Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Wants Your Opinions

Now that it has become public knowledge, I think I'll blog a bit about LAC's efforts at greater public consultation. As you may know, there was a big controversy about a year ago when LAC cut back on reading room hours (including limiting the evenings) in September 2007. Many researchers, including historians, were angry since many make trips to Ottawa to do research and seek to make the most of their visit by logging as much time as they can in the reading room. LAC officials stated that funds were being moved to some sort of digital archive effort. This explanation was not viewed as satisfactory by many and thus, the Public Consultations and Services Advisory Board was formed.

So much for the background. Earlier this month, LAC published a DISCUSSION PAPER ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SERVICE STRATEGY BY LAC SERVICES BRANCH to provide a frame for public comments. As one might expect, there is a long boilerplate on the document which speaks somewhat vaguely of the challenges faced. While the document notes that LAC has received considerable positive feedback, I find criticism to be more illuminating:

During 2007-08, the overwhelming majority of comments collected on the comment cards were compliments on the service clients received from LAC staff. The most frequent complaints concerned delays in receiving purchased copies or answers to reference inquiries, and reduced onsite hours. Among suggestions for improvement were requests for more interpretation or research of individual military personnel records, better user orientation, confirmation of orders/inquiries sent using forms on the LAC website, availability of electronic copies of items for purchase, and improvement in consultation room facilities.


LAC does not attract an audience sufficiently representative of the Canadian population, especially with respect to visible minorities, and needs to do more in this area. While LAC is doing better with visible minority youth, gaps exist in other age cohorts. Similarly, LAC needs to improve its effectiveness in attracting francophone users to its services. LAC is pleased to note that it does appear to be reaching aboriginal audiences and users.

There is some interesting material to consider. I wish there was some more analysis that explained the differences in users. I think advertising could be improved. How many people know of the Canadian Genealogy Centre, for example? LAC's involvement in a recent TV program involving genealogy was a good first step, but they need to go further. Of the various programs discussed in the document, having more original materials made available in digital form would be my priority.

You can send your comments to LAC by post and by email:


Services Branch
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street, Room 211
Ottawa, ON K1A 0N4

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