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Confirmed: Library and Archives Canada seeks to outsource AMICUS to OCLC

After long speculation, Library and Archives Canada have at last confirmed that are in talks to outsource AMICUS, Canada’s national union library catalogue, to the private sector. Negotiations are at a fairly advanced stage; yesterday LAC issued an Advance Contract Award Notice detailing their proposal to contract the work out to OCLC. While it has become clear in recent years that LAC no longer possesses the capacity to develop robust digital solutions in-house, and while AMICUS’ decrepitude has increasingly been the target of frustration and embarrassment in recent years, questions still remain over a number of specifics proposed in the tender. Not least:

  • "…the Service Provider’s externally hosted solution will replace the existing LAC implementation of the NUC for all public access and library contribution and data sharing functions."
  • "While LAC currently hosts its growing collection of digital objects internally, on its own servers, in the future, LAC may consider utilizing the Service Provider to host some or all of its digital objects…"
  • "It is further anticipated that the Service Provider will provide services and/or operate internal systems that will support the Last Copy Network." (NB: the LCN is the official name of LAC’s hastily-contrived successor to its now-defunct ILL service)
  • The Contractor’s library systems software, databases and documentation will remain the property of the Contractor. Any configuration of the Contractor’s systems specific to LAC’s requirement and any specific custom code relating to the development of linkages from the Contractor’s systems to LAC’s internal systems for the purposes of undertaking the work will be done by the Contractor and will remain the property of the Contractor.

In an age where other jurisdictions are moving toward distributed, collaborative, open source, robustly public infrastructure to support digital librarianship, Canada’s continued drive to further fragment and privatise information services seems all the more disappointing and short-sighted.

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