LAC: Two Years into the Mandate

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:

    1. LAC/OPL building
    2. COVID-19
    3. Indigenous

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?

5 Replies to “LAC: Two Years into the Mandate”

  1. It is hard for so many organizations, institutions and libraries with Covid forcing so many changes. I have just found this morning that even some phone lines to a genealogical society are compromised.

    The concern you have outlined re: LAC is discouraging; the thing that most worried me in this report is the” rumour of inappropriate hiring and plummeting morale.” I have seen this in local institutions and find the actions of administrators inexplicable. It is hard to remain positive, as you have said.

    Gail. B

  2. I would certainly give an “F”. LAC has failed to keep up with technology and with increasing demands for service. Just this morning, I’ve been waiting more than half an hour for ONE pdf file from the Personnel of the First World War record group to download — and I’m on Fibe internet, with a current download speed (by testing) of 877.60 MBPS. LAC clearly needs additional servers, if nothing else — but they also need more staff, more people digitizing records, and more understanding of services they should be providing. As a taxpayer, I’m paying Leslie Weir’s salary; I’d like more for my money.

  3. To be fair, LAC has faced an incredible challenge the past eighteen months, staff at home, the doors were shut (until recently), but was there an opportunity missed? I would like someone to lead me through “Collections Search”, a presentation by a staff expert would be helpful. Presentations on how to use and interpret certain types of records would also be useful and this kind of outreach to LAC’s user communities would have been welcomed during the shut-down. This calls for leadership, imagination and interest. My assessment … C.

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