Roundtables on the Future of Libraries and Archives – November 27 and December 2, 2020
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The purpose of the summary of notes is to document key takeaways from the roundtables on the future of libraries and archives. The first roundtable was held on November 27, 2020, and conducted in French; the second roundtable was held on December 2, 2020, and conducted in English. The sector-specific roundtables comprised representatives of approximately 25 major associations and groups with representation from across different disciplines, regions and intersectional identity communities. The goals of the roundtables are to:
- Ensure various stakeholders representing different sectors and industries are heard, having an opportunity to express their thoughts/ideas.
- Understand on-the-ground impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for sectors and organizations.
- Have constructive discussions to help identify potential avenues that could help accelerate recovery.
- Build a common understanding of the kind of support needed, and the role of government(s) therein.
At the start of the roundtables, the representatives shared their general experience on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their sectors and organizations. The introduction was then followed by three segments around the recovery framework:
- Resilience and Sustainability;
- Diversity and Inclusion; and
- Environmental Sustainability.
Resilience and Sustainability
To stimulate the discussion in the first segment, the following question was asked: What would organizations need to move towards a more sustainable/adaptable business model to prevail through similar situations in the future?
Key ideas and takeaways included:
- Create a federal relief package for charities and non-profit organizations. Eligibility of libraries and archives for charitable status varies across the country, and help would be appreciated in explaining and evening out these differences.
- Provide clearer eligibility requirements for, and access to, the Canadian Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).
- Deploy support to safeguard continuing education.
- Continue to provide funding support for the Young Canada Works (YCW) program.
- Increase funding for operational needs including public infrastructure, digital access and online education, misinformation and digital literacy, metadata and discoverability, and specialized staff.
- Give more support for scholarly publishing and open access. Federal support for more sustainable digital infrastructure would be welcome.
- Provide additional federal support to develop a collective digital preservation strategy. The National Heritage Digitization Strategy (NHDS) could be expanded.
- Establish a special book-shipping postal rate for libraries and Canadian booksellers with Canada Post, as already exists in the United States and France.
- Increase the affordability of textbooks and the availability of open educational resources for students.
- Copyright reforms could help to facilitate moving children’s story times and other services and collections online. A better balance between the rights of creators and the rights of users is needed in the educational context where restrictions under the Copyright Act limit the opportunities for online education. New copyright exceptions should support the broadest possible use.
Diversity and Inclusion
To stimulate the discussion in the second segment, the following question was asked: What diversity and inclusion opportunities can be leveraged from the present circumstances for positive change?
Key ideas and takeaways included:
- Create a national strategy to support libraries that serve minority language communities, those that provide welcome programs for recent immigrants and other minority groups, and minority ethno-cultural archives.
- Build trust with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities through the removal of sensitive images from circulation and recognition of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions under copyright (per Articles 13 and 31 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [UNDRIP]). An Indigenous advisory group could help to identify sensitive content.
- Indigenous cultural items should be kept close to communities. Increase human capacity in the North (e.g. through training opportunities) to help close the gap between Indigenous communities and their cultural heritage.
- Not all disabilities are recognized under the Marrakesh Treaty; additional rights may be required to address unique physical and financial barriers to access. Manuals are often unavailable in digital format due to business models. Continued funding in accessibility will be necessary.
- Canadian Heritage could mediate partnerships such as forums and training programs with marginalized communities (e.g. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, etc. [LGBTQ+] and Black, Indigenous and People of Colour [BIPOC]). Additional funding support from government for existing work by marginalized communities could nurture trust in this area.
- Expanding on the YCW program would promote greater diversity, as it promotes the inclusion of Indigenous people and members of ethnic and cultural minorities.
- Indigenous Peoples, Black Canadians, LGBTQ+ Canadians and other minority groups should be encouraged to consider librarianship as their field of study and future profession. Offer scholarships for work experience and advanced studies.
To stimulate the discussion in the third segment, the following question was asked: What environmental sustainability opportunities can be leveraged from the present circumstances for positive change?
Key ideas and takeaways included:
- “Showcase” libraries successful in transitioning to new, more environmentally friendly buildings. Provide extra financial support to help in transitions, especially for remote Northern libraries.
- The increased demand for digital services has positively affected carbon emissions associated with archives. These gains can be maintained and extended through further investments in digital infrastructure and capacity, as long as small and remote communities do not suffer in the process.
- Technologies can be used to avoid the duplication of efforts and minimize the wasting of resources. By pooling and coordinating their collections and resources, memory institutions can move to address these two problems while contributing to positive environmental outcomes and reducing unnecessary investments. This calls for a collective policy on digitization, a collective strategy on print preservation, and investments in common infrastructure.
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