Thursday, October 11, 2012

Problems at the LAC?

During an early morning coffee and some free time for a little net surfing, I voyaged over to the website for Library and Archives of Canada (best known as the “LAC” by much of the research community). It has been a while since I visited the main page of the LAC since most of my navigation jumps quickly from links to the Canadian Census and Military Records. I was surprise to see little has changed. There were no “recent release” items to explore and the page appeared sort of… dead. What was worse, the “What’s New” page was not updated since March 2012. There is one thing that we researchers long for: new material/records being released for us to scan over. Many of us are already looking forward to big releases, such as the Canadian Census of 1921, with great excitement. This lack of releases was a noticeable change for an organization known for offering something new each month. So seven months has passed and nothing is “new” at the LAC?? Something is up.

Well, something is happening and it is not good. “Cuts to research” is a phase not strange to our current Federal government. The Harper* Government has axed and sliced spending with respect to nearly every research aspect in Canada. Over the last year, I’ve been aware there were cuts to the library at the local St. Andrews Biological Station and cuts to the national CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency), but to be honest, these seemed distant to me. Perhaps I was simply na├»ve in thinking that these changes would not affect me. Jump ahead to the me of today and I’ve since learned that those cuts to the biological station’s library greatly impact the station’s work in toxicology research in seafood products and we have all seen the recent effects of the cuts to the CFIA and the resulting fallout in Canada’s beef industry. So I started digging further. As it appears, our beloved LAC has also become a victim of government cuts. Cuts to the LAC has impacts on its digitalization efforts, its inter-library loans (the department has been closed), and limited acquisitions of material. Furthermore, cuts have left many vacancies thus limiting the staff at the previously understaffed LAC. In short time, I found this blog from the Librarians at the University of Toronto (http://utlibrarians.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/serious-situation-developing-at-lac-alert-your-colleagues-and-faculty-news-from-caut/) The UoT Librarians have further outlined the impacts that these cuts have to the LAC… take a look.

I try to avoid mixing politics into this blog (especially my own political beliefs) but these cuts, just like all cuts to research in this country, are hitting home. There was always an old thought that in tough economic times, old forts and parks are the first to feel the effects. Well, we’ve move well past that situation. Now these cuts are impacting a principal institution at the center of preservation of our heritage. And in respect to the CFIA, an institution at the forefront of protecting the food we eat. And if the LAC is getting hit with these cuts, don’t think for a minute that your county archive or provincial archive is not feeling the affect as well. (As a side note, the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick has not made a new release on its website since May 2012).

If you wish to help get the word out on the issues facing the LAC, check out this website: http://www.savelibraryarchives.ca Help spread the word. Canada can not turn its back on researchers!

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