27 January 2008

Comments on LAC service hours

Copied below is my input to Library and Archives Canada, as a member of the Services Advisory Board, to questions and options for extending hours of service presented to Board members. Input from readers of this blog were considered in developing my response, but the final text below is my opinion.

What clients want is reliable and prompt access to the material they need, to be able to conveniently review it, and make notes and copies for later in-depth research. Some need prompt access to newly identified material resulting from their research during the same visit, especially those from outside the NCR.

Whatever extended hours are decided, it will do little for client satisfaction if the service is unreliable. Prompt retrievals must be a priority. Clients should never be put in the situation of arriving at the building to find the material requested was not placed in the locker, the order slip left on the last visit is found in a box with a notation that the film is out on loan, or that the material is unavailable as its with an archivist. It is simple to notify clients by phone or email when retrieval standards can't be met, and would be even easier with an online ordering/notification system remotely accessible.

The cost of providing a full service hour is $1.2K; a consultation room hour $0.07K; and a reference room hour $0.02K/hr. I strongly encourage LAC management to look at sub-dividing the full service activity. For example, provide telephone and online consultation later in the day, so that folks in the West have access at reasonable hours, without that meaning everything else has to be open late. Extend the hours of retrieval service without providing access to a professional archivist and librarian at the same time.

A) Regarding how to allocate an additional full service hour, there is a diversity of preference. Some prefer an 8:30 am start, some 9:00 am which is my own preference.

B) Regarding consultation room hours, I hear a strong preference for opening 4 hours on Saturdays together with some extension on weekdays (option 2). I go along with that, and would prefer that the Saturday hours be in the afternoon.

C) Regarding reference hours, the cost per hour is so small the hours should be the maximum.

In closing two comments from one of my respondents, an Ottawa area genealogist:

If there was a security station on the 2nd floor that meant we had access to city directories outside of regular hours I would think I'd died and gone to heaven.

With the ability to photocopy from microfilm on weekends---and a fully automated electronic ordering system that would allow us to order archival or library materials ourselves, onsite or from home---I would be quite happy.

You can provide your input using the channels mentioned in this LAC posting.

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