May 20, 2022

New Expert Panel Report From Council of Canadian Academies Says Canada’s Memory Institutions “Falling Behind” in Preservation of Digital Materials

From the  Council of Canadian Academies:

Released today by the Council of Canadian Academies, a new expert panel report, Leading in the Digital World: Opportunities for Canada’s Memory Institutions, addresses the challenges and opportunities that exist for libraries, archives, museums, and galleries as they adapt to the digital age.

Canada is falling behind, and vast amounts of digital information are at risk of being lost because many traditional tools are no longer adequate in the digital age.

Memory institutions are confronted with many challenges, including technological change, increasing pressure on resources, and shifting public expectations. Furthermore, they face the difficult task of preserving digital files in formats that will remain accessible over the long term. As one of the most wired populations in the world, Canadians expect their heritage to be accessible and discoverable online. Today, past content and new digital information are not always accessible. This matter will not fade away with time – rather, it will become more prominent.

“Overall, our 13-member Expert Panel determined that, to meet the challenges presented by the digital revolution, memory institutions will need to focus strategic and business planning around digital technologies,” said Doug Owram, Chair of the Expert Panel. “There is an opportunity for these institutions to collaborate more strategically and develop interactive relationships with users, thereby enhancing content and providing meaningful experiences.”

The Panel’s key findings are:

  • To keep pace with the fundamental and unavoidable digital changes that are reshaping society, Canada’s memory institutions must exercise their capacity to be leaders within and among their respective organizations.
  • Many of the challenges faced are rooted in technical issues associated with managing digital content, the sheer volume of digital information, and the struggle to remain relevant.
  • The digital world has the potential to change the relationship between memory institutions and people. The integration of a participatory culture into the daily operations of memory institutions can encourage a sustainable, authentic relationship with the public.
  • Collaboration is essential for adaptation. It enables memory institutions to access the vital resources required to deliver the enhanced services that users now expect in the digital age.

Understanding the challenges faced by memory institutions, Library and Archives Canada requested that the Council conduct this in-depth assessment to better understand and navigate this period of change. The resulting report will help those involved in this area to reshape their policies and identify strategic opportunities. In addition, the report brings together a wide range of successful practices from around the world that could be considered for the Canadian context.

Direct to Full Text Report: Leading in the Digital World: Opportunities for Canada’s Memory Institutions (208 pages; PDF)

See Also: Canada’s memory institutions lag global counterparts in digital archiving: study (via The Canadian Press)

“What we used to do was maintain these records in folders and boxes in print archives. We don’t have those mechanisms anymore,” said Colleen Cook, a member of the expert panel and dean of libraries at McGill University.

[Cook added] “And if information is only digital and it’s lost, or if it is in such a form that we can’t get to the specific information that we need, then the memory of a time is potentially very vulnerable.”

“Those who are obvious leaders … need to work as a group, own the problem and decide that we’re going to do something about it — not simply talk about all the reasons why we can’t do something,” she [Cook] said.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( 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, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.