York University Faculty Association (YUFA) Library Chapter letters to Minister James Moore in protest of the cuts to Library and Archives Canada

My union, the Library chapter of The York University Faculty Association (YUFA) has released a couple of open letters to The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages in the current Canadian government.

The letters protest the current cuts to staff and programs at Library and Archives Canada. The letters do sketch out the context but you can read more here, here and here.

I completely support these letters. You can consider them to be related to my series on the Canadian War on Science, perhaps under the title of The Canadian War on Library and Archives. In fact, there may be another post coming with just that title.

Some previous blog posts related to this topic:

Open letter to James Moore regarding cuts at Library and Archives Canada

[A PDF of this letter is also available.]

The Honourable James Moore, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

16 May 2012

Dear Minister:

On April 30, 2012, administrative staff at Library and Archives Canada announced that over two hundred professional staff had been served notice that their jobs were "under review," and that an estimated 105 positions are slated to be eliminated. This is an estimated 20% of the national institution's professional complement.

We protest this action, and on behalf of our communities we request you reconsider.

(The announcement was made in tandem with the news that the National Archival Development Program (NADP) and Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) were eliminated. Without prior consultation or warning to affected stakeholders, the decision was made to cut vital programs and services which feed into the pan-Canadian network of archives which serve researchers from across the country and internationally. We protest this action equally, and address it in a separate letter.)

Elimination of professional staff positions

These cuts include the elimination of 21 of the 61 archivists and archival assistants that deal with non-governmental records (materials that include the records of media theorist Marshall McLuhan, hockey legend Maurice Richard and musical genius Glenn Gould among many, many others); the reduction of digitization and circulation staff by 50% (in contradiction of your own public statements that the cuts were to improve online access to records, a process that relies on digitization); a significant reduction in preservation and conservation staff; and the closure of the interlibrary loans unit.

We are deeply troubled by the seemingly arbitrary decisions of ministry staff in making these cuts. Not only do these cuts make increasingly difficult the responsibilities of the remaining archivists and librarians, they also limit the ability of researchers in Canada and abroad to study and research our shared history.

Elimination of professional development opportunities

We are also concerned with the denial of leave or funding by the head of Library Archives Canada for LAC-BAC staff to present academic papers and attend professional conferences hosted by national organizations such as the Canadian Librarians Association. It seems uncharitable that he himself has been invited to present plenary speeches at both events yet prevents his own professionally trained staff from doing the same. Professional development is absolutely essential for institutions such as LAC-BAC to thrive, grow and be exposed to new ideas, technology and organizational approaches. To deny staff the time and funding to attend these professional gatherings is to invite institutional stagnation and apathy.

Closure of Interlibrary Loan Unit

Every week our Resource Sharing staff receives material from LAC-BAC for our faculty, students and staff researchers. Much of this material is scarce or unique: publications of Canadian serials, government reports and dissertations that are not available through commercial vendors. The closing of the ILL department at LAC-BAC will stifle scholarly research and prevent students and scholars who lack financial means from conducting their research at all. It is the elimination of an effective circuit of information, and replacing it with an antiquated, counterintuitive silo will prevent academic inquiry. As Joanna Duy of Concordia University has stated:

My own recent research has shown that university research indicators (total research funding dollars and number of publications produced) at Canadian universities are significantly positively correlated with the amount of Interlibrary Loan borrowing activity occurring at those institutions. This suggests what librarians have known for years: that there is a solid link between research activity and Interlibrary Loan. And while one might assume that, with the wealth of resources available to scholars online, Interlibrary Loan activity at academic institutions would be declining--in fact the reverse is true at Concordia, and a recent article published in the United States notes that Interlibrary Loan activity in that country's universities has also been on a steady upward climb for the last 35 years.[1]

On the most practical level, the majority of repository institutions operate on the assumption that the copy held at LAC-BAC is the authoritative copy that will always be preserved and accessible. What use is this approach when our national institution is shutting its doors to citizens who cannot afford to travel to consult these materials?

Libraries and archives are a pillar of Canadian heritage and democracy. The holdings of our national library and archival repository support research for publishing, science, technology development and many federal government initiatives. The impact of these cuts will be immediate and its effects will reverberate for years to come. They will undo decades of careful development and preservation of our shared collective memory.

We ask you to reconsider the elimination of these positions.

Yours sincerely,

William Denton

Web Librarian / Steward, Library Chapter, York University Faculty Association

[1] Joanna Duy, citing Collette Mak, "Resource Sharing among ARL Libraries in the US: 35 Years of Growth," Interlending and Document Supply 39, no. 1 (2011): 30.


Open letter to James Moore about National Archival Development Program (NADP) and Canadian Council of Archives (CCA)

[The text here is incomplete and does not include two lists of projects where York University has used the NDAP and CCA. Please see the full PDF of the letter.]

The Honourable James Moore, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

16 May 2012

Dear Minister:

On April 30, 2012, administrative staff at Library Archives Canada announced that the National Archival Development Program (NADP) and the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) were eliminated. Without prior consultation or warning to affected stakeholders, the decision was made to cut vital programs and services which feed into the pan-Canadian network of archives which serve researchers from across the country and internationally.

