Retiring the site

Dear APUO librarians,

I started this site when I was a library representative on the APUO Board of Directors. I haven’t done that job in many years and keeping the site up to date has been a challenge since I’ve moved on. I will keep the content online for a few more months and then retire it.

Thank you for reading!

Right to Know

This is an older post which I saved as a draft and never published – until now. It’s still not finished, but what good is it just sitting in my draft file. I will endeavour to finish it soon.

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I attended the Faculty of Civil Law’s Right to Know Day yesterday in honour of Germain Brière and the 30th anniversary of Canada’s passing of the Access to Information Act.

The panelists were all top-notch and the theme of the day, well, obviously, was Right to Know. It occurred to me more than once yesterday that librarians today have by and large lost touch with the underlying principles of Right to Know – the legislation AND the fundamental concept. By the end of the day, it was clear that there is confusion between the open data movement which librarians are supporting to the ends of the earth and the more broad and radical right to information, about which we have all but forgotten. Which is not unlike the majority of Canadians, as I also discovered yesterday.

One of the later panellists, Arnold Amber, brought this point home. Mr. Amber lives in Toronto where he has access to four daily newspapers which he can buy and another two free papers that he can read if he takes public transit. How could anyone complain about access to information in that context? Canadians  in general do not feel deprived of information, yet our government consistently has ranked very low (55th place out of a total of 95 countries with ATI laws) on the international Access to Information rankings. Why and how is this?

Before getting into it, let me explain the difference between open data and access to information, two fundamentally different concepts; one that is wholeheartedly embraced by the Canadian government (and librarians) and the other which is actively neglected and even suppressed by government (and librarians?). Open data refers to sharing of large sets of data which do generate from government or can also be born by others such as private corporations. These data are not personal in the sense that individuals can be identified; these data are aggregated and compiled so as to make comparisons with other groups of data possible. For example, one could compare access to clean water  on reservations in Ontario to access to clean water  somewhere else. These data can certainly be used to write better policy and change laws, and I as much as anyone else hope that they do improve the lives of citizens around the world, Canada included. Any attempt to use these data for such purposes ought to be acknowledged and I do no wish to take away from the potential successes that open data affords various governments to improve the lives of citizens.

The right to information, however, is an entirely different ball of wax and one which is nearly ignored by Canadians and librarians altogether. The right to information includes the right to know what our government does; what it purchases; its supply chains; the amount it pays for goods; the processes used in tender; who is hired, and how much they are paid; information on government programs, policies and staffing. In other words, the right to information is about the accountability of our elected officials towards the citizens. This is far more controversial than open data, and is a topic of public discussion where librarians are generally absent, though along with lawyers and public servants, academics and activists, they do have a role to play and could be exercising their considerable experience and knowledge in a very productive way.

What are the obstacles to accessing important information which enables transparency, discourages corruption, includes taxpayers and citizens part of the elements contributing to decision-making instead of the sorry losers in these decisions after the fact? Believe it or not, one of the main factors is the fact that there is very little awareness or support in government for record-keeping and information management. That’s right – the simple record-keeping; filing, file-naming, storing and retrieving records is one of the big problems facing government; and yet, in my generation of information studies at least, record-keeping was a strong presence in the faculty. Perhaps not the most exciting stream when examined from a purely technical point of view; but when viewed in light of ATI, record-keeping is essential to a healthy democracy. Kevin Page, the former PBO and lately appointed visiting professor at the University of Ottawa, described a government that not only is not interested in due diligence in terms of record-keeping, it has moved to “oral decision-making” where there is no trace of how government operates; an intensely worrying state of affairs.

New Board Members / Library Reps

Your new Board Members are: Susan Mowers (until June 30 2016) and Mish Boutet (until June 30 2015)

What is the role of the Board Member?

  • Be a link between members and the APUO
  • Get members involved
  • Communicate with management on members’ issues in a pro-active way

Contact Susan or Mish if you would like advice with your collective agreement or other workplace issue.

Thanks to Susan and Mish for offering their time and expertise to serving librarians!

 

Keep Education Public Week Events

Workshop: “Student-to-faculty ratios: More than just bums in seats”

Similar to a cheap airline, it sometimes seems like the university administration does not care about the quality of the ride or the destination, only the number of seats sold. This workshop invites students and faculty to participate in this interactive, bilingual workshop about the problems with rising student-to-faculty
ratios. Event sponsored by GSAED, CUPE 2626 and APUO.

