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The Impact of Digitization in Rhetoric and Practice

The Impact of Digitization in Rhetoric and Practice

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Cais2013 allain babcock_presentation_final Presentation Transcript

  • 1. The Impact of Digitization in Rhetoric and Practice: A Review of Budget Cuts at Library and Archives Canada Sara Allain, MI, Librarian (@archivalistic) Kelli Babcock, MLIS, Special Projects Librarian (@kelllib) Digital Scholarship Unit at the University of Toronto Scarborough Library
  • 2. Digitization Rhetoric - What is it? Digitization rhetoric is the misrepresentation of digitization as a solution to issues of describing, making accessible and ascribing value to archives and special collections. Digitization rhetoric ignores the very real and inherent limitations of digital records – such as obsolescence, the tremendous investment of resources required, and the exclusion of users who don’t operate in an online environment. Digitization rhetoric can: − Affect budget decisions − Skew our users’ perception of access to special collections and archives − Create an unrealistic expectation of deliverables
  • 3. Library and Archives Canada (LAC): A Timeline of Recent Events Library and Archives Canada Act is proclaimed Digital Collection Development Policy is approved Advocacy letters deter LAC from cutting back public service hours by 12.5h/wk (advocacy letters state that digital access ≠ need for in-person access) Canadian Digital Information Strategy draft is released by LAC for public comment LAC ends the Archival Community Digitization Program LAC cuts service hours and announces they will implement a digital service approach as part of its “Modernization” initiative LAC announces that it will provide most services digitally by 2017 but also cancels its 2008 plan to build a Trusted Digital Repository LAC announces that inter-library loan service will end as of Feb. 2013 LAC announces over 200 positions to be eliminated, including a significant reduction of staff in digital preservation and conservation LAC cancels the National Archival Development Program ($1.7 million) without consultation, resulting in the elimination of 90 archival projects (including digitization projects) for 2012-2013 in institutions across Canada 2004 – May: 2006 – Feb: 2007 – Sept: 2007 – Oct: 2009 – March: 2012 – Feb: 2010 – Dec: 2012 – April/May: 2012 – April/May 2012 – April/May
  • 4. "Buried in Manitoba": Other Issues Affecting Library and Archives Canada TOTAL ARCHIVES: “The essence of total archives was that Canadian society took collective responsibility for the preservation of a documentary heritage [...] At the end of the twentieth century, the archival system has devolved from that position of collective responsibility to what seems to have become a collection of distinct and separate agencies, each with its individual responsibilities, but perhaps not equipped to carry its weight of responsibility within the network.” – Laura Millar, Archivaria 46, p. 139 GEOGRAPHY: “Thanks to the digital age technology, we can gradually transcend our historic geographic challenges by making this heritage accessible to all Canadians [...] We have some collections that were buried in Manitoba and nobody talked about it.” – Daniel Caron, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage No. 17, 6 December 2011
  • 5. Rhetoric in Practice: THE CUTS On April 30th, 2012, the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) announced Library and Archives Canada’s elimination of the National Archival Development Program to the archival community. NADP funding
  • 6. Rhetoric in Practice: THE CUTS On April 30th, 2012, the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) announced Library and Archives Canada’s elimination of the National Archival Development Program to the archival community. More news of the widespread cuts followed. NADP funding 21/61 archivists and archival assistants dealing with non-govt. records 50% of circulation staff for analogue holdings 50% of digitization staff and a number of preservation and conservation staff Manager of the Digital Preservation Office, Preservation Registrar, Conservation Technician in Textual and Visual Records Cuts to In-Person Services
  • 7. Methodology Bibliographic Review: 1. Government Documents (20 documents reviewed): − Hansard (parliamentary debates), committee evidence, reports, policies related to the cuts 2. Media Documents (16 documents reviewed): − Newspaper articles and other documents representing public perception related to the cuts 3. Advocacy Documents (119 documents reviewed): − Advocacy campaigns, letters, listserv posts, blogs related to the library and archives community’s reaction to the cuts Also reviewed reports on digitization to gather facts and statistics (11 documents reviewed). Sources are available through our Zotero Group: http://goo.gl/36T8v OR https://www.zotero.org/groups/library_and_archives_canada_-_cuts__digitization_rhetoric/items
  • 8. Findings: OVERVIEW Bibliographic Review: 1. Government Documents: − 13 out of 20 (65%) documents used digitization rhetoric to justify the cuts and changes at Library and Archives Canada 2. Media Documents (16 documents reviewed): − 16 out of 16 (100%) documents questioned the justification behind the cuts and changes at Library and Archives Canada 3. Advocacy Documents (119 documents reviewed): − 119 out of 119 (100%) documents questioned the justification behind the cuts and changes at Library and Archives Canada Reports on digitization contained facts and statistics that countered the digitization rhetoric used by LAC (11 documents reviewed). Sources are available through our Zotero Group: http://goo.gl/36T8v OR https://www.zotero.org/groups/library_and_archives_canada_-_cuts__digitization_rhetoric/items
  • 9. Findings: OVERVIEW How do the cuts impact traditional services? NADP funding 21/61 archivists and archival assistants dealing with non-govt. records 50% of circulation staff for analogue holdings 50% of digitization staff and a number of preservation and conservation staff Manager of the Digital Preservation Office, Preservation Registrar, Conservation Technician in Textual and Visual Records Cuts to In-Person Services DESCRIPTION REFERENCE APPRAISAL
  • 10. “I don't believe that will affect official languages. To absorb the shock, I believe we simply have to find innovative ways of describing things, for example, and make greater use of information technologies in order to absorb those cuts.” [in response to a question regarding LAC’s ability to carry out its main activities and fulfill its official language responsibilities after reducing expenditures by $4.6 million in 2010-2011] - Daniel Caron, Standing Committee on Official Languages No. 34, 30 November 2010 “In the past, we used to have to manually describe all the materials that were coming in [...] Much of this type of work is becoming increasingly unnecessary. That includes the description of archival materials. Since we now get the materials in digital form, we can automatically search inside those materials.” [in response to a question regarding the elimination of 50% of digitization and circulation staff at LAC] – Daniel Caron, Standing Committee on Official Languages No. 59, 6 November 2012 Digitization rhetoric as a solution to: DESCRIPTION
