02 May 2012

LAC cuts

The Globe and Mail is reporting that the Library and Archives Canada workforce of 1,065 will be reduced to 850 people over the next three years, as a result of the 2012 federal budget cuts.

On Monday, 450 staff received notices that their positions could be “affected” by cuts so obviously not all those who have received notices will lose employment. Some reductions will occur as people retire, or leave as they become disillusioned with the management of the organization, and are not replaced.

Those who voted for Conservative MPs can take their share of the credit for this reduction. The agenda of The Dear Leader and company has been evident since his days with the National Citizen's Coalition.

Unfortunately some of the changes being made by LAC top management are ill-informed. They are dominated by counting clients, the number coming to the building (slowly declining) and the number visiting the website (increasing). Naturally if you cut service in the building, as has been happening for years, people will visit less often. I now visit less than I did.

The last time I looked at the mission of LAC it was:

  • To preserve the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations;
  • To be a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all, contributing to the cultural, social and economic advancement of Canada;
  • To facilitate in Canada cooperation among communities involved in the acquisition, preservation and diffusion of knowledge; and
  • To serve as the continuing memory of the government of Canada and its institutions.
Nowhere there do I see "to maximize number of visits to LAC buildings and the website." That's a metric chosen by LAC management that omits any consideration of the nature of the visit. You could offer a game online or give free beer to build numbers. Would twice as many people visiting LAC mean a greater contribution to the cultural, social and economic advancement of Canada?

If you want to measure that contribution why not look at the number of books sold by authors who relied on LAC resources? Look at the number of people who watch TV programs and films that use LAC materials. Look at the number of graduate degrees granted to people who cite LAC as a resource in their thesis or dissertation and will subsequently move into careers that promote Canada's advancement in these fields. Those measures would be more difficult to calculate but, now that items are digitized, less so than in the past.

Management would likely find that by making research at LAC more difficult for high multiplier clients they are faced with an inconvenient truth about their modernization strategy.


Archivus said...

Your description of the LAC situation is appreciated. As a frequent user, I am not convinced that services will be improved any time soon. The fact that not all finding aids and indexes are included in the "Archives Search" is, in fact, denial of access. Yes, more and more material has been digitized and can be accessed online, but most of the records remain inaccessible because there is no index (some census records, immigration records, World War I death records). This, plus outdated technology to move from one page to the next one, is not exactly enhancing access. It discourages access and is a sad comment on the state of our "national" archives.

J. Brian Gilchrist said...

CBC Ottawa has also reported that many of the Departmental Libraries are being closed and will be "trashed" (CBC quote). This is what happened to many of the Ontario Government Ministry libraries under Mike Harris. My mother worked in a Ontario specilized library. The Archives of Ontario was invited to chose what they wanted of the rare books and reports. I can tell you from personal knowledge that dozens of the big blue dumpster bins arrived one afternoon, the "cleaning staff" arrived and literally threw all the books etc., into the dumpsters shelf by shelf. Disgusting .... This is a sad time for Access to Information, and indeed a sad time for democracy in our Country. May I remind everyone that the 150th (Sesquicentennial) of the Formation of Canada is upon us in 2017 ... You would think that there will be a need for increased archival and information services. Have we all written to our Federal Members of Parliament to express our concerns?