Environmental Scan Summary

Prepared by Strategic Research and Policy - October 2017


The following is a summary of the trends identified in the Environmental Scan (E-scan) 2017, prepared by Strategic Research and Policy Division. The original E-scan content has been summarized and categorized below for the purpose of being used in the “Operating context: conditions affecting our work” section of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) 2018-2019 Departmental Plan prepared by Corporate Planning and Accountability.

Government of Canada Trends

Open Government, open information, open data, and open access:

The Government of Canada (GC) is creating greater transparency, accountability, increasing citizen engagement, and driving innovation and economic opportunities through open data, open information, and open dialogue. One aspect of the GC’s commitment to open data and information is to be “open by default”, which is about providing easy and consistent access to government data and information in open, standardized, digital formats. As part of the Third Biennial Plan on the Open Government Partnership, the GC has also committed to providing and preserving open information, which includes updating LAC’s online archive of the GC’s web presence to ensure Canadians’ long-term access to federal web content. The GC has also committed to enhancing access to culture and heritage collections.  In order to do this, the GC will expand collaboration with its provincial, territorial, and municipal partners and key stakeholders to develop a searchable National Inventory of Cultural and Heritage Artefacts to improve access across museum collections.

Support for creative Industries:

There was also a renewed emphasis on Canada’s creative industries. In September 2017, Canadian Heritage released the Creative Canada Policy Framework which sets out a path to renew Canada’s existing cultural tools through legislation, funding programs, and policies. LAC is mentioned in several key areas of the framework and the implications for the institution are most prominent in the first pillar of the framework, where the emphasis is on investing in Canadian creators, cultural entrepreneurs and their stories. LAC is in a unique position, engaging with creators at the beginning, middle and end of their creative processes. LAC has a strong position in the cultural industry, facilitating investment in and engagement with creators.

Improved digital services:

The GC made progress on improving digital services for Canadians through improved design of user interfaces and the creation of new apps. The Treasury Board Secretariat launched the Canadian Digital Service in 2017 with the goal of developing government services that are easy to access and use, and  which enhance digital service delivery to all Canadians. One of the Digital Service’s first service delivery projects is working with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to improve the experience of applying for Canadian citizenship and to address the issues around the digital scheduling of citizenship appointments.

Policy and program innovation:

The GC’s emphasis on innovation extends beyond the digital, as is evidenced in the establishment of the Innovation Hub (set out in Destination 2020). The Innovation Hub co-designs policy solutions with departments and stakeholders; documents what works in public sector innovation to support learning and replication across the Government of Canada; and partners with departments to measure program experimentation results using rigorous and outcomes-based evaluation methods. One of the Hub’s recent initiatives was to work with the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces Recruitment Group to apply behavioural approaches to increase the number of women recruited into the Armed Forces.

By facilitating policy workouts, LAC engages in its own policy and program innovation.  When faced with a complex policy issue, a policy workout is desiged to engage employees in analysis and problem-solving.  A contractor from outside of the institution will help to design and facilitate the workout, in order to encourage employees to speak freely and test new ideas. This collaborative and innovative approach fosters creative ways of looking at an issue with the help of experts from a variety of fields within the institution. 

Workplace well-being:

As well as the focus on improved program and service delivery, the GC invested in mental health and workplace well-being. As of March 2017, over 2,500 public servants and more than 90 deputy ministers and heads of agencies have signed the mental health pledge Footnote1. The GC also committed to enhancing the work experience of all employees, including members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and questioning (LGBTQ2+) community, by creating a safer, more tolerant, open-minded environment.  

As part of its commitment to creating an organizational culture that makes the health, safety and wellness of its employees a priority, LAC has established a Workplace Wellness Committee. The committee ensures that employees have a multitude of resources related to help improve their quality of life at work. LAC has also implemented its own Workplace Wellness Strategy 2017-2020.

Gender-based analysis+:

The movement toward inclusion and equity in the workplace is also reinforced by the GC’s commitment to Gender-based Analysis+ (GBA+), which was reinvigorated by its inclusion in Budget 2017. The GC is building on its existing use of GBA+ to ensure that its decisions deliver results that are more equitable and fair; there is a continuing conversation around the need for more equal wages and a more diverse workforce; there is greater representation of women in positions of leadership in both the public and private sectors; and there is a reduced risk and occurrence of gender-based violence.

LAC has undertaken research into how best to apply GBA+ to its programs, services and policy and is interested in spreading awareness about GBA+ throughout the institution.  Currently, the institution is looking at how to approach the possibility of adopting more culturally sensitive cataloguing practices, which would ensure a socially inclusive language in the catalogue. LAC also hosted a forum with university partners, on the topic of “Exploring Decolonization on the Road to Reconciliation”. The forum facilitated inclusive dialogue about innovative projects and initiatives related to reconciliation.

