Saturday, 8 March 2008

LAC-SAB: Getting down to business

At its second meeting the 30 members of the Library and Archives Canada Services Advisory Board, who met in Ottawa on Friday 7 March, made clear recommendations. Here are some of the main items.

On hours of service at 395 Wellington, it was recommended by a majority vote that the hours of operation for full service be 9-4 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 10 - 5 on Tuesday and Thursday. The Board recognized that with a wide variety of users these will leave some dissatisfied. The option of having some full service hours on Saturdays was raised and considered by LAC for the longer-term.

Other measures to extend the hours of useful operation at 395 Wellington, but short of full service, are being introduced including remote ordering, extending the hours for use of digital cameras and microform machines.

A commitment to rethink many of the operations, including the 3rd floor service area (fish bowl) and reducing paperwork such as by introducing one time authorization for use of digital cameras.

Changing the description of the building organization to avoid the confusion of the current "reference" and "consultation" terminology.

The time frame of introduction of many of these changes is the end of June, and the operation will be kept under review with a view to further improvements.

The Board strongly recommended LAC not implement filtering software on public Internet work stations but introduce individual log on using the existing client card to discourage abuse and assist tracing abusers.

The board heard a report on the impact on LAC of the CBC TV series "Who Do You Think You Are." Demand on the LAC servers jumped four times immediately following the TV program, with peaks evident as the program was broadcast in different timezones. LAC commented that "both new and repeat visitors grew over the duration of the series, suggesting both trial and repeat use of the promoted resources." Reportedly CBC experienced larger audience numbers than expected, but have yet to announce a decision on a second series. The cost of the series to LAC was $400K plus in-kind support.

One of the greatest concerns raised by the Board at its previous meeting, and in the other consultations, was on finding aids. LAC is converting existing finding aids to digital form, making the information searchable or browsable (depending on the quality of OCR possible), and uploading finding aids to the LAC website. In the fiscal year ending this month Adjutant-Generals Office, Lower Canada (Correspondence); Penitentiary Branch, Department of Justice (Operational Records); Canada Post philatelic collection; records relating to Canada in the Public Record Office; and various political and/or social materials finding aids have been addressed. I got the impression that there was encouraging progress, although the task is large, especially considering that there are collections without adequate finding aids.

There was an extended discussion on items raised by Board members. It was requested that these be recorded in the meeting summary and that LAC indicate what action they will take. Topics varied from the local, such as parking at LAC, to the strategic. Included in the latter were issues of licensing of digital materials, partnerships, cherry-picking of items from larger collections for LAC acquisition, national leadership on newspaper digitization, and making the LAC photographic collection more available online.

For genealogy one item of particular interest mentioned, that might be acquired, was a microfiche collection of Canadian Pacific employee records starting in the 19th century held at the company offices in Calgary.

As the Board is advisory it can only make recommendations. Decisions are made by LAC management.

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