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The Impact of Digitization inRhetoric and Practice:A Review of Budget Cuts at Library and Archives CanadaSara Allain, MI, ...
Digitization Rhetoric - What is it?Digitization rhetoric is the misrepresentation of digitization as a solution toissues o...
Library and Archives Canada (LAC):A Timeline of Recent EventsLibrary and Archives Canada Act is proclaimedDigital Collecti...
"Buried in Manitoba":Other Issues Affecting Library and Archives CanadaTOTAL ARCHIVES:―The essence of total archives was t...
Rhetoric in Practice: THE CUTSOn April 30th, 2012, the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) announcedLibrary and Archives Ca...
Rhetoric in Practice: THE CUTSOn April 30th, 2012, the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) announcedLibrary and Archives Ca...
MethodologyBibliographic Review:1. Government Documents (20 documents reviewed):− Hansard (parliamentary debates), committ...
Findings: OVERVIEWBibliographic Review:1. Government Documents:− 13 out of 20 (65%) documents used digitization rhetoric t...
Findings: OVERVIEWHow do the cuts impact traditional services?NADPfunding21/61 archivists andarchival assistantsdealing wi...
―I dont believe that will affect official languages. To absorb the shock, I believewe simply have to find innovative ways ...
―…thanks to the digital age technology, we can gradually transcend our historicgeographic challenges by making this herita...
―Many things are very interesting and need to be digitized. But there are also alot of things that are perhaps less intere...
As practicing archivists, librarians, and informationprofessionals, we know these statements are misleading –technology an...
As practicing archivists, librarians, and informationprofessionals, we know these statements are misleading –technology an...
Be Honest: The Realities of DigitizationDigitization is not the solution to a budget problem– it might be creating more co...
Be Honest: The Realities of DigitizationThe Internet doesn’t give access – archivists do:―Some interviewees discussed dire...
Be Honest: The Realities of DigitizationMaking Research Tangible"Surveys and consumer reports also suggest that the sensor...
Be Honest: The Realities of DigitizationCan researchers even find their way through our onlinecontent half of the time?―Pr...
Be Honest: The Realities of DigitizationOnline access as exclusion?– ―Canada Digital Future in Focus,‖ March 2013.
What can you do to advocate againstDigitization Rhetoric?"The biggest pressure, however, comes from the digital revolution...
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The Impact of Digitization in Rhetoric and Practice: A Review of Budget Cuts at Library and Archives Canada

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This presentation was first given at the CAIS Archives conference in Dundee, Scotland, on 25 April 2013 by Sara Allain and Kelli Babcock.

It is provided here under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/)

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Transcript of "The Impact of Digitization in Rhetoric and Practice: A Review of Budget Cuts at Library and Archives Canada"

  1. 1. The Impact of Digitization inRhetoric and Practice:A Review of Budget Cuts at Library and Archives CanadaSara Allain, MI, Librarian (@archivalistic)Kelli Babcock, MLIS, Special Projects Librarian (@kelllib)Digital Scholarship Unit at the University of Toronto Scarborough Library
  2. 2. Digitization Rhetoric - What is it?Digitization rhetoric is the misrepresentation of digitization as a solution toissues of describing, making accessible and ascribing value to archives andspecial collections.Digitization rhetoric ignores the very real and inherent limitations of digitalrecords – such as obsolescence, the tremendous investment of resourcesrequired, and the exclusion of users who don’t operate in an onlineenvironment.Digitization rhetoric can:− Affect budget decisions− Skew our users’ perception of access to special collections and archives− Create an unrealistic expectation of deliverables
  3. 3. Library and Archives Canada (LAC):A Timeline of Recent EventsLibrary and Archives Canada Act is proclaimedDigital Collection Development Policy is approvedAdvocacy 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 commentLAC ends the Archival Community Digitization ProgramLAC cuts service hours and announces they will implement a digital serviceapproach as part of its “Modernization” initiativeLAC announces that it will provide most services digitally by 2017 but also cancelsits 2008 plan to build a Trusted Digital RepositoryLAC announces that inter-library loan service will end as of Feb. 2013LAC announces over 200 positions to be eliminated, including a significantreduction of staff in digital preservation and conservationLAC 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 Canada2004 – May:2006 – Feb:2007 – Sept:2007 – Oct:2009 – March:2012 – Feb:2010 – Dec:2012 – April/May:2012 – April/May2012 – April/May
