31 December 2013

Reflections on 2013

One of the advantages of compiling the thank you to contributors list as I do each year is that it forces me to look back through the year's posts.

For Canadians the genealogical event of the year had to be the release of the 1921 Census of Canada. Officially transferred on June 1st it became available online as images on August 9th, and in an Ancestry indexed version free, with registration, to all in Canada on October 29th.

A concern that ran through quite a few  of my posts is the future of genealogical/ family history societies. A blog I profiled in April, the History Repeating Family Tree Blog, ran a six part Society Spotlight series the last post of which, on October 24, provided a summary. Based on a survey of societies around Cambridgeshire it might contain relevant ideas if you're involved in running a society.

As predicted in a 21 July post Find My Past has opened a Canadian site. FindMyPast.ca is now active but only as a gateway to existing content. There's nothing Canadian about the site beyond the .ca in the web address. No major Canadian databases are available, the only venture into Canada is the incorporation of material from Archive CD Books Canada in the FindMyPast.com site.

How things have changed at LAC in 2013! Up until May and the resignation of the Librarian and Archivist the picture was bleak. Moral was rock bottom. Managers took stress leave. Services and holdings were being trashed. Now there are signs of improvement. Working on a much reduced budget will mean we won't get everything we'd like, a Canadian version of Australia's Trove or TNA's physical and online facilities are yet dreams. As a memorial to the old days we'll likely have to live with the LAC website message "In order to provide you with better service, we are currently redesigning our website. If you have difficulty finding what you are looking for, feel free to contact us" now well into its second year.

A sign of turn around came on November 18 when LAC announced it was recommencing participation in inter-library loan although only as lender of last resort. There's been a more active social media presence.

The organisation is again recognising that family historians are a major client group that cannot be taken for granted. Just this week I heard a story showing true client consideration. A WWI CEF file (a Vimy Ridge veteran, badly injured) was that of the father of a 76 years old man suffering with little mobility in a long term care hospital in Vancouver. The initial response was that the file was scheduled for digitisation and would not be available until after 14 June, 2014. Would that be in time? A appeal was made explaining the urgency and through some twist of fate that particular box was still available. Sometimes the Gods are looking out for you, officially described as an odd circumstance unlikely ever to reoccur. The file was retrieved and copies will be available in a matter of days. Sense, kindness, and compassion are returning to LAC.

There are major challenges ahead, but the reverse side of the challenge coin is opportunity. I'm optimistic. The way ahead is being examined by various studies, such as that of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on the Status and Future of Canada's Libraries and Archives, which should appear in 2014. As we commemorate the centennial of the beginning of The Great War expect to find much more online WW1 material from the LAC collection. And the rumour is that the Government is ready to announce the name of the new Librarian and Archivist of Canada and that it will be a woman with a background as a librarian.

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