Monday, 13 August 2007

Service reductions at Library and Archives Canada

Library and Archives Canada has announced major reductions in hours of service at it's main building at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa as of 1 September. The announcement came as a surprise; as far as I can determine there was no client consultation and the change is announced at a time when many regular patrons are away with their attentions elsewhere.

30% reduction
According to a post on the LAC web site, weekday full service hours will be 10 am to 4 pm, that's 30 hours a week. These are the hours during which LAC professional staff can be consulted and materials ordered. At present these services are provided from 8:30 am to 5 pm on weekdays, that's 42.5 hours a week. The reduction in service hours is nearly 30%.

23% reduction
Hours when pre-ordered and self-service materials can be examined are also being reduced. On weekdays the building will be opening at 8:30 am and closing at 8 pm. At present the weekday hours for much of this material is 8 am to 11 pm. The reduction in hours is 23%.

60% reduction
The cuts are even more drastic on weekends. The present availability of pre-ordered and self-service materials from 8 am to 11 pm is being reduced to noon to 6pm, a 60% reduction.

The announcement gives the following rationale:

Library and Archives Canada is committed to providing quality services to all Canadians, wherever they live. To honour this commitment, we are adjusting our hours of operation, in keeping with the anticipated needs of clients and evolving information technologies. We are steadily adding documentary heritage material to our website, thereby increasing access to the collection for Canadians both in the National Capital Region and across the country.

I shall be writing directly to Antonio Lachasseur, Director, Client Services Division, with the following comments:

1. The changes were announced without opportunity for meaningful client consultation. A widely advertised consultation session should be conducted at 395 Wellington early in September, with any change in hours deferred until client's feedback can be taken into consideration.

2. The 30% reduction in full service hours, to 30 hours per week, is an appalling standard of service for an organization like LAC.
It puts LAC right at the bottom of the league table, and trailing badly, when benchmarking against comparable organizations. The weekly core service hours at the (US) National Archives in Washington are 40; the UK National Archives (Kew) 48.5; the Archives of Ontario 44; Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec in Montreal 54.

3. The reduction in weekday full-service hours in the mornings, and elimination of all weekend morning service, will be keenly felt.

4. No reductions should be implemented in the time available to access the already frustratingly cumbersome and delay-ridden process for ordering and obtaining delivery of materials.

5. The reduced hours will be a particular inconvenience to those from outside Ottawa visiting LAC on research trips who expect to work long hours and over weekends to justify the trip expenses.

6. It is paradoxical that LAC having recently gone to considerable expense to create a physical Canadian Genealogy Centre these reductions now make the facility less accessible.

7. There are still major records not online, most notably census images from 1861 to 1891. While technology has evolved to the point where this can be done LAC has not yet chosen to make such key records available online. Until such common records are online it is premature to make major reductions in physical access.

The LAC announcement includes "Should you have comments or questions, you may wish to contact Antonio Lechasseur, Director, Client Services Division at or 613-996-5115 or 1-866-578-7777 (toll-free in Canada and the United States); TTY: 613-992-6969 or 1-866-299-1699 (toll-free in Canada)."

I encourage all to express their views to Mr Lachasseur.


WJM said...

The changes were announced without opportunity for meaningful client consultation.

In other words... they were done in the way LAC always does things: shoot first, consult later - maybe.

It is pathetic how much contempt that institution has for the people who justify its existence.

Anonymous said...

I cannot understand these changes. When I go to the archives it is to work ALL day and into the evening, and I live in the area. Imagine people from out of town/country! I see no reason why at least the Reading Rooms cannot be kept open from 7AM to 11PM. The guards who think you are going to steal everything not nailed down might have to stay AWAKE!