The Internet and new technologies provide some terrific opportunities for new efficiencies, but do they mean that libraries should start curtailing their hours? That is the question at the heart of a brewing storm involving Library and Archives Canada. Last month, the LAC announced that it cutting back most services to 10:00 to 4:00 (from 8:30 – 5:00). The decision, which came without public consultation, has generated considerable criticism. The LAC has now announced that it will hold an informal discussion on the matter on September 19th from 2:30 – 4:00.
Library and Archives Canada Faces Storm Over Opening Hours
September 14, 2007
Tags: lac / library and archives canada
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LAC may digitize some of its vast collection but that should be “in addition to” regular research hours etc and not “less because” more has been digitized. Anyone who uses the LAC\’s digital collection knows that it is a very slow process to convert material to a digital format; to some it seems to take forever to get things “up” [like where for God’s sake is the 1891 Canada Census???]. Check the LAC web site and you will see that nothing new has been added in quite some time but the LAC gives the impression that fresh stuff is constantly going up. The last collection to go “live” is the Lower Canada Land Petitions and that was on July 30, nearly 2 months ago. If the LAC people had just said that due to new budget pressures that they don’t have the money to continue to support these researcher needs and stuck to that economy line, it might have been understood (grudgingly) but to use the argument that research hours, etc are changing because LAC has embraced technology is just crap/smoke & mirrors and a poor media line to boot! When I asked for a copy of the LAC’s short and long term digitization plans a few months back, I was told quite simply that such plans did not exist. I was then told by the Assistant Deputy Minister for Programs and Services: \”LAC is now working to set up a new digitization structure that will lead to a more comprehensive approach to online resources.\”
Amen to that!
This whole cutback thing smells.
A very upset and hostile crowd of about 60 researchers awaited three low level managers at the September 19, 2007 meeting which was given no publicity outside the Library and Archives Canada building. There were people of all ages, from Newfoundland, BC and even upstate New York, complaining loudly not only about the service hour reductions, but the general degradation of facilities and unavailability of staff – crowded reading room, lack of electrical outlets for portable computers, lengthy waits to get reference assistance or materials, dirty microfilm lenses, etc. The ADM responsible for the service cuts and merging of reading rooms, Doug Rimmer, did not show his face. Every person, English or French, who spoke considers the new arrangements a fiasco. Library and Archives Canada’s problems go far beyond the problem of reduced hours. This is an institution “en pleine crise.” The services of the former National Library have virtually disappeared. A high proportion of professional librarians have retired, and support staff have left the institution in disgust. The professionals are not being replaced. Sorry researchers, you can look forward to even worse service from Ian Wilson and Doug Rimmer, as a $20,000,000 budget cut is forecast in the Estimates, according to a member of an M.P.’s staff who spoke up at the Sept 19 meeting.