Worrying signs for LAC researchers

How will the new joint LAC/OPL facility in Ottawa meet Canada’s needs in catering to researchers like academics, graduate students, authors, professional researchers for media and the like? There are ominous signs.

It seems hard to believe, but information received informally, and unverified, is that LAC is removing the Reference room, a quiet space where original documents can be consulted, from the plans for the new building. The space would be transformed to extend service to tourists in anticipation of more visitors.

Tell me it ain’t so!

That’s a cause for concern for many, including family historians as many of us go beyond filling out names and BMD facts in our family tree to explore their lives in the context of the times — family history, not just genealogy.

Family historians are using military service files, war diaries and any number of resources not strictly genealogical in nature. Beyond that, BIFHSGO volunteers spent untold hours sifting through Department of Agriculture files to identify home children. 

The needs of those doing academic research, including graduate students, professional researchers, authors and others in original documents, must be prioritized. There is nowhere else for them to access LAC’s unique records. Their work is core to the LAC mandate.

Three questions used at the OGS conference, see below,  were barely a start on consultation. Much more is promised. During the OGS presentation, attendees were told all ideas were welcome. In ending the session, Julie Roy from LAC assured us that the conference session was “just the beginning of the consultation. We will ask you more questions in the future.” Nothing more specific. No contact information was given, the project website at https://inspire555.ca/ includes a link for subscribing for updates and providing feedback.

More than responding to questions, like the three at the OGS conference, is needed if the facility is to meet Canada’s needs. Will there be focus groups and sessions where existing and potential clients can interact with each other and senior staff answer questions, not only ask them? Beyond that, there should be an ongoing User Advisory Group, much as exists at TNA. https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/get-involved/have-your-say/user-advisory-group/

Our communities need a commitment by LAC management that they will maintain and enhance the research facility for professionals, along with staffing the facility with professional librarians and archivists with the specialist knowledge needed to advise on making use of the collections.

Summary of the “The Journey to Genealogy Services at Ādisōke,” the opening session of the OGS conference on Friday, 24 June.

Billed as “discuss, explain, and listen to [Y]OUR opinions on the new genealogy services centre being built in Ottawa,” the “listen to [Y]OUR opinions” segment involved three questions about the “journey.”

1. It is the morning of your big visit to Ādisōke. You are packing your bag for a day of research. What’s in your bag? What physical things are you bringing? What materials have you prepared on your computer or on your phone?

Answers were requested in a word, and the results were displayed in real-time in a word cloud.

The top result was Laptop.

2. You are now at Ādisōke. What genealogical services are you expecting? Who is there to speak with you? Where do you go for help? What do you do by yourself?

The top result was Self-service microfilm readers.

3. It’s time to leave Ādisōke for the day. What are you leaving with? Is there anything more in your bag? Is there anything new on your computer? Did you make any new contacts?
Enter a word?

The top result was Knowledge.

That was followed by a time for questions. The public space at 395 Wellington will no longer be available, although some storage may remain for a while. The resources in the present genealogy area will be retained in the new building.

It’s unclear how much of the other reference material, like city directories and newspapers used by family historians but not in the present genealogy area at LAC, will be readily available as at present, or digitized. I understand the present collection of family histories is to be available.

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