12 November 2012

LAC's archival future

On Tuesday 6 November 2012 Daniel Caron appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages studying linguistic duality during the 150th anniversary celebrations of Canadian Confederation in 2017.

His opening statement is available at http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/news/speeches/Pages/150-anniversary-linguistic-duality.aspx

MP Yvon Godin opened a round of questions with several to Caron, the answers in parenthesis. This is my summary of the initial exchange based on the simultaneous translation.

LAC has had a major budget cut (we contributed 10% to the Economic Plan.), 215 positions have been cut (Yes), 21 of those relate to non-governmental records (I'd have to check the exact number, that's likely) and a 50% reduction in personnel in digitization and circulation (to clarify, there is no reduction in digitization, the reduction is in circulation. Digitization is carried out both internally and externally); and you cut all funding to the National Archival Development Program. (Yes).

Godin went on to raise a recent instance where LAC could not provide service in French, and asked why there was no mention of official languages in the LAC Report on Plans and Priorities just tabled in Parliament. Caron responded that he was surprised to hear of an instance where service in French could not be provided; official languages are part and parcel of the LAC culture, and in all the work done, all business practices and documents reflect Canadian society -- it's only natural.

In ending his questioning Godin commented that he feared that in 2017 there won't be much left considering what's happening to the precious regional and community library institutions. People don't want to libraries and archives to disappear.

In response Caron acknowledged the LAC had a decrease in budget but explained that LAC is dealing with it by taking advantage of technology. Paraphrasing somewhat:

"I'll give you an example to answer your question. I think it's important people understand what's happening in our field. We used to have to describe the material all ourselves, everything had to be done manually. Today this is something that can be done directly, digitally. The editors put in all the information on the computer so we don't have to redo the work, that represents a great deal of work – I can't tell you exactly how many people were dealing with this particular job but we don't need to do it anymore so this type of work becomes less necessary including the description of archival material. Now we get (material) in digital format, the research has already been done. (What we used to do) for the analog side of things we will continue to do that work. All institutions throughout the world, I would say they're even lagging behind us because now the material is produced for the most part in electronic format and will perhaps never be printed. Thank you."
Comment: It appears that LAC will be ingesting born digital material with a minimum of cataloging and no finding aids. It's as if everything will be lumped together with little differentiation and search used to provide access. A brave new archival world!


Unknown said...

Are you absolutely sure that there are no positions being cut in digitization? That was not the community's understanding, and despite many print references to the contrary, LAC has never defended itself with respect to this understanding.

JDR said...

What I'm absolutely sure of this that's what Daniel Caron testified at the Committee. You can go to http://www.parl.gc.ca/CommitteeBusiness/CommitteeMeetings.aspx?Cmte=LANG&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=1#DT20121106LANGMEE59 and listed around minute 36.