05 July 2014

Guy Berthiaume: the enigma of departure

The new Librarian and Archivist of Canada Guy Berthiaume recently reflected on his five-year term as President and Directer General of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ). If history can serve as a guide for the future, while recognizing that institutional mandates vary, examining his thoughts may give clues as to the direction he wishes to take LAC.

His reflections are available in French at: http://www.banq.qc.ca/a_propos_banq/salle_de_presse/discours_allocutions/allocution.html?c_id=cc2d383f-510e-41e0-bb8e-4d1aaf5eb5cf&an=2014

Here is a short summary. My impoverished and rusty knowledge of the language does not permit a complete translation. Please make allowance.

Berthiaume set out to make BAnQ, an institution formed by the joining together of Québec library and archives components, a cultural crossroads. The adoption of the first cultural policy, in March 2011, signaled to like-minded partners an openness. Opera, music, theater, and poetry were some of the domains which found willing collaborators. Exhibitions were mounted out of the institutional zone of comfort and it was active with the broadcast media.

BAnQ took initiatives recognizing that 22% of users have neither French or English as their mother tongue. A series of 14 interviews on the theme history of immigration showed the value of different cultural groups to contemporary Québec.

BAnQ reached out to all regions of Québec with ten centres in the largest communities giving broad access to the collections. An exhibition about the daily life of the Inuit of the Lower North Coast was displayed in many Québec locations, in the US and France and its travels are not yet ended.

Being a knowledge institution, BAnQ collaborated with educational organizations from preschool to university levels.

Thanks to technological developments BAnQ put in place a system permitting the loan of Québec e-books by libraries. Today more than 60,000 e-books are available of which half are (word removed) Québecois and not less than 30,000 are borrowed each month. BAnQ also made an archive collection of websites related to provincial and municipal electoral campaigns and established dialogue with users through social media.

All this was achieved in the context of continual reduction in government funding, the equivalent of 12% of the operational budget since June 2009. Thanks to efficiencies and an ongoing search for other sources of revenues, BAnQ maintained balanced budgets.

"At the end of the day, I think, in all modesty, that we have shown that in the 21st century a memory institution is not doomed to be part of the past, it shows that memory is alive."

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I visited a week or so ago the LAC building. A very sad place. No Displays at all! I hope the new head person can work on getting some displays. Whey keep everything locked away!!!