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

16 May

[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 <wdenton@yorku.ca>

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.

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2 Responses to “Open letter to James Moore regarding cuts at Library and Archives Canada”

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  1. York University – YUFA, Library Chapter Publishes Open Letter to James Moore regarding LAC | University of Toronto Academic Librarians - May 21, 2012

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  2. Saskatchewan Archives cuts « Merle Massie A Place in History - May 25, 2012

    [...] writing vehement, articulate, and passionate blogs with open letters such as http://yufalib.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/moore-lac-cuts/ and Ian Milligan’s [...]

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