(aka the blog post wherein I probably blow any and all future chances of working in government…)
Making the rounds of Canadian LIS (and presumably archives) listservs today has been Librarian and Archivist of Canada Dr. Daniel Caron’s “Message from the Librarian and Archivist of Canada: Modernization.”
As far as messages go, it’s kind of an odd one.
The message begins by promising to share the course for LAC he has charted, and ends by saying LAC should do what it was set up to do. Truly radical. Maybe some of this makes more sense to people with more inside knowledge of LAC? To me it sounds rather like the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons. (“Wa wah wa wa…”)
On my first skim through I was numbed by all the vague references to generally-unspecified issues, challenges, harmonizing and togetherness. The “today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday” business in the middle was somewhat amusing, and the reiteration of LAC’s mandate (repeat after me: acquire, preserve, access; lather, rinse, repeat) and praise for LAC’s “brilliant past” were a nice acknowledgment.
On my second read through I realized that Dr Caron must be reeeally worried about LAC being seen as “relevant.” I mean, he mentions this concern no fewer than 4 times in the 9 paragraphs (which is, incidentally, the same amount of times he used the word “library” in the message):
1. “Today, digital technology has radically changed our practices and expectations and, to remain relevant, we will need to tackle the issues, communicate and collaborate more than ever before with others who share our goals.” (para 1)
2. “Our relevance in the medium and long term is also called into question in this new environment.” (para 3)
3. “How do we remain relevant in an increasingly fragmented and to a certain extent uncontrollable environment?” (para 5)
4. “…our relevance depends on our ability to implement the best work procedures and marshal the most effective and efficient combinations of available expertise.” (para 8 )
(all above emphasis mine)
What’s weird is that exactly the things he seems to see as threatening LAC’s relevance (digitization, preservation challenges, information overload, social media…) are the exact things that I see as making the case for the relevance of information professionals.
Nu? This is really the man in charge of our national library & archives?
I accept that I am of a different generation, cultural background, and academic discipline than Dr. Caron. I, for example, don’t feel “condemned to live in both worlds, analogue and digital, at the same time,” (<-emphasis mine; and I would say something more like privileged to live at this time of straddling the aforementioned worlds); nor do I feel especially burdened by the “daily challenges” of unspecified “social transformations” (unless by that he means corporate globalization? I do feel kind of daily challenged by neocolonialism, come to think of it…).
However, I do know a fair number of librarians and archivists from backgrounds pretty different from my own, and when they send me messages, I generally feel like I have a decent clue what they’re trying to communicate.
This, well, what can I say? It’s a totally weird message. Maybe Caron’s trying to prove that he really does get libraries and archives, while just totally missing the mark?
…or at least that’s what I’d like to think, since the alternative would seem to be that he’s basically paving the road for privatization of LAC…