Remarks by the Deputy Head and Librarian and Archivist of Canada
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I would like to thank all of you for attending this year’s Pan-Canadian Documentary Heritage Forum.
Today more than ever, there are gains to be made for memory institutions that can only come about by joining together in a collaborative approach. I want to stress that the relationship I am talking about is not purely associative but truly collaborative. This isn’t necessarily about always trying to reach consensus, but more about working together in the respect of each other’s mandates, obligations and in a complementary manner.
Indeed, in order to meet the challenges of an environment where the pace of change is accelerating, we are much better off drawing upon each other’s strengths, sharing resources, promising practices and the like - whenever possible.
Of course, this requires the capacity to work effectively with multiple partners.
In my opinion, your presence today signals your genuine interest in continuing to develop ways of working together in order to provide Canadians with the best access to the best possible representation of their documentary heritage, preserved in the best possible manner.
Again, I would like to thank you for taking the time to be here today and to make it possible for this work to continue.
For me, as Deputy Head and Librarian and Archivist of Canada, I take great pride in the work and efforts of all Library and Archives Canada employees.
I know it has been a stressful year for them and I commend them for their on-going dedication.
They continue to strive and find innovative solutions crafted to take advantage of new opportunities for providing better service to Canadians.
Today, I will be making some general comments about the Forum, move on to a summary of some of the concrete measures LAC has undertaken, and conclude with an overview of the way forward.
Without question, public memory institutions are continuing to feel the effects of the explosion of digital communications and the consequences that Canadians’ expectations and behaviors are changing.
We all know that these advances in information and communications technologies have created new opportunities that we cannot ignore. As well, we all know that we cannot ignore the rapidly evolving expectations, behaviours and needs of Canadians.
For the last years, the process we have been moving forward at LAC involves building upon the foundations of two of Canada’s most prominent cathedrals of knowledge from the past - its former National Archives and former National Library - to incorporate the new possibilities brought about by the advances in information technologies and their impacts on human behaviours.
And a Forum like this one is a key mechanism for all of us to stay ahead of those changes.
This gathering is an outstanding opportunity to share information, to discuss similar challenges and perhaps most importantly to seek partnerships to address these common challenges where desirable.
I am very excited to see on the agenda presentations on topics such as copyright, preservation and holdings management.
I think we can all agree that each one of these issues presents significant challenges. The question is - how can we collaborate to address these issues? How can we put our expertise, tools and knowledge together to benefit from those challenges instead of being submerged by them?
How can LAC best support the documentary heritage community as it faces those challenges? We - like you - have a role, a mandate, expertise, knowledge and tools.
How can we, as a community, best support each other and show leadership on our common issues but at the same time respect the unique challenges each of us face on matters more strictly relevant to our respective, specific mandates?
These are key questions that I hope we will start to tackle in this Forum.
For my part, I see LAC’s role as being an enabler, a convener and, at times, a broker.
This Forum is the arena where we gather to inform each other on what we are doing, and about our progress on various issues. LAC is learning a great deal during these sessions and I hope it is the case for each one of you. And in between these information sharing Fora, I, like you, continue to lead the development of solutions, sometimes internally, sometimes in partnerships, depending on the interest and on the subject matter.
To achieve this, we are building on existing structures at LAC.
Most notably, the foundations that have not changed are our three pillars: acquisition, preservation, and access.
LAC has implemented a global approach to collection management. It covers everything from the moment of acquisition, to how we manage materials, to our passion for significantly broadening the accessibility of our collections.
Acquisition has always been at the heart of our work and still is. We are starting to implement our Whole-of-Society approach and this will allow us to assemble a faithful record of Canada in the 21st century, via a representative collection that will be both analog and digital.
We have also begun an extensive review of our physical collection. This will be an ongoing exercise in the future as it allows us to constantly be aware of the physical condition of our material and most importantly, it means we can take appropriate preservation action when needed. I am proud to say that we have recently issued our first public report on the matter, which you can consult on our website.
We are also devoting considerable effort to digitizing our material. On this critical front, this is only the beginning, but our digitization choices are based on criteria to ensure that we start with material that is of the absolute highest interest to Canadians.
We also implemented a new organizational structure that allows the institution’s experts to concentrate on what they do best.
It has been a busy year, a difficult year even. But it has also been a very productive one.
Moving forward, we would do well to remember that we are all also subject to the constraints of economic conditions.
Moreover, our plans for the future will inevitably move in new directions as best practices and new technologies continue to emerge.
Lastly, it is absolutely necessary to continue to build on what we have achieved.
We have accomplished a lot, but much remains to be done.
And all of this is being done in collaboration, as most of you know.
But having said that, I recognize that we do play a unique role that has a national impact. And I fully intend to continue to fulfill that role. But that role has evolved and will continue to do so.
This is why an event like this one is key to explore possibilities for collaboration, not only association.
In a digital era, each of must realize that we are but one of many.
Canadians now expect to have easy access to all of our different collections, regardless of the jurisdiction the content belongs to.
The next year will be as busy and equally full of challenges. And we will continue to adapt in an environment that will remain dynamic and unpredictable.
On the acquisition side, we will pursue the implementation of our whole-of-society approach with our partners. We want to be proactive so we all know what each of us wants to acquire, both in analog and digital format, which these days can also mean acquiring material on the web. As a result, we have begun taking our first steps on the digital ingest front to ensure we’re in a position to acquire publications, government records, and private archives in digital form.
On the preservation front, as I mentioned earlier we at LAC will continue to assess our collection and ensure its long term integrity. We will update you on that work via an updated report in the spring. We will also pursue our efforts on the trusted digital repository, which I am pleased to report has been successfully tested.
Access will remain a key part of our work. A major priority is the description of as much material as possible as we strive to eliminate our backlog in this area. Digitization also remains a key activity to increase access for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Enhancing access to documentary heritage will also be the focus of much of the work we will be doing with our partners across the country.
Finally, we need to pay attention to our governance, management and development of competencies.
This might not sound as exciting as some other things I have mentioned, but is the foundation that will make us able to face upcoming challenges. Using our talents properly and optimally will bring us a long way!
Taking a closer look at what has been accomplished so far, I believe that the three pillars of our enterprise: acquisition, preservation, and access - are still firmly in place and will continue to provide the necessary support as we move forward.
Importantly, no one should mistake what is a change in technique for an abandonment of principles. A prime example of this for LAC is the development of our whole of society approach to acquisitions: this will better align our key archival principles with the emerging realities of our contemporary world.
It’s true that the times may have changed – significantly perhaps - but that hasn’t stopped us from continuing to build.
And we want to build with you. As I said before, we cannot do it alone and for LAC, the most pressing need is to focus on what is of national significance. We need to find ways to work together while leaving each other enough breathing room to carry out those specific aspects of our respective mandates for which we are, more often than not, the only organization responsible.
So my main question for this Forum, apart from the updates on several projects and common issues, is how can we go further together to continue to share our expertise, tools and capacities? What will we be able to jointly identify as the most pressing things we must tackle to serve our respective clienteles? Each of us knows better than anyone else what is needed to succeed in our respective little worlds. Let’s share these trade secrets and see how we can create various momentums that can help fulfil your communities’ needs in terms of knowledge, tools and services.
Personally, I want to work with institutions and communities who demonstrate an interest in addressing common issues and who are interested in contributing to find solutions.