You know it’s tough for research-based jobs in Ottawa when federal librarians start holding mock funerals for information.
Last Monday was dubbed the “Archivists’ On to Ottawa Trek” and approximately 150 archivists and librarians protested with a march through downtown Ottawa and a funeral for archival funding at Library and Archives Canada. Take a look at this great Ottawa Citizen video.
(Modeled after the famous On to Ottawa Trek of 1935, which saw workers from across the country descend on Ottawa to protest government mismanagement during the Great Depression.)
Why are Canada’s archivists and librarians upset?
The 2012 Budget continues the government’s full-frontal assault on the information required for evidence-based decision-making.
Budget 2012 included $10 million in on-going annual cuts to Library & Archives Canada (LAC). When added to previous cuts, investment in LAC could be as much as $50 million below 2008-2009 levels.
On April 30th 2012, 430 positions were declared affected, which is expected to result in a 20% reduction in staff. These cuts will make it impossible for the LAC to provide a complete and comprehensive public record of Canada. The divisions targeted for cuts are those that acquire and document items from media and private sources–sources essential to provide a complete account of any issue. The absence of this information will deal a huge blow to our ability to maintain a collective Canadian memory.
But it doesn’t stop there!
Budget cuts are also leading to the closure of several departmental libraries. According to the Canadian Library Association, include Citizenship and Immigration, Agriculture, Environment, Industry, Transport Canada, National Defence, Public Works and Government Services, the National Capital Commission and the Public Service Commission.
“Good policy relies on good information,” said Karen Adams, president of the Canadian Library Association in a Vancouver Sun article. “It’s conceivable that, instead of looking at evidence around policy options, that we’ll sort of get ‘government by poll’, because the information gathered by departmental libraries doesn’t exist anywhere else.”
Even if some of the information does survive, Adams said that without specifically trained librarians to make sense of it, it will be of little use.
“It’s all well and good to have a room full of departmental reports, but if there’s no one to keep it organized and to know what’s there, then it doesn’t have any value.”
Photo by Padraic Ryan.