Library and Archives of Canada Survey

Library & Archives of Canada

If you’re a historical researcher, the Library and Archives of Canada wants to hear from you. LAC recently released a survey on the relationship between historians and the archives that focuses particularly on the digitization of archival materials.

Unfortunately, it seems that LAC is under pressure to use digitization as a means of budget restraint through the reduction of services. Last November, Jean Smith wrote about this exact problem at the Public Record Office in London. Canadian researchers now face the same challenge.

I filled in my survey and tried to underline the argument that digitization should not be used as a substitution for archival services. In fact, I believe that digitization should be used to expand and grow the archives. Digitization not only opens access to historical primary source documents to an enormous global community of researchers, but it also holds the potential to enhance research with digital technologies (data mining, digital textual analysis, geo-referencing). If LAC cuts its services as it digitizes its collection, not only will a great opportunity be lost, but Canada’s historical heritage will accumulate as much digital dust on the web as it does in boxes in  Ottawa.

I would encourage all historical researchers who use the archives in Ottawa to take a moment to fill out the survey and send it along to Terry Cook (


1. How would you describe the current relationship in 2010 between
LAC and the Canadian historical research community?

2. On a scale of 1 to 10, what number would you assign to rank the
current relationship, with 10 being an excellent relationship and 1 being a
poor relationship?
1 ______________________________________________ 10
What is the rationale for your choice?

3. How can LAC best serve your needs? If there were one thing that
LAC could work on for you, what would it be?

4. Given the mandate of Library and Archives Canada (see text
appended at end of this message), what do you see as the main elements of
its roles and responsibilities and which of these are most important to your
organization or institution, and/or to you personally?

5. In the context described above of a changing digital environment
and fewer resources, how do you see these roles changing? If dynamic,
comprehensive, and sustainable programs for digital archiving are to be
implemented at LAC, and, in partnership with LAC, at other archival
institutions in Canada, what current LAC programs could be scaled back or

6. Where do you see opportunities for partnerships between
individual historians and historical associations working in collaboration
with LAC, especially in a digital environment and within a possible national
documentation framework, but not limited to these? Are there opportunities
for innovation, enhancement, and new directions that you would like to
pursue, working with LAC?

7. LAC now provides a range of services and infrastructure for the
benefit of various information communities and professions, and for
Canadians in general. What are your priorities in this regard? How can LAC
resolve the dilemma, in a time of shrinking resources, of providing
ever-expanding online access to its finding aids and resource metadata, and
to millions added annually of online digital images of actual archival
records (with all the costs and infrastructure behind-the-screen preparing
both finding aids and records for exporting to the web environment) and of
providing traditional face-to-face specialist services in the reference
rooms in Ottawa? In this transition, what is in danger of being lost and
how may that be compensated for in an online service world?

8. How do you get your information about Library and Archives
Canada? How could the flow of information about LAC be improved? Is there
a particular point of entry that you would prefer to access or learn about
such information? What kind of information about LAC policies, activities,
internal research, staff activities, and new acquisitions/holdings
development is most relevant to your needs?

9. Are there any other comments you would like to make on any aspect
of the current and future relationship of LAC and Canadian historical

10. Again, on a scale of 1 to 10, what number would you assign to your
perception of how welcome LAC would be about working in collaboration with
historical researchers in addressing the archival challenges of the digital
age and in accessing the historical archival record, with 10 being very
welcome and 1 being very unwelcome?
1 ______________________________________________ 10
What is the rationale for your choice?

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