Digital Strategy 2015 and Beyond

Library and Archives Canada is committed to becoming a leading digital memory institution to better connect Canadians with their documentary heritage. To help achieve this, LAC has developed Mind the Shift: Digital Strategy 2015 and Beyond, a framework to secure LAC’s place in an increasingly digital world where technology advances at lightning speed. The strategy outlines how LAC will adapt to the ever-changing information environment, how it will position itself to keep pace in the digital era and how it will find new ways of doing business in a digital world.

Digital Strategy 2015 and Beyond: Mind the Shift PDF Version 2.79 Mb

Table of contents

Black-and-white photo of Charles Darwin. The image transitions into black and grey boxes on the right side.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

Paraphrasing.... Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

Introduction

At Library and Archives Canada (LAC), our mission is to help Canadians better understand who they are as a nation by connecting them with their documentary heritage. Advances in technology and the lightning speed at which people create and expect to find information have challenged us to look for new and innovative ways to do our work. That is why we are committed to becoming a leading digital memory institution.

We revamped our business model in 2014, focusing on how LAC will create, deliver, and capture value. In other words, we will help Canadians connect with LAC’s holdings by finding out what interests them most or what they would like to discover. We will also encourage clients to describe our holdings so they are easier to find and share. This is the essence of our client-driven approach. To make this possible, we will use tools and technology that give clients quick and easy access to our holdings, anywhere, anytime.

The business model provides the framework for enhancing our capacity and ability to effectively manage the current and future volume of content. Informed by the business model, the Digital Strategy articulates the digital opportunities that we can leverage to fulfill LAC’s mission and achieve greater value, relevance and credibility. A detailed implementation plan and other key documents will further guide us in advancing the Digital Strategy.

The Digital Strategy is LAC’s roadmap to the future. It provides the basic framework needed to secure our place in an increasingly digital world, while encouraging disruptive innovation where required. New technologies, products or services that reinvent the way we do our work are examples of disruptive innovation. And, it is through this innovation that LAC will adapt to the ever-changing environment in which we operate.

LAC Today

Over the last 11 years, LAC has undergone tremendous change since the merger of the former National Library and the former National Archives. The two organizations came together in 2004 to form Library and Archives Canada, a true success story for the institution and the country. Along the way to transformation, LAC has had ups and downs, facing various challenges and embracing new opportunities. But, as with any change of this magnitude, finding the right rhythm in the new reality takes time.

With the experience of the past decade in hand, LAC is well positioned to propel forward into the digital era. Today, LAC holds an astounding amount of Canadian documentary heritage, boasting:

  • 20 million books, periodicals, newspapers, microforms, literary texts and government publications
  • 250 kilometres of government and private textual records
  • 3 million maps, plans and architectural drawings
  • 24 million photographs
  • 550,000 hours of audio and video recordings
  • 425,000 works of art, the largest collection of Canadian art in the world.

The challenge LAC faces with moving forward, as the Librarian and Archivist of Canada stated in 2014, “is to raise the Nautilus to the surface and to free Nemo’s books.” In the 21st century, people expect to have access to archives—this is the new reality—and maintaining the status quo will prevent us from keeping pace with the rapidly increasing amount of content that LAC must capture and make available to Canadians. We cannot recreate our analogue processes in a digital version; LAC must find new ways of doing business in a digital world.

Where Are We Going?

By advancing our digital agenda, LAC will empower Canadians to discover and access their documentary heritage when and where they want. We are heading toward a digital future, using three themes as our compass.

Digital Curation

We will enable Canadians to access content from our holdings and from elsewhere across a network of institutions that hold pieces of Canada’s documentary heritage. LAC will truly be a trusted digital repository with a robust platform for digital curation, allowing us to manage our own holdings and to connect with those of others. LAC will continue to actively acquire information resources that represent Canadian society, capturing mostly digital materials—published and unpublished—through automated systems, with metadata captured upon acquisition. LAC will be recognized as a leader in archival and library science, and new technologies.

Digital Discovery

We will continue to focus on our core mandate: sharing documentary heritage with Canadians. By using the full range of available digital tools, LAC will ensure everyone has ready online access to Canada’s rich and vast documentary heritage, that is, our holdings and those of partner organizations. This will give LAC greater visibility while enabling clients to discover our holdings—whether analogue or digital—through any channel, whenever and wherever they want. LAC will be recognized worldwide for leading-edge service as an organization dedicated to serving clients.

Digital Performance

We will become a high-performing organization, where archivists and librarians work symbiotically to achieve common goals. LAC will continue to engage with national and international networks to ensure we stay abreast of innovation and new developments. LAC will foster a culture that thinks digitally, leverages data, and is always focused on clients’ needs.

