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For those who may not have seen this already, as the present and future of
Library and Archives Canada is of concern to all of us .  Daniel Caron is
the keynote speaker at CLA this year.  

 

Jocelyne

 

From: Yu.Cabot [mailto:[log in to unmask]] 
Sent: Friday, February 03, 2012 9:10 AM
To: Kelly Moore
Subject: Cdn Govt Exec magazine: Interview with Daniel Caron (January issue)

 

Archiving the digital record

 

How does a traditional government organization move from archiving books to
preserving blogs and other sources of digital information? Library &
Archives Canada (LAC) is responding to the new digital reality. Daniel
Caron, deputy minister of LAC, spoke with editor-in-chief Toby Fyfe about
his vision for the future and how he plans to achieve it.


You’ve argued that “the convergence of Library and Archives is propelled by
the attitudes and expectations of users in a modern information society.”
What does that mean for LAC?

If LAC and similar organizations across the country want to be relevant and
continue to contribute to democracy and literacy, they need to understand
not only where citizens are going in terms of accessing material, but how
they create it, preserve it and want to access it.

It’s difficult in the current environment to decide how to select what is
going to become historical because there’s so much information produced out
there. Traditionally, publishers had to legally deposit two copies of
everything, and we were documenting the literates of the world. Now,
everyone can produce something. So the first question we need to answer is
how are we going to decide what we keep, what to acquire in our vaults? To
do that, we need to change our business.

How will you decide what makes something worth keeping? 

We are building what is called the All of Society Model. We went through the
entire literature around librarianship and archival sciences, and we found
that the techniques and approaches cover the ground from the moment you
acquire something to the disposals.

 

We need to involve more than just librarians and archivists but also
political scientists and anthropologists to understand our society’s
functioning. Who are the major players? What are their roles? When do they
intervene? And from there, identify the discourses in society. For example,
Aboriginal issues have evolved in terms of discourse. We have, since the
beginning of the ‘70s, a greater presence of Aboriginal people than we used
to; before, it was totally the state that was keeping that discourse.

We’ve worked with the entire community across the country on the model. We
have 800 archives and 2400 libraries across the country. It’s impossible
today, in the digital environment, to think that one institution, one group
of people, will have the answers to all of this. In the end, we’re going to
have a system where, wherever you go, you will be able to know what is where
and how to access it. It may be a province, it may be a local archives, it
may be us if it’s of national importance.

When you talk about this network of libraries and archives, are they
collectors of information, repositories of information, or both?

They can be both. Let me give you an example. Just after I was appointed I
started this model, including the idea that we should locate material where
it’s going to be used. I went to Newfoundland and brought them two Moravian
dictionaries because they were being utilized by professors at Memorial
University. Why have them travel to Ottawa if I know that the rooms there
are state-of-the-art and can preserve them, and they’re going to be made
accessible? Obviously you need criteria, you need standards and we’re
working on that. Some provinces like Quebec and Nova Scotia have developed
those standards and are already collaborating within the province. We’re
trying to bring that model across the country.

 

What about the skills that librarians and archivists are going to have to
have?

We need technical competencies of classifying and organizing. But there are
two more streams. One is, obviously, the technological stream. People will
need to be a lot savvier vis-à-vis technology because that’s where they can
contribute. It’s no longer enough just to sit behind the counter.

The other stream understands the anthropology of the writing system or the
anthropology on how we document. We’re in a digital environment that is
changing the way we behave, the way we work. If you look at teenagers and
the kids, they don’t react the way we traditionally react; librarians and
archivists need to understand that because if they want to be able to put a
value on, and to find a document that we need to acquire, they need to
understand how people create information and what matters to them.

In the case of public libraries, we need to have people who are open to
offering more than published material. People knocking at the doors now are
no longer coming for a book. They found it on the web somewhere so they’re
coming for different types of service, such as community services. Again, I
see two streams. One is more intellectual, conceptual, in understanding the
roots of how we create information as individuals, writers, historians. And
the other is the technology that needs to be understood to a point where you
will be able to certify that this is an authentic document, since that’s the
role of archivists and librarians, to have the capacity to tell people that
if you come here, what you’re going to find on our website has not been
altered, that this is the real, authentic stuff.

I want talk about you as the leader of an organization that went through
significant change over the last decade and is now, of course, going through
change to reach your vision. There must be huge concern, if not resistance.

 

Both in fact. There’s certainly resistance but there is concern because we
are changing the traditional role of this institution. What we need to
understand is, first of all, when we put the two institutions together in
2004 we did the machinery stuff that we had to do to create a new Act and
put together two institutions. Now the driver behind modernization is the
issue of relevance. How can our role and contributions stay relevant in an
environment that is moving so quickly and affecting all the work we’ve been
doing in the past? For example, based on our backlog we could continue to
work for 20 years describing what we already have and think we’re still
relevant to society. But as we speak, a lot of information is being created
digitally and a lot will be lost if we’re not working upstream to gather, to
select, to do the triage. This changing environment is the driver to me.

So what process did you put in place to move the vision?

First of all I put it in a document, Shaping Our Continuing Memory, and from
there led the pilgrimage inside and outside. This is the role of a deputy, I
think: to convey the message and to listen. In my document I said clearly
that we’re entering into a deliberative decision-making process which means
that we’re going to listen to you. It doesn’t mean we’re looking for
consensus, no. We have the authority, we have an Act, we need to move and to
do our job. However, we’re going to be very deliberative in our discussions.
We did a fact-finding exercise. I sent into the field a renowned librarian
and a renowned archivist to talk to the community and to come back with the
results. With those results, we began a real conversation with the
communities.

 

At the same time inside we started to communicate those objectives. I have
delegated to the organization the task of bringing solutions so it’s not
something that is top down. What is top-down is the vision, the drive, the
leadership, but the solutions will come from the professionals and from the
communities. The way I approach it is to communicate, communicate and
explain, explain, and listen to people. You have to listen and you have to
show that you have listened. It’s not enough to say, “Oh thank you, yeah, I
heard you.” No, you need to be frank, no bullshit. You’re frank so you have
those meetings and if something is in line with what you’re trying to do,
you say to them, “That’s a very good idea and we’re going to pursue that.”
If it’s just resistance, you say, “Well, you may be right but we think the
environment is changing and no, we won’t – we can’t have the status quo
here.”

You know, you become a bit impatient because you want this to be implemented
yesterday. You have to be patient and give time to people. We have done this
with the communities over the last two years. Now it’s starting to pay off a
lot. We see a lot of people coming to us happy; they want to contribute.

 

 

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