Where: DMS 12110
When: Monday, February 24th, 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

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Workshop: “Perish Citation Counts, Publish What Matters”

by Professor André Vellino (School of Information Studies, University of Ottawa)
This workshop aims to explain what scholarly performance metrics such as h-Index really measure, why they need to be interpreted with caution, and their alternatives. Lunch will be provided. Event sponsored by APUO.

Where: DMS 12110
When: Tuesday, February 25th, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

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Panel: “Public Education for the Public Good” and Social

Anaïs Elboujaini: Graduate Student Rep on the uOttawa Board of Governors Vanessa Hunt: Deputy Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students Erika Shaker: Director Education Project, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Panel guests will present on the need to fight neo-liberal attacks on the fundamental direction of public education and research. A social will take place after the panel. Event sponsored by GSAED and APTPUO.

Where: Cafe Nostalgica
When: Thursday, February 27th, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

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Film Screening: Carré rouge sur fond noir This event will be exclusively in French.

This film takes us into the heart of the 2012 student crisis to experience from the inside one of the most important social movements in Quebec history. Event sponsored by GSAED and SFUO.

Where: Grad House (GSD 307)
When: Friday, February 28th, 5:30pm

Emonton PLG Responds to RSC Expert Panel on the Future of Canadian Libraries and Archives

Below you will find the Edmonton Chapter of the Progressive Librarians Guild‘s Response to the Royal Society of Canada’s Expert Panel on the Future of Canadian Libraries and Archives.

The Progressive Librarians Guild, Edmonton Chapter (PLG Edmonton), was directly invited to participate by the Royal Society of Canada’s Expert Panel on the Future of Canadian Libraries and Archives, but PLG Edmonton has decided to forgo this futile opportunity.  The mandate of the Panel is confused and meaningless, as to address any of the six objectives in a comprehensive manner would require a much broader undertaking and consultation.  The limited consultation will result in only a handful of Canadians being consulted, and particularly notable is the fact that the panel and its consultation itinerary has clearly privileged the views of urban Canadians living in major metropolitan centres.  While the Expert Panel has numerous representatives from the upper echelons of library and archive management, notably absent from the panel are the expert practitioners whose daily work in libraries and archives is what makes these institutions so valuable to Canadians.  The Panel’s report will have little influence on the Canadian public.  Indeed, it would appear that the primary and dominant benefactors from the Expert Panel are the panelists themselves.

In addition to the shortcomings of the expert panel, PLG Edmonton also questions the utility of the panel presenting its findings to the Harper Government.  This government is the same government that was worked to undermine any evidentiary base for policy through actions such as eliminating the long-form census, actively muzzling scientists, and showing a dismal record with respect to supporting Library and Archives Canada.

With regard to the latter, there is no shortage of issues at LAC that this government has presided over, including appointing Daniel Caron, cutting the National Archive Development Program (NADP), and adopting the draconian LAC Code of Conduct.  Regardless of the recommendations of the panel, its report will simply end up being used a paperweight by the politicians in the Langevin Block.

PLG Edmonton

http://plgedmonton.ca <http://plgedmonton.blogspot.com/p/about.html>.

@PLGedmonton or http://twitter.com/PLGedmonton _______________________________________________

More on Canadiana from the Council of Canadian Archives

From a message posted on the national archival community list-serv, ARCAN-L.

On October 1st, 2013, Canadians were made aware of several documents relating to the Héritage digitization project, via the blog of Dr. Michael Geist http://www.michaelgeist.ca/ It should be noted that recently the Canadiana.org<http://canadiana.org/> Board opened the door to dialogue with the archival community about this project.  However, the Canadian Council of Archives, on behalf of the Canadian archival community, wishes to express our concern and provide clarification about the following points from the undated LAC document entitled “Backgrounder”:

“*Library associations support this partnership and the work of Canadiana.ca<http://canadiana.ca/>[sic]:

[list of Library Associations]

* Stakeholders of this collection are users of public, university and other libraries across Canada.

* The archival community’s only concern is that Canadian’s description approach will be consistent with their own.”

Canada’s more than 800 archives have been, and continue to be, committed to preserving the unique materials in their care and to providing democratic and free access to the information held in the collections, in both analogue and digital formats.

The Canadian archival community was surprised that archives users and archival institutions were not considered potential stakeholders in this project at the time of this document’s drafting. The archival community was not invited to participate in this project, and no discussion about this project had taken place with the community.

