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Library and Archives Canada (LAC) (in Template:Lang-fr) is a federal institution tasked with acquiring, preserving and making Canada's documentary heritage accessible.[1] LAC reports to Parliament through Mélanie Joly, the Minister of Canadian Heritage since November 4, 2015.[2]

History and mandateEdit

The Dominion Archives was founded in 1872 as a division within the Department of Agriculture and was transformed into the autonomous Public Archives of Canada in 1912 and renamed the National Archives of Canada in 1987. The National Library of Canada was founded in 1953. Freda Farrell Waldon contributed to the writing of the brief which led to the founding of the National Library of Canada.[3] In 2004, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) combined the functions of the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada.[4][5][6] It was established by the Library and Archives of Canada Act (Bill C-8), proclaimed on April 22, 2004. A subsequent Order in Council dated May 21, 2004 united the collections, services and personnel of the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada.[7] Since inception LAC has reported to Parliament through the Minister of Canadian Heritage.[8]

LAC's stated mandate is:[1][9][10]

  • to preserve the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations;
  • to be a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all, contributing to the cultural, social and economic advancement of Canada as a free and democratic society;
  • to facilitate in Canada co-operation among communities involved in the acquisition, preservation and diffusion of knowledge;
  • to serve as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions.

LAC is expected to maintain "effective recordkeeping practices that ensure transparency and accountability".[11]


LAC's holdings include the archival records of the Government of Canada, representative private archives, 20 million books acquired largely through legal deposit, 24 million photographs, and more than a petabyte of digital content.[12][13] Some of this content, primarily the book collection, university theses and census material, is available online.[14] Many items have not been digitized and are only available in physical form.[15] As of May 2013 only about 1% of the collection had been digitized, representing "about 25 million of the more popular and most fragile items".[16][17][18]

The collection includes:[19]

User profileEdit

Genealogists account for 70% of LAC's clients.[27]


File:Sculpture Lea Vivot LAC BAC.jpg
File:Gatineau Preservation Centre.jpg

The building at 395 Wellington Street in downtown Ottawa is the main physical location where the public may access the collection in person. The building was officially opened on June 20, 1967.[15][28] With the de-emphasis on physical visits, in-person services have been curtailed, for example since April 2012 reference services are by appointment only, and the role of this building is decreasing.[29][30][31] There are also administrative offices in Gatineau and preservation and storage facilities throughout Canada for federal government records.[15][19][32][33]

The Preservation Centre in the city centre of Gatineau, about 10 kilometres away from the Ottawa headquarters, was designed to provide a safe environment for the long-term storage and preservation of Canada's valuable collections. It was built at a cost of CDN$107 million, and the official opening took place on June 4, 1997. It is a unique building containing 48 climate-controlled preservation vaults and state-of-the-art preservation laboratories.[32][34][35][36] In 2000, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada named it one of the top 500 buildings constructed in Canada during the last millennium.[37]

A Nitrate Film Preservation Facility on the Communications Research Centre campus in Shirleys Bay, on the outskirts of Ottawa, houses Canada's cellulose nitrate film collection.[38] The collection contains 5,575 film reels dating back to 1912, including some of the first Canadian motion pictures and photographic negatives.[19][39] The film material is highly sensitive and requires precise temperatures for its preservation. The state-of-the-art facility, which was officially opened on June 21, 2011,[40] is an eco-designed building featuring an environmentally friendly roof that provides better insulation and minimizes energy expenditures.[41]

A planned key activity for 2013–14 is to rehouse analogue (non-digital) information resources in a new state-of-the-art high-density storage facility in Gatineau, where the national newspaper collection and records of Second World War veterans will be stored.[42][43] The facility will feature a high bay metal shelving system with a suitable environment to better protect Canada's published heritage.[44][45][46]

LAC's online collection is accessible via its website and LAC provides ongoing information online via its blog, podcasts, the Twitter and Facebook social networking services, the Flickr image-sharing site, and the YouTube video-sharing site. RSS feeds provide links to new content on the LAC website and news about LAC services and resources.[14][47][48] A new modernized website is being developed and is scheduled for completion in 2013, with both new and old websites accessible during the transition period.[49]

Modernization and budget cutsEdit

In June 2004 LAC issued a discussion paper Creating a New Kind of Knowledge Institution,[50] and after consultation in June 2006 it issued LAC Directions for Change, a document setting out five key directions to define the new institution:[51]

  • A new kind of knowledge institution
  • A truly national institution
  • Working with others to strengthen the whole of Canada’s documentary heritage
  • A prime learning destination
  • A lead institution in government information management.

