Friday, 3 December 2010

LAC: ordering documents for online delivery

Last month Library and Archives Canada (LAC) was "pleased to announce that it is modernizing its textual reprography services in order to meet growing client demand for digital copies. Therefore, as of November 15, 2010, LAC will now offer copies of various textual records in digital format."

Living in Ottawa with convenient access to LAC I don't need to order a copy of most archival documents. I can go online to order the document to be produced, jump on a bus when it's available, and view the original at 395 Wellington. If I take my digital camera I can make copies at no cost.

As I wanted to look again at my great uncle's CEF service file it was an opportunity to try the new service, especially as "LAC will add digitized images generated by client requests to its website, whenever permissible, thereby making a broader range of LAC holdings available to Canadians." If I pay to make my great uncle`s file available online it should be is accessible to everyone for evermore.

After finding the archival reference in the LAC's Soldiers of the First World War - CEF database, I selected the Copies and Reproductions link from near the top of the LAC homepage. The next page has a link to Online Order Form for Photocopies and Reproductions, and also a link to Price List and Service Standards from which I found that as a Senior I`d be charged 30c per page rather than 40c for standard service, order processed within 30 (calendar or working?) days  of receipt.

On the order form I had to respond to three bureaucratic items, then moved on to specify the material I wanted copied.

Asked to specify the reproduction format desired I found out through a phone call you don't ask for`a |"digital copy" which would seem to be the obvious choice, but a "photo copy or PDF." Then, on the following page where you enter the archival reference for the material needed, you specify "PDF - URL (an URL address will be provided to you once the order is completed)." There appears to be no specification of the resolution (dpi) of the pdf images supplied.

Under "prices and service standards/special instructions," I noted I qualified for the Seniors price, and confirmed that was the way to do it in a phone call. Apparently I will be asked to provide an image of a drivers license or other suitable document showing my age in order to qualify, something I should only have to do once.

The next step was to enter credit card information, which I noticed was on the secure (https://) website. I was slightly hesitant to do this as there is no indication of how much it will cost. The helpful person on the phone inform me that the typical WW1 service file is 40 - 75 pages, so upward of $13.50, plus tax at the Senior rate.

I received a prompt automated confirmation of receipt of the order on December 2nd. I'll be interested to see whether the holiday period helps clarify whether it's 30 calendar or working days.

With the exception of the items noted above the ordering process went smoothly. Although the cost is higher than I would pay if I went to LAC taking into account the time it would take just for travel, at minimum wage, means I'm coming out ahead - as long as the need is not time critical.

For those outside Ottawa the benefit is clearly greater. The service is tangible progress toward the LAC goal of making their service more equitably available across Canada. I hope others use it, and provide feedback to LAC.

LAC management should evaluate the cost of this service after they have some experience with it. The per page cost of digital copying is perhaps a couple of cents. There is no toner or paper cost as with hard copy. Retrieving the material, and the administrative overhead, don't depend on the number of pages copied so it would seem fairer to charge a set-up fee plus a low per image fee.

1 comment:

M.C. Moran said...

Thanks for posting this information. I really like the idea of online delivery, and will certainly try this service.