Archival description is only one aspect of the professional work required to make available documentary heritage in digital form.  Without any consultation or involvement with the archival community, it was inappropriate to make any assumptions about the archival community’s concerns.  We have welcomed the recent opportunity to discuss this project.

~~~~~

Le 1er octobre, le blog du Dr. ​​Michael Geist présentait aux Canadiens plusieurs documents relatifs au projet de numérisation Héritage.http://www.michaelgeist.ca/

Il convient de noter qu’une porte a récemment été ouverte par le Conseil de direction deCanadiana.org<http://canadiana.org/> pour discuter de ce projet avec la communauté archivistique.  Cependant, le Conseil canadien des archives, au nom de la communauté archivistique canadienne, souhaite exprimer ses inquiétudes au sujet des points suivants à partir du document de BACnon daté intitulé «Backgrounder» (en anglais seulement) :

“*Library associations support this partnership and the work of Canadiana.ca<http://canadiana.ca/>[sic]:

[list of Library Associations]

*Stakeholders of this collection are users of public, university and other libraries across Canada.

* The archival community’s only concern is that Canadian’s description approach will be consistent with their own.”

Plus de 800 centres d’archives canadiens continuent à s’investir dans la préservation des documents uniques dont ils ont la garde et à donner accès gratuitement et démocratiquement à l’information détenue dans leurs collections, que ce soit en format analogique ou numérique.

La communauté archivistique canadienne était surprise que les utilisateurs des archives et les institutions d’archives n’aient pas été considérés comme des acteurs potentiels de ce projet au moment de la rédaction de ce document. La communauté archivistique canadienne n’a pas été invitée à participer à ce projet, et aucune discussion sérieuse n’a eu lieu sur le sujet.

La description archivistique n’est qu’un aspect du travail professionnel nécessaire pour rendre accessible le patrimoine documentaire numérique. Sans aucune consultation ou participation de la communauté, il était inapproprié d’affirmer que les normes de description archivistique du projet est la seule préoccupation de la communauté archivistique canadienne. Nous voudrions profiter de l’occasion offerte récemment de discuter de ce projet.

Lara Wilson

Chair | Canadian Council of Archives

The Héritage / Canadian project and why this stinks for access to Canadian history

I am a History librarian. I am other things as well, but in my professional life, I identify mostly with historians, historical materials and history librarianship. I deal day in and out with students and researchers seeking historical documents. Over the past eight years, I have noticed a shameful fact; that while other countries – the U.S., France, Australia, England, Scotland, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, etc.. etc… etc… develop amazing national digital historical treasures to share with the rest of the world, Canada’s national library has done next to nothing by comparison.

Let me be honest though about Canadian documentary history online – the one national source we do have, Early Canadiana Online / Notre mémoire en ligne, is no gold standard and I have never been a fan. It has terrible search and retrieval functions, the metadata is awful, the sources themselves are fairly banal in many cases, and it just generally really underwhelms as an online portal to Canadian history. However, it is what we have, no matter how disappointing.

ECO’s relative uselessness in my opinion, never made it an issue of concern for me, despite intense reaction to the Canadiana / Héritage project secret deal of earlier this spring and summer. I didn’t think it could ever improve to the point where it would be a go-to source for Canadian history. I’ve much preferred and relied on the work of local and provincial archives, scholarly projects and the like.

Michael Geist’s recent blog post changed my mind. Although I still doubt that ECO will ever be terribly useful, the way that LAC and Canadiana have approached Canadian historical documents – as though they were someone’s to own and whose access can be restricted- is cause for concern. I know no one in this country, at least not at the level of the federal government, will put any money forward to do full scale projects like Gallica or Australia’s national newspaper digitization project. Projects of that magnitude are the difference between the Louvre and the National Gallery – one country takes its cultural heritage very seriously and the other just doesn’t get it (no disrespect intended to the National Gallery). But really – releasing only 10% of the documents into the public domain per year – when they are already in the public domain? And charging subscriptions for the rest of the 90% until the 10 year “exclusive” hosting license expires does not sit well with. Surely the explanation is that funding was non-existent and it is more than likely that the people at LAC and Canadiana actually think they are doing Canada a favour by putting these documents online in this way. But unfortunately something that could have demonstrated real goodwill looks like a desperate grab for cash and an attempt to keep documents off the screens of Canadians. Will this project succeed? I suppose only history will tell, but it’s off to a very sad start.