  4. 4. "Buried in Manitoba":Other Issues Affecting Library and Archives CanadaTOTAL ARCHIVES:―The essence of total archives was that Canadian society took collectiveresponsibility for the preservation of a documentary heritage [...] At the end ofthe twentieth century, the archival system has devolved from that position ofcollective responsibility to what seems to have become a collection of distinctand separate agencies, each with its individual responsibilities, but perhaps notequipped to carry its weight of responsibility within the network.‖– Laura Millar, Archivaria 46, p. 139GEOGRAPHY:―Thanks to the digital age technology, we can gradually transcend our historicgeographic challenges by making this heritage accessible to all Canadians [...]We have some collections that were buried in Manitoba and nobody talkedabout it.‖– Daniel Caron, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage No. 17, 6 December 2011
  5. 5. Rhetoric in Practice: THE CUTSOn April 30th, 2012, the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) announcedLibrary and Archives Canada’s elimination of the National ArchivalDevelopment Program to the archival community.NADPfunding
  6. 6. Rhetoric in Practice: THE CUTSOn April 30th, 2012, the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) announcedLibrary and Archives Canada’s elimination of the National ArchivalDevelopment Program to the archival community.More news of the widespread cuts followed.NADPfunding21/61 archivists andarchival assistantsdealing with non-govt.records50% of circulationstaff for analogueholdings50% of digitization staffand a number ofpreservation andconservation staffManager of the DigitalPreservation Office,Preservation Registrar,ConservationTechnician in Textualand Visual RecordsCuts to In-PersonServices
  7. 7. MethodologyBibliographic Review:1. Government Documents (20 documents reviewed):− Hansard (parliamentary debates), committee evidence, reports, policies related to thecuts2. Media Documents (16 documents reviewed):− Newspaper articles and other documents representing public perception related to thecuts3. Advocacy Documents (119 documents reviewed):− Advocacy campaigns, letters, listserv posts, blogs related to the library and archivescommunity’s reaction to the cutsAlso reviewed reports on digitization to gather facts and statistics (11 documentsreviewed).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. 8. Findings: OVERVIEWBibliographic Review:1. Government Documents:− 13 out of 20 (65%) documents used digitization rhetoric to justify the cuts and changesat Library and Archives Canada2. Media Documents (16 documents reviewed):− 16 out of 16 (100%) documents questioned the justification behind the cuts andchanges at Library and Archives Canada3. Advocacy Documents (119 documents reviewed):− 119 out of 119 (100%) documents questioned the justification behind the cuts andchanges at Library and Archives CanadaReports on digitization contained facts and statistics that countered the digitizationrhetoric 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. 9. Findings: OVERVIEWHow do the cuts impact traditional services?NADPfunding21/61 archivists andarchival assistantsdealing with non-govt.records50% of circulationstaff for analogueholdings50% of digitization staffand a number ofpreservation andconservation staffManager of the DigitalPreservation Office,Preservation Registrar,ConservationTechnician in Textualand Visual RecordsCuts to In-PersonServicesDESCRIPTION REFERENCE APPRAISAL
  10. 10. ―I dont believe that will affect official languages. To absorb the shock, I believewe simply have to find innovative ways of describing things, for example, andmake 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 activitiesand 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 werecoming in [...] Much of this type of work is becoming increasingly unnecessary.That includes the description of archival materials. Since we now get thematerials in digital form, we can automatically search inside those materials.‖[in response to a question regarding the elimination of 50% of digitization andcirculation staff at LAC]– Daniel Caron, Standing Committee on Official Languages No. 59, 6 November 2012Digitization rhetoricas a solution to:DESCRIPTION
  11. 11. ―…thanks to the digital age technology, we can gradually transcend our historicgeographic challenges by making this heritage accessible to all Canadians. Infact, in 2017 we will permit all Canadians here and in Canada and around theworld to access a quantity, without precedent, of their rich documentaryheritage, 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 70visitors 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’sarchival holdings online]– Daniel Caron, Standing Committee on Official Languages No. 59, 6 November 2012Digitization rhetoricas a solution to:REFERENCE
  12. 12. ―Many things are very interesting and need to be digitized. But there are also alot of things that are perhaps less interesting or that are going to appeal tosmall segments of the population. So those materials can wait. They will not benecessarily 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 uniquechallenges and opportunities… And we are witnessing a new phenomenon: inthe digital media age, too much information is recorded. This creates a majorchallenge unique to the archival function, which is how to be selective aboutwhat should be preserved and what need not be.‖– Daniel Caron, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage No 12, 4 May 2010Digitization rhetoricas a solution to:APPRAISAL
  13. 13. As practicing archivists, librarians, and informationprofessionals, we know these statements are misleading –technology and digitization are not solutions to the timeconsuming processes of description, reference andappraisal.
