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This is absolutely tragic. In 2012, when Canada’s Harper government announced that it would close down national archive sites around the country, they promised that anything that was discarded or sold would be digitized first. However, reporting coming out of Canada now is finding that, along with the closure of some of the world’s finest fishery, ocean and environmental libraries, a significant amount of irreplaceable collections and data are simply being thrown out or burned. As David Rosenthal noted in his blog post “Threat Model for Archives”, this should be a giant warning to anyone who thinks that “single, government-funded archives are a solution to anything.”
Hutchings said none of the closures has anything to do with saving money, due to the small cost of maintaining the collections. He, like many scientists, concludes that Harper’s political convictions are driving the unprecedented consolidation.
“It must be about ideology. Nothing else fits,” said Hutchings. “What that ideology is, is not clear. Does it reflect that part of the Harper government that doesn’t think government should be involved in the very things that affect our lives? Or is it that the role of government is not to collect books or fund science? Or is it the idea that a good government is stripped down government? ”
Hutchings saw the library closures fitting a larger pattern of “fear and insecurity” within the Harper government, “about how to deal with science and knowledge.”
That pattern includes the gutting of the Fisheries Act, the muzzling of scientists, the abandonment of climate change research and the dismantling of countless research programs, including the world famous Experimental Lakes Area. All these examples indicate that the Harper government strongly regards environmental science as a threat to unfettered resource exploitation.
“There is a group of people who don’t know how to deal with science and evidence. They see it as a problem and the best way to deal with it is to cut it off at the knees and make it ineffective,” explained Hutchings.
The following is a press release (PDF) from the Canadian Government Information Private LOCKSS Network (CGI-PLN). Questions and comments should be directed to Amanda Wakaruk, amanda.wakaruk AT ualberta DOT ca.
Media Release – please forward
Libraries Work Together to Preserve Canadian Federal Government Electronic Publications
Librarians at eleven organizations have formed a partnership to preserve Canadian electronic government information.
This partnership, known as the Canadian Government Information Private LOCKSS Network (CGI-PLN), has established a geographically distributed infrastructure to preserve government information in a secure environment, helping ensure access to digital content in the future.
“The Canadian Library Association applauds the CGI-PLN initiative as an outstanding collaborative effort to make government information -increasingly available in only digital form – more accessible to Canada’s library communities and to Canadians nation-wide,” CLA president Pilar Martinez said. “CLA has been pleased to provide a forum where the beginnings of this work could take place.”
The Network’s first collection includes more than 111,000 PDFs produced by departments and agencies across the Government of Canada and collected by the Depository Services Program (DSP). This content was harvested in partnership with the Internet Archive’s Archive-IT service and will be updated by PLN members on a regular basis. The preservation of this content would not be possible without the cooperation of the DSP and its managers’ commitment to the stewardship of government information.
“It’s heartening to see Canadian libraries collaborating on such a critical mission. Future Canadians will laud the forward-thinking work of these librarians. Lots of copies do indeed keep Canadian documents safe,” said James Jacobs, LOCKSS-USDOCS Coordinator, Stanford University, and former Chair of the United States Depository Library Council.
While the CGI-PLN’s mandate is broadly defined, its current focus is on information publicly disseminated by the Government of Canada.
“This project illustrates how university libraries are finding new ways to contribute to the long-term preservation and access of important research resources,” University of Alberta University Librarian and Canadian Association of Research Libraries President Gerald Beasley said.
For more information, see:
- Canadian Government Information Private LOCKSS Network (CGI-PLN)
- LOCKSS Program
- Depository Services Program
CGI-PLN Participating Institutions (in alphabetical order):
- Dalhousie University
- McGill University
- Scholar’s Portal (Ontario Council of University Libraries)
- Simon Fraser University
- Stanford University
- University of Alberta
- University of British Columbia
- University of Calgary
- University of Saskatchewan
- University of Toronto
- University of Victoria
pdf available at https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B13VrrzqeRbuaWFmWkhON3QyRk0/edit?usp=sharing
*Amanda Wakaruk*, MLIS, MES
Government Information Librarian
University of Alberta Libraries
[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?