Library and Archives Canada : New Website Coming 2013

Library and Archives Canada announced on July12th, 2012 details on how Canadians will access LAC’s holdings online starting in 2013, introducing their new website at the same time.  With only 5% of their holdings digitized to date, and with the elimination of 50% of the digitization staff, it’s hard to believe their new website will be able to address the needs of researchers across Canada for some time to come.  Hopefully, the next  inter-library loan system will still make their holdings available, and affordable,  for all Canadians.

Here’s what they have to say:

“A new gateway for finding out about Canada’s heritage will soon be opening up online: Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is developing a modernized website that will make it easier for you and Canadians everywhere to access its holdings. The new site includes a suite of helpful features and content, including drop-down menus, introductory and educational videos, a blog pilot project as well as quick links to LAC’s social media platforms.

The new site is one of the first federal sites to conform to the new Government of Canada design, with a set-up that already follows the new Treasury Board Secretariat Standard on Web Usability. It includes navigational aids that allow you to quickly browse what the site has to offer, and to complete the most popular online tasks. You will find it easier to discover the collection, do online research, get copies of materials and plan a visit to LAC, as well as access services designed for professionals, such as publishers, librarians and archivists. A short video also introduces you to the work LAC does, and a second video explains the basics of online research.

As content from LAC’s existing website is steadily migrated to the new one, during this transition period both websites will remain online with uninterrupted user access to both. The site will be completed by summer 2013, when all of LAC’s existing Web content will have been transferred. Visit http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx and find out for yourself what LAC is doing to make its information resources easy to find, increasingly available and accessible to all Canadians.”

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War of 1812 – Bicentennial commemorated this year

Early settlement of the Ottawa Valley started with the disbanding of the British regiments after the war of 1812.  Since this is the bicentennial of the war of 1812, you might be interested in checking out a new and exciting site at www.thewarof1812.net.  This dynamic website has been developed by Peter Konieczny and Sandra Sadowski to spread the word about a conflict many Canadians know virtually nothing about.  According to Peter & Sandra, “their latest launch comes at a time when preserving history is becoming more and more challenging. With government funding being cut, universities scaling down programs, and historical sites disappearing, www.thewarof1812.net offers an important part of Canada’s past a whole new home.” 
Also, check out this book by local author, A. Barry Roberts, titled “For King and Canada.”  This is a detailed account of the story of the 100th Regiment of Foot during the war, and how they later became redcoat soldier-settlers in Goulbourn Township.

The Official War of 1812 Bicentennial Website at http://www.visit1812.com/  is fairly dry but does offer a list of the events planned from July through October to commemorate the war, ending the weekend of October 12-14 with “the largest battle reenactment in Canada to commemorate the Bicentennial! This major event will be held on the very battlefield on the very day where British and American forces faced off in the War of 1812’s first significant conflict. Hundreds of re-enactors will march from Fort George and take the field to recreate the momentous battle where a gallant leader was lost and history was made. There will be battlefield tours and educational programs at Queenston Heights Park all day Friday with evening fireworks showering the Niagara River from the American encampments in Lewiston. Saturday welcomes the major battle reenactment and commemorative service at Brock’s Monument with tours, period merchants, a lacrosse display match, music, and gala dinner at Queenston Heights. Fireworks will cap the off the day on the Heights as Brock’s body is solemnly led from the battlefield. On Sunday activities shift to Niagara-on-the-Lake where Brock’s funeral procession will move through the Town and his burial at Fort George will be recreated. Activities will also be ongoing all weekend in the Town of Lewiston, NY. This event is a joint endeavour through the efforts of the Niagara Parks Commission, Parks Canada, the Friends of Fort George, the Queenston Residents Association, and the Historical Association of Lewiston.”

Canadian Association of University Teachers launches a Save Library Archives campaign

If you are want to help save Library and Archives Canada, go to http://www.savelibraryarchives.ca/ , where you will find a comprehensive list of ways to take action or at least to receive regular updates about the campaign, organized by the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

What does the Canadian Library Association have to say about service cuts at Library and Archives Canada?

