07 June 2013

Paywalling Canadian heritage

Bibliocracy blogs "reports from the CLA conference in Winnipeg indicate that Library and Archives Canada are currently in talks with Canadiana to both:

(A) outsource some digitization work on LAC holdings to Canadiana, and
(B) develop a paywalled content delivery system for Canadian digital heritage held by LAC. "
There are no details.

Bibliocracy sees many problems with such an arrangement. "There are so many things wrong with this I hardly know where to begin."

I'm not sure what's new. Canadiana has been digitizing material from LAC, and operating a paywall, for quite some while.

By contrast I would welcome an extension of this initiative, providing certain conditions common to such arrangements are respected, as a way to get more material available online.

Any such agreement must not remove existing access to materials. That;s been the case.

Most of the digitized materials now freely available on the LAC website, after the end of an embargo period, are the result of just such an arrangement, They are mostly indexed censuses created in cooperation with Ancestry.ca. Without that cooperation its unlikely any of that freely available material would be appearing online. Previous LAC experience with Ancestry.ca, and with The (UK) National Archives is that it has has enhanced, not reduced any existing access.

Arrangements such as this have lead to many more free access points to the newly digitized materials across Canada through academic and public library subscriptions, and the option of an individual subscription. If you want enhanced access through digitization why should the general taxpayer be expected to bear the burden?

Canadiana is a non-profit and charitable organization which applies all revenues to operating and improving its services. Unlike agreements with commercial organizations like Ancestry.ca, which still worked well to provide reasonable cost access that would not otherwise have been available, there is no question of profit with Canadiana.


erikathegreen said...

I agree with you on the usefulness of Canadiana. I've found it to be an excellent source. As for the paywalling issue, a modest annual fee to a non-profit shouldn't hurt most of us, provided that libraries can have public access accounts. And provided they don't selectively suppress some documents that the current regime doesn't care to make public.

Alex said...

It's just a matter of pricing, isn't it?