Speech Article from
Setting the Stage for the Future Speech by the Acting Librarian and Archivist of Canada to the Association des archivistes Québec at the Congrès 2014, on May 30, 2014, Laval
May 30, 2014 - Laval, Quebec
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As the Acting Librarian and Archivist of Canada, I would like to thank the organizing committee for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.
I would also like to thank all of you, who are using your meal time to be here with me today.
First off, I would like to discuss the recent appointment of Dr. Guy Berthiaume to the position of Librarian and Archivist of Canada. We are extremely pleased that Dr. Berthiaume will be assuming our institution’s senior leadership position and we believe that LAC will benefit greatly from his skills and leadership.
Dr. Berthiaume, on behalf of all my colleagues, allow me to express our delight at your arrival.
Archives Summit, other consultations and reports
Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to meet with the key stakeholders of Canada’s archival communities and, last winter, LAC had the pleasure of taking part in the Canadian Archives Summit in Toronto, where, together with some of you here today and our colleagues from the regions, we began to lay the foundation for a promising new vision for archives and the documentary heritage sector.
These consultations made it possible to identify three themes: one, the importance of the digital context in which we are evolving; two, LAC’s expected leadership; and three, the archival community’s ability to coordinate its actions.
In short, the archival community had the chance to consider its future and plan how documentary heritage will maintain its unique position in the country’s knowledge infrastructure.
These discussions are merely the beginning of a major strategic review process.
Furthermore, LAC participated in the expert committees of the Royal Society of Canada and the Council of Canadian Academies, which held consultations across the country.
We are eagerly awaiting the publication of their respective reports this fall.
When these reports are released, we can continue our discussions and decide on the milestones that will prepare us to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.
LAC presentation: Mandate and general context
Our role in the Canadian archival community is determined by the mandate set out in the Library and Archives of Canada Act.
As you know, this mandate has four main pillars:
- To preserve the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations;
- To serve as a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all, contributing to the cultural, social, and economic advancement of Canada as a free and democratic society;
- To facilitate in Canada cooperation among the communities involved in the acquisition, preservation, and diffusion of knowledge; and
- To serve as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions.
As both a documentary heritage institution and an institution of the Government of Canada, LAC has a particular set of responsibilities.
Our decisions on the assessment, acquisition, preservation and accessibility of documentary heritage are made in accordance with our obligations to parliamentarians and to the public who elects them.
Our employees have a dual role to play in terms of professional responsibility: they are both public servants and documentary heritage specialists.
In light of our mandate and our role, we are firmly committed to the documentary heritage community. The advent of the digital era has not affected our three primary business lines, which remain unchanged.
Fundamentally, our work is still to acquire, preserve and make accessible Canada’s documentary heritage. In the words of my Latin professor, back in the day: rien que ça mais tout ça, which means, only this and all of this!
With regard to acquisitions, we must always acquire records that represent a national interest, regardless of medium. Our evaluation and acquisition policy framework and its various policy instruments provide us with a solid foundation to guide our decisions and facilitate this process.
On this topic, I am particularly proud of some of our recent acquisitions of analogue records.
Through our legal deposit program, LAC has strengthened Canada’s knowledge infrastructure by accepting over 100,000 published records.
During the last year we also received 15 collections from significant Canadians, provided more than $2 million in tax receipts to various donors, and spent nearly $2 million on the purchase of records.
As for private archives, some acquisition highlights from the past year include:
- the first complete and authorized version of the Bible published in Canada;
- the John Coape Sherbrooke Collection, the largest and most complete collection of records from the War of 1812; and
- a historically significant personal diary documenting the siege of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island in 1758.
At the government level, our objective continues to be to acquire records digitally starting in 2017. It should be noted that three-quarters of LAC’s holdings are government records. Indeed, serving as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions is one of the most important parts of our mandate.
Our recordkeeping program sets out a series of requirements that must be met by federal government institutions, including periodic disposition activities that cover all information resources. LAC’s role is to authorize these institutions to dispose of their information resources—by transferring them to LAC or by relinquishing the control that the government has over them.
With regard to preservation, our second pillar, LAC is a world leader in preserving analogue resources and a soon-to-be world leader in preserving digital resources. Our Preservation Centre in Gatineau and Nitrate Film Preservation Facility are world-class facilities, as is the new, now complete, high-density storage facility.
We also recently completed our State of the Holdings report on the condition of analogue holdings, which gives an overall picture of the state of our collections and provides information on how to make use of preservation resources. This report is available on our website.
Of course, I must also mention our advancements and achievements in preserving Canada’s audiovisual documentary heritage. To date, LAC has migrated almost half of the 178,000 hours of content set out in its ten-year migration strategy for audiovisual recordings. This strategy will allow for better preservation and will improve accessibility.
Access, our third pillar, has certainly been the subject of special focus as of late. In fact, access is probably the area that has benefitted the most from new methods of improving client service by taking advantage of digital technology.
Of course, professional researchers have access to our collections online or through in-person visits to our building in downtown Ottawa.
However, we also offer consultations with our specialists via Skype. In doing so, we can help, from a distance, researchers who are planning on visiting in person or who need help finding heritage documents online.
