Tuesday, 9 June 2009

LAC's monograph moratorium

I finally received a call back regarding the following note posted on the LAC web site.

"Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has established valued relationships with stakeholders and clients and has, over the years, built a significant national collection of documentary heritage. With recently announced changes in the Senior Management at LAC we are undertaking a review of our acquisitions policies to better ensure that citizen and stakeholder needs are met.

Therefore, LAC has recently put in place a moratorium on all purchased acquisitions. As of today:

- All LAC orders for monographs are cancelled. Please do not ship us any new material. LAC will accept all items in transit that were shipped to LAC prior to receipt of this message.

- LAC is also reviewing whether it will pursue the acquisition of subscriptions, standing orders and memberships.

If you would like more information, please contact Ms. Chantal Marin-Comeau, Director of Acquisitions. She can be reached by telephone at (819) 997-7003 or by e-mail chantal.marin-comeau@lac-bac.gc.ca"

Ms Marin-Comeau explained that the more than 1 week delay in returning my calls was that she had been away and there was nobody else to respond. Wouldn't a truly service-oriented organization refrain from putting out such a note without having a back-up spokesperson?

In response to my questions Ms Marin-Comeau explained that the moratorium is largely impacting books. She said it should be short-term, without defining it, and the whole review is not financially driven. It was unclear why a moratorium, seemingly imposed suddenly without any consideration of the impact on suppliers or users, was necessary.

The review is supposed to be comprehensive involving all acquisitions, including newspapers, databases and subscriptions; even the magazines purchased for display in the Canadian Genealogy Centre. Asked how long the review will take she was again unwilling to specify a time frame, but it appears it may be complete this fiscal year.

I stressed the importance of LAC as a source for inter-library loans and asked how users would be consulted on any proposed change. It was unclear what mechanism would be used that would gather the views of users as well as suppliers from across the country.

On newspapers, and digital newspapers, I pointed out the sad state of access at LAC, especially with there being no champion for newspapers at LAC. The newly available Winnipeg Free Press digital archive is not available. Neither is The Times which reflects the British perspective which governed during the time before Confederation and is available at many Canadian university and some public libraries.

I was sent a copy of an article from Le Devoir which reports on the moratorium. but gives a slant toward electronic publications that I didn't get from my conversation. My rough translation of the final paragraph:

LAC has set up a working group to analyze its acquisition policy, and to update its methods of conservation of electronic products. According to Jean-Stéphen Piché, the number of electronic publications doubles each year. “It is hoped the moratorium will be as short as possible” he said.


Anonymous said...

Do you know if this will be discussed at the next Service Advisory Board meeting?

JDR said...

It isn't an agenda item. Members often raise issues like this. Please send an email with your concerns to the LAC contact given in the posting, or further up the food chain.

Anonymous said...

Where exactly on the LAC Web site does this notice of the moratorium on purchases appear? You didn't provide a URL and I've not been able to find it.

Thank you!

JDR said...

For a reason unknown to me the post appears to have removed. Contact LAC to find out why.

Anonymous said...

I will be contacting LAC about this, but since you're pointing out that this is on their Web site, a second voice would be useful.