Saturday, January 05, 2008

Library and Archives Canada - Need for Public Consultation

Last fall, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) announced cuts to full access hours at the Archives in Ottawa, giving very little notice of the changes.

There was a public uproar - many groups and many individuals made their feelings very clear in web posts, letters and newspaper articles - and by mid November, 2007, to give them credit, the powers at LAC had both restored some hours and promised to set up an "LAC Services Advisory Board"...composed of representatives from various user communities across Canada...the first of two components of LAC's recently-established public consultation process."

The Board first met 30 November, 2007 and a brief report of that meeting was posted on the LAC website, 13 December, 2007. Gordon Watts, co-chair of Canada's grassroots Post 1901 Census Access Project, who is now a member of the Board, commented on the first Board session in his 19 December 2007 "Gordon Watts Reports".

Although it's promised that Board minutes will be posted on the LAC website, that hasn't been done yet.

I do agree with Gordon that information relating to the Board would be better placed in its own area on the website, and not just under 'What's New'. This would make it much easier to keep up to date with the Board's progress. Since genealogists are, I believe, the largest group of LAC users, there needs to be a link to that information on LAC's Canadian Genealogy Centre as well.

There should also be a list posted of the 28 people chosen by Library and Archives Canada as members of the Board and their affiliations. Apparently these people were chosen from groups or individuals both known to the LAC as 'users' and as expressing concern previously about LAC's operations.

However, as the LAC Services Advisory Board report reiterates "The second component ["of LAC's recently-established public consultation process"] involves general public consultations, held on a regular and ongoing basis, concerning LAC's client services, with the first meeting planned for January 2008. LAC users will be invited to comment in person, by telephone or postal mail, or using electronic means over the Internet."

It is now 5 January, 2008. As yet no notice of this January, 2008 meeting appears on the Library and Archives website. On the 19 December, 2007, I e-mailed Pauline Portelance, Senior Media Relations Officer, Library and Archives Canada, asking for information about the meeting. To date, I have received no reply.

Public consultation without ample notice is NOT public consultation.

Library and Archives Canada's recent public consultation process for the Canadian Digital Information Strategy draft is an unfortunate example of LAC's current practice. Although LAC called "for comment by any interested person or organization", the draft was posted to the website without any fanfare 31 October, 2007 and comment was required by 23 November, 2007. Bloggers, including John D. Reid, of Anglo-Celtic Connections, were the first to comment, even before the draft was posted, and soon made it known along the web, so I hope many individuals commented on the draft. Few organized groups, however, would have been able to discuss the draft and respond in this very short length of time.

Today I will be writing both Ian Wilson, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, and the Honourable Josée Verner, Minister of Canadian Heritage, asking for details of the 2008 consultation plan and pointing out the need to give sufficient time for public discussion, debate and comment.

I suggest that everyone in Canada's historical, genealogical and cultural communities do the same.


Library and Archives Canada, What's New, Notice Regarding Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Services Advisory Board (SAB), 13 December 2007:

Gordon Watts Reports, 19 December 2007. See previous reports for more background to the LAC access hours issue:

Anglo-Celtic Connections, by John D. Reid. His most recent comment is here, but see earlier posts in October/November for more about the LAC access hours issue:

E-mail contacts:

Ian Wilson, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada:

Honourable Josée Verner, Minister of Canadian Heritage:

Also re 'Canada's Digital Information Strategy' Draft, see

Library and Archives Canada, Canadian Digital Information Strategy, 31 October, 2007:

Michael Geist, blog - search tag - 'digital information strategy':

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