The legality of closing libraries

Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands and Leader of the Green Party, investigates the legality of the recent culling of federal government libraries and collections:

The Act covering publications and records held by the Government of Canada is the Library and Archives of Canada Act. In reviewing it, it seems clear the act was not followed. The Library and Archives of Canada Act exists to protect and preserve our ‘documentary heritage’. The Act’spreamble makes it clear that Parliament recognizes the importance of protecting knowledge as a critical part of any democratic society.

The Act established a set of protections for all government records held by any and all departments. The mandate to protect and maintain the documentary heritage of Canada is held by the Librarian and Archivist for Canada. The current Librarian and Archist is Hervé Déry—appointed in May 2013 on an interim basis.

According to the Act,

12. (1) No government or ministerial record, whether or not it is surplus property of a government institution, shall be disposed of, including by being destroyed, without the written consent of the Librarian and Archivist …..

Under s. 16, all publications (even if surplus) must be moved to the care and control of the Librarian and Archivist.

I decided to phone the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, who has a very clear responsibility to protect the ‘documentary heritage’ of Canadians. It took over a week to get the current interim Librarian and Archivist on the phone. And when I did, it turned out two officials from Heritage Canada were in the room as ‘observers.’ Mr Déry confirmed that he has not provided any written authorizations for the destruction of documents. He claimed it is none of his business if records, books and research are destroyed as it is in the ‘discretion of the ministers.’


Leak suggests 10-year plan to digitize documents


Library and Archives paywall delayed until fall

An internal document from Library and Archives Canada suggests the department is considering a paywall to help pay for digitizing its content, but that plan has been delayed until at least the fall.

Part of a plan posted on an archivist’s Tumblr blog involves a 10-year agreement with non-profit group

“The agreement … provides for 10 years of exclusive rights for Canadiana to monetize the collections in exchange for making them accessible online,” the document said.

The proposal was supposed to be announced on Friday, according to the document, but Heritage Minister James Moore said during Question Period Tuesday it’s being delayed because of the recent resignation of former Library and Archives head Daniel Caron.

“Now the new president, when he comes in … probably this fall, we’ll look at the digitization aspect. We’ll look at these questions and make sure that Library and Archives is modernized in a way that will benefit all Canadians,” Moore said.


Library and Archives Canada head Daniel Caron resigns

Nitrate Film Preservation Facility Canada

Library head Daniel Caron resigns as $170,000 in expenses found.

OTTAWA — The head of Canada’s National Library and Archives resigned Wednesday, surprising librarians and archivists who say they hope his replacement as the country’s top librarian is a better advocate for the trade.

Daniel Caron landed in hot water with Heritage Minister James Moore this week after it was revealed that he spent nearly $5,000 of taxpayer funds on private Spanish lessons last year.

On Wednesday, the NDP released a document outlining what Heritage critic Pierre Nantel called Caron’s “titanic expenses” over the past two years.

The publicly available figures show Caron expensed $87,000 in each of 2011 and 2012, dwarfing Moore’s own expenses, which averaged $46,000 in each of those years.

Expenses ranged from business meals, vaguely described as “lunch with a consultant” at expensive Ottawa restaurants such as the Rideau Club (31 visits costing more than $2,000), to stays at pricey hotels in Quebec City and Puerto Rico, and travel costs to Toronto, Europe and Australia.

While he was not available to comment on the numbers released Wednesday, Caron had earlier defended his efforts to learn Spanish on the public tab, saying he was trying to reach a basic competence in the language for attending international conferences, including the Forum of National Archivists in Toledo, Spain, and the International Federation of Library Associations in Puerto Rico.

Jian Gomeshi weighs in on the LAC Code of Conduct

Jian Gomeshi, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation broadcaster has posted an audio essay in regards to the “controversial new code of conduct at Library and Archives Canada”.

Jian’s opening essay on Library and Archives Canada

LAC Code of conduct firestorm

Library and Archives Canada
The issue of the Library and Archives Canada Code of Conduct has turned into one of the more media-visible library issues in Canada this year. I won’t weigh in with my own opinion, but instead share the links I have found recently.

Balance of freedom, responsibility

Library and Archives Canada’s Code of Conduct for its employees is wholly consistent with the values of the Public Service of Canada.

