Canadian Library Association Releases Statement on Federal Government Library Consolidation and Closure
The Canadian Library Association (CLA), the national voice for Canada’s library communities, is troubled about budget cuts to Library and Archives Canada and federal government library services. There has been much public debate and discussion about these reductions and very little information forthcoming from the government. CLA wishes to participate in informed dialogue regarding government library consolidation and closure.
Canadians require access to the cultural and historical records managed by Library and Archives Canada. These include books, journals, photographs, newspapers, personal and corporate archives, government records, paintings, film, and sound recordings. Canadians also expect long-term preservation and management of these information assets to ensure future generations have access to them.
Within the context of these national responsibilities, the recent consolidation and closure of several Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Health Canada libraries has raised a number of particular concerns about the process by which the departments are closing libraries and preserving – or disposing of – materials in their collections.
While LAC is a department of the Government of Canada, with mandated responsibilities to government, it must also accept responsibility, provide further leadership with regards to federal library services, and continue to be a functioning library and archive in the service of all Canadians. Above all, the preservation and access to collections and information is of crucial importance.
CLA agrees that collection management practices, such as withdrawal, are necessary in library management and that library consolidation is often an effective way to reduce costs while still maintaining service for clients; however, when implemented within the context of national public collections, such processes should be transparent and open.
CLA’s values include intellectual freedom, universal access to information, and collaboration. In light of these values, CLA is concerned about the lack of communication and consultation in the decision-making process around the consolidation and closure of these libraries. Given the absence of such dialog, CLA is concerned that there will be a substantial reduction in access to the materials in these collections, resulting in an irrevocable loss of unique information.
The Government of Canada has consistently maintained that these closures are part of an ongoing and planned digitization program that will reduce costs. DFO has also made assurances that library closures will not come at the expense of significant reductions in the availability of holdings; however, CLA has received reports that valuable materials are being lost due to the haste of these library closures.
These reports are disconcerting, particularly as there does not appear to be a long-term plan in place to ensure the preservation and continued availability of unique materials not already digitized. Canadians deserve to know how these valuable materials will be preserved and, furthermore, how the material can be accessed in the future. The library community has rallied around these issues and has tried to contribute to solutions for these challenges. For example, post-secondary institutions, such as Carleton University, have integrated some key documents into their collections. There is much more to be done.
CLA is calling on the Government of Canada to provide a more thorough description of the processes taken when reviewing collections. CLA is also calling on the Government of Canada to actively engage with CLA, the archival and research communities, and other stakeholders to work on a more transparent process for the management of the valuable publicly-owned collections held by Departmental libraries and LAC.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.