01 August 2008

Canada features in the British Library Annual Report

In conversation with managers at Library and Archives Canada I often find myself advocating that they look at the operations of comparable organizations internationally. LAC does have unique challenges, and, also shares many with comparable organizations.

This came home to me yet again in viewing the annual report of the British Library for 2007/08, done in a multimedia online format. I was drawn in immediately, and not just because of the innovative presentation. The first story was Canada-related:

“My name is Stef Penney and I wrote a book called The Tenderness of Wolves. I came to the British Library to research life in the backwoods in 19th-century Canada. When I started I really didn’t know what the story was going to be, but I soon found an amazing wealth of material in the Canadian collections. They have accounts by employees of the Hudson Bay Company and the North West Company; pioneer settlers like Susanna Moodie and her sister, Catherine Parr Traill; and then explorers like James Clark Ross and people who were looking for the Northwest Passage. So, gradually, through all these things, a picture built up and the story took shape."

Further in I was pleased to see my views of newspapers reflected in the words of the Library Board's Chairman

Newspapers are an immensely rich source for research. However, they deteriorate quickly because of the poor quality of the paper they are printed on; it is crucial that they are properly preserved for future generations. This is one element of our newspaper strategy – our ambition is to digitise the best of our historical collections, to open them up and make them much more widely accessible on the web.

And I was interested to see an online poll on the question, Which of the Library's collections would you most like to see fully digitised? The top response was newspapers, favoured by half the respondents.

The report should be required reading for LAC executives and senior managers.

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