Thanks to an access to information request to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, we now have a history of the numbers of historians and archivists and librarians employed by Library and Archives Canada and its predecessor organizations.
At a glance, going back as far as 1990, it’s clear there has been a dramatic decrease in the total number of professionals employed to fulfil LAC’s mandate for Canada’s documentary heritage, mainly owing to the reductions in the employment of librarians. While the decline started before the amalgamation of the two founder organizations in 2004, the focus here is subsequent developments under Conservative and Liberal administrations and the four people who have held the title of Librarian and Archivist of Canada.
|Conservative||Chg in Hist. & Arch.||9||-29||23||3|
|Change in Libr.||-33||-62||3||-92|
|Liberal||Chg in Hist. & Arch.||-5||30||-44||-19|
|Change in Libr.||-9||5||-10||-14|
|Both||Chg in Hist, & Arch.||4||-29||53||-44||-16|
|Change in Libr.||-42||-62||8||-10||-106|
Since 2004 the professional establishment of LAC has declined by 122, about half of the initial establishment. All but 16 of the decease was in the librarian category.
Under various Conservative administrations, the decrease was 89, with a slight increase in historians/archivists and a reduction of 92 librarians. Liberal administrations account for 42 reductions, reasonably balanced with slightly more historians and archivists leaving.
The tenure of the four Librarian and Archivists of Canada saw very different outcomes.
Guy Berthiaume increased the complement by 61, 86% historians and archivists. Increases occurred under both Conservative and Liberal administrations.
The most significant decline, 91 in total, two-thirds librarians, was during the four-year tenure of Daniel Caron. The second largest drop, 54 in total, 80% historians and archivists, is during the present term of Leslie Weir, which started in 2019, just in time for the pandemic!
Overall, the decline has been at the expense of specialist expertize; LAC now has no staff dedicated to newspapers and maps. Response to requests for materials, formal and informal, is glacially slow. Resources devoted to digitization to facilitate access across Canada to some of the more used resources are much less than when First World War service files were digitized.
This data was obtained via a post in Documentary Heritage News, Vol 16, No 10 referring to Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat – Access to Information Request A-2022-01290.
It’s been suggested that some of the changes may have been owing to reclassifictions. The chart below shows the year by year number of full time equivalents from the establishment of LAC.
While reclassifications may have occurred, the dip for the Caron disaster in 2012 is evident, as is the increase through the Berthiaume years. The most recent two years are from plans. not actuals.