04 December 2012

LAC obscures financial situation

Library and Archives Canada, never slow to publicize the latest batch of a dozen or so photos added on their site, have quietly posted their second quarter financial report.

Examined casually it suggests the financial situation is not so grim. Total authorities available for use are $119.7 million compared to $116.7 at the same time the previous year. Available for use is an interesting expression as it turns out that $3.5 million of this year's amount is unavailable to Library and Archives Canada having been clawed back in budget 2012. So 2012-13 authorities in fact available for LAC use are $116.2 million, down half a million from the previous year.

The old term "Indian Giver" comes to mind. To look good maybe next year the government will go further and give an extra $100 to LAC and immediately claw it back leaving it on the books but as an unspendable frozen allotment.

There are details on the impact of the 2012 budget near the end of the document.

"The total cost-saving measures for LAC are $3.5 million in 2012–2013; $6.6 million in 2013–2014; $9.6 million in 2014–2015 and ongoing."

"Budget for acquisitions: The $0.4 million dedicated budget to purchase documents and special collections was eliminated. In future, these purchases will be made within LAC's regular investment decision process based on available resources."

"National Archival Development Program (NADP): The NADP was terminated in Budget 2012 and certain wind-down costs were incurred in 2012–2013."

"Reduced spending related to the five other LAC programs affected by Budget 2012 impacts salaries due to workforce reduction."

LAC continues the shell game of moving activities around making it difficult to compare year to year.

In a section on Risks and Uncertainties we learn that: "With the advent of new technologies, LAC faces another operational risk: the overabundance of documentary heritage." LAC management should be welcoming "the advent of new technologies" as an opportunity, not a risk. Libraries and Archives have always had to be selective in what they collect.

In a section on Significant Changes ... we read that "LAC regrouped the modernization innovation initiatives into six organizational priorities ... with changes to titles that reflect the progress to full-scale implementation."

These are:

1. LAC will begin to implement a new service delivery model to improve access to its holdings;

How does the elimination of interlibrary loan improve access?

2. LAC will develop and implement a whole-of-society model to frame appraisal and acquisition decisions;

How does the model help if there are no funds for non-governmental acquisitions?

3 LAC will adopt a more collaborative approach to fulfilling its mandate;

How does eliminating the NADP help collaboration?

4. LAC will review how it describes and organizes its information resources to improve content distribution and access;

Will the review result in any positive action?

5. LAC will adapt how it manages its holdings;

Hasn't been doing that all along?

6. LAC will adopt a new model for internal operations and will ensure that its workforce has appropriate skills to deliver on its mandate.

How is that consistent with eliminating virtually all specialists.


Anonymous said...

From the perspective of one in the "lower 48" with many early Canadian roots to research, I have suggested to the LAC more than once that it is not inappropriate to charge for interlibrary loans rather than eliminate the program entirely. Contrary to many of the recent cybersearchers, many of us who have done research for many years do not expect a free lunch. And who can afford to fly to Ottawa to research in person??? Our own US gov't charges handsomely for documents, such as Civil War pension files, so why not try charging before building a brick wall around the LAC to prevent us from accessing the wonderful documents housed there?

From a frequest LAC interlibrary loan user and supporter in Nebraska

Anonymous said...

The interlibrary loan function is crucial for Canadians not in the Ottawa - Ontario-Quebec area. But faster i.e. automated digitization is the way to go, before Google does it for them and charges. NLAC doesn't seem to see the future e.g. the reading room is lined with Toronto Star microfilms when this is all available online.