January 22, 2022

Canada: Canadiana.org Under Fire for Digitization Deal with Library and Archives Canada

Note: Here’s a new article about the digitization controversy from the University of Toronto student newspaper. More on this story in this infoDOCKET post.

From The Varsity:

A proposed plan to outsource the digitization of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) records has drawn criticism from Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), and Canada’s former chief librarian and archivist Ian Wilson.


All sides agree that digitization itself is important; the controversy is around who will be responsible for carrying it out. CAUT is highly critical of the plan, as LAC laid off approximately half of its onsite digitizing staff shortly before the deal was announced. CAUT alleges that these employees were laid off to free up funds to hire the contractor canadiana.org.

Canadiana.org is jointly operated by Canadian university libraries. It is a non-profit organization specifically dedicated to preserving Canadian heritage by making historical records available online.

David Robinson, associate executive director of CAUT, said that at the current rate of digitization it would take LAC 400 years to digitize all of its records, as only 5 per cent are online today. CAUT executive director Jim Turk blames LAC for “choosing not to spend the money” and instead relying on non-profit canadiana.org to do the job.

Update July 8, 2013: Here’s a Rebuttal to the The Varsity Article that Canadiana.org Shared With Us:
CAUT’s allegation that LAC “employees were laid off to free funds to hire the contractor.” is incorrect. Canadiana is not a contractor and no funds are being provided to Canadiana from LAC. This is the largest digitization/description/transcription project of archival materials in the history of Canada, too large for any one institution to undertake, so it will be undertaken by a pan-Canadian collaboration.
Start-up funding is being provided by the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN).  Both LAC and Canadiana are providing in-kind resources to digitize and describe the collections. Of the 60,000,000 images in the Heritage collections, 40,000,000 will be digitized by LAC and 20,000,000 by Canadiana.org. Many institutions and individuals will take part in the description and transcription phase to make these collections searchable and available to analytical research.
About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.