In May 2012,  Canadian Library Association President, Karen Adams, had this to say about the changes taking place at Library and Archives Canada:

“Our national library and archives has a broad mandate to acquire, preserve and make available the documentary heritage of Canada. It is also responsible for the management of the archival records of government. Even before the cuts, Library and Archives Canada was challenged to fulfill its mandate; with this reduction in their financial and staff resources, the job becomes even more difficult.

Canadians expect to have access to the vast wealth of materials managed by Library and Archives Canada, which includes books, journals, photographs, newspapers, personal and corporate archives, government records, paintings, film, and sound recordings. The Canadian library and archival communities expect leadership on professional issues from their national institution, including standards for activities and support for the provision of quality library and archival services to Canadians across the country. These expectations cannot adequately be met with the level of resources now available to Library and Archives Canada.”

Visit – http://clagov.wordpress.com/category/government-libraries/ for more details presented by CLA.

What does the Ontario Library Association say about funding cuts to LAC?

The Ontario Library Association http://www.accessola.org/ola_prod/OLAWEB/Issues_Advocacy/issues/About_Library_and_Archives_Canada.aspx has developed a time-line about the 2012 Funding cuts to Library and Archives Canada, saying on May 7, 2012 that :

“LAC staff confirms that the current Inter-Library Loan (ILL) service will end February 15, 2013; the successor to the current ILL program will be announced in the fall of 2012. A notice will be linked to when received.”

Library and Archives Canada : As of February 2013, Current Inter-library Loan System Will End!

Vancouver Sun, July 7, 2012

“Library and Archives Canada has cut a program dedicated to helping local archives develop and preserve their collections. As of February 2013, the national archive will no longer be part of Canada’s countrywide inter-library loan system.

These cuts to Canada’s national memory-keeping institution passed last week in the government’s omnibus budget bill.

The deputy head of Library and Archives, Daniel Caron, says he’s doing his best to keep his department “relevant to a new generation of Canadians,” but some archivists fear the cuts will build a wall around the archive’s information.

In the lead-up to the budget, the Conservative government asked Caron – and every other federal department head – to identify potential cuts. He was asked to cut at least 10 per cent of his annual $114 million budget. Caron – the first economist to lead the national library – says he wasn’t surprised by the request, and had begun planning a “new vision” for the agency in 2009, when he took over the portfolio.

In a recent speech, he told the Canadian Library Association’s annual conference the arrival of the Internet had changed the rules of the game.

“Information is overabundant and increasingly ephemeral,” he said.

In contrast with online research, when a library user consults maps or fragile documents at the Library and Archives building in downtown Ottawa, they have to be careful. The rules require patrons to wear white gloves when handling rare documents, such as a 1742 report to British Parliament by explorers who thought they’d found the Northwest Passage, or a 1608 map of the habitation of Quebec, drawn by French explorer Samuel de Champlain.

While Caron says those bits of Canadiana will continue to be preserved, he feels the focus of a 21st century Library and Archives Canada must be to give as many Canadians as possible the chance to access the information they want online.

FOCUS TO BE ONLINE

The government agency’s research shows that in-person visits to the marble-floored building are down to 2,000 a month, whereas online visits to the Library and Archives web-site are at an all-time high, consistently reaching half a million in the same time frame. Caron’s plan is to ramp up digitization – at the moment, only five per cent of the collection is avail-able in a digital format – so anyone, anywhere can see the collection.

Archivists, librarians, the Canadian Association of University Teachers and groups of researchers have begun letter-writing campaigns denouncing the cuts, which amount to $9.6 million over the next three years. They say the changes won’t result in better access because digitization – to be done well – is expensive, time-consuming and requires a lot of staff.

But staff were another casualty of the recent cuts.

