26 March 2010

Michael Geist on digital media and LAC's ineffectiveness

Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and well known syndicated weekly columnist, testified before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on March 25th.

He addresses the questions "How have developments in digital media changed the media environment?" and "What can government do?"

Sections that caught my eye included how the National Film Board have extended their reach through their online portal NFB Screening Room with daily views jumping "from 3,000 per day in January 2009 to more than 20,000 film views per day in January 2010."

Geist points to five things Canada should be doing. The second is worth reproducing in its entirety as it refers to LAC and a long-standing concern I've had with that organizations ineffective leadership in the field.

2. Digitization

There are few issues more central to new media policy than digitization. Most countries have recognized the need to ensure that national content is both preserved for future generations and made more readily accessible to the public. In Canada, plans have languished to the point that it feels as if someone has hit the delete key on the prospect of a comprehensive Canadian digital library.

Canada’s failure to keep pace has become readily apparent in recent years. In September 2005, the European Union launched i2010, a digitization action plan. Several years later, Europeana debuted, a website that provides direct access to more than 4.6 million digitized books, newspapers, film clips, maps, photographs, and documents from across Europe. The site plans to host 10 million objects by the end of this year.

By comparison, Canada seems stuck at the digitization starting gate. Library and Archives Canada was given responsibility for the issue but was unable to muster the necessary support for a comprehensive plan. The Department of Canadian Heritage, which would seem like a natural fit for a strategy designed to foster access to Canadian works, has funded a handful of small digitization efforts but has shown little interest in crafting a vision similar to Europeana.

The text, worthwhile reading, is at www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/4907/125/

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