How Will We Get There?

LAC will focus on 10 strategic goals to achieve digital transformation. This will require a coordinated effort with many activities happening in parallel. We will also identify key initiatives that will help us advance our goals. While not all activities are required in the near-term stages, it is important to identify key efforts needed to realize the strategic goals. We will create an implementation plan to ensure these key initiatives are successfully monitored and implemented.

“Get your house in order first” is the philosophy that some advocate in many transformation efforts. While often a sound path, it misses opportunities to capitalize on collaborative endeavours internally, and with partners who can bolster quality and capacity. Further, when organizations focus solely on “their own house,” they may miss innovative opportunities to re-think current operations.

Three types of activities must operate in synergy. The model below depicts a cycle showing the relationship between Operate, Collaborate and Innovate as key concepts that frame the activities in this strategy.

Figure 1: Operate, Collaborate and Innovate cycle
Image of three interlinked circles representing the synergy of the key concepts. Text version below

The image is of three interlinked circles showing the relationship between Operate (top circle), Collaborate (bottom left circle) and Innovate (bottom right circle) as key concepts that frame the activities.

Operate:
Implementing foundational activities to foster collaborative endeavours, innovative activities and ongoing operations.
Collaborate:
Working with key partners to connect Canada’s documentary heritage and reach new levels of services for clients.
Innovate:
Piloting new ideas to explore new approaches with minimized risk and a tolerance for failure.

While these activities are partly in place or underway, the forward direction for LAC requires that their scope include all of Canada’s documentary heritage, not simply that which is in LAC’s holdings today. Our implementation plan, which will complement the Digital Strategy, will expand on these activities in greater detail.

 

Theme 1: Digital Curation

Strategic Goal 1: Digitally Enabled

Building the technology and instruments required to enable us to achieve our business model goals through the use of a Digital Curation Platform (DCP).

Context & Rationale

This goal is a foundational infrastructure component of the Digital Strategy. Under the notion of Acquire–Preserve–Make Accessible, LAC will move toward a Digital Curation Platform (DCP). Where the Trusted Digital Repository (TDR) concept focused on technology for preservation purposes, the DCP extends well beyond that to include the technical and physical infrastructure, process, and governance for acquisition, preservation and service delivery. The DCP will combine new, rethought processes from start to finish that are supported by technology and that allow partners to interact with us. This will help us attain our objective of making all of Canada’s documentary heritage available to Canadians.

Digital enablement goes beyond the technology and extends into the business of operating with the DCP to create value. The infrastructure becomes part of the digital ecosystem created by LAC to support current and future goals as we evolve.

While this strategic goal focuses on technology and systems for curation, it will prompt us to transform and rethink everything we do. It is the most foundational goal of all and will be key to ensure LAC’s success. However, we must advance our other goals to ensure LAC's investment in the DCP pays off.

Outcomes & Benefits

  • LAC aligned with industry standards for trusted digital repositories
  • Greater technical sustainability and scalability through the use of component architecture approaches
  • LAC becomes “digital-ready” through renewed technology and business architectures
  • Enablement of all other strategic goals in the Digital Strategy

Key Activities

Operate

  • Develop a Digital Curation Platform (DCP)
  • Create an architecture function within LAC
  • Address immediate and critical technology gaps (e.g. storage capacity)

Collaborate

  • Collaborate with key partners in evaluating the DCP
  • Explore private-sector collaborative opportunities for DCP components

Innovate

  • Identify no- or low-cost temporary storage alternatives

Strategic Goal 2: Digital Heritage

Ensuring our collections include new forms of born-digital documentary heritage, such as data, web, and other sources of digital content.

Context & Rationale

As our culture evolves, so must our definition of “documentary heritage.” LAC has, over time, revised this definition, but we must push the boundaries further. This will require new processes and capacity to deal with new forms of content. How will LAC capture and store volumes of web content? What is LAC’s role with Government of Canada data, or data from other sources? What is the role of Facebook data in genealogical collections?

Updated policies and processes would enhance LAC’s holdings and support the achievement of other strategic goals, such as open access. Acquisition of digital content could also include the acquisition of existing metadata associated with the content. We can leverage the metadata to make the content discoverable and accessible at, or even before, acquisition.

This goal also takes into account LAC’s New Service Model, which requires that born-digital information resources of archival value created as of 2017, including Government of Canada records, be transferred to LAC digitally.

