indicated these were because replacement of the sprinkler system that protects that collection is needed, which will require parts of the reference collection being placed in temporary storage. That's information that was in an obscure 2 June notice "Parts of the collection will be temporarily inaccessible for variable periods of time"  - so vague as to be practically useless except as an excuse.

As mentioned at the FLAC AGM, all this contrasts with the situation at the UK National Archives. Just this week the TNA User Advisory Group had its first meeting. It will "provide an opportunity for users of The National Archives to get involved in the organisations planning and decision making process at an early stage and a strategic level." The group has representatives from two genealogical organizations.

Pains were taken to point out that this advisory group does not replace the Forum held regularly on site at TNA and open to all.

In addition TNA's chief executive, Oliver Morley, held a Meet the Keeper event on Thursday 9 June, including availability on Twitter.

No such open consultation, with opportunity for discussion, not just one way broadcasting of information, occurs at LAC.

Mr Caron came in for heavy criticism earlier in the year for having bowed to pressure from the Embassy of Iran in a letter calling on Library and Archives Canada to cancel the screening of the film Iranium. Mr Caron complied, then was forced by Heritage Minister James Moore to reverse that decision in the name of freedom of expression, something Mr Caron does not appear to be particularly keen on.

The saving grace for the organization is the dedication and hard work of the vast majority of LAC's front line service staff.

6 comments:

J. Brian Gilchrist said...

Maybe your question should read - "Why is Daniel Caron being hidden?" and or "Who is hiding Daniel Caron?". Mr. Caron did not address the 2011 Assocaition of Canadian Archivists Conference held in Toronto earlier this month, nor did he address the 2011 Coference of the Canadian Library Association in Halifax in May of this year ... Perhaps he is not well?

JDR said...

Well enough to open the new Nitrate Film Facility!

Also well enough to speak on a panel on National Memory Organizations: Their Role in the Digital Information Environment on 5 May in Montreal for the Association of Research Libraries joint meeting with the Canadian Association of Research Libraries. See Caron's slides at:
http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/mm11sp-caron.pdf

Neither of these events are consultation and being accountable.

J. Brian Gilchrist said...

So, both of those events you mention John are connected to his position and one does have to be selective ... you can only do so much as we all have personal lives on top of our positions. Maybe Mr. Caron;s lack of attendance at the CLA, ACA and the FLAC events were just a matter of timing?

iw.gen said...

A series of photographs taken at the opening of the new Nitrate Film Facility was posted on Flickr by the LAC. There was no caption or explanation with each photo.
Everyone who has researched any aspect of history in an archive or library knows that it is extremely frustrating to find an illustration which has no details about its content. How could LAC not know this ??? Yet they ignore this fact.
A totally unsatisfactory performance. One must wonder whether or not the persons responsible are paid a performance bonus ?

Anonymous said...

So iw.gen, you would prefer no images of the event? This is the Federal Government, they have to provide everything in both English and French, and that takes time and money. I applaud their decision!

Anonymous said...

The new Nitrate facility was a great idea. But now that it is built there is no funding, and nobody works there.

A lot of images in the collection are missing descriptions since the focus is on producing numbers now, to make it look like it's business as usual after the budget cuts, and hoping the public will fill in the missing information (keyword "crowd-sourcing"). Not to mention the archivists who would normally describe the material have almost all been surplused.

Seems to me that Caron is more focused on being active in social media than preserving & collecting our heritage.