Thursday, 1 November 2012

Better web service from LAC?

If you've visited the LAC site lately you can hardly miss the notice:

In order to provide you with better service, we are currently redesigning our website. If you have difficulty finding what you are looking for, feel free to contact us.
Library and Archives Canada have now provided this additional information.

"LAC must comply with Common Look and Feel Standards for the Internet—also referred to as CLF 2.0.—which now includes three new Web standards:

4.       Accessibility (ensuring that websites respect internationally accepted guidelines).
5.       Usability (ensuring that websites respect usability principles and approaches, including a standard page layout and design elements).
6.       Interoperability (ensuring that websites can be adapted for mobile devices and that government content can be reused across websites, including applications and platforms).

These three standards apply to all departments listed in Schedules I, I.1 and II of the Financial Administration Act, unless excluded by specific acts, regulations or Orders in Council. LAC falls under Schedule I.1 of the Act, and must thereby comply with these standards by the prescribed deadlines (listed at the end of this blog). The Standard on Web Accessibility was developed by the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) in response to a Federal Court decision in the Donna Jodhan v. Attorney General of Canadacase. The Federal Court decision not only made it a legal requirement for the Government of Canada (GC) to meet these standards, but also imposed a deadline for compliance.

As part of the Standard on Web Accessibility, all GC websites must meet some requirements of the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 to ensure that Web content is more accessible not only to people with disabilities, but also to Canadians everywhere.

While the Standard on Web Accessibility focuses on making content available in accessible formats, the Standard on Web Usability involves reducing redundant, outdated and trivial content (ROT), so that GC information is easy to find, clear, accurate, and up to date. The ROT exercise is divided into four steps:

5.       Completing an inventory of all content.
6.       Evaluating and assessing content.
7.       Deleting and archiving content.
8.       Rewriting, reorganizing, and republishing content.

Where does LAC fit in with all of this? What are the timelines? Before the Standard on Usability was introduced—which requires departments to use a standard GC template for their Web presence—LAC was working on its newly designed corporate website ( and using the prescribed template. Progressively, all of LAC’s existing Web content is being updated to meet the new Web standards and moved to the website.

LAC has very limited financial and technical resources to support the transfer of the existing Web content to the new corporate website, making the ROT exercise absolutely critical to meeting our objectives and the deadlines imposed by the Federal Court decision. Following the deletion and archival process, the remaining content from the old will be converted and posted on Any Web material on that is archived online will remain available to Canadians for information or reference purposes, but will no longer be updated.

To meet the time frames set out by TBS, we must also limit Web publication to legal and regulatory requirements and key priorities established by LAC’s Management Board.

The deadlines set out by TBS are as follows:

Standard on Web Accessibility: July 31, 2013
Standard on Web Usability: July 31, 2013
Standard on Web Interoperability:

Phase I (July 1, 2012–June 30, 2013)
◦One requirement of the standard
Phase II (April 1, 2013–December 31, 2014)
◦Two more requirements, for a total of three requirements of the standard
Phase III (January 1, 2015–June 30, 2015)
                    ◦All four requirements of the standard

Comment: As LAC service continue to decline now we learn we will only receive web content which addresses "legal and regulatory requirements and key priorities established by LAC’s Management Board."
What ever happened to the idea of LAC providing a public service, rather than addressing bureaucratic requirements? 
The Library and Archives Canada Act still includes the object "to make that heritage known to Canadians and to anyone with an interest in Canada and to facilitate access to it."
It looks like LAC is unilaterally adding "as long as it meets priorities established by LAC's Management Board"


Anonymous said...

Where is the information in this blog post coming from? Much of it is incorrect.

JDR said...

The source, indirectly, is Ron Surette and Julie
Hébert of LAC.

turner said...

It makes me feel ill. Not only can I now speak ONLY to clerical staff and archival or library technicians without an appointment, and not ONLY does the role of our national Library and Archives Canada no longer include interlibrary loan services to governmental and public libraries NOT located here in Ottawa, now, having butchered its own budget for diigitization and internet usage, LAC's internet priority is meeting idiot goverment standards rather serving its Canadian public, ie. me.

Anonymous said...

(I can't believe I'm actually defending decisions from LAC, but here goes...)

A couple of comments:

I would be curious to find out what percentage of questions being asked actually require the services of a librarian or archivist. Most questions asked in any research library can be handled by a technician, freeing up the time of the librarians and archivists to deal with more complex queries. What's wrong with making an appointment and allowing the librarian or archivist time to do some background research and prepare some materials for the researcher? How is that different between a drop-in clinic and seeing a specialist?

On the question of priorities for web sites, if only LAC had unlimited funds it could deal with all its content to meet court mandated standards. Unfortunately, it doesn't. Any responsible person would focus on the areas which need updating and archive the rest, either as a static archive or to revisit later. In either case, it's being kept online and accessible. Plus, much of it is not materials which need to change. Whether it gets converted to meet new standards or not, it will still be there. So what's the issue?

JDR said...

Thanks for defending LAC, they seem incapable or unwilling to do so.

While technicians can certainly respond adequately to a certain percentage of queries it appear LAC no longer has the expert archivists and librarians able to respond to queries requiring in-depth knowledge.

It also appears that LAC is writing itself a blank cheque to delete web material it chooses including that which shows how LAC continues to retreat from objectives for which it received past parliamentary appropriations.

turner said...

Had to comment again. I DO respect anyone defending LAC, 'coz it is so hard to do so. Good on you, mate!

You made a good point about the librarians. I do not often consult them, being fairly strong in my research abilities in libraries. However, I value very highly the expertise of archivists who know their collections, because often they are aware of sources within their collections which I would never had been able to locate without their advice. I have frequently written letters to their management, for example, the management of the London Metropolitan Archives, to thank their archivists for so readily sharing their knowledge. On even an extended research trip, having had to make an appointment to make such an enquiry would have probably made my efforts, and my trip, pointless. Pointless. LAC does not advertise highly that such ready services are no longer available. I know of several chums early in their research efforts who have traveled to Ottawa specifically to aid their research. In such cases it is very likely that such individuals will remain ignorant of the lack of availability of such on-site assistance until they try to access it.

Cousins who research their family histories from Vancouver can no longer obtain books and microfilm on ILL and are already beginning to beg me to conduct their research for them. This situation should not be acceptable to LAC.

Having spent 32 years as an employee in the federal government I am well aware of the demands that legislation and policy make on government organizations, many of which distract such organizations from their reason for existing. Losing sight of their reasons for existing makes such organizations irrelevant to their clients. I recall such things as years ago, Veterans Affairs staff being thrilled to report to the TBS that it had been able to reduce the waiting time for veterans benefits to less than 15 months! .... which made it a laughing stock among all departments. LAC appears to myself to be dangerously close to a similar situation. Cheers anyway.