Outcomes & Benefits

  • A better representation of Canada’s documentary heritage from modernized acquisition policies and priorities
  • Digital content is discoverable upon (or before) acquisition seamlessly
  • Lower human interaction required upon acquisition, having leveraged existing donor and/or social input to metadata and descriptions
  • Government of Canada records will be open for consultation from the time they are transferred to LAC and will be “open by default”

Key Activities

Operate

  • Implement the acquisition orientation and strategies
  • Accept born-digital information resources of enduring value that are created as of 2017 in digital format only
  • Optimize digital acquisition policy and processes
  • Implement web archiving from Government of Canada and from the private sector

Collaborate

  • Collaborate with partners to ensure LAC policies and processes are aligned with existing or planned digital acquisition of partner content
  • Engage with Government of Canada institutions to prepare for the transfer of digital assets to LAC

Innovate

  • Create an acquisition and a preservation strategy for documentary heritage
  • Pilot web archiving across the Government of Canada and with partners

Strategic Goal 3: Digitize Wisely

Optimizing our services by digitizing portions of LAC’s analogue holdings based on popularity, ad-hoc requests, preservation needs, and other criteria.

Context & Rationale

Not to be confused with “digital,” “digitizing” is about creating digital copies of analogue holdings. We have been investing significant effort into digitizing LAC’s collections. Despite these efforts, major barriers and untapped opportunities persist. This goal represents the activities that LAC will undertake to remove the long-standing and emerging barriers to digitization (such as storage capacity) so that we can capitalize on digitization opportunities.

Digitizing wisely is about prioritizing digitization efforts based on several factors, including client needs and wants (the pull), Government of Canada promotional events (the push), and deterioration of the source content or asset. While we are used to balancing these factors, there are significant limitations imposed in exercising this balance. Such limitations include a lack of available storage space for digitized materials or federal policies that can make it difficult to solicit public opinion on what clients want digitized.

LAC will seek out mutually beneficial partnerships and social models that would enhance digitization and storage capacity. We anticipate meeting LAC’s preservation goals through smart digitization processes, keeping in mind file format and storage media evolution.

Outcomes & Benefits

  • Increased outreach to new clients by having digitized, high-demand content
  • Lower digitization and storage costs through leveraging of partners and communities of interest for effort/infrastructure
  • Reduction in one-on-one resource requirements from LAC
  • Improved service speed and quality
  • Improved preservation of at-risk analogue collections

Key Activities

Operate

  • Digitize LAC’s holdings from the public domain that are most valued by Canadians
  • Develop a three-year digitization plan and estimate storage requirements

Collaborate

  • Establish options for collaborative digitization (e.g. by communities of interest, schools, etc.)

Innovate

  • Crowdsource digitization priorities

Strategic Goal 4: Digitally Descriptive

Ensuring all our holdings (analogue and digital) have comprehensive metadata and descriptions that are continually enriched.

Context & Rationale

Digital descriptions and, more broadly, metadata, are critical to the discovery, use, and management of collections. We will renew our processes to ensure that collections—whether analogue or born-digital—are discoverable as soon as we acquire them. We would take this concept even further by having metadata assigned to collections outside of our holdings, extending the discovery model to all of Canada’s documentary heritage.

The digital descriptions are key to discovery. At a basic level, the metadata and descriptions better enable users to find the content through web-based search engines. The descriptions are also an important component of the Government of Canada Open Data agenda, which allows the discovery and management of the datasets and improves their ability to link with other datasets or metadata sets.

Metadata (including descriptions) will be a fully federated concept, whereby enrichment will come from LAC and contributor communities that include partners, donors and communities of interest (e.g. through crowdsourcing techniques). As we become more skilled at managing our metadata, patterns and connections between holdings—interrelations unknown to us previously—will emerge, bringing further value to the collection.

Outcomes & Benefits

  • Metadata managed as a unique asset
  • Reduced LAC resource requirement on input to metadata lifecycle, shifting the effort from metadata creation to maintaining, promoting and controlling a federated and user-contributed metadata framework
  • Greater discoverability and use of collections, driven by plain language metadata
  • Improved administration and management of assets
  • Existing metadata and descriptions of digital content types, prior to acquisition, can help to evolve how information is organized and categorized within the LAC curation framework

Key Activities

Operate

  • Develop digital descriptions for all holdings, analogue and digital
  • Develop a standard approach for digitization and preservation metadata
  • Rationalize metadata and integrate across business lines

Collaborate

  • Crowdsource the enrichment of existing metadata
  • Establish natural language taxonomy mapped to LAC controlled vocabulary, with the help of Citizen Librarians and Archivists
  • Collaborate with Canadian knowledge institutions to establish a federated model for metadata management

Innovate

  • Revisit policies on official language descriptions to encourage plain language metadata

Theme 2: Digital Discovery

Strategic Goal 5: Open Access

Facilitating discovery and use of as much of LAC’s holdings as possible by anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Context & Rationale

This goal is about providing access to as much of LAC’s holdings as possible. Working in tandem with other discovery goals, this one focuses on removing the barriers to access that currently exist within LAC. It is about taking a proactive approach to managing copyright and access restrictions. Access restrictions should be used as sparingly as possible and this drive for openness should be deeply embedded in LAC’s culture and processes.

