Letter to the Minister of Canadian Heritage about cuts to Library and Archives Canada (LAC)

Librarians of the Concordia University Faculty Association
c/o Vince Graziano
Interim Chair, CUFA Librarians’ Assembly
Webster Library, LB-285-3
Concordia University
1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West
Montréal, Québec H3G 1M8

The Hon. James Moore, PC, MP
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
15 Eddy Street
Gatineau, Québec K1A 0M5

December 19, 2012

Dear Minister,

The librarian members of the Concordia University Faculty Association (CUFA) are deeply concerned by cuts to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) announced as part of the 2012 budget. We are also concerned that LAC’s so-called modernization program is being planned and delivered within a vacuum, largely without consultation from professionals, scholars, and users. We believe that the budget cuts and modernization program severely threaten LAC’s responsibility to collect, preserve, and make available Canada’s documentary heritage, as well as its responsibility to provide services utilized by researchers and librarians across the country.

Library and Archives Canada management contend that the cuts to jobs, services, and programs are being implemented to help LAC meet its mandate in the digital age. These claims do not stand up to much scrutiny when the organization’s professional staff has been reduced by 20%. Additional claims that digitization will increase access to collections are dubious when it is known that staff in the digitization section has or will be reduced by up to 50%. Digitization is a worthy but long-term and expensive goal. Identifying it as the ultimate goal of any modernization program does not mean that services and access to analog collections can be reduced in the interim. Moreover, what is the schedule for digitization? What percentage of LAC’s collections has already been digitized? In what order are materials to be digitized in the future? On what platforms will these materials be made available?

We join the numerous national professional organizations and scholarly societies like the Association of Canadian Archivists, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Canadian Historical Association, and the Bibliographical Society of Canada in expressing concern that LAC modernization is taking place without adequate consultation and without an infrastructure to support proposed new models of service delivery and access to collections. The elimination of the National Archival Development Program (which had the very modest budget of $1.7 million, almost $2.5 million less than the cost of ads the Government of Canada ran to promote its environmental action plan) is particularly troubling. As we hope you know, the termination of this cost-effective program has prompted professional groups including the Association of Provincial and Territorial Archivists of Canada, the Association of Canadian Archivists, and the University and College Archivists of Canada to withdraw from LAC Stakeholder Forums.

There are many other issues of concern:

  • Interlibrary loan lending service will close this month, with little effort having been made to communicate with librarians or scholars on how to access materials unique to LAC’s collection.
  • Collection development at LAC over the past several years has been passive, meaning that a number of unique items documenting our history and heritage have been lost. This has also shifted the responsibility to collect important items from LAC, Canada’s national repository, to other libraries and archives across the country, which may not have the budgets, staff, or facilities to properly curate these materials. Without a proactive acquisitions program at LAC, there is a distinct and real risk that valuable items and collections connected to our Canadian heritage will not be acquired by Canadian institutions.
  • Onsite reference hours at LAC have been cut and important specialist librarian and archivist positions have gone unfilled for years, depriving researchers of a skilled professional’s help in finding and accessing materials.
  • In October 2012 LAC announced that it is no longer collecting provincial and territorial government publications and will engage in de-selection of duplicate copies already in its collection.
  • The Depository Services program recently announced that it would end the distribution of print government publications to libraries by March 2014. There have been no further plans announced for the development of a stable, online archive for long-term preservation of Canadian federal documents.
  • As of December 4, 2012, the New Book Service web site, which provides important data on new and forthcoming Canadian books, has not been updated since February 2012.

Meanwhile, many national libraries and archives, including those in the United States, Great Britain, France, China, and Australia, are expanding access to services and digital and analog collections and are assuming exciting leadership roles in the creation and promotion of digital collections infrastructure. Why should Canadians expect less?

We have repeatedly heard that all government departments must “do their part” to help reduce the deficit; in drastically reducing the effectiveness and capacity of LAC, we as Canadians are abdicating our role as a nation that honours its own cultural and intellectual production. Library and Archives Canada has a legislated mandate to acquire, preserve, and curate Canada’s documentary heritage and to manage and protect the records of the Government of Canada. Its collections tell the story of our country’s development from early days to the present and represent our shared Canadian experience. Cuts to its budget, services, and staff, as well as a poorly planned and executed modernization strategy, threaten our ability to learn about our past and preserve our stories for future generations.

Yours sincerely,

Vince Graziano

On behalf of CUFA librarians

Pierre Nantel, MP Official Opposition Heritage Critic
Scott Simms, MP Liberal Party Heritage Critic
Daniel Caron, Deputy Head and Librarian and Archivist of Canada
Daniel Jean, Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage


CAUT Librarians Conference Report By Vince Graziano

On October 26th and 27th 2012, the Canadian Association of University Teachers held its annual Librarians Conference under the theme “Contested Terrain: Shaping the Future of Academic Librarianship” at the Sheraton Hotel in Ottawa. You may be interested in this report by our YUFA colleague Marcia Salmon (York University Libraries). Please find below a report by our very own Vince Graziano who has attended this conference:


Academic librarianship is threatened by Wal-Mart style corporate management that cuts costs by deskilling work, outsourcing professional responsibilities, misusing technology and reducing necessary services and positions.

