[Editor's note: This is a guest post from Amanda Wakaruk, Government Information Librarian at the University of Alberta Libraries.]
Over the past week, the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) wrote about and then provided the public with access to documentation outlining a Web Renewal Action Plan that calls for the reduction of Government of Canada (GoC) websites from roughly 1500 down to 1 (see FIPA’s blog entries, linked below). This plan appears to exacerbate the problems I noted in an FGI blog post last year: Government of Canada Publications -– It’s About Access, Not Format. For example, there is no publicly available evidence that the GoC has implemented or plans to implement a comprehensive web archiving plan before reducing its web footprint.
As a practitioner, I run into the problem of missing (i.e., unarchived) born digital content on a regular basis. (And no, Library and Archives Canada is not collecting websites for public consumption – these programs stopped in 2009.) The question I lost sleep over last year is more pressing than ever: who is archiving the web content of the GoC?
A group of institutions is working hard to setup a LOCKSS network that will help preserve the content of the Depository Services Program’s (DSP) e-archive (see the nascent CGI-PLN Wiki – email me if you would like to become a member or can help with funding to try and make this content accessible in the event that we lose access to the DSP website). Our first collection -- as important and impressive as it is at over 110,000 pdfs -- only represents a fraction of the content produced by the GoC. (As you might recall, the DSP does not collect html, only pdfs… and the latter format is discouraged by current GoC web protocols).
I am proud of the fact that the University of Alberta Libraries, my home institution, was able to capture select GoC websites using a fee-based (and US-based) Archive-IT account but no single academic institution can afford to act as steward for the output of the federal government. Happily, we have a colleague in the University of Toronto Libraries, who started capturing GoC web content using Archive-IT a few weeks ago as part of a joint “rescue mission” to save the contents of the Aboriginal Portal of Canada before it was deleted from government servers (the results of these crawls are accessible here and here).
The bigger question, of course, is this: If not the government, then who is responsible for collecting and preserving the born digital content of the GoC? If it *is* the academic sector’s responsibility then where will the funding come from? Recent provincial budget cuts in Ontario and Alberta have been hard on this sector, to say the least. If there is a White Knight out there, now would be a great time to step forward!
The elimination of print publications coupled with a lack of web archiving and a directive to make only ‘current’ information available online marks an incalculable loss. Countless students describe the sessional papers as “life changing” and scholars from all walks of life routinely draw on statistical information produced by their governments to help make sense of our place in the world and inform ways to improve it (as an aside, Statistics Canada plans to remove publications more than a few years old from their website). It is unthinkable that future generations will not have access to information produced by their government today… information that should be informing our cultural narrative.
Reaction to Web Renewal Action Plan
- Harper Government Centralizing, Slashing Federal Web Info
- Federal Open Government Minister Not a Fan of Open Government. Vincent Gogolek, Executive Director, Freedom of Information and Privacy Association Huffington Post Canada, British Columbia
- first post includes links to the Web Renewal Action Plan
- Stephen Harper asked Tony Clement to ‘significantly reduce’ number of government websites, says document. Mike de Souza, Edmonton Journal.
- Historical letters not wanted at Library and Archives Canada, critics say. Joseph Hall, Toronto Star
- Tories Restrict Online Data Mining, But Not for Social Media. Globe and Mail
We've been tracking this story since this spring when the Depository Services Program of Canada (DSP) announced that, by 2014, it would, “no longer be producing, printing, or warehousing hard copies of publications.” Well it's much more than no longer printing govt publications. As BoingBoing notes:
Canada's national archives are in trouble: they've undergone a $9.6M cut, with more to come. The collections are being sold off to private collectors, many outside of the country. Now the Documentary Organization of Canada has weighed in: "Lisa Fitzgibbons, Executive Director of the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC), succinctly states a case for continuance of sustainable funding of Library and Archives Canada."
Please go to Save Library & Archives Canada (hosted by the Canadian Association of University Teachers!) to learn more about the issues and take action to save the Library & Archives.
Librarians silenced at CLA conference, Bibliothécaires de l'APUO / APUO Librarians (June 1, 2012).
What does it mean when librarians are physically removed from a library conference for circulating information regarding library funding? And, what does it mean when the national library association in this country is the body removing them?
Here's more news from our Canadian colleagues regarding the ongoing erosion of library services and Library and Archives Canada (LAC). The announced cuts to the LAC include:
- Elimination of 30% of archivists and archival assistants;
- Reduction of digitization and circulation staff by 50%;
- Reduction of preservation and conservation staff;
- Closure of the interlibrary loans unit;
- Elimination of the National Archival Development Program (NADP) which supports -programming at provincial, regional and university archives across Canada.
