Modernization represents the transformation of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) from an institution that gave priority to the acquisition and preservation of analogue materials (in print, film, videotape, vinyl records and other non-digital formats) while providing limited access to these collections, to an institution that promotes open access to Canada's documentary heritage for all. In other words, LAC's access points must change to reflect the tremendous opportunities that advances in information and communications technology provide.
LAC remains a world leader in the field of analogue preservation: the preservation centre, the new nitrate film preservation facility, and the soon-to-be-completed high-density storage facility are world class initiatives. Modernization aims at similar excellence in the field of digital access and preservation.
Modernization continues an ongoing story: one of adapting to a changing world. Like libraries and archives themselves, the process has been around for a very long time. And so, while change is a constant, the biggest challenge for today's modernization effort is to envision LAC differently-as one spoke in a broad network of information.
Information in the digital age
An important sign of transformation to the information age is that manufacturing has been eclipsed by information management as the dominant economic activity in the world. The tipping point in information storage occurred in 2002 when more information was stored digitally than in analogue format.
Indeed, information has been liberated from its physical containers. As a result, there has been a steady decline in a static relationship between particular content and a particular communications medium. Delivery of content has moved to a single platform, the Internet, and as a consequence, the business models for the delivery of that content have converged.
Moreover, with the arrival of the Internet, the ease in which digital information can be disseminated has fundamentally changed the pursuit and transmission of enduring knowledge. Physical boundaries become far less important, as does geographic location. Controlled access to information resources gives way to unmediated electronic access; marshalling information resources to a physical location gives way to sharing information resources in multiple locations; and competition for scarce information resources gives way to collaboration to gain access to a superabundance of information.
New approaches to fulfill a time-honoured mandate
Despite these transformative changes to the way Canadians access LAC's holdings, the institution's core mandate remains the same: to acquire and preserve Canada's documentary heritage and to make it known to Canadians. What will change is how LAC will manage these functions in a way that works for the digital age and meets the needs of Canadians in an information-centred world.
To further these ends, LAC has embarked upon a comprehensive set of Modernization Innovation Initiatives (MII), twelve in all, which focus on the core activities of human resources, information management, appraisal, resource discovery, holdings management, digital preservation, and stakeholder engagement.
Once the MIIs have been achieved, LAC will be even better positioned to fully engage its partners within the pan-Canadian Documentary Heritage Network. The organization will then be better equipped to help address the formidable challenge of providing Canadians with open access to their documentary heritage, including the growing digital component.