Assessing the Damage

Participants were divided into small structured groups to discuss how the implementation of corporate management styles has had an impact in 4 areas: funding; terms and conditions of work; management practices; hiring and promotions policies. Here is a summary of the discussion:


  • Across-the-board cuts (easier to be “fair” instead of “strategic” or “surgical”)
  • Always funds for buildings, but never for staff/collections
  • Often funds for “sexy” technology/innovation-driven projects without real merit
  • Too many administrators
  • Undue influence of vendors
  • Donations, naming rights, privatization of public space, prioritization of work from funders; “we’ll do anything for money”
  • Where does money from unfilled positions go?
  • No money for collection development: leads to devaluation of expertise, lack of control over collections
  • Lack of transparency in  budget decisions
  • Metrics, mis-use of statistics to justify budgets; since you can’t count what is valuable, administrators will instead value what is countable
  • Loss of conference attendance funding

Terms & Conditions of Work

  • Because of more junior/untenured/probationary/sessional/part-time librarians, there are fewer librarians who can speak out without fear
  • Complement decreasing, unfilled vacancies, increased workload: can’t do the community service and especially the research required to get promotion
  • Faculty have a 40/40/20 split for teaching/research/community service, while for librarians it is closer to 90/5/5
  • Erosion of specialists; librarians as “plug-and-play” generalists
  • Outsourcing expertise: online “reference”, patron-driven acquisitions
  • Doing away with liaison librarians and replacing them with “strategic” teams
  • Library assistants or graduate students doing librarian duties such as reference
  • Loss of intellectual work: less cognitive, more process-driven
  • Staff positions being cut, librarians picking up the work (and vice versa); blurring of roles; library assistants taking on teaching roles
  • Not enough time for research, too much constraint on scope for research (e.g. research tied to job description); denial or reduction of research leaves

Management Practices

  • Diluting the bargaining unit: turning BU positions into administrative positions
  • Management vs. leadership
  • Lack of transparency
  • Grooming (indoctrination)
  • False consultation; imposition of administrative whim/fiat despite “consultation”, advisory boards, expertise
  • Over-reliance on surveys: popularity contests to determine priorities
  • Librarians not on Senate, etc: denial of participation in university governance
  • Misunderstanding of “collegiality”; respectful workplace policies
  • Never-ending reorganizations; destabilisation, uncertainty
  • Bankrupt the union, admins won’t deal, so everything goes to the lawyers
  • Divide-and-conquer strategy (between departments, units, unions)
  • Customer service mentality: give them what they want, not what they need
  • Micromanagement
  • Measuring of outputs, linked to accountability

Hiring and Promotion Policies

  • Fishy stuff with hiring practices: appointments vs. actual hirings, composition of hiring committees, emphasis on headhunters
  • Salary grid placement of new hires at the lowest possible levels
  • Generic job postings
  • Making MLS preferred, not required
  • Casualization: fewer or no tenure-track hires
  • Move to private-sector-like merit systems

Librarians as Teachers, Researchers and Community Members

  • Academic status is equated with teaching, research and service
  • Theses facets play a role in protecting and advancing our profession
  • Teaching
    • Library credit courses: 27% of 62 universities have it
    • Is the course full-weight or “labs”?
    • Should we be teaching: consensus leaning towards yes
    • Unlike instruction, teaching involves evaluation of students
    • Future of academic librarianship à full-weight credit course
    • Teaching included in professional service in the duties/responsibilities of librarians
  • Cons of Teaching
    • Lack of professional preparation
    • Time requirements
    • Workload implications
    • Equitable compensation
    • Part-timers doing teaching
  • Teaching Challenges
    • Lack of standardization
    • Will those not teaching lose credibility?
    • Information literacy with a social justice context, not skills-based
    • Self-confidence: can we?
  • Benefits of Teaching
    • Closer interaction with students
    • Deeper understanding of faculty workload
    • Better way of meeting curricular needs
    • Enhanced faculty status
    • Increased intellectual stimulation
  • Why we should be teaching
    • Academic librarianship as an academic discipline
    • Revitalized role for librarians and libraries
    • Greater input in governance
  • Universities with teaching in their collective agreements: Guelph, Memorial, Saskatchewan, University of Toronto, Mount Saint Vincent University
  • Research
    • Normal component of workload
    • Should be 40% of workload
    • Need uninterrupted time
    • Should be considered as part of librarians’ evaluations
    • “practitioner-researcher”
    • Pursued for interest
    • Scholarship – advancing knowledge within a discipline
  • Community Service
    • Advancement of profession
    • Relationship with tenure and promotion
    • Distinctive definitions of service in collective agreements
    • Collegial governance is critical for academic status

What is to be done?

  • Individually:
    • Keep up research and scholarship
    • New understanding of teaching as critical thinking
    • Speak up at meetings; challenge decisions that undermine academic freedom and academic status; be pro-active not passive;
    • Increase  personal awareness and that of colleagues; discuss issues with colleagues
  • Through the academic staff association:
    • Promote understanding of librarians’ issues
    • Promote points in common with faculty such as concerns of corporatization
    • Mentoring of new colleagues
    • Meetings of librarian members of academic staff associations: e.g. discussion of the points highlighted in the section “Assessing the Damage” to see which ones apply to our library
    • Librarians’ Councils in the collective agreement
    • Getting involved: librarian member on academic staff associations executive
  • Through CAUT:
    • CAUT Librarians Committee can help with certain situations
    • CAUT documentation: salary surveys, policies on website
  • Through provincial/national organizations:
    • Concerted effort to “take back” Canadian Library Association (CLA)
    • Renouncing CLA membership, whether individual or through institutional membership