#SaveLAC: How ordinary citizens can make an impact

As reported earlier on this blog, in March I sent an email and follow-up letter to my MP, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, describing my concern for poor decision-making and what appeared to be “muzzling” the staff at Library & Archives Canada. I was thrilled when I was contacted a week later to speak on the phone with Dr. Bennett.

My conversation with Dr. Bennett was short but very useful. We concurred that activities at LAC – from the cutting of staff, programs and services to their controversial Code of Conduct as well as the obvious lack of passion and respect LAC Head Daniel Caron had for Library and Archives Canada as an institution, for colleagues specializing in libraries and archives, and for the care and preservation of our Canadian heritage as a whole.

When I asked Dr. Bennett for advice on what concerned Canadian citizens could do — aside from making a ruckus via social media — she was very helpful in suggesting a plan of action. And this is important, my friends, because what we need to do is quite simple: we need to demonstrate evidence of damage caused by bad decisions at LAC.

And this is where we need to work together — to gather evidence that can be delivered to our representatives that speak for us in the House of Commons. We are librarians, we do this every day. Let’s use our skills and expertise now for the good of our country.

Our Mission: Do the Research, show the Evidence

Here are some examples of how we can show evidence of damage as a result of activities at LAC:

  1. Issue: We know that our National Library and Archives do not receive adequate funding, that funding has been inadequate for many years, and funding continues to be diminished.

    : Look into what other OECD countries invest in their national libraries and archives. I suggest we take a look at the G7 countries, to start: United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. We could also look at Australia and New Zealand, since those countries seem to be making good decisions recently. Create a simple table to show what the G7 countries have invested in their national libraries and archives over the past 10 years, and include Canada. The table will show very clearly that Canada is way down the list.
  2. Issue: Earlier this year the wildly popular InterLibrary Loan program at LAC was terminated. Given it’s popularity, it will be missed – but we need to show who will miss it, and what will happen as a result of terminating the service.Task: Find data that indicated the number of ILL requests, ILL requests fulfilled, and the types of material. This is a tough one, since this information may not be easy to find. Still do your best. You may want to try the Way Back Machine to look for cached web pages from before the service was removed. Be crafty. Then, speak to your local library systems, who were the intermediaries that received the ILL materials from LAC and delivered them to the patrons. They likely have data on how often the system was used. And then, we need stories from these libraries – now that ILL is gone, what are the patrons doing to get the information they seek?  A popular ILL system has disappeared — we need to uncover the consequences.

These are just two issues of many, but it seems to be they are the most obvious issues where we can find evidence of damage. There are so many more, and I encourage you to find ways to show evidence of damage being done.

Have Evidence, Will Send to the House of Commons

This evidence won’t do us a whole lot of good unless we provide it to our representatives who can speak for us in the House of Commons. A good first step is to contact your MP in your riding, but here are some other MPs who hold a position on the Heritage Committee who are in our corner, and are doing their best to bring attention to our concerns:

Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

  • Rob Moore, Chair (MP Fundy Royale, NB; Conservative)
  • Pierre Nantel, Vice Chair (MP Longueuil-Pierre Boucher, PQ; NDP)
  • Scott Simms, Vice Chair (MP Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor, ON; Liberal)
  • Ray Boughen, Member (MP Palliser, SK; Conservative)
  • Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, Member (MP Hochelaga, PQ; NDP)
  • Gordon Brown, Member (MP Leeds-Grenville, ON; Conservative)
  • Paul Calandra, Member (MP Oak Ridges-Markham, ON; Conservative)
  • Andrew Cash, Member (MP Davenport, ON; NDP)
  • Matthew Dubé, Member (MP Chambly-Borduas, PQ; NDP)
  • Jim Hillyer, Member (MP Lethbridge, AB; Conservative)
  • Blake Richards, Member (MP Wild Rose, AB; Conservative)
  • Terence Young, Member (MP Oakville, ON; Conservative)
  • Christine Holke David – Clerk of the Committee – 613-947-6729
  • Michael Dewing – From the Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Library of Parliament
  • Marion Ménard – From the Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Library of Parliament

Let’s Get Started

I’m going to begin with the two tasks I’ve outlined below, and I will share my results so many of us can send evidence to our MPs. Please let me know if you’d like to help me with this. Many hands mean light work 🙂