16 May 2013

LAC After Caron

Count many relieved people in Ottawa now that Daniel Caron has left his post at Library and Archives Canada. Likely he's one of them. Living with the mess he presided over cannot have been pleasant.

Perhaps the one person not relieved is the one tapped to replace him on an interim basis. Some senior managers under Caron have been on stress leave so it's unclear who it will be. That person inherits a demoralized organization and alienated clientele. That cannot be turned around overnight.

Many in the archival and library community believe the next permanent head should be someone with professional credentials in at least one of those fields. Yet finding a person like that who is also capable of playing the essential political game in the senior ranks of the public service is difficult. The most likely candidate would be someone familiar with LAC who left for new senior level challenges but would return to take on this one.

Although the professional community might not like it a more likely choice is someone already in, or climbing into, the senior ranks of the Public Service. There are examples of well respected heads of such specialist organizations, Oliver Morley of the (UK) National Archives is an example, with no background in the field. That person needs more than a vision, they need the ability to take advice, admit when they're wrong and change as Ian Wilson did on opening hours at LAC, and strongly represent the organization's interests embodied in all of the mandate in the Library and Archives Canada Act.

The position is an Order in Council appointment reporting to the Clerk of the Privy Council who will likely decide on the appointment after consultation. I'd be surprised if the responsible minister, James Moore, being long-serving in the portfolio, didn't have some say. That may not be a bad thing. Moore is a savvy politician who has distanced himself from Caron by, erroneously, claiming LAC operates at arm's length. If someone who charted a significantly different course is selected Moore could continue to claim that Caron's decisions didn't reflect his views.


Barbara Tose said...

I agree that it is far more likely that Caron's replacement will be someone from the management ranks. The belief that a manager can manage anything without special knowledge of the field is extremely prevalent, particularly in this government. I believe that a good manager can manage anything; unfortunately, good managers seem to be sadly lacking in government senior management. Not to be overly pessimistic, I just hope that Caron won't be seen as the better of two evils once his successor takes over. My best wishes for a brighter future go out to all those working at the Archives.

Anonymous said...

Caron should have resigned like the head of StatsCan did, when the long form census was canceled. At least Munir Sheikh emerged with his credibility intact.

Pearl said...

@ Anonymous:

What, and miss out on all those taxpayer funded Spanish lessons???

Gerald Parker said...

Dr. Guy Sylvestre, a literary man, was a superb example of a very fine National Librarian, even though he had not, per se, been a librarian previously. Even as a librarian (retired) myself, I do not think that a M.L.S.-bearing candidate is essential, but what is needed is someone with a long-standing involvement in, and support for, the national heritage, for the humanities/social sciences, and the arts, one who is sensible enough to seek his librarians' advice, even if at times he does not quite heed it on some matters and occasions.