16 March 2020

Backsliding Evident in LAC Departmental Plan 2020–2021

Scanning this word cloud based on the section Providing access to documentary heritage of the LAC Departmental Plan 2020–2021 you might get the impression digital is an important thrust for LAC's activities in the coming fiscal year.

Various forms of digit* are found, three times in the Minister's preface, and eight in the Librarian and Archivist's.

The document acknowledges that "Most Canadians want access to content online; digitization is essential to expanding digital access to LAC’s collection from coast to coast to coast. In 2020–21, digitization efforts will focus on Indigenous documentary heritage and reference materials."

How assiduously will LAC proceed? The "result indicator" for "Amount of LAC holdings digitized for access" shows a target of 3.5 million images. Compare that to the achievement of 4.8 million images in 2018-19  (the last year reported),10.2 million images in 2017-18 and 9.3 million images in 2016-17. The target for 2019-20 was 10 million.


And why are all targets for providing access less ambitious than in previous years?

In the whole plan, there is not one mention of newspapers or directories which are prime candidates for digitization. There's no mention of finding aids. Those resources are of interest to a broad range of Canadians, and especially LAC's largest client group — genealogists. Again this year the plan makes no mention of genealogy.

Overall from a public client perspective, this is a disappointing plan.

I'd hoped to ask Librarian and Archivist Leslie Weir about this departmental plan, in particular plans for the digitization of  LAC s collection of 2,300 Canadian newspaper titles, one of LAC'S three most used, after her presentation to the Archives Association of Ontario East. It was scheduled for next Thursday. but sadly that presentation is another casualty of the pandemic.

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