LAC Issue: My letter to Dr. Carolyn Bennett, MP St. Paul’s

In an earlier post, I encouraged everyone who is alarmed by the recent activities at Libraries and Archives Canada to send a letter or an email to their MP. I finally got a chance to write my own — see below. I give permission to anyone who would like to use any part of my letter to craft their own.

Date: 23 March 2013

Dr. Carolyn Bennett
MP, St. Paul’s
1650 Yonge Street, Suite 103
Toronto, Ontario M4T 2A2

Dear Dr. Bennett:

First, thank you for opening this letter. It comes unsolicited, as I’m very concerned about recent activities in our government, and I’d like to ask for your help.

As you know, last weekend Libraries and Archives Canada (LAC) implemented a new code of conduct for employees of LAC, which require them to clear “high risk” activities such as teaching and speaking at conferences with their managers, for fear of creating a conflict of interest with their employer. This new code also states that LAC employees are obligated to a “duty of loyalty” to the “duly elected government”.

I’m also sure you are aware of the exchange during last Monday’s Question Period when Andrew Cash (MP for Davenport) accused Heritage Minister James Moore of being afraid of librarians – a back-handed way of addressing the appalling code of conduct introduced by LAC. For the online video, see http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/19/andrew-cash-librariansharper_n_2907935.html.

Since 2004, LAC has been cutting services, and more recently has been removing content from their web site, with no longterm preservation plan for paper-based or digital content. For a detailed list of services in decline at LAC, please see the list

Ex Libris has put together at http://exlibris.pbworks.com/w/page/63815458/Ex%20Libris%20Association%20Backgrounder%20on%20Library%20and%20Archives%20Canada.

If it is indeed true, as Minister Moore claims, that he did not know about the Code of Conduct being introduced by Daniel Caron, then what needs to happen next is a conversation with Dr. Caron. Several of my colleagues have tried to arrange a meeting with him several times in the past year, and these meetings are repeatedly cancelled.

Monday evening, Minister Moore responded via Twitter to several librarian colleagues of mine regarding the Code of Conduct imposed by LAC. The Minister insisted he knew nothing about the code. You can see the Twitter exchange at http://storify.com/mjecclestone/conversations-with-james-moore.

Dr. Bennett, as your supporter and a member of your constituency, I am asking you to support me in questioning the recent actions at LAC. As a citizen, I can post my distress to Facebook and Twitter, and generally make a ruckus. I have also asked the CBC to pay attention to this issue, and fortunately both “As it Happens” and Jian Ghomeshi has discussed it on the air.

But, to really make an impact, I need my representative in Ottawa to bring this issue to the fore in the House of Commons. As demonstrated in 2011 when the long-form census was eliminated, the Conservative government has a solid tactic for dealing with opposing opinions — they remain silent during the public uproar and wait for it to pass. And then, they continue to implement their unpopular decision, with little concern for expert opinion, public sentiment or any acknowledgement of the harm it will do to our country. It is appalling that the Conservative government continually rejects the use of high quality data to make decisions. It is my understanding that there are no professionally trained librarians or archivists in senior management roles at LAC; I cannot understand how LAC can strive to be responsible for our national heritage when the staff lack the training, the understanding and the passion for cultural preservation.

When the long-form census was cut in 2011, the research, science and library community made a great deal of noise, drummed up media outrage, and then it died down while the Conservatives carried on with destroying our long-standing collection of Canadian social statistics. Many of us continue to mourn the loss of this important data-gathering tool and know the damage it will inflict on our social structures as time goes on. This time, I am encouraging my colleagues working in the library and archives profession to not back down. I am determined to keep up the noise for as long as it takes, because the preservation of and access to Canada’s heritage is too important to ignore.

If there is anything I can do to facilitate your information gathering on this issue, please do not hesitate to contact me. I have been documenting these horrifying activities at LAC and the reaction from the media and Canadian provincial library associations on my blog at http://kimberlysilk.com.

I have attached a digital PDF of this communication to this email, and a paper copy will arrive at your Toronto office in the near future.

Thank you for your attention; I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Kimberly Silk , MLS
Librarian and Concerned Canadian Citizen
Data Librarian, Martin Prosperity Institute
Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
President, Special Libraries Association Toronto Chapter