Practices at LAC still encourage employees to participate in events in accordance with the institution’s business requirements, plans and needs. LAC’s Code of Conduct does not prevent LAC employees from engaging in external activities.

Federal librarians fear being ‘muzzled’ under new code of conduct that stresses ‘duty of loyalty’ to the government

Federal librarians and archivists who set foot in classrooms, attend conferences or speak up at public meetings on their own time are engaging in “high risk” activities, according to the new code of conduct at Library and Archives Canada.

Given the dangers, the code says the department’s staff must clear such “personal” activities with their managers in advance to ensure there are no conflicts or “other risks to LAC.”

The code, which stresses federal employees’ “duty of loyalty” to the “duly elected government,” also spells out how offenders can be reported.

Canada’s federal librarians fear being ‘muzzled’

Federal librarians and archivists who set foot in classrooms, attend conferences or speak up at public meetings on their own time are engaging in “high risk” activities, according to the new code of conduct at Library and Archives Canada.

Given the dangers, the code says the department’s staff must clear such “personal” activities with their managers in advance to ensure there are no conflicts or “other risks to LAC.”

Canadian government muzzles librarians and archivists, creates snitch line to report those who speak online or in public without permission

Canada’s Conservative government has issued new regulations to librarians and archvists governing their free speech in public forums and online media. According to the Harper government, public servants owe a “duty of loyalty” to the “duly elected government” and must get permission from their political officers managers before making any public utterance — or even a private utterance in an online forum that may eventually leak to the public, to prevent “conflicts” or “risks” their departments.

The Tories have also rolled out a snitch-line where those loyal to the party line can report on their co-workers for failing to maintain ideological purity.

Creeping Canadian Totalitarianism

But now on to another odd story making the news here in libraryland: muzzled Canadians!

They’re not really muzzled, so don’t fear for their physical safety. They’re metaphorically muzzled. No, that’s not quite right, either. They fear being metaphorically muzzled. I have that fear, too, although it’s nothing compared to my fear of being metaphorically tied to a railroad track by Snidely Whiplash.

Nevertheless the fear is real, and the metaphorical muzzle is weirdly totalitarian. “Federal librarians and archivists who set foot in classrooms, attend conferences or speak up at public meetings on their own time are engaging in ‘high risk’ activities, according to the new code of conduct at Library and Archives Canada.”

Fallout from recent Federal libraries cuts: Fisheries library merger draws fire in Quebec

Fisheries library merger draws fire in Quebec

OTTAWA — The merging of fisheries libraries in Nova Scotia and British Columbia is sparking some anger in the rest of the country.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada will close most of its nine libraries across the country and split their collections between just two — in Sidney, B.C., and at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth.

A third Library in Ottawa will be reduced in size but retain a physical location.

At the same time, the federal department is digitizing its collection to make it available online.

That isn’t good enough for Quebec New Democrat Guy Caron, whose riding of Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques is losing a French-specific library.

Caron denounced the closure in the House of Commons on Monday as “ideological cuts” by the Conservatives, who he said are trying to “destroy our scientific institutions.”

Caron said the survival of the library is an official languages issue because it serves the francophone community.

“spokeswoman Erin Filliter … ‘Essentially, we’re digitalizing the electronic services, so everything is going to be electronic,’ ”

Does it necessarily follow that less staff is required to manage an electronic collection than one made up of books, microfilm and other more tangible media? It is difficult not to see this as simply cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s libraries with the distraction of the movement of libraries to electronic collections.

See also:

DFO Libraries

Cuts to LAC and other federal libraries – One way to respond

Howard Pyle [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The recent cuts to Library and Archives Canada and other federal libraries in Canada have seriously affected Canadian citizens’ ability to access information about their country and its history, particularly its recent history. (See : The Wrecking of Canada’s Library and Archives, June 7, 2012) The British Columbia Library Association has put together a simple page that lets you write a letter of concern to your own Member of Parliament using links to templates and a search page for your MP using your postal code. Here is a relatively easy way to make your concerns known.

The cuts to LAC and other federal libraries threaten to impede the preservation of the documentary heritage of Canada. Additionally, they have made LAC collections less accessible and have reduced the support available to everyone. These cuts affect everyone.

Organizations such as BCLA, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and the Canadian Council of Archives have expressed their concerns about these cuts. Now its our turn as individuals to let our politicians know how these cuts impact us.
See also (CAUT) for more resources.