Improved Digital User Experience


  • Alongside Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) Web Renewal Project, the Online Content team is actively integrating and streamlining LAC’s access tools and platforms to enhance discoverability of its collections.
  • Collection Search is a federated search engine that aggregates all of LAC’s stand-alone public databases into a harmonized portal. It comprises both the MIKAN database (the bulk of archival descriptive records), and the Aurora database (the bulk of published descriptive records).
    • Collection Search is presently able to search 16 datasets, representing more than a third of all LAC holdings, and more than 19 million records. It is the biggest public repository of knowledge ever created at LAC. Approximately 80 smaller datasets remain to be indexed.
    • LAC’s current contract with Google Search Appliances (GSA), which powers Collections Search, ends in December 2019. LAC is in the process of procuring the search tool that will be used as of 2020.
  • Co-Lab, LAC’s crowdsourcing tool, is integrated into Collection Search and allows anyone to contribute transcription, translation, tags and description to digitized content from LAC’s collection. These contributions become searchable metadata.
    • LAC promotes thematic “challenges” to the public, so they can explore and contribute. Users can also add metadata to any digitized content in LAC’s collection using Collection Search.
    • Since its launch in April 2018, 12 curated Co-Lab challenges with over 2,000 images have been promoted to the public. Hundreds more images have been contributed to using Collection Search.
  • Public Services Branch spearheads several other IT-related initiatives aimed at improving user experience and discoverability of the collections:
    • showcasing audiovisual material from our catalogue (currently via YouTube)
    • developing the ability for users to sign-in to the LAC website (MyLAC) for an integrated experience (registering for events, paying for reproduction, creating “hit lists” of research topics, etc.)
    • other projects to support greater integration across platforms.


  • Clients have embraced collaborative tools like Co-Lab. Co-Lab clients feel a sense of pride and ownership in their work and are engaged with LAC’s holdings in unique ways.
  • Co-Lab enables the public to contribute freely, without moderation by LAC, meaning that inappropriate/irrelevant content could be added. However, the public is able to remove contributions they deem inappropriate and LAC can “lock” content that receives repeated inappropriate contributions. To date vandalism has been rare, although there has recently been some bot-created spam.
  • Collection Search is LAC’s first agile IT development project, with an archivist embedded with IT staff. New datasets or functionalities are available every two weeks.

Key Public Messages

  • LAC is placing the user experience at the forefront of all of its client-facing applications.
  • Virtually all access to LAC’s holdings begins with an online search, even when clients are onsite. Collection Search is that entry point for the public.
  • Collection Search is constantly updated with new records and functionalities to improve access to the collection.
  • Co-Lab allows anyone to have a hand in history by tagging, transcribing, and reviewing digitized images.
  • Contributions through Co-Lab improve access to LAC’s digital collection.


Karen Linauskas, Director Exhibitions and Online Content
Tel: 343-998-2969

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