LOCAL ARCHIVES TAKE A HIT

The Association of Canadian Archivists has said the changes will make it harder for local communities to create museum exhibits with a local flair for Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. They point specifically to two changes. In February 2013, Library and Archives Canada will no longer send its documents by inter-library loan to local branches throughout the nation. And, effective immediately, the $1.7 million National Archival Development Program founded in 1986 by the Mulroney government has been discontinued. It employed experts in every province and territory to provide guidance to small archives, helping them expend and develop their collections.

However, Caron, who has worked in the department for 10 years, said funding local archives is not within his department’s mandate. He called the cuts to the NADP and the decision to stop the Inter-Library Loan program a sign of the times.

While he says the department will continue its work in preservation, he says he’s focused on another great challenge – one that libraries and archives around the world are facing – the daunting task of collecting, preserving and archiving Canadiana that is only published online, such as Tweets, blogs and web-publications.

Anna St. Onge, York University’s Archivist in charge of digital projects and outreach, says librarians and archivists are acutely aware of the challenges – and the opportunities – the Internet presents to their respective fields.

But, St. Onge cautions that Caron cannot allow the goal of devising a way to preserve the present to overshadow the work still to be done in archiving the country’s past.

To be useful in a digital format, St. Onge says archival documents must first be correctly identified, organized and labelled so that “in five years, 20 years, or a 100 years, people can benefit from the information in well-kept records.”

“It’s expensive. It’s tedious. And, it’s necessary,” she said.

DIGITIZING THE PAST

In order to speed up the process of putting the national archives collection of maps, books, audio recordings, portraits, videos and every publication ever printed in Canada online, Caron says his department is already exploring the option of using private contractors to “digitize on our behalf.”

Although the details of the plan are not yet final, Caron says, the goal will be to digitize records that Canadians request “on demand.” He said the archives would be able to process the request for free within, for example, three to six months, or, if the client needed the document sooner, they could pay.

Archivists agree a move to digitization is important.

The National Archival Development Program made it a priority. In the program’s 26 years, many community archives used the NADP’s project funding to make digital copies of their holdings. The program also required participants to put their collections into a central database so people outside the region would know what they had available. A new database was supposed to be launched this fall. It has been put on hold.

Caron says a new program, the Pan-Canadian Documentary Heritage Network, created in 2009, will replace elements of the National Archival Development Program but will not provide any funding. Instead, it will bring the librarian and archivist community together to collaborate and share resources. For example, he said, the network could make a series of You Tube videos that describe how best to preserve certain types of documents. Volunteers working in small archives could then watch them to learn how to properly safe-guard their records.

For many, however, those measures won’t replace the relationships built through programs like the National Archival Development Fund. “We appreciate the need for austerity, but it’s a question of how these cuts have been made,” said Brian Masschaele of Ontario’s Department of Community and Cultural Services. “There are ways to make cuts that minimize the effects on communities – if they had taken the time to consult, we could have suggested other cost-saving measures.”

“The NADP has a massive impact on our ability to tell our story as a rural community,” said Masschaele, the department’s director for Elgin County.

In 2003, Elgin County successfully applied for a $5,700 NADP funding contribution to preserve the records of Alma College, a local independent girl’s school. After the federal government agreed to fund the project, lending what Masschaele called “legitimacy” to the project, donations flowed in from alumni and corporate sponsors. When the school burned down in 2009, Mass-chaele said the records “are all that’s left of what used to be a very important institution in our community.”

“We couldn’t have done it without that seed money from the federal government.”

For St. Onge at York, the loss of local archives creates a democratic deficit. “You don’t know how much you need archives until you need them,” she said. In addition to preserving raw data useful in legal disputes, St. Onge said well-kept records allow citizens to evaluate policy and buttress their arguments with documentation. “The ability for anyone to do this kind of research allows Canadians to tell their own story, to map the passage of their families across the vast country and to paint a picture of the nation as it used to be, in order to understand where it is now.”