Memory Institution Trends:

Serving Diverse Communities

Memory institutions have participated in the sharing economy through the lending of books, audio equipment, and films for many years.  Recently, there has been an increase in and diversification of the lending of material such as video and board games, tools, and musical instruments. These diverse types of loans benefit a range of memory institution users by being convenient and budget-friendly. This diversification of services reinforces the social and economic value of memory institutions, a topic of study that has had continued interest for governments and cultural institutions over the last several years.

Memory institutions continue to promote and improve equity, diversity, and inclusion in their collections and services. These activities focus on traditionally underrepresented groups such as the LGBTQ2 community, persons with disabilities, homeless persons, newcomers and refugees, indigenous communities, seniors, minorities, and rural and economically disadvantaged communities. In response to the diverse needs of their users, memory institutions are learning to play a new, dynamic role in their communities by providing maker-spaces, creative hubs, and a free, welcoming, and comfortable “third place” to foster interactions amongst community members.

Memory institutions are also serving their diverse communities through education. Not only are they providing the physical space and tools that their communities demand, but they are teaching their users about social media and digital literacy in general. One aspect of this digital literacy is linked to an increased use of linked open data in collections. Memory institutions are providing more open access to their collections, which allows for third party use, enables innovative research, and encourages experimentation with collections.

Innovative and Engaging Technologies

Memory institutions are leveraging current technologies to offer users more contextualized, accessible, interactive, and unique experiences both online and in-person. Technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented and mixed reality (AR/MR), and artificial intelligence (AI) have been around for several decades, but the technology has improved, become more affordable, and has entered the mainstream and is being used to engage with the public. Memory institutions are also finding innovative ways of creating digital preservation infrastructure, such as using community-based digital platforms.

Employing these new and innovative technologies is also increasing and improving the way that memory institutions engage with their users. Staff of memory institutions are developing new skills (e.g., managing digital resources and e-resources, social media and website skills and knowledge of metadata standards), to keep pace with the evolving technologies in their environments.  While learning more about big data and technical research, memory institutions are recognizing that they need to foster access to and engagement with data through their collections. 

Reconciliation and Democratization of Access

Many Canadian institutions officially responded to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) Calls to Action, including specific sections directed to Canadian archives and museums and about the UN Joinet-Orentlicher Principles. This national wave of engagement triggered a growing interest in discussions about decolonization of memory institutions and joint initiatives like the LAC Forum with University Partners on Reconciliation, which took place in November 2017. In addition, the Steering Committee on Canada’s Archives is conducting a review of archival policies and best practices across Canada to identify potential barriers to reconciliation, while the Canadian Federation of Library Associations is working to promote the advancement of reconciliation in libraries. In May 2016, Canada officially adopted the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). 

At both the domestic and international levels, various efforts relevant to memory institutions remain underway to improve access to information and better protect personal information. Domestically, this includes a bill to review the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and a review of the Copyright Act.

Memory institutions are also continuing to build networks of trusted partners for sharing service delivery and increasing open access. The National Heritage Digitization Strategy is a network created to provide a cohesive way forward for the digitization of Canadian collections and in the United States, the Digital Public Library of America network provides a platform of comprehensive online resources to maximize public access to collections. In previous years, institutions created platforms to aggregate and share data about collection material. Institutions are now developing experimental linking solutions between crowdsourcing initiatives and open linked data solutions to improve interoperability.

Public Visibility and Collaboration

Memory institutions, especially at the local level, have begun showing a greater willingness to leverage the unique creations and contributions of their users. This represents an important shift from an initial skepticism of the accuracy, usability, and overall quality of user-generated content. Wiki-projects, whether in the form of wikilabs, wikithons, or wiki-editathons, provide memory institutions with a relatively inexpensive and easy way to deliver new content and reach new audiences. Memory institutions are also using online crowdfunding methods as a way to help increase revenue. It is particularly useful in raising funds for individual projects that have a clear goal, which can be marketed effectively online. The different options in funding platforms give institutions a choice so that they can select the most appropriate terms based on their needs.

Memory institutions are also using hackathons as a way to find tailored solutions to their particular technology-related issues or challenges. The technological outputs for each hackathon differ according to the unique interests and needs of each institution, which underscores the flexibility, adaptability, and specificity offered by hackathons. Beyond that, hackathons are another means for memory institutions to provide new content, in new ways, to new audiences.

As well as increasing their collaboration with the public, memory institutions have been implementing innovative ways of bringing collection material to a broader audience. This includes: pop-up exhibits, mobile libraries, libraries on planes, book vending machines and giving free access to e-books on subways.

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