Investments in technology and a Digital Curation Platform (DCP) will allow for effective and secure solutions to manage access restrictions, further enabling us to achieve the goal.

Advancing this goal enables LAC to contribute directly to the Government of Canada’s Open Government commitments, particularly around Open Data and Open Information. This is especially true for the Government of Canada records that LAC holds.

Outcomes & Benefits

  • Meet evolving client expectations
  • Develop new and expanded client bases through new outreach potential
  • Become a leader in client-centric service delivery
  • Increase relevance of LAC’s brand amongst target client and partner communities
  • Support Government of Canada Open Government, Open Data, Open Information, and Open Dialogue agendas

Key Activities

Operate

  • Develop an open access strategy for collections
  • Implement the 2013 Policy on Making Holdings Available

Collaborate

  • Increase contributions to Government of Canada Open Government initiatives
  • Negotiate with donors and content providers to remove access restrictions and open collections

Innovate

  • Implement “open by default” approach for LAC collections

Strategic Goal 6: Social Engagement

Enhancing the value of our holdings through active promotion and social engagement with clients.

Context & Rationale

This strategic goal embodies the concepts of the “Citizen Librarian” and “Citizen Archivist.”Footnote 1 LAC’s Project Naming clearly shows that taking a collection with finite value and subjecting it to social sharing—with purpose—can result in enriched value for the collection. It is a perfect example where client becomes contributor.

In addition to the economic benefit of using social models to enhance our holdings, this strategic goal also enables LAC’s content to achieve reach and relevance. Social engagement includes the creation of engaging content with viral distribution. It also includes enabling clients to create new meaning and value for the collections through mashups or by adding context to collections that may never have been anticipated by LAC. By making crowdsourcing possible, LAC’s collections will gain more value and better reach. This would be unachievable on our own while we work to preserve the integrity and assured authenticity of the collection.

While supported by several of the other goals, maximizing our institution’s social engagement will not be achieved passively as a side effect of openness and discoverability. Social engagement will require promotion, and a new approach to content strategy and content marketing.

Outcomes & Benefits

  • Increased relevance through brand awareness and engagement
  • Enriched value of collections from client contextualization
  • Canadians understand the role and importance of LAC in cultural, social, and economic terms
  • Increased exposure and reach of LAC’s collections

Key Activities

Operate

  • Develop plan for active digital social engagement beyond social media-based communications

Collaborate

  • Develop a social engagement framework with like-minded memory institutions
  • Explore projects with universities and K-12 to increase value of collections

Innovate

  • Use gamification to increase engagement with collections
  • Consider new delivery channels
  • Explore methods of turning LAC’s collections into viral content

Strategic Goal 7: Network Content

Playing a leadership role in creating a network of memory institutions providing comprehensive access to Canada’s documentary heritage.

Context & Rationale

Those in the service business must ask, “Do we serve all of our clients, or just the clients we serve?”. This highlights one of our challenges in providing access to all of Canada’s documentary heritage—we manage only a portion of it. As part of our leadership stance, we are committed to working with partners to facilitate for clients as seamless an experience as possible.

The intent of this goal is to identify and participate in efforts, with partners, which will effectively provide unfettered, intelligent access to collections across the country, regardless of physical location. By making key connections between collections, discovery and use will continue to grow, resulting in enriched value for clients and LAC.

Outcomes & Benefits

  • Seamless client experience in the discovery and use of Canada’s documentary heritage
  • Federated digital curation at a national level, contributing to a more consistent experience
  • Leveraged investments, competencies and physical assets across the partner network, resulting in economies of scale
  • A clearly defined, influential role for the LAC in supporting the partner community

Key Activities

Operate

  • Define federated “access” architecture
  • Define requirements for the Digital Curation Platform (DCP) to allow future connections with partners
  • Establish a dedicated function for partner engagement and management

Collaborate

  • Participate in the development of a national strategy for digital curation
  • Develop policy on collaboration and engagement with partner community
  • Establish architecture and standards body for national community of accredited digital repository organizations

Innovate

  • Create linked open metadata collections for use by the public and partners

Theme 3: Digital Discovery

Strategic Goal 8: Client Aware

Embedding client needs and outcomes into all levels of our policies, governance and actions.

