Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Auditor General Report: Documentary Heritage of the Government of Canada—Library and Archives Canada

The Auditor General has tabled his Fall Report. While chapter 3 on Mental Health Services for Veterans has received most media attention chapter 7 on the Documentary Heritage of the Government of Canada—Library and Archives Canada is not neglected.

The audit objective was to determine whether Library and Archives Canada has fulfilled its responsibilities for acquiring and preserving government documentary heritage from federal institutions, and for facilitating access of these records for current and future generations. It covered the period from 2009–10 fiscal year with audit work completed on 30 April 2014, prior to the arrival of the present Librarian and Archivist of Canada.

The AG concludes that LAC does not adequately fulfil these responsibilities. Library and Archives Canada:

- is not acquiring all the archival records it should from federal institutions
- has a backlog of 98,000 boxes of archival records
- does not have a corporate digital strategy
- did not use its trusted digital repository.
The department accepts each of the AG`s findings. The actions LAC undertakes to follow up are:
  • In the fall of 2014, Library and Archives Canada will approve a focused and accelerated plan to ensure full disposition coverage for the Government of Canada institutions by the end of the 2017–18 fiscal year. 
  • In the fall of 2014, Library and Archives Canada will establish a dedicated task force and approve a plan to eliminate the Government of Canada’s documentary heritage backlog by December 2015. (Note the plan will be approved by December 2015, not the backlog.)
  • By March 2015, Library and Archives Canada will have an approved digital strategy to firmly ground its acquisition, preservation, and access functions in the digital era. 
  • In April 2015, Library and Archives Canada will begin a comprehensive digital transformation program. 
Comment 
Undoubtedly the backlog of 98,000 boxes of archival records contains gems of genealogical interest, not to mentioned of broader historical interest. It makes a farce of open government when records decades old remain inaccessible. The inability to acquire and process records means that they remain in the hands of the responsible line department. A case in point is passenger lists from the late 1930s onward.

It`s shocking to read that $15.4 million was spent on developing and implementing a trusted digital repository from 2006 to 2011, which was tested, approved, and deemed operational in July 2011, only to be shut down unused in November 2012 as the institution had `changed its approach.`
The scope of the audit was entirely about archival activities of LAC neglecting the library function. A risk is that in responding to the deficiencies identified the library function, already depleted of resources as indicated by withdrawal from the inter-library loan program (except as last resort), will be further neglected. Furthermore the AG has nothing to say about LAC`s front-line services.
Who will follow up to monitor whether LAC takes the actions it proposes by the dates indicated


1 comment:

Chris Seens said...

I think the blame for any deficiencies in LAC rest entirely with Harper, Glover and the Conservative Government. This includes the hiring of an inept Director who thankfully left the organization before the end of his mandate.