The impact of mismanagement at Library and Archives Canada has been especially profound in my province - to our members, the services LAC provides at a distance to support the work of the library and archival community are crucial. The cancellation of the National Archival Development program, for example, has devastated archival digitisation & preservation efforts in British Columbia and caused employment prospects for young, talented archivists in the province to dramatically contract. Much of that talent has been lost to the United States.
The baffling cancellation of the interlibrary loan program and the seemingly diminished online sharing of LAC holdings means British Columbians may now actually have less access to Canada’s documentary heritage than ever before. For people in BC, travelling to Ottawa to access a document or book is not feasible, and that needs to be recognised! This is a vast country, and LAC is part of what it means to be Canadian. If it fails in its mission and mandate, our sense of ourselves as a people suffers - and that is a tragedy.
Calls for Caron’s replacement to be drawn from the professional community of archivists and librarians have been well articulated by a number of my colleagues in the media and at the table here today, and I would echo those calls. But we need more.
We need a systematic thinker with a demonstrated ability to understand how large organisations work and how their functions and business processes relate to one another. We need someone with clear management experience who understands the vital import of making front-line employees feel valued and cherished for their hard work. We need someone who knows how to delegate without fear to the professional expertise of their staff - that’s why you hire experts, after all, and the expertise of LAC staff has been cruelly underutilised in the last few years.
We need a firm commitment to bilingualism and to working with - and for - all Canadians no matter where they live. We need a clear communicator who does not shy from plain speaking. We need humility and a conciliatory approach, someone who can rebuild LAC’s relations with the professional communities upon which it depends to function and with the public it exists to serve.
We need someone who will not shy away from the difficult task of paring down a bloated and self-serving management culture which has treated LAC as a personal fiefdom. And we need someone with a strong personal understanding of information technology as it relates to libraries and archives - this point cannot be emphasised enough.
But most of all we need an advocate for LAC as a strong and independent institution at the very heart of Canadian democracy. We need someone who cares about the place and who can convey the import of its mandate and activities - and the work of its staff - to Canadians and the world. A vibrant, outward-looking, consultative national library and archives is something we should be proud of, not ashamed of - it’s time to see someone at the helm who feels the same way.
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