The following libraries will also close or be affected:
Canadians or other concerned individuals can write, email or telephone their Member of Parliament or contact the Prime Minister directly via email [email@example.com] or fax [613-941-6900] to register their concerns about these cuts.
Additional information on LAC & NADP activities are listed below:
[Editor's note: my Canadian colleague Amanda Wakaruk, government information librarian at the University of Alberta asked me to post the following. Please direct questions and/or interest in partnership to her at amanda.wakaruk AT ualberta DOT ca. JRJ]
On Friday the Depository Services Program of Canada (DSP) announced that, by 2014, it would, “no longer be producing, printing, or warehousing hard copies of publications.” (The announcement was distributed on INFODEP, a list for depository libraries, and appended to this post). The Library of Parliament will stop distributing paper publications with the end of September’s session. Library and Archives Canada will stop obtaining Government of Canada (GOC) publications in print format by 2014. Many GOC agencies have moved exclusively to born digital publishing.
For those of us on the privileged side of the digital divide, the main problem with the transition to digital is not format, it’s the absence of any comprehensive GOC policy on digital integrity, preservation, and long-term access. To make matters worse, the intellectual organization and capital of the GOC information landscape is increasingly fractured through policy decisions including, but not limited to, government cutbacks.
For example, Statistics Canada moved away from the DSP’s e-archive to mount their own. Implementation of the Common Look and Feel for the Internet website standard removed countless publications in pdf and also access to several databases (including library catalogues) from GOC web sites – it’s unlikely that many of these were captured by the DSP or other e-archive services.
Federal departmental libraries have been in quiet decline for years. CISTI was decimated (70% budget cut), multiple libraries closed (most recently HRSDC), staff reductions have touched practically every agency, and I've been told that librarians are being replaced with less-expensive and precariously employed support staff. As an academic librarian, I’ve lost a good portion of an important referral network of experienced, knowledgeable colleagues. And, because of this, my clients – who are important assessors of our governing bodies – are underserved.
Transitions like this one require an influx of professional knowledge and action. At the moment, this means starting a discussion to establish a Canadian federal government LOCKSS PLN similar to the USDOCS LOCKSS PLN partnership between the US GPO and academic institutions.
Let me know if you are interested in partnering on this project. Better yet, attend the CLA Government Information Network meeting in Ottawa (May 31) – it will be on the agenda.
Amanda Wakaruk, MLIS, MES
Government Information Librarian
Liaison Librarian, British History
Humanities and Social Sciences Library
University of Alberta
From: firstname.lastname@example.org On Behalf Of Publications
Sent: Friday, April 13, 2012 12:33 PM
Subject: infodep DSP Important Notice/PSD Avis important
Notification of Deficit Reduction Action Plan Implications for PWGSC's Depository Services Program
Dear Sir or Madam,
Further to the 2012 Budget, tabled on March 29, 2012, this is to advise you of a decision that affects the business relationship between Public Works and Government Services Canada Publishing and Depository Services Program, and your organization.
As part of the Deficit Reduction Action Plan, the decision has been made to completely transition all publications published by the Publishing Program
and publications provided by departments to the Depository Services Program from traditional print to exclusively electronic publications. This aligns with the Government of Canada's greening government initiatives. This also aligns directly with Canadians' increasing access to electronic information and use of e-publications. Recent statistics from publications.gc.ca show a significant increase in the number of unique visitors to the site which was close to 2.2 Million and the number of downloads close to 10 Million annually. The resulting demand for paper publications has greatly declined. This decline is expected to continue as the trend towards the use of the Internet to access publications increases. By fully transitioning to free web-based
publications we will eliminate the costs associated with producing, printing, distributing and warehousing hard copies.
In 2014, Publishing and Depository Services will no longer be producing, printing, or warehousing hard copies of publications. However the Depository Services Program will continue to provide access to Government of Canada publications through publications.gc.ca. Other services under the Publishing and Depository Services Program remain as they are.
Please be assured of our utmost co-operation in limiting the impact of this decision on your operations and in continuing to offer a high-quality service.
Thank you for your understanding and continued co-operation.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to communicate with us at: email@example.com.
As of April 24, 2006, all electronic publications available on the Statistics Canada website will become free of charge.
(from the StatCan press release) The New Publishing Model has two components:
* the free dissemination of all electronic publications on our website
* priced publications released on paper. The adoption of the New Publishing Model supports the longstanding principles underlying the Agency's dissemination program: to make information of broad public interest widely available to the Canadian public but to charge individual clients for special products and services where the benefits do not accrue to the public at large and where additional costs are incurred by the Agency in providing them.
This notice was kindly forwarded to us here at FGI, and also posted on the Access to Government Information Interest Group (AGIIG) and Dlilist: Discussion forum for Data Liberation Initiative issues, both Canadian documents listservs.