12 June 2012

Daniel Caron letter in Canada's History Magazine

Here, as published in Canada's History magazine (formerly The Beaver), is a letter from Library and Archives Canada Head, Daniel Caron, explaining changes occurring at the institution. Reproduced without comment, for the record.

As the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, I would like to provide some insight into Library and Archives Canada (LAC)'s direction. LAC is today expanding services to meet the evolving expectations of Canadians, offering enhanced, modern access to its materials from coast to coast to coast. New digital service delivery mechanisms allow Canadians to discover, engage with, and share LAC's content when, where, and how they want it.
Though in-person services are still being maintained, changes are necessary in light of how most people use information these days, and to responsibly allocate resources based on observable decreases and increases in demand.
Researchers now have the opportunity to register, order material, and make preparations with LAC in advance. Digitization of finding aids means records can be located without having to be on-site. LAC is also introducing reference by appointment and video conferencing tools like Skype. Clients can now book appointments with experts on-site in Ottawa, or interact via Skype or telephone. In short, LAC is now offering a more personalized service that is accessible to all Canadians.
With respect to archival "decentralization," LAC has always been and will continue to be part of a large cross-Canada network of public and private archives, collectively responsible for our documentary heritage.
The idea of a "comprehensive" or "total" Canadian library and archives in a single location is a myth, as the country is far too diverse for one institution to play this role. The difference now is that LAC and its partners are working together in greater synergy than ever before.
While it is entirely true that LAC has two core programs (Legal Deposit and Government of Canada records) under the Library and Archives Canada Act, it is also mandated to acquire and preserve what is valuable to Canadian society. As a result, LAC continues to acquire material from private donors. Just this year, LAC acquired close to eighty new fonds from private donors representing hundreds of items (such as Lynn Johnston's famous comic strip For Better or For Worse). For fiscal 2011-12, donor tax receipts issued by LAC will total approximately $4 million.
That said, the manner in which we carry out our mandate is changing, given the evolution of technology, documentary production, and writing and reading habits. Our future work will be increasingly technology-driven and done in cooperation with the LAC partners that are Canada's memory institutions (some two thousand libraries and eight hundred archives).
With the recent creation of a formal, LAC-hosted Pan-Canadian Documentary Heritage Network, one can safely say that given the current digital environment, the country's historical record has perhaps never been in better hands than it is today.
Daniel J. Caron, Ph.D. Deputy Head and Librarian and Archivist of Canada 
Reproduced with the permission of Canada's History magazine.

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