LAC's modernization policy provides for transformation from an institution focused on the acquisition and preservation of analogue (non-digital) materials to one that excels in digital access and digital preservation.[52] A Documentary Heritage Management Framework developed in 2009 seeks the right balance between resources dedicated to analogue and digital materials and is based on:

  • three main business pillars: acquisition, preservation and resource discovery (resource discovery includes description, discovery, access and services to the public)
  • four guiding principles for fulfilling its documentary heritage mandate, i.e. significance, sufficiency, sustainability and society (broad social context)
  • four key roles, i.e. foundation building (relationship building), collaboration, program (integrated collection management processes) and transfer (formal agreements with third parties to fulfill its legislated mandate).

Eight pilot research projects were initiated to validate the framework, including projects on military documentary heritage, aboriginal documentary heritage, and stewardship of newspapers in a digital age.[53][54][55] In March 2010 LAC issued its final report on Canadian Digital Information Strategy stakeholder consultations initiated in accordance with its mandate to facilitate co-operation among Canadian knowledge communities.[56] In the same month it issued Shaping Our Continuing Memory Collectively: A Representative Documentary Heritage, a document which outlines how it plans to achieve its modernization objectives.[57]

Despite LAC's stated objectives of continuing to fulfill its mandate by adapting to changes in the information environment and collaboration with others, the actual experience since 2004 has been a reduction in both services and collaboration.[52][53][58] Federal funding cuts since 2004 have also impacted on LAC services and acquisitions.[17][18][58][59][60] A detailed timeline of relevant developments and the decline in LAC services since 2004 has been compiled by the Ex Libris Association.[61]

Impact on employeesEdit

Following the announcement in the 2012 federal budget of a CDN$9.6 million funding cut over the three years commencing in 2012–13,[62] more than 400 LAC employees received notices which indicated their jobs may be affected and the department announced a 20% reduction of its workforce of about 1,100 over the following three years.[31][63][64][65] The "harsh" wording of a 23-page code of conduct for employees effective January 2013, which "spells out values, potential conflicts of interest and expected behaviours", has been criticized by the Association of Canadian Archivists and the Canadian Association of University Teachers among others. The code describes personal activities including teaching and speaking at or attending conferences as "high risk" activities "with regard to conflict of interest, conflict of duties and duty of loyalty" and participation in such activities is subject to strict conditions. In a section on duty of loyalty, it also cautions employees about expressing personal opinions in social media forums. Only authorized LAC spokespersons may issue statements or make public comments about LAC’s mandate and activities, which includes controversial changes related to modernization and budget cuts.[66][67][68][69]

Public criticismEdit

Changes introduced under the management of Ian E. Wilson and Daniel J. Caron have been the subject of controversy and public criticism.[58][70] Caron asserted that radical change is needed to cope with the influx and demand for digital material and they are subject to federal budget constraints.[69][71]

