Revamping Canadian Archives
Daniel J. Caron, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, has launched a series of dialogues with the Canadian archival community about the role of Library and Archives Canada (LAC).
He is looking for input on what the national archive is doing right, wrong, well, and not well enough.
What new services should it offer?
What strategies should it be establishing now, in view of how great a revolution in archiving might be on the way?
How can it serve a greater range of sectors of Canadian society?
The archive has been collecting material since 1872, and works with many partner institutions across the nation, in all media. But it increasingly is eager to improve digital storage, according to Caron. That is in keeping with legislation adopted in 2004 when the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada formally merged as Library and Archives Canada.
The merged institution aims to improve such common functions as preservation, IT, web sites, federated search mechanisms, and reference services. The new institution’s mandate includes published and unpublished material, both public and private; it also takes in textual, visual, and sound media, and analogue and digital formats. While emphasizing the acquisition of digital archives, the service still maintain its legacy of analogue media, Caron said.
However, Caron has made clear that the new service will emphasize the acquisition of digital archives, “while still respecting its rich legacy of analogue media from its two predecessor institutions,” said Cook.
These being modern times, the agency is trying to do all this with tight budgets.
Responsibility for collecting initial input on archival reforms fell to Terry Cook, a senior figure in Canadian archiving circles who spent over two decades at the National Archives of Canada, and is credited with revolutionizing archival practices there. Now head of Clio Consulting, and an associate professor of history at the archival-studies program at the University of Manitoba, he has completed that process, and handed over the submissions for the Library and Archives Canada, which will plan meetings with interested parties. “In general,” said Cook, “the response was good – well over 200 pages single spaced when compiled – from 93 respondents, and with lots of meaty suggestions and sound advice.”
He added: “The need for a strong national documentation framework or strategy is seen, in all media, and much better public services, including better finding aids online, better for contextual substance and better for navigating and searching functions.”
Among their concerns is to have continued and improved access to originals as well as digital surrogates.
Other consultants have been reaching out to librarians, professional historians, and genealogists. All this research is being done in keeping with legislation adopted in 2004, the Library and Archives of Canada Act (2004) when the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada formally merged as Library and Archives Canada.