Notes from December 2012 Library Council re: Cuts to LAC and Canada’s National Information Infrastructure

Thanks to all who participated in the second half of library council last December. The subject of discussion was the cuts to LAC, NADP, Science, Statistics Canada, Federal Libraries etc… and the impact of these cuts on Canada’s information infrastructure. Here is a brief capsule of the discussions. Notes are also being distributed as part of January’s council package.

Group 1: Cuts to LAC

With respect to the National Library, there was a recommendation to read the English report presented to Sheila Copps 1998 which recommended the merger of the two autonomous organizations, the National Library and the National Archives into a single institution. The merger created an environment that made it easier for cuts to the amalgamated organization to happen. The report recommended however, that government records be kept separate from the collection so as not to overwhelm the new institution.

Some disturbing facts:

  • ILL service will be fully cut off before the new service (which is a process of digitization on demand) is offered; this won’t happen until end of 2014.
  • No new analog materials will be accepted by LAC as of 2015 despite the statutory obligation of legal deposit.
  • LAC has withdrawn from the international network of national libraries (but it was noted that BNQ is represented, so there is a Canadian presence).
  • No universities were consulted in the development of the Pan-Canadian Documentary Heritage Network (PCDHN) despite their having research collections of significant cultural value.
  • LAC’s consultative processes have not been effective; it has been consulting with the wrong stakeholders.
  • The Gatineau Preservation facility is empty and available for others to use.

Other comments:

  • There has been a suggestion from some members of CARL to recreate a conference similar to the one held in Montreal in 1968 (called “Libraries for Tomorrow” which had been organized by AUCC). The purpose would be to have an open dialogue with important stakeholders on the purpose and future of the LAC. But not all CARL members feel that there is a need for this discussion to take place.

In response to the question, “Is the LAC in danger of failing in its mandate because of these cuts?” The answer was Yes, Yes and Yes.

Group 2: Impact of cuts to NADP

The NADP program cost 1.7 million dollars, so clearly the cancellation of this program was not only about money; that amount just isn’t significant in the overall budget.

The cancellation of the program signals a change in the way that government views its role in the area of culture. It is a program of decentralization (evidenced by the creation of the PCDHN, and also possibly in the way that the Canadian Museum of History will be organized). Government just doesn’t see itself as in the “culture business.”

The group mentioned that Canadians should be urged to hold their government accountable to the goals of the PCDHN and make sure it fulfills its commitments under that program.

The most vulnerable groups to be affected by these cuts are archives with a less strong community engagement because now they will have to find funds for projects from their communities and possibly even partner with business.

Group 3: Campaigns against the cuts

This group felt that CLA had been passive in its engagement with LAC and its reaction to the cuts. There isn’t any information on the cuts on its website, or any real indication of what is happening.

Some of the smaller associations may not have all of the information they need to react effectively – they are not powerful or mobilized, and not having the information renders them even less so.

There was mention of CAUT’s Canada’s Past Matters and Save LAC campaigns. But it was felt that CAUT could be doing more to mobilize academics and faculty associations. A unified response to the cuts (more power in numbers!) would be more effective.

Student associations could be mobilized; their access to research will be compromised as well.

Group 4: Federal Libraries and Research Funding cuts

This group felt that the cuts were too quick and too complete for librarians to react to effectively. There was a sense that we’ve been assaulted; we’re in shock. But as one group member noted, this can be a useful government tactic when the government does not have the support of its citizens. The book referred to was Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. Essentially its thesis is that if you shock people repeatedly and quickly enough, they become submissive and passive. It started with the census, it’s affecting scientific research and it’s affecting culture and libraries.

There was a feeling that the campaigns against the cuts such as to the census or to scientific funding were not making it outside of the academic community; that citizens were not concerned. But while the effects might not be felt today, they will be felt in the long term.

The group suggested a 5 C’s approach:

Coordinate: With all groups, especially outside of the library and the university.

Communicate: Start talking about the cuts, writing about them, writing to your MPs, writing to newspapers and other media.

Campaigns: This is the overall activity of raising awareness.

Consistency: This is going to be a long term activity. Keep up the pressure.

Collaborate: Let’s not rely on CLA to be our advocates. Let’s be creative in our connections with other groups, find similarities and work together for action.

Group 5: Association Responses to the cuts

This group made reference to Michael Geist’s social media campaign on copyright reform. It was incredibly successful and impacted legislation and built a grassroots response to an issue of concern.

The group felt that CLA had been too traditional in its response; perhaps it was in a difficult situation because LAC is a member. There was discussion about the specific cuts to reference service and digitization and how digitization is not without its limitations. It also mentioned the problematic nature of the PCDHN. The group also felt that the LAC has been on a long downward spiral and that these budget cuts were the final nail in the coffin. Advocacy is critical. “How to move forward as a community?” was a lingering question.

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