I recently served on an expert panel convened by the Royal Society of Canada to do a report on the future of libraries and archives in the country. That report has now been published – The Future Now: Canada’s Libraries, Archives, and Public Memory. It’s gotten press coverage so far from the Ottawa Citizen and Quill and Quire.
The report explores how libraries and archives can best adopt to changing digital technologies and cultural practices. An excerpt from the executive summary, discussing the outcomes of the expert panel’s consultations, and offering specific recommendations, follows:
Demers, Patricia (chair), Guylaine Beaudry, Pamela Bjornson, Michael Carroll, Carol Couture, Charlotte Gray, Judith Hare, Ernie Ingles, Eric Ketelaar, Gerald McMaster, Ken Roberts. (2014). Expert Panel Report on The Future Now: Canada’s Libraries, Archives, and Public Memory. Royal Society of Canada, Ottawa, ON. ISBN: 978-1-928140-01-6. [Link]
We want to share the excitement we have felt in our conversations about libraries and archives; we want to emphasize Canadians’ profound trust in and continuous reliance on these institutions and their services. We explore issues of inequitable access, organizational restructuring, leadership roles, and the need for continuous professional development among librarians and archivists. Yet throughout this exercise, we have been impressed by the resourcefulness, daring, and responsiveness of these institutions to accelerated public expectations.
Our title boldly asserts that the future must be acknowledged. We are not assuming the role of prophets, but rather of alert communicators. The library and archive sector needs institutional reform to improve efficiencies, foster more effective collaboration, and provide clearer, more reliable leadership. The Report synthesizes what we have heard and learned from Canadians. It conveys verbal and visual snapshots of transformative, energetic, forceful cultural institutions, either already flourishing or in planning stages. It also underlines the urgency of the present moment when disregard or neglect must be challenged and countered.
First and foremost, in the digital era, libraries and archives are as vital as ever to Canadian society, and they require additional resources to meet the wide variety of services they are expected to deliver. Equitable societies remove barriers between citizens and the material they need to enrich, inform, and improve their lives.
Second, while librarians and archivists must work more concertedly in nation-wide partnerships to continue to preserve our print heritage and to develop and maintain digital access, institutions and different levels of government must invest in digital infrastructure to advance these projects.
Third, a national digitization program, in coordination with memory institutions across the country, must be planned and funded to bring Canada’s cultural and scientific heritage into the digital era to ensure that we continue to understand the past and document the present as guides to future action.
Reflecting these important fundamentals we offer this selected digest of recommendations, which are expanded and justified in the pages that follow. While our expertise as panelists is diverse, we have all considered and endorse the recommendations.
THAT LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA
- develop and communicate a five-year strategic plan, including plans for periodic evaluation of progress, no later than Fall 2015;
- assume its place on national and international associations and councils;
- establish a task force of key members within library and archival communities to assist in addressing morale issues and harmonized cultures and to assess progress;
- facilitate the development of a national TDR collaboration including cloud storage;
- constitute a pan-Canadian committee of peers to establish standards for a network of regional preservation/storage facilities;
- re-establish its role as mediator working on behalf of print-disabled Canadians;
- start a joint project with CHIN to explore building tools for coordinated searching of existing databases;
- invest in the enterprise-level basics necessary to facilitate the whole-of-government, integrated library model piloted as the Federal Science Library;
- establish, with the support of the federal government, a Libraries and Archives Collaboration Fund, administered jointly by LAC, CARL, and CCA, to fund innovative collaborative project
THAT THE CANADIAN COUNCIL OF ARCHIVES
- coordinate, in association with ACA/AAQ, a national awareness campaign;
- review the accountability structures of the Canadian archival system to ensure compliance with national and international policy and the security of the national patrimony;
- in collaboration with the First Nations University, ACA, AAQ, and LAC, draft an introductory program of Indigenous Archival Studies to be offered in communities and reserves;
- expand its membership to include representation of major stakeholders in the public and private sectors engaged in the preservation of and access to Canada’s documentary heritage;
- pursue communication with Indspire, in collaboration with the above partners, to establish a volunteer mentoring program involving archivists and Aboriginal youth.
THAT THE CANADIAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION
- focus its activities on program accreditation, market research, a national awareness campaign, engagement in public policy, and international representation;
- strengthen its collaboration with literacy councils;
- reconceive itself as a federation;
- develop ebook cooperatives, in alliance with LAC and ministries of provincial and territorial governments.
THAT CANADIAN URBAN LIBRARIES COUNCIL and CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF RESEARCH LIBRARIES
- work more closely with publishers and vendors to provide Canadians access to needed content, electronic databases, and unified collections;
- make full use of their users’ rights to fair dealing;
- prioritize greater institutional cooperation on licensing and hosting to equalize access to resources by cloud services;
- participate in the growth of open educational resources.
THAT PROVINCIAL AND TERRITORIAL MINISTRIES
- gather in their regions to coordinate resourcing of collaborative activity;
- enact a policy on information management and record-keeping roles;
- review and update the legislation and regulation of archives;
- review founding principles to ensure that necessary resources are available to archives for their continued participation in and reporting to ARCHIVESCANADA.ca;
- collect and advertise best practices of inter-institutional and inter-professional collaboration;
- develop programs of financial aid to allow communities to take charge of the preservation, treatment, and availability of their archives;
- support the public library systems in forming larger units with adequate technological services;
- develop provincial/territorial standards to direct the development of a school-house public library model.
THAT PROVOSTS OF U15 CANADIAN RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES
- work collaboratively in developing shared print collections through sustainable resourcing for three to five regional preservation/storage facilities
- those hosting library or ischools, embark on a system-wide review of programs in partnership with professionals in practice and employers.
THAT FACULTIES OF EDUCATION and FACULTIES OF LIBRARY, ARCHIVAL AND INFORMATION SCIENCE
- include a course in community development;
- increase the number of graduates with competencies to manage the new school library/learning commons.
THAT THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS OF EDUCATION CANADA
- commission a pan-Canadian panel to determine the most appropriate model for school libraries/learning commons
- provide sustainable funding for such developments.