Thursday, 25 June 2009

What should LAC do less of?

A recent comment posted is "I'm sometimes not sure whether your main criticism is of an underfunding of LAC or of the decisions which LAC staff make with respect to such funding as they have."

It goes on to ask for my ideas "about how to redistribute their funds and staff resources; can you be explicit about what you propose, including what aspects of their operations, if any, you would close or fund less?"

It's a fair question I'm not entirely equipped to answer. My perspective is as a client, and one who uses a limited amount of the LAC facility. I'm sure there's a lot of necessary work that goes on that's invisible to me. I probably only see the 10% of the iceberg that's above the waterline and seen by a client. I'm hesitant to only target parts of the 10% that I know. There's a 90% chance the part that could stand the most reduction is invisible to me.

I also suspect that, in common with virtually all of Canada's social infrastructure, LAC is underfunded.

But the organization is also under-entrepreneurial. It could generate much more revenue. TNA does. I wonder what was learned fron Natalie Ceeney's visit in September! LAC should look seriously at TNA's and other comparable organization's partnership strategies. LAC should also negotiate an agreement with central agencies (Treasury Board?) so that it can keep revenue generated. Some other line departments did it years ago.

Here are some areas that could stand reexamination or have revenue potential:

1. LAC provides a service through the Canadian Genealogy Centre where people can write in and receive individual advice and a limited amount of staff research on their personal Canadian genealogical query. In my view providing advice, as is done at the Genealogy Desk in the physical CGC, is OK but it is inappropriate to have public servants being paid by the taxpayer to conduct an individual's research for them at no change. Eliminate the tax-funded service, or charge for it at a rate that doesn't undercut the market as the LMA does. There are people listed with LAC who could conduct such research on a fee for service basis, not including me. They would be contributing income taxes and GST to the government rather than spending tax dollars. How much would be saved over a year, or how much extra income could come to government?

2. Charge prices comparable to those of other non-profit organizations for making interlibrary loans. Currently the Interlibrary loan service is free of charge.

3. Reduce the effort put into in-house exhibitions and events that get seen by a very small fraction of the Canadian public. This activity is still desirable but should be reduced in favour of increasing the availability of original records (not exhibits) remotely through the Internet.

4. Use the space freed-up above to open a bookstore or snack bar to generate additional revenue. Even better, turn the front courtyard into an atrium to accommodate these.

5. Make some aspects of the LAC web site ad supported.

6. Market and sell LAC and other merchandise, just as the Museums and National Gallery do.


Old Census Scribe said...

Interesting set of suggestions for any publicly funded institution. Looks like it's a case of can't see the wood for the trees (and how apt is that for something based in Ottawa).
But, John, easy on the abbreviations, please!

Anonymous said...

Hello John,

The online information about the National Archives of Ireland's very valuable and welcome initiative to digitize the 1901 and 1911 Irish censuses includes this note:

"The National Archives of Ireland has established a research partnership with Library and Archives Canada to facilitate digitisation, indexing and contextualisation of our 1901 and 1911 census records. Library and Archives Canada have a world-wide reputation in the field of document digitisation [...]"

Can you shed any light on the nature of LAC's involvement?

Unknown said...

In 2005, LAC and the National Archives of Ireland (NAI)entered into collaboration on the digitization of the 1911 and 1901 Irish Censuses.

LAC linked and transcribed the census images, with funding provided by NAI. In return, LAC provided in-kind support to manage this process. Both parties agreed to collaborate on programming to contextualize this information in an Irish-Canadian context. LAC has hosted two symposia on Irish-Canadian studies, in 2006 and 2008. In 2006, LAC also launched a web exhibition, The Shamrock and the Maple Leaf, and in 2008 digital content from this project was made available through Flickr

Hana Hruska
Director, Programs Planning and Partnerships, LAC