On Saturday afternoon, during his presentation on home children research at the Ottawa Public Library downtown, BIFHSGO Hall of Fame member John Sayers commented on some problems that have developed in recent years for researchers at Library and Archives Canada.
His greatest concern was lack of maintenance of many of the microfilm readers, those without a digital interface. Either the focus is not right, or the carriages are ceased, or they won't operate at all. There used to be a maintenance contract with work at least three times a week, probably every day. The last two years there's no such maintenance apparent.
The new machines are very good, but the staff encourage that they only be used by people using a memory stick. If you want a hard copy they point you to the older machines which provide very poor image copies. Although you can access microfilms at any time you can't make a copy in the unstaffed hours. They seem to be discouraging people who don't have a memory stick, or don't use computers from being users.
Hours of access in the genealogy section have been decreased; they now open at 10 am rather than 9 am and close at 3 pm rather than 4 pm. It used to be you could print from the computers in the 3rd floor genealogy area at any time of the day or night. That had to be curtailed as it was being abused so now you can only make copies for those 5 hours a day. Further, you can only access the FindMyPast database during those hours as access times out after a period of inactivity and can only be reactivated by a staff member.
Every microfilm in the public access cabinets that has a green dot on the box is supposed to have been digitized. For ships passenger lists there are many for the 1920s that are not viewable online even though the green dot on the case suggests they should be.
Specifically for home children there are many significant files not digitized. A large collection of correspondence has not been digitized and LAC asks that they not be indexed until they have been -- who knows when that will be! Information relating to the magazine of the Barnardos organization in Toronto, called Ups and Downs, Middlemore Homes, Fagen, Chorlton and Leeds groups are all with LAC
Overall John Sayers comments that he still enjoys working at LAC, especially because of the front-line people who do their best under the circumstances. The situation with the poorly or unmaintained machines is the most aggravating aspect.