Monday, 20 March 2017

Library and Archives Canada: Departmental Plan 2017–18

"Steady as she goes" is the message of the plan set out in this new document, part of the annual parliamentary budget process. When Guy Berthiaume stepped in to the role of Librarian and Archivist of Canada he set a direction which, 30 months later, is well underway.

Here's the bottom line for LAC. Spending of $124,388,866 drops to $115,219,215 for the fiscal year starting in a few days time. It drops further the following year and then increases with the construction of a new archival facility in Gatineau.

As a client and genealogist I'll focus here on the Access to Documentary Heritage component of the plan. That's not to downplay the vital "behind the curtains" parts of the mandate that are essential if there is to be something to access now and for the future.

Access is the focus of the Minister's opening message:
"LAC will continue its digitization activities and will unite all of its partners around the National Heritage Digitization Strategy to increase the online presence of our documentary heritage. In addition, because nothing can replace the emotion of being in the presence of original documents, LAC will showcase the treasures from its collection by displaying them in its own facilities as well as those of other institutions across the country."
 Key activities planned for 2017–18 are:
  • Contribute to celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of Confederation through thematic exhibitions and online content
  • Enhance the visibility of the collection by offering dynamic public programming and by loaning items to other organizations for display
  • Establish partnerships to provide access to original documents to a broader public
  • Increase the amount of content accessible online by continuing digitization initiatives
  • Digitize the Canadian Expeditionary Force service files
  • Respond to Access to Information requests
  • Contribute to Canada's Action Plan on Open Government by making federal government documents available
  • Continue to disseminate content on social networks, to reach as many clients as possible and to make the collection more visible
  • Continue the Supporting the Documentary Heritage Communities Program, intended to enable private documentary heritage organizations to preserve and showcase their collections
  • While there is one mention of genealogy (genealogists) there is no mention of newspapers or newspaper digitization. Why the neglect?
  • Projected funding for access to documentary heritage increases marginally, 0.45%,  over the period to 2019–20. There are six mentions of the National Heritage Digital Strategy but no significant additional funding. 
  • One of the performance benchmarks is Amount of digital material downloaded by clients on LAC's website. In 2015-16 it was 11 million files, for 2017-18 it is 10 million files. A decrease!
Anther performance benchmark is Percentage of Documentary Heritage Communities Program recipients that have met their objectives. There is no current measure of this performance; for 2017-18 the target is 85%. However, there is no indication of the criteria that will be used to make the assessment. Will the claims made in final reports will be audited?
  • It is not apparent how a commitment to Move forward with the renewal of the AMICUS database, a catalogue that contains the information resources of hundreds of libraries across Canada squares with negotiations that were supposed to be concluded by the end of 2016-17 with OCLC/WorldCat.
  • Has LAC abandoned any attempt at comprehensive Canadian website archiving, or even just for the federal government? There is a commitment that Federal government websites will be archived so that Canadians have sustainable access to information on the commemoration of Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation. 
  • Two access initiatives are highlighted:
Implementing a digitization lab at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa to enable visitors to make their own digital copies of collection content that interests them;
I hope to have the opportunity to trial this in the near future. Watch for a blog post.
Developing a web platform for citizen participation so the public can help to transcribe and describe LAC's collection.
A trial last fall was considered very successful as it was completed well ahead of schedule. Many other organizations harness citizen participation. Why has LAC has dithered?
  • LAC has an agreement with the City of Ottawa regarding a shared facility at a new city central library. It is contingent on federal funding which is not secured so does not appear in this plan.

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