CHA Archives Chair's letter to Dr. Caron at LAC
Ottawa, October 10, 2012
Dr. Daniel Caron
Deputy Head and Librarian and Archivist of Canada
Library and Archives Canada
550, boul de la Cité
Gatineau (Québec) K1A 0N4
Dear Dr. Caron,
Thank you for your letter of August 17, 2012, responding to our letter of May 27, 2012, as well as your letter dated September 14, 2012. Our president Lyle Dick also sent you a letter August 14, 2012.
First, before we start working together this fall, it would be most helpful if you could answer the specific questions and consider suggestions these letters contained. While we understand from your letter the very real challenges Library and Archives Canada is facing in terms of budget cuts and digitization, we were disappointed that you did not address our detailed concerns. In our May 27 letter , we sent an attachment with eight detailed questions, each with a series of sub-questions. Your two-page response was very general, for the most part repeating broad points you had made at our meeting with you last May in Waterloo. We were also disappointed that you did not at least address the list of 9 concrete suggestions contained in our cover letter, many of which are do-able in the immediate term, such as “Create a visual chart of LAC’s entire collection to indicate which portions have been digitized and which have not”, “Develop a clear policy which indicates who would pay the cost of digitization, in the case of researchers who formerly requested microfilm via ILL, and restore the ILL service for those cases when digitization of microfilm is not possible” and “Monitor the on-site appointment system to ensure that same-day appointments are possible and evaluate the effectiveness of Skype appointments at-a-distance.”
Second, you have written us another letter in September, inviting the CHA to assist in identifying experts within the four domains of economic, social, international and governmental affairs, in order “to realize LAC’s societal watch function.” We appreciate this invitation and would like to be of assistance in this capacity, but have a few questions before we can be of assistance:
How exactly will the identified experts engage with LAC to plan acquisitions? Will they form a committee which meets regularly?
Will these experts also advise on or set acquisition policies?
How would this group of experts relate to the original “Acquisition Forum” which is part of the Stakeholder Forum/Pan-Canadian Documentary Heritage Network (PCDHN) process?
A well-functioning acquisitions committee which set policy for acquisitions would help respond to our Suggestion #3 of the letter mentioned above, “Make the details of the whole of society model more explicit and link it to a well-articulated plan for collecting private documents.”
Third, in his July letter addressing the unsuitability of the PCDHN to replace the National Archive Development Forum (NADP), Lyle Dick recommended that “LAC place these matters on the agenda for the October Forum and that a portion of the Forum be devoted to discussing ways of re-enlisting the involvement of the former partners.” Our view is that bringing them back to the stakeholder process will be key to the success of any initiatives developed to address the needs of the archival and research communities across Canada, especially in the regions that were so dependent on NADP in the past. Up to now, the CHA has valued its collaboration with LAC in an effort to communicate historians’ concerns directly to LAC, and to help LAC face the challenges of budget-cutting and digitization. However, given recent setbacks including the cancellation of the NADP and the failure of the Stakeholder/PCDHN forums to become effective engines of change, we are now concerned about the usefulness of our continued collaboration with the Stakeholder Forums/PCDHN process. This current exchange of letters will have a strong bearing on our discussions at our November 17-18 Council meeting. In the meantime, we hope that LAC will respond comprehensively to our suggestions to enable us to continue to contribute to this process and look forward to our participation at the next Forum to be held November 5 and 6.