Library and Archives Canada 2020–21 Departmental Results Report

On Tuesday, much delayed, the government tabled Departmental Results Reports for the period ended March 31, 2021. Included was the report for Library and Archives Canada.

At the start of their introductory material, both the Minister and the Librarian and Archivist reference the exceptional challenges of COVID-19.

Our interest as clients is LAC’s core responsibility of providing access to documentary heritage, while acknowledging LAC’s important core responsibility of acquiring and preserving documentary heritage.

The wordcloud above from the providing access part of the report is notable for the frequent occurrence of the word indigenous. It’s fifth most frequent after LAC, access, also, and collection, and before Canada and heritage. This likely reflects earmarked funding LAC received for indigenous initiatives.

Delving further into the document, the results achieved table reveals that for the departmental result Canadians increasingly access Canada’s documentary heritage, the performance indicator “Amount of LAC holdings digitized” was 2.2 million images in 2020-21 compared to a target of 3.5 million which was the achievement in 2019-20. While the decline could be attributed to COVID-19 impacts it continues a decline — 4.8 million in 2018-19, 10.1 million in 2017-18.

The performance indicator Number of downloads from Library and Archives Canada’s website was 2.7 million, exceeding the target of 2 million. No prior year stats are provided.

Unsurprisingly many other targets were missed, attributable to the exceptionally challenging circumstances.

During the period LAC undertook a pilot project to develop its flagship collection, which will include some 20,000 titles highlighting the scope and variety of Canada’s published documentary heritage. This collection will be accessible to the public on the dedicated shelves of the future LAC consultation room.

I have sent a request to LAC to identify these 20,000 titles, perhaps by class. Will the published genealogies and genealogical reference sources in the present genealogy area, other reference materials, city directories, open shelf microfilms (including newspapers), maps and photographs be available in the new facility?

Finally, there are 23 mentions of histor*, 22 of digitiz*, eight mentions of genea*, and one of newspapers, specifically to indigenous newspapers.

OPINION

Librarian and Archivist of Canada, Leslie Weir includes in her opening statement that “Our strength as an institution resides in our capacity to preserve, promote, reflect and showcase Canada’s past and present in all its diversity, in an equitable and inclusive manner from both within and outside.”
Should we be concerned that LAC aims to “promote, reflect and showcase” material via exhibits and social media? Isn’t the proper role of an archive to preserve and make available original materials, and these days to make a broad selection widely accessible through digitization, enabling Canadians to make their own interpretation?

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