I’d like to be positive.
On 30 August 2019 Leslie Weir assumed the role of Librarian and Archivist of Canada. Faced with the extraordinary challenge of COVID-19 for most of that period, something nobody anticipated, it would hardly be surprising if things she set out to achieve were not accomplished.
What was achieved? Based on the LAC news items posted, the key items are:
- LAC/OPL building
The negotiation and agreement on the joint building took place while Guy Berthiaume was Librarian and Archivist. The design was already underway two years ago. It has proceeded. The major improvement, to make the building net carbon neutral, should likely be most credited to two environmentally concerned Cabinet Ministers.
COVID-19 was a challenge. Did LAC make adjustments and maintain productivity? Did employees work from home, with appropriate altered objectives where necessary, in the same way as at peer institutions internationally? In a year when one would expect clients to turn more to online resources visitors to the LAC website were down 3% in 2020-21 compared to the previous year. There is now a major backlog of ATIP requests, well beyond legislated timelines for response. Staff are stretched beyond reason. Delays for other requests extend beyond a year.
LAC received special funding in order to respond to demands regarding Indigenous languages and cultures. In 2020–2021, 27 of the 28 commitments in LAC’s Indigenous Heritage Action Plan made “significant progress and are
on the way to being completed.” However, LAC failed to seize the opportunity of the discovery of residential school graves to inform Canadians about the relevant resources held by the institution.
There are rumours of problems of mismanagement, inappropriate hiring and plummeting morale. While I can’t verify them if true they should be a concern.
I’d like to be positive. Projects, like the new storage facility, have moved forward as previously planned. For the coming months, as we all learn to live with COVID, staff will be returning to their duties and the public should once again be able to avail themselves of all the resources LAC has to offer. Will there be an effort to reduce backlogs, reach out to provide the user community (including genealogists — mostly ignored although the largest user group) with new access and service as much as possible in the new normal?
Now two years into the mandate, compared to your expectations, what letter grade would you give Leslie Weir for her leadership achievements at Library and Archives Canada?