Visit to CARL and Canadian libraries

RLUK and CARL-ABRC (Canadian Association of Research Libraries- Association des bibliothèques de recherche du Canada) share a number of common interests and are founding members of IARLA, the International Alliance of Research Library Associations. In this context, I visited Canada in November 2016 to participate in CARL’s Fall Members Meeting and national forum on repositories, and libraries while in the region to better understand the priorities and achievements of prominent Canadian institutions.

Where next for repositories? brought together repository managers and library directors from across the country to discuss potential national strategies, means of including different types of content, and roles for associations. Speakers including Kathleen Shearer (COAR) and Leslie Chan (University of Toronto) encouraged participants to rethink the role of scholarly communication, and the role of publication and Open Access within that context. Their presentations and others presented during the forum are available online,  and tweets using the hashtag #repositories16.

National Preservation Centre, Gatineau Québec

National Preservation Centre, Gatineau

National Preservation Centre, Gatineau

The National Preservation Centre, part of LAC-BAC (Library and Archives Canada-Bibliothèque et Archives Canada) is a purpose-built series of facilities that support LAC-BAC’s role as a memory institution, and supports access for researchers and the broader public. The facility itself is not publicly accessible, but many of the photographs, documents, films, maps and other materials can be ordered by researchers and delivered to LAC BAC’s building in downtown Ottawa, Ontario.

As Canada has a federal political system this means that there is diversity in resources across the country amongst provinces and territories. Canada’s provincial and national library associations, heritage, archival and other sector organisations are important partners for LAC-BAC to carry out their work. Policy at the national level has an impact on LAC-BAC’s services, for instance in accordance with the Official Languages Act services are provided in both French and English; and changes to copyright legislation have supported the making of copies and circumvention of digital locks for preservation. Accessibility of material is a priority, and the forthcoming ratification of the Treaty of Marrakesh (Canada was one of the first countries to sign by accession) is expected to provide further benefits for people with visual impairments to access information.

Recording the memory of Aboriginal communities is another area in which LAC-BAC is actively engaged, across a range of issues from diversifying Library of Congress Subject Headings to archiving of documents related to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. LAC-BAC has run creative projects to engage people in their collections, such as Project Naming which aims to identify Inuit people in the archive’s photo collection.

National Preservation Centre, Gatineau

National Preservation Centre, Gatineau

The Preservation Centre itself is designed to the highest quality standards for temperature and humidity control and disaster minimization procedures, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of my tour was learning about the efforts of LAC’s book conservators to codify and pass on their knowledge to the next generation. Once a largely oral profession in which curators and experts shared their knowledge about how to conserve materials amongst each other, the profession has had to focus on producing research and documenting methods as experts retire and the number of conservators overall is smaller. Using reference models to demonstrate various techniques, together with research and mentoring, expertise is being captured and passed down. Conservators require a high level of expertise as there is no one way to treat an item – it depends very much on provenance, condition of the item and skill. These are challenges faced by archives worldwide which has made LAC-BAC a sought out institution for advice and leadership on these, and many other issues ranging from access policy, digital unification and born digital materials.

University of Ottawa Library
Like many universities in the UK, the University of Ottawa Library has created a copyright office to deal with inquiries from staff and students, and is also in the process of developing training programmes on these issues. Legislation and licensing does vary from that in the UK, although some recent changes as a result of the Copyright Modernization Act (2012) have been positive for users. Elsewhere in the library, staff are designing new services with strong input from users, and to support entrepreneur and innovation initiatives across the university and Canada. This has led to a creative approach to designing new spaces.

Parliamentary Library
Parliamentary Library OttawaThe only part of the parliament building’s Centre Block to survive the great fire of 1916, Canada’s Parliamentary Library serves parliamentarians but collections can also be viewed by the public if not available at another institution.

On behalf of RLUK I would like to express my sincere thanks to CARL, LAC-BAC and the University of Ottawa for their hospitality and support in organizing the visit.

Fiona Bradley, Deputy Executive Director, RLUK

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