We want to thank the many of you who have written to Minister Moore and opposition critics about the secret agreement to outsource digitization of Library and Archives (LAC) material to the consortium Canadiana.org.
Our concerns about the project have been several:
(1) This whole arrangement was negotiated in secret without any disclosure, much less consultation, with the archivist community or the public.
(2) It involves the contracting out of LAC work at a time when 50% of the LAC digitization staff have been laid off.
(3) Access to the public holdings of LAC for the period in which Canadiana.org is involved will be restricted. One will have to pay for access to the full records and access will be limited to those with password access to university or similar institutional connections.
We understand the desperation that may have led well-intentioned members of Canadiana.org to see this as a solution to the destructive policies of the federal government and of the management of LAC. But, Canadiana.org’s action only succeeds in taking the pressure off the Harper Government and the LAC management to reverse what they have been doing at LAC. In the process, Canadiana.org becomes a partner in the dismantlement of LAC.
In the face of criticism, Canadiana.org has attempted damage control. We have received two contradictory reports. Both are ostensibly from Canadiana.org – one through an internal leak earlier this week; the other a direct response to what they characterize as the “highly distorted interpretations of the agreement [between LAC and Canadiana]”.
Two days ago (the leaked document from Canadiana.org):
“Each year 10% of the collections will be made Open Access to Canadians. At the end of the project term 100% will be Open Access. Users will be charged access fees for non-Open Access content during the 10-year exclusivity term.
Basic and Premium Access accounts will be offered. Basic Access will offer virtual microfilm tape images with collection descriptions with basic finding aids.
Premium access will provide enhanced searching and data analyses using the metadata created and content images transcribed during the project.”
“There are potential risks of public criticism related to LAC out-sourcing in times of lay-offs and not funding it in such a way as to make it Open Access immediately.”
[Posted June 10, 2013 on http://bibliocracy-now.tumblr.com/post/52639678572/details-canadiana-lac-proposal]
Yesterday (posted on the Canadiana website):
“Contrary to persistent reports, there will be no paywall on any of the digital images. As collections are digitized, they will be viewable, for free, on our website—making them much more accessible than before.”
“We hope to generate the revenues to create this text data from donations, sponsorships, and an optional premium site with enhanced features—this last being at the origin of the “paywall” myth. Individuals will be able to choose whether they want to pay and support the project (again, the digitized images will always be free) but the more revenue we collect, the more data we can create.”
[Posted June 12, 2013 on http://www.canadiana.ca/en/lac-project-faq]
It is Library and Archives Canada that is responsible for collecting, preserving and making accessible Canada’s cultural and historical heritage. Unjustified budget cuts and ill-considered management policies have put the future of LAC at risk. The damage can be reversed. Restoring the proper budget of LAC is easily within the federal government’s capability. The total amount of the cut is less than half of what was spent on its “celebration” of the War of 1812 and less than two percent of the cost of just one of the 65 jet fighters it is planning to purchase.
We can afford to properly collect, preserve and make accessible our country’s cultural and historical heritage properly. The only question is whether our government will allow us to do so.
Reversal of the damage at LAC should be our priority, not trying to put a Band-Aid on it.
James L. Turk
Canadian Association of University Teachers
Canadian Association of University Teachers / Association canadienne des professeures et professeurs d’université / 2705 promenade Queensview Drive, Ottawa, (Ontario) K2B 8K2
James L. Turk, Executive Director / Directeur Général
tel: (613) 726-5176
fax/téléc: (613) 820-7244
mobile (613) 277-0488