Friday, 8 July 2011

CAUT renews criticism of LAC

At the end of May I posted LAC attempts to change perception of its services
reporting on LAC`s rebuttal of criticisms by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).

A month later CAUT has responded with an Open Letter to Daniel Caron, Librarian and Archivist of Canada defending its criticism of changes at LAC. Read it here (pdf).

The opening paragraph comments that "it is useful to have this public exchange about LAC under your leadership so that Canadians can become aware of what is happening." That's a sentiment I strongly endorse, while lamenting that the need for such an exchange so evidently demonstrates the deficiencies of LAC's consultation processes.


CAUT acknowledge that in their initial backgrounder they likely did not give appropriate credit for the relevant background of LAC senior management. However, as CAUT states, "the real problem is the specific practices and policies that LAC managers are putting into place." One may question whether LAC management now have a commitment to good archival and library practice, even if they may once have understood them.

LAC's statement that "LAC’s key role extends only to the management of legal deposit and the preservation of the federal government records." is one of the most troubling; a major change. If that had been the mandate in the past there would be no national portrait collection, no Topley collection, no collections of rare books such as the Lowy and L M Montgomery collections, no newspaper collection. It would be an archive of stiled bureaucracy; a library by dint of legislated robbery. 

Would a wise Librarian and Archivist of Canada undertake to implement such major changes, and willingly preside over such a calculated impoverishment of Canada's national documentary heritage, without communicating the challenges imposed by government policy changes, including funding cuts, and without broadly seeking advice from the client community?







2 comments:

DWP said...

"A month later CAUT has responded with an Open Letter to Daniel Caron, Librarian and Archivist of Canada defending its criticism of changes at LAC. Read it here (pdf)."

Is the link 'here' the link intended? It takes one to "News", not to the open letter.

One then needs to click "Issues and Campaigns", then under "What's new" click the link at the end of

"(June 30, 2011) Librarians & Libraries: In an open letter to Daniel Caron, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, CAUT defends its criticism of changes at Library and Archives Canada. [pdf]"

DWP said...

This post contains the following statement:

'LAC's statement that "LAC’s key role extends only to the management of legal deposit and the preservation of the federal government records." is one of the most troubling; a major change.'

In fairness to LAC it should be pointed out LAC did not make that statement. That statement was made by CAUT who claims that LAC contends that LAC’s key role extends only to the management of legal deposit and the preservation of the federal government records. Here are CAUT's exact words:

"In response to CAUT’s concerns regarding the apparent changes to LAC’s mandate, you contend that LAC’s key role extends only to the management of legal deposit and the preservation of the federal government records."

I have not been able to find that contention anywhere in LAC's response. What LAC did state is this:

"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."

Note that LAC states that it plays "a key role". not "the key role".

I take the later use of the word "only" in LAC's statement as an indication of priorities, not an abandonment of other resposibilities. One may argue about changes in priorities, without misquoting or quoting out of context or claiming contentions whose existence is debatable.