Tuesday, 21 November 2017

22% Less Digitization at LAC?

Library and Archives Canada's recently issued Departmental Results Report for 2016-2017 shows a surprising decline in the number of images digitized. You have to read that report along with the one for the previous year to discover it.

Without in any way discounting the essential work of other aspects of LAC's operations, necessary for continuing service, the concentration in this post is the activity of Program 2.3: Access to documentary heritage in the Results Report which is of most immediate pertinence for the user community.

The report on Program 2.3 is in three sections: Description, Results and Results achieved.

Comparing the Description to the corresponding section in the 2015-2016 report shows, in addition to several minor edits, the additions highlighted in the two paragraphs reproduced below.

This program is designed to make Canada’s documentary heritage known and available to Canadians, to promote a better understanding of Canadian society. 

It includes activities to digitize, describe, organize, index and interlink this documentary heritage, to facilitate access. 

The final two paragraphs in the section are reversed from the previous year moving the section including the Documentary Heritage Communities Program ahead of that on Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act activities.

The Results section states that "LAC digitized 9,287,106 images, which focused mainly on the First World War, Indigenous realities and Expo 67." The previous year report stated "LAC digitized over 12 million images ..." Why the decrease of 22 per cent?

It is not due to any decrease in the pace of digitization of First World War Service Files as can be seen from the graph.

According to Normand Charbonneau, LAC Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Operating Officer, the same resources were dedicated to the digitization effort in both years, but in the previous year much was digitized from microfilm for Canadiana.ca, which goes quickly, whereas in 2016-2017 the source was original material in different sizes, and from some slides requiring disassembly.

The report is silent on digitization from the LAC published collections, such as newspapers and city directories. By contrast the new Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, is making digitization of library materials one of her top priorities because of the widespread benefit.

During the year LAC and its partners adopted a national digitization strategy and developed a three-year action plan. Let's hope that will lead to more digitization and not just more strategy and plans.

LAC made major efforts during the year to increase service in and beyond 395 Wellington. About 60 events and exhibitions were held in several Canadian cities, up from 20 the previous year. Agreements to provide LAC service in Halifax and Vancouver were signed and staff are now in place. Exhibitions continue to be staged at 395 Wellington and more events were held.

Signing of an agreement with OCLC to replace AMICUS late in the fiscal year followed the "progress" reported the previous year.

The TD Summer Reading Club reported at increase to 700,000 from 300,000 children enrolled the previous year.

The Results Achieved section has two resource measures and the one service standard measure reproduced below.  Note that the figure does not provide a valid basis of comparison.







Two service standards reported the previous year (1) Percentage of service standards met for formal access to information and privacy (ATIP) requests, and (2) Percentage of service standards met for digital copies, were not in the current report. Accountability is lost when consistent reporting is lacking. That's why the monthly reporting on CEF service file digitization is so welcome.

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