  • In 2011 the Canadian Association of University Teachers launched the Save Library & Archives Canada campaign.[72]
  • On May 2, 2012 the Canadian Library Association expressed concern about budget cuts to libraries, both in federal departments and at LAC.[64][65]
  • On May 31, 2012 the Association of Canadian Archivists announced its withdrawal from forums of LAC's Pan-Canadian Documentary Heritage Network, stating that it does not believe the network can meet the needs and interests of archives across Canada previously met by the National Archival Development Program abruptly terminated by LAC following the 2012 federal funding cut.[59][60][73]
  • In August 2012 the Bibliographical Society of Canada wrote to every Member of Parliament urging them to ensure budget cuts do not compromise LAC's legislated mandate. In a follow-up letter to Heritage Minister James Moore in November 2012 the Society singled out the termination of interlibrary loans as a particularly harmful decision.[74]
  • Bibliophile blogger Nigel Beale characterizes LAC as "Canada's national disgrace" in his blog Literary Tourist.[75]
  • Academic Ian Milligan describes LAC's "rhetoric of modernization" as a "smokescreen" for cutting services in light of the insignificance of and limited accessibility to LAC’s online collections on the website.[76]
  • Historian Valerie Knowles outlines the impact of government cutbacks at LAC and federal government libraries in her article Closing doors on Canada's history on the iPolitics website.[77]

Following Caron's resignation in May 2013, a stakeholder coalition issued a joint statement on the qualities of a successful Librarian and Archivist of Canada for official consideration in what they consider a "matter of great national significance":[70][78] Template:Quote

In June 2013 the Heritage Minister said speeding up the digitization of records will be a priority for the new Librarian and Archivist of Canada. Moore also said he will ask the person appointed to revisit the termination of the National Archival Development Program.[59][60]

Librarians and ArchivistsEdit

The Librarian and Archivist of Canada is the deputy head of Library and Archives Canada.[9]

Current Librarian and Archivist of CanadaEdit

On April 14, 2014 Guy Berthiaume was appointed Librarian and Archivist of Canada by Minister of Canadian Heritage Shelly Glover for a five-year term commencing June 23, 2014.[79]

Former Librarians and Archivists of CanadaEdit

Former National LibrariansEdit

Former National Archivists and Dominion ArchivistsEdit

The head of Canada's national archives was known as the Dominion Archivist from 1872 to 1987 and the National Archivist from 1987 to 2004.[86]

See alsoEdit





Further readingEdit

  • Council of Federal Libraries (Canada): Readers' Services Committee. Basic Readers' Services = Principaux services offerts aux lecteurs. Ottawa, Ont.: National Library of Canada, cop. 1980, t.p. 1979. N.B.: The English and French texts are printed tête-bêche one to the other. ISBN 0-662-50668-5
  • Delvaux, Alex, and Yves Marcoux. Public Archives Library = Bibliothèque des Archives publiques. In "General Guide Series: 1983". [Ottawa]: Public Archives Canada, 1983. Text, printed tête-bêche, in English and in French. ISBN 0-662-52580-9
  • Kallmann, Helmut. "The Music Division of the National Library: the First Five Years", The Canada Music Book, vol. 10, [no. 1] (Spring/Summer 1975), p. 95-100. N.B.: Also printed as a fold. offprint.
  • Library and Archives Canada. Legal Deposit at the [then named] National Library of Canada = Le Dépôt légal à la Bibliothèque nationale du Canada. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1982. N.B.: Text, printed tête-bêche, in English and in French. ISBN 0-662-52131-5
  • Library and Archives Canada. Music Collection [of the] National Library of Canada['s] Music Division = Collection de musique [de la] Division de la musique, Bibliothèque nationale du Canada. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1989. N.B.: Texts in English and in French, printed tête-bêche. ISBN 0-662-57231-9
  • Library and Archives Canada. National Film, Television, and Sound Archives = Archives nationales du film, de la television et de l'enregistrement sonore, in General Guide Series. Ottawa: Public Archives Canada, 1983. 45 p. (English) + 47 p. (French), ill. with b&w photos. N.B.: The English and French texts are printed tête-bêche one to the other. ISBN 0-662-52650-3
  • Library and Archives Canada: Sound Archives Section. Sound Archives, Guide to Procedures = Les Archives sonores, guide méthodologique. 3rd ed. ... rev. ... and updated, [in] collaboration between ... Michel Bourbonnais et al.; Josephine Langham ... responsible for the revision of the text in the English language version. Ottawa: Public Archives Canada, 1979. N.B.: Texts in English and in French, printed tête-bêche one to the other. ISBN 0-662-50363-5

External linksEdit


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