  • 11. “…thanks to the digital age technology, we can gradually transcend our historic geographic challenges by making this heritage accessible to all Canadians. In fact, in 2017 we will permit all Canadians here and in Canada and around the world to access a quantity, without precedent, of their rich documentary heritage, past and present, any time.” [during presentation on 150th anniversary of Confederation activities] – Daniel Caron, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage No. 17, 6 December 2011 “Fewer and fewer people are coming in person. I think that there are about 70 visitors a day, whereas there are half a million visitors a month on the internet. That is increasingly how people visit us.” [in response to a question asking how long it would take to have 50% of LAC’s archival holdings online] – Daniel Caron, Standing Committee on Official Languages No. 59, 6 November 2012 Digitization rhetoric as a solution to: REFERENCE
  • 12. “Many things are very interesting and need to be digitized. But there are also a lot of things that are perhaps less interesting or that are going to appeal to small segments of the population. So those materials can wait. They will not be necessarily digitized, they might never be digitized.” – Daniel Caron, Standing Committee on Official Languages No. 59, 6 November 2012 “Fulfilling our mandate in the new digital environment presents unique challenges and opportunities… And we are witnessing a new phenomenon: in the digital media age, too much information is recorded. This creates a major challenge unique to the archival function, which is how to be selective about what should be preserved and what need not be.” – Daniel Caron, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage No 12, 4 May 2010 Digitization rhetoric as a solution to: APPRAISAL
  • 13. As practicing archivists, librarians, and information professionals, we know these statements are misleading – technology and digitization are not solutions to the time consuming processes of description, reference and appraisal.
  • 14. As practicing archivists, librarians, and information professionals, we know these statements are misleading – technology and digitization are not solutions to the time consuming processes of description, reference and appraisal. But how do we prove it?
  • 15. Be Honest: The Realities of Digitization Digitization is not the solution to a budget problem – it might be creating more costs: Libraries cite “funding of [digitization] activity was their greatest sustainability concern… Aggregate figures show the cost of ongoing support for all digitized special collections is just a fraction of the amount spent in any one year to create new ones, and the raw figures often represent small fractions of someone’s time. This suggests a scenario where digitized collections, once created, are intended to essentially run without much active management, a situation that could ultimately hamper the ability of these institutions to sustain their projects and achieve the impact they desire.” – Maron, Nancy L., and Sarah Pickle. Appraising Our Digital Investment: Sustainability of Digitized Special Collections in ARL Libraries. Washington, D.C.: Association of Research Libraries and Ithaka S+R, 2013, p. 2
  • 16. Be Honest: The Realities of Digitization The Internet doesn’t give access – archivists do: “Some interviewees discussed directly the importance of cultivating a relationship with an archivist early in a research project, in order to facilitate access and support... Because these archivists are typically deeply knowledgeable of the content of their collections, and have their own networks of research support professionals, they are well-positioned to connect history scholars to additional resources.” “From the interviews it was clear that archivists' deep knowledge of the collections they work with and understanding of related collections is of tremendous value to historians working with primary sources... The archivist is seen as a partner in the discovery process.” – Rutner, Jennifer, and Roger C. Schonfeld. “Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Historians,” December 10, 2012, p. 10.
  • 17. Be Honest: The Realities of Digitization Making Research Tangible "Surveys and consumer reports also suggest that the sensory experiences typically associated with reading—especially tactile experiences—matter to people more than one might assume. Text on a computer, an e-reader and— somewhat ironically—on any touch-screen device is far more intangible than text on paper." – Jabr, Ferris. “The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper Versus Screens.” Scientific American (April 11, 2013).
  • 18. Be Honest: The Realities of Digitization Can researchers even find their way through our online content half of the time? “Promoting archival literacy… should be a primary objective and web-based outreach tools are but one way to achieve this… People will not come unless they know what there is to consult. And of course, they will come if they know how to consult them.” – Bance, Bryan. “Outreach in the academic community: enhancing the teaching role of university archives,” October 2012. “One negative impact of investing in the LAC’s online presence is that the direct link between the institution and public use has been broken. Those finding and using LAC resources online are seldom aware of the institution or processes behind the preservation of the record [...] Research online looks so convenient and so easy, but the creation and maintenance of digital assets are far from simple.“ – Wilson, Ian. “Reflections on Archivists and Genealogists,” February 2013, p. 137.
  • 19. Be Honest: The Realities of Digitization Online access as exclusion? – “Canada Digital Future in Focus,” March 2013.
  • 20. What can you do to advocate against Digitization Rhetoric? "The biggest pressure, however, comes from the digital revolution, which has transformed the world of documentary production—and with it the work of archivists—while irrevocably changing public expectations. Digital access is now seen as a quasi right and digitization as a means of mass democratization.” – Crean, Susan. “National Archives Blues by Susan Crean - The Literary Review of Canada.” Literary Review of Canada, 2011. − Collaborate, share resources − Become active in professional advocacy efforts − Document your own “digitization realities” to avoid digitization rhetoric in your own institution