the cuts to library and archives canada

You may be forgiven for not being super-aware of the cuts the Canadian federal government is making to Library and Archives Canada (LAC). It’s possible you think of that institution as being somewhat out of your sphere of things that matter. Of course Canada has a national library. Nobody’s going to put an end to that, right?

Well, maybe you should read this piece by my friend and colleague Myron Groover: The Wrecking of Canada’s Library and Archives. It’s a great primer and lays out the issues very well. The rest of this post consists of my impressions for people who don’t follow links.

In the recent budget Harper’s Conservatives slashed the hell out of LAC’s (low-million-dollar) budget. This while their fighter jet overpays spiral out of control and they spend comparative shitloads on the Queen’s Jubilee and War of 1812 propaganda, a fifth of the librarians and archivists at LAC are being laid off.

At the CLA conference last week, little old lady librarians were giving out informational bookmarks about this situation because Daniel Caron – the non-librarian political appointee -Deputy Head and Librarian and Archivist of Canada in charge of LAC would be speaking that day. In a post-conference PR email the CLA said:

Before his presentation, two conference delegates as well as several non-delegates handed out black ribbons in support of CAUT’s day of action, protesting Dr. Caron’s decisions with respect to the required cuts to the LAC budget (CLA commented on the cuts in a press release on 2 May). CLA had to ask the non-delegates to leave the conference space, as is common practice for associations holding a trade show.

It’s important to note these were not yelling, radical student librarians (which there aren’t that many of), but polite grandmothers who were escorted out of the convention centre (the public part that anyone could walk through) by hired goons. It’s not a politic image.

Daniel Caron’s speech (analyzed here by Michael Ridley) insulted librarians and made ridiculous claims that because LAC has 600 Twitter followers that means everything is fine. They are making physical collections less accessible, while saying they are modernizing the library by digitizing, but cutting half the digitization staff at the same time. It’s transparent partisan bullshit.

My archivist colleagues are very concerned about the cuts to the National Archival Development Program (Canada Council of Archives NADP factsheet (PDF)) which funds small archives across the country and in a 2010 audit was singled out as being an incredible return on government investment. But since it doesn’t make Canada seem more militaristic, it’s gone.

I’m not fully involved in all of these issues. I have a hard time getting into politics in general, but this is stuff that’s happening in my professional sphere. This kind of thing is far more important than blathering on about the image of librarians in media. These are people who are losing their livelihoods in a shitty economy for propagandistic reasons being falsely sold as fiscal responsibility. So if you read some more posts on the topic here, know it’s me trying to engage a bit more, politically.

For further reading check out the Save LAC campaign.

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