Context & Rationale

The culture of “clients come first” is adopted by leading service organizations all over the world; other priorities are trumped by the needs of the clients. However, while clients are a critical driver for investment decisions in this strategy, their influence must be balanced by internal Government of Canada obligations as well as preservation priorities.

The concept of being an organization that is “client-aware” has implications in several facets of the organization’s business enablers, including policy, governance and standards. LAC’s policies and instruments will reflect empirical, intelligent client data and analysis for major investment decisions and efforts.

Our users’ digital needs are changing quickly. We will need to have the technology and processes in place to monitor trends and patterns in order to improve services on an ongoing basis.

Outcomes & Benefits

  • Client needs represented throughout the fabric of the organization
  • Increased credibility with clients through engagement and communication of LAC investments aligned with their needs
  • Internal policies and processes aligned in service of clients (both external and internal priorities)

Key Activities

Operate

  • Optimize applicable policies and guidance within LAC to align language with client needs
  • Establish a consultation agenda to help determine client needs to inform investment priorities
  • Create LAC’s Service Strategy and client service standards
  • Create client-focused performance measures for all business lines within LAC

Collaborate

  • Work with partners to develop comparable client profiles to help identify collaborative investment opportunities

Innovate

  • Hold digital “town halls” or gatherings online or at cultural institutions to engage clients with collections as a mutual exchange of value

Strategic Goal 9: Data Informed

Making LAC an organization whose decisions are informed by timely and observed data.

Context & Rationale

Any organization will confirm that business data drives most, if not all decisions. In our case, it is important to note that many of LAC’s business decisions are based on an analysis of a variety of concrete data, combined with subject matter expertise and experience from librarians and archivists.

Data is the driving factor for measurement and decision support and, as such, is the lifeblood of our performance measurement and business analytics processes. The frameworks and processes by which data is created, captured, managed and used must be commensurate with the goals of the organization and aligned to the ideals set out in our business model.

LAC will also carefully integrate data and empirical evidence into processes that rely heavily on the expertise and experience of historians, archivists and other specialists in the institution. The best approach for LAC is to strike the right balance between the data and the expertise.

Technology solutions will be needed to effectively capture, synthesize, and present the data required to make informed decisions.

Outcomes & Benefits

  • Measured value that can be communicated back to clients and central agencies
  • Clear evidence to support decisions, tying various facets of data together for a more coherent business storyline
  • Greater line of sight into LAC’s business and our clients
  • Better reporting capability—corporately, to partners, and to central agencies

Key Activities

Operate

  • Review and revise performance measures
  • Integrate data driven decision support alongside existing expert analysis

Collaborate

  • Exchange performance measures with partners

Innovate

  • Explore applying a truly open data approach internally

Strategic Goal 10: Digital Culture

Building an organization with the skills, capacity and culture to digitally manage and deliver Canada’s documentary heritage.

Context & Rationale

In short, the culture of an organization is how people think and act on a daily basis. It is important to align the experience we want for our clients with the culture we embody within LAC. As processes, tools and digital opportunities change, so must the behaviours and culture of our people.

All experiences create culture, and our culture can either work for us or against us. The impact of how people think in the organization is significant. That is why empowering employees to build digital culture from the inside—based on their experiences and those of LAC’s clients—is paramount to the change in culture required to ensure we truly act as a digital organization. LAC’s staff are identified in the business model as one of the organization’s most valuable assets. If our services are to evolve, so must LAC’s culture.

Outcomes & Benefits

  • Empowered and engaged employees
  • Innovation is embraced, allowing for disruptive opportunities to surface
  • Skilled LAC workforce, working in tandem with partners and the “Citizen Librarian/Archivist”
  • LAC is the workplace of choice for current and future generations of employees
  • Services and activities continually evolve to meet or anticipate client needs

Key Activities

Operate

  • Define “digital competencies” for LAC, with an associated training plan
  • Identify a business-led “Digital Champion” within LAC
  • Establish a change management strategy and plan; encourage a culture of safe innovation
  • Review and align LAC’s business processes, governance and policies to support the oversight and attainment of the goals

Collaborate

  • Establish an advisory panel with private-sector digital leaders to help shape internal digital culture

Innovate

  • Recognize digital innovators within LAC
  • Create a “Digital Innovation meet-up” at LAC
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