  14. 14. As practicing archivists, librarians, and informationprofessionals, we know these statements are misleading –technology and digitization are not solutions to the timeconsuming processes of description, reference andappraisal.But how do we prove it?
  15. 15. Be Honest: The Realities of DigitizationDigitization is not the solution to a budget problem– it might be creating more costs:Libraries cite ―funding of [digitization] activity was their greatest sustainabilityconcern… Aggregate figures show the cost of ongoing support for all digitizedspecial collections is just a fraction of the amount spent in any one year tocreate new ones, and the raw figures often represent small fractions ofsomeone’s time. This suggests a scenario where digitized collections, oncecreated, are intended to essentially run without much active management, asituation that could ultimately hamper the ability of these institutions to sustaintheir projects and achieve the impact they desire.‖– Maron, Nancy L., and Sarah Pickle. Appraising Our Digital Investment: Sustainability ofDigitized Special Collections in ARL Libraries. Washington, D.C.: Association of ResearchLibraries and Ithaka S+R, 2013, p. 2
  16. 16. Be Honest: The Realities of DigitizationThe Internet doesn’t give access – archivists do:―Some interviewees discussed directly the importance of cultivating arelationship with an archivist early in a research project, in order to facilitateaccess and support... Because these archivists are typically deeplyknowledgeable of the content of their collections, and have their own networksof research support professionals, they are well-positioned to connect historyscholars to additional resources.‖―From the interviews it was clear that archivists deep knowledge of thecollections they work with and understanding of related collections is oftremendous value to historians working with primary sources... The archivist isseen as a partner in the discovery process.‖– Rutner, Jennifer, and Roger C. Schonfeld. ―Supporting the Changing Research Practices ofHistorians,‖ December 10, 2012, p. 10.
  17. 17. Be Honest: The Realities of DigitizationMaking Research Tangible"Surveys and consumer reports also suggest that the sensory experiencestypically associated with reading—especially tactile experiences—matter topeople more than one might assume. Text on a computer, an e-reader and—somewhat ironically—on any touch-screen device is far more intangible thantext on paper."– Jabr, Ferris. ―The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper Versus Screens.‖Scientific American (April 11, 2013).
  18. 18. Be Honest: The Realities of DigitizationCan researchers even find their way through our onlinecontent half of the time?―Promoting archival literacy… should be a primary objective and web-basedoutreach tools are but one way to achieve this… People will not come unlessthey know what there is to consult. And of course, they will come if they knowhow to consult them.‖– Bance, Bryan. ―Outreach in the academic community: enhancing the teaching role of universityarchives,‖ October 2012.―One negative impact of investing in the LAC’s online presence is that the directlink between the institution and public use has been broken. Those finding andusing LAC resources online are seldom aware of the institution or processesbehind the preservation of the record [...] Research online looks so convenientand so easy, but the creation and maintenance of digital assets are far fromsimple.―– Wilson, Ian. ―Reflections on Archivists and Genealogists,‖ February 2013, p. 137.
  19. 19. Be Honest: The Realities of DigitizationOnline access as exclusion?– ―Canada Digital Future in Focus,‖ March 2013.
  20. 20. What can you do to advocate againstDigitization Rhetoric?"The biggest pressure, however, comes from the digital revolution, which hastransformed the world of documentary production—and with it the work ofarchivists—while irrevocably changing public expectations. Digital access isnow seen as a quasi right and digitization as a means of massdemocratization.”– 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 inyour own institution
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