For the general public, we are improving access to our collection through various social media platforms, such as blogs, podcasts, Flickr, Facebook and Twitter.
LAC’s Flickr account has more than 100,000 visits per month and has attracted more than 1.5 million visitors since 2008, while our Facebook pages receive more than 450,000 visits per month.
In April, we received a lot of attention because of one of our videos posted on YouTube regarding the infamous 1919 World Series, which was tainted by a match-fixing scandal. The video had over 300,000 views in just a few days and has become LAC’s most popular video to date.
One can say that new technology is allowing us to democratize access to our collections, a phenomenon that is completely in line with our mandate of serving as a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all.
Partnerships with other documentary heritage institutions
I have just given you a brief overview of our activities, which are being increasingly carried out in partnership with other organizations and memory institutions. For example, last year, we worked closely with the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario to display portraits of outstanding Ontarians.
In addition, we also recently loaned records to and participated in exhibitions presented at the Canadian War Museum and the National Gallery of Canada.
We supported regional activities, including activities of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Elgin County Museum and the Museum London in Ontario.
LAC also worked with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to develop a research guide on LAC’s Holocaust‑related holdings.
We are also working closely with the Canadian Museum of History. I believe that these agreements will be very profitable for both parties.
At the same time, LAC launched a multi-year digitization plan with the goal of promoting access to our collections.
In general, we are employing a method of targeted indexation and digitization around three major themes: the military, Aboriginal affairs, and politics and government. To date, this strategy has been very successful, increasing the number of digitized pages from 2 million last year to approximately 11 million today.
We have done so first by increasing our internal digitization capacity with the purchase of two new analogue-to-digital converters. As a result, much of the Sherbrooke collection is already available online.
Then, we entered into productive partnerships with third parties to speed up the publication and availability of documentary heritage on our website.
Our work with Canadiana.ca has made it possible to publish online 2 million pages of records from 78 of our collections.
Likewise, the data from the 1921 Census of Canada are now available online with advanced search functions thanks to our partnership with Ancestry.ca.
LAC in the context of the federal government
LAC must contribute to the objectives of the Government of Canada.
Thus, our institution participates, along with other departments, in commemorating certain milestones in Canadian history.
We are working with Public Works and Government Services Canada to digitize some 640,000 records from our Canadian Expeditionary Force collection in recognition of the one hundredth anniversary of the First World War.
We are also preparing commemorations for the Quebec City and Charlottetown constitutional conferences of 1864.
Also, as you know, Canada will celebrate its 150th birthday in three years!
As you can imagine, this is a top priority for both LAC and the Government of Canada.
The planning of these commemorative activities is well under way, and I can say that Dr. Berthiaume is arriving at LAC at the right time. We look forward to his contribution to the planning of these activities.
Conclusion and closing remarks
In short, LAC continues to adapt to the digital society that has become an integral part of Canada as it nears its 150th birthday. I believe that we all share the vision in which digitally created documentary heritage is managed digitally from start to end.
We will continue to work with the documentary heritage community to support its development.
As a result, we will participate in cooperative projects, such as Editing Modernism in Canada with the university community.
We also support all users through description projects, such as Project Naming, a collaborative project with Canada’s Aboriginal peoples; and Faces of War, which consists of gathering comments from Canadians.
Library and Archives Canada encourages good relationships and cooperation with the archival community. To that end, we established three collaborative initiatives with the community, under the direction of the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA):
First, LAC’s professional staff received training from CCA experts on the monetary valuation of archival records, on the process of the National Archival Appraisal Board, and on changes to Canada’s Copyright Act.
Second, LAC worked closely with the CCA to develop a strategy to align the Rules for Archival Description standard with the descriptive needs of digital holdings. This work is still in the planning stages, and its purpose is to modify the standard or to create a new standard that will apply to digital and analogue holdings.
Third, LAC worked with the CCA to identify and recommend opportunities for collaboration within the archival community. This project consisted of building a more complete picture of the community in order to properly understand various issues following the Canadian Archives Summit. LAC recently shared the English version of this report with the community by disseminating it on the ARCAN-L discussion list. The French version of the report will be available shortly.
Each of these initiatives uses the expertise of the Canadian archival system to advance dialogue between LAC and the community on various key topics.
In addition, LAC is keen to play an active role within the Canadian archival system by contributing, among other things, to the articulation of the vision with all the key players of the archival community.
In conclusion, I would like to repeat that LAC strives to be an open, relevant and connected institution that communicates with users and allows them to explore their documentary heritage.
Moreover, we worked hard this year to develop our internal policies, our processes and our governance. We held in-depth consultations with our partners and placed the expertise of our professionals at the forefront. We commissioned studies by the Public Policy Forum and by Newgrange Strategies and Conversations to properly identify issues and analyze possible solutions. Now, I believe that the stage is set to move forward with the projects and initiatives that have begun in recent months.
I believe that the AAQ’s congress provides an opportunity for discussion, promoting a better understanding of the needs of the documentary heritage community and allowing for the sharing of ideas on current issues and initiatives that will support Canada’s knowledge infrastructure in the future.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with you LAC’s efforts over the past year.
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