The CCA first received federal support in 1986 and over the last twenty-six years its distribution of federal funding has efficiently and successfully supported the development and advancement of archives in communities throughout Canada. The NADP cost the citizens of Canada $1.71 million a year to operate. In turn, it assists in the operation of the following programs:

  • Outreach and educational activities in communities to help small institutions manage their treasures
  • Development of the national on-line catalogue of archival descriptions, and its provincial and territorial counterparts, so all archives, including the very small, can reach Canadians
  • Provision of archival and preservation advice to archives
  • Job exposure for new graduates from Canada's archival and information studies programs
  • Access to archival holdings information on-line
  • Cataloguing of archival materials to make them accessible to the public
  • Training opportunities for local archives run by volunteers or one-person operations
  • Site assessments to both urban and rural archives, to safeguard Canada's documentary heritage
  • Preservation of at-risk documents and other archival materials, including electronic recordsThe NADP is a program with direct positive impact on Canadians in their own communities. The elimination of NADP will have a far reaching and devastating impact across Canada since we are now facing the collapse of the Canadian Archival System comprised of Provincial/Territorial Councils and their members in historical societies, religious archives, municipal archives, Aboriginal archives, ethnic minority archives, educational archives, and others--a system that is critical to the 150th anniversary of Confederation which we will celebrate in less than five years from now.

    Cutting this program will have a significant impact across Canada. In addition to six staff members losing their jobs at the CCA Secretariat, eleven archives advisors across the country will lose their jobs. Several provincial and territorial archives councils have suspended operations and thirteen are at risk of collapsing within one to six months; 90 projects for the 2012-2013 year have been cancelled, resulting in job losses at 74 archival institutions; the national office of the CCA will be closing, requiring that two organizations that share premises, the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) and the Canadian Historical Association must also move their operations; operations that support the development of ARCHIVESCANADA.ca[1], the national catalogue of archival descriptions are endangered; and managerial assistance to the National Archival Appraisal Board (NAAB) and the North American Archival Network International Council on Archives (NAANICA) is threatened.

    The NADP does not simply provide funding for the maintenance of consulting and advisory services for archival associations: the program also funds many projects across the country to ensure that archival material is preserved, arranged and described and made available to the public. Since 2006 it has provided archivists with the means to hire qualified professionals to generate finding aids, preserve fragile documents, digitize others for greater ease of access and generate electronic finding aids to contribute to their local union lists (in Ontario, this is Archeion.ca) and eventually consolidate records into ArchivesCanada.ca and the national catalogue.

    The NADP is not icing on the cake. It is a life-line for small institutions to hire professional expertise, buy preservation supplies, or hire a short-term contract archivist to ensure a project is completed.

    Since 1992, the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections has received $178,952 through various grants and funds managed through the Canadian Council of Archives. In turn, the university has contributed matching funds of $105,106 direct and $140,741 in-kind investment. Without the support of grants managed by the Canadian Council of Archives, none of these projects would have been possible. These funds covered projects that purchased vital preservation materials for historical photographs suffering from vinegar syndrome, as well as an ambitious digitization project that preserved live sound recordings of Canadian artists and provided free and open access to digitized materials to the public online. The support of the Canadian Council of Archives provided archivists at York University with the means to hire contract archivists to tackle challenging programming, description, digitization, and preservation projects. A list and cost breakdown of these projects is appended to this letter for your reference.

    What the federal government saves in the short term will be miniscule when compared to the long-term impact this will have on the local level in archives across the country and how it will undermine the ability of remaining professionals working at LAC to carry out their legal responsibilities as custodians of the federal government's records and, more broadly, as the keepers of the collective memory of the nation.

    In Ontario, we are facing the loss of three staff members employed by the Archives Association of Ontario (AAO), or the severe curtailing of their activities and programming. We are also looking at dozens of archival institutions that have been planning (often for years in advance) to apply for a NADP grant to tackle large-scale projects within their own operations being unable to follow through with these plans.

    The result of this cost-cutting will be the erosion of a national network of archival descriptions that we have fought for years to establish and grow. It will undermine our profession's ability to build and maintain our online databases. It may eliminate altogether the ability of many institutions to digitize materials at a quality and standard that will ensure long-term accessibility and preservation. Most importantly, it will impede access and promotion of materials that are essential to community-building and the education, enlightenment and empowerment of Canadian citizens.

    Archives are a pillar of Canadian heritage and democracy; archival materials support research for publishing, science, technology development and numerous federal government initiatives. The impact of these cuts will be immediate, its effects will reverberate for years to come and they will undo twenty-six years of national cooperation.

    On behalf of the community we represent, we ask that the elimination of the National Archival Development Program and the Canadian Council of the Archives be reconsidered.

    Yours sincerely,

    William Denton

    Web Librarian / Steward, Library Chapter, York University Faculty Association

    [1] ARCHIVESCANADA.ca provides Canadians with greater access to our national heritage. The Canadian Council of Archives, in partnership with the provincial and territorial councils, their member institutions, Library and Archives Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage, invested resources to create ArchivesCanada.ca,an easy-to-use web application that provides access to hundreds of thousands of historical documents, images and other national treasures--available from the comfort of a classroom, home or office.


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