Tag Archives: Library and Archives Canada

Caron’s LAC Modernisation message: huh?

(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…

-Greyson

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Filed under digitization, globalization, government, government information, preservation, privatization, The Profession

New Librarian and Archivist of Canada…an Economist?

What does it mean that the new Librarian and Archivist of Canada is neither a librarian nor an archivist; not even an author, but rather an economist?

Daniel J Caron has been with Library & Archives Canada since 2003, in high level corporate management branch-type jobs.

Prior to that he was in various Ottawa jobs including for the Treasury Board Secretariat, Human Resources Development Canada, and the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.

The outgoing Librarian and Archivist of Canada, Ian E. Wilson, was the National Archivist of Canada to Roch Carrier’s National Librarian until the positions merged, and has been involved with archives in Canada and internationally for ~30 years.

Am I the only one who is a little freaked out about this change?

I pulled Caron’s 1994 thesis record from the U Montreal catalogue, and according to Google Translate it seems to be something like “Land and political autonomy: emerging configurations of relations between Aboriginal people and the French, British and Canadian governments.” No abstract on the record so I’m not sure what his politics are, but sure doesn’t seem to be much related to libraries or archives.

I’ve tried to find some of his publications that might mention libraries or archives…looked on his publications list at the Université du Québec École nationale d’administration publique, for example.  Caron seems to have published quite a bit on human resources management, project evaluation, and in earlier years Aboriginal-government negotiations.

Yeah, I’m kinda concerned.

To figure out exactly what the Librarian and Archivist of Canada’s powers were, and what s/he is supposed to do, I went to the Library and Archives of Canada Act ( 2004, c. 11 )

Excerpt:

Objects

7. The objects of the Library and Archives of Canada are

(a) to acquire and preserve the documentary heritage;

(b) to make that heritage known to Canadians and to anyone with an interest in Canada and to facilitate access to it;

(c) to be the permanent repository of publications of the Government of Canada and of government and ministerial records that are of historical or archival value;

(d) to facilitate the management of information by government institutions;

(e) to coordinate the library services of government institutions; and

(f) to support the development of the library and archival communities.

Powers of Librarian and Archivist

8. (1) The Librarian and Archivist may do anything that is conducive to the attainment of the objects of the Library and Archives of Canada, including

(a) acquire publications and records or obtain the care, custody or control of them;

(b) take measures to catalogue, classify, identify, preserve and restore publications and records;

(c) compile and maintain information resources such as a national bibliography and a national union catalogue;

(d) provide information, consultation, research or lending services, as well as any other services for the purpose of facilitating access to the documentary heritage;

(e) establish programs and encourage or organize any activities, including exhibitions, publications and performances, to make known and interpret the documentary heritage;

(f) enter into agreements with other libraries, archives or institutions in and outside Canada;

(g) advise government institutions concerning the management of information produced or used by them and provide services for that purpose;

(h) provide leadership and direction for library services of government institutions;

(i) provide professional, technical and financial support to those involved in the preservation and promotion of the documentary heritage and in providing access to it; and

(j) carry out such other functions as the Governor in Council may specify.

Sampling from Internet

(2) In exercising the powers referred to in paragraph (1)(a) and for the purpose of preservation, the Librarian and Archivist may take, at the times and in the manner that he or she considers appropriate, a representative sample of the documentary material of interest to Canada that is accessible to the public without restriction through the Internet or any similar medium.

Destruction or disposal

9. (1) The Librarian and Archivist may dispose of any publication or record under his or her control, including by destruction, if he or she considers that it is no longer necessary to retain it.

Restriction

(2) Any such disposition is subject to the terms and conditions under which the publication or record has been acquired or obtained.

After reading that, I’m still concerned. I get that a director needs to be a manager, have strong management skills. However, I want the person charged with leading the preservation of documentary heritage of the country, facilitating access to that heritage, coordinating government library and information services and supporting library and archival development across the country to, well, demonstrate some evidence of caring about preserving and providing access to this documentary heritage, and some connection with the library and archival communities.

I’m concerned that access to information will take a backseat, that documents may be disposed of under principles other than those of the archival or library communities, and that library and archival communities in the public sector will be neglected rather than developed.

Is a professional administrator really the person we want as our national librarian and archivist?

Is it too much to, at very least, hope that the person installed as the figurehead and visionary for our library and archives sector at *minimum* have some literacy or heritage focus, if not actually be a librarian or archivist?

-Greyson

postscript: Oh, look! Unsurprisingly, the CLA agrees with me.  Or probably I should have stated that vice versa…

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Filed under government, government information, LIS education, preservation, The Profession