How about a Library and Archives Canada name change?

In my email on Wednesday came information from two researchers.

One reported ordering a volume of open records from a Prime Minister’s papers from Library and Archives Canada and being told they would not be available for 7 months.

The other ordered three volumes for First World War research. The next day came information that all three volumes are not available until the third week of October 2022 because records are being moved from one preservation centre to another.

Why such a long dark period? I’m told the last time a major move was made records were not available for 2 weeks.

Did LAC consider those, like graduate students needing to complete a thesis and without the luxury of waiting around for 7 months at the convenience of LAC? Why would LAC not even give notice prominently on the website of the prolonged unavailability of material?

If you are faced with this denial of timely access to legitimate requests for public records I suggest filing a formal Access to Information application with LAC. It will cost you $5. By law, you should receive the information requested in 30 days. Extensions are permitted for cause, but one can appeal to the Information Commissioner who would likely hold that such an extended delay is unreasonable given that it’s due to the way LAC chooses to manage the move.  

The last and now Emeritus Librarian and Archivist of Canada Guy Berthiaume was quoted as saying that “preservation without access is simply hoarding.”

To reflect reality, will the organization change its name to Hoarding Canada?

7 Replies to “How about a Library and Archives Canada name change?”

  1. In 2011 Stephen Harper was found in contempt of Parliament. I believe it was 2014 he was in comtempt of Library and Archives Canada, when so many archivists were dismissed. My research card was being renewed one day at the front desk when I asked if the room full of about 60 people at the back ot the atrium was a conference in progress. No, a mass of employees was being downsized and coached on how to find another job. Nest hour the room would fill up with more of the same fate. Next time I returned to LAC in 2015, the inexperience of the custodians and librarians was painfully evident by their inabililty to locate fonds. None had an idea how to convert from the older alpha-numerics to the new system (which makes it difficult when you order a fond from a reference given in an earlier study). Perhaps they only knew how to digitize rather than assist with paper files. I stopped going to LAC after it became purposefully unhelpful.

  2. LAC is ALWAYS my last resort, and lucky for me I can usually find what I’m looking for elsewhere! Even if the archivists were let go during the Harper years – he is not there anymore and archivists CAN be rehired. LAC has a big enough budget if PROPERLY managed. AND, I really want to see what is being hoarded in those backrooms and basements.

  3. I knew things were bad at LAC, but not how awful. We have not tried to do any research on site for over two years, and had begun to wonder if we would ever go back. The last few years we were there I spent many hours photographing documents and we still have a lot that have not been used in our research and writing. That material and what is available on Heritage Canadiana may keep us going until we run out of steam. I remember when we moved into the new building on Wellington and we prided ourselves on making the files available as quickly as possible. Certainly a Prime Minister’s papers and also First World War records should always be available and in fact should be available on microfilm and by now should be on line. I wonder when Dr. Doughty’s statue will march around the building and in the front door to complain.

  4. As a Canadian, I am constantly embarrassed by the actions of Library & Archives Canada. Fortunately my ancestors did not emigrate from the UK until after WWI so Canadian records don’t feature a lot in my research – thank goodness! When are these people going to get their act in gear? As I have friends in the civil service, I am painfully aware that a change in government rarely affects those employed as civil servants, so getting rid of the Liberals isn’t going to help. What can we do about this?

  5. Yes the problem is always that bureaucracy begets bureaucracy. In my past life as a civil servant I told my new staff on day one that they should never lose sight of what their job was supposed to accomplish. Too often, if management doesn’t constantly check, reassess and readjust to make sure the actual job mandate is being performed, the paperwork and administration becomes the focus at the expense of the actual job duties. Unfortunately, provincial and federal capital cities are the worst places for this kind of paper shuffling thinking because they are divorced from the real world and surrounded by likeminded bean counters. Sadly, LAC has fallen into this trap, forgetting that the job is to provide researchers with information in a timely fashion. Instead of determining why they are failing in that function and correcting the problem, they blindly go on filing their paperwork and getting more and more behind in actually providing researchers with needed assistance.

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