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Documentary Heritage Management Framework

- Draft -

Prefatory note

The following is one of four draft documents designed to be read together: Library and Archives Canada's Story Continues; the Documentary Heritage Management Framework; the Acquisition Orientation Instrument, and the Preservation Orientation Instrument. Comments on these drafts are invited and consultations with key internal and external stakeholders will take place over the coming year as part of Library and Archives Canada's response to the changing environment.

The Documentary Heritage1 Management Framework is designed to encapsulate the new strategic directions at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). These directions respond to the changing information environment and focus on Acquisition, Preservation, and Resource Discovery2.


The goal is to design an integrated Documentary Heritage Management Framework for LAC's three business pillars: Acquisition, Preservation and Resource Discovery. Together, these three areas of focus will provide direction for the organization. They will be underpinned by a series of orientation instruments based on the four guiding principles of Significance, Sufficiency, Sustainability and Society. LAC's own documentary heritage management activities will be complemented by collaborating with other organizations and interested parties both in Canada and internationally. This framework will define a manageable and results-driven approach for LAC to follow in the upcoming years.


The ways in which Canadians work and document their activities are changing rapidly and dramatically. Digital technologies and social media have dynamically altered the way that information is created, shared and managed not only by governments and large businesses but also by smaller organizations and by individuals. Traditional, formal relationships between producers and users are continuously recast by digital capabilities and practices. It is far easier to create, repurpose and disseminate information than ever before and the information circulates through very different means and channels.

Challenges and Responses

There are three over-arching challenges posed by this new environment. The first can be considered as a challenge of production and usage of information. The complex interrelationship between creation, use, and abundance of information now forces memory institutions to re-examine the traditional documentary heritage management principle of value. The immediate impact on LAC is an abundance of new forms of documentary heritage content such as blogs and online videos that challenge LAC's ability to acquire, preserve and share. Linked to this is another critical aspect: the ability to confront the challenges of preserving the information in a world when production technologies and formats are rapidly shifting; where the transition from cutting-edge to obsolete appears to shrink every year.

The second challenge is adapting to the changing expectations of LAC's clients and stakeholders. User behaviour and expectations are also being adjusted as the capabilities and reach of search engines and social networks continue to grow. People increasingly expect to be able to find information easily, immediately and autonomously. LAC needs to reorient the way it connects with Canadians, thereby increasing the presence, visibility and relevance of its collection to potential users and clients searching for Canadian information.

A third challenge is bridging the analogue and digital universes. As LAC develops a digital-age strategy, it must continue to carry out its stewardship role on analogue documentary heritage. While an increasing number of institutions transition to digital, LAC still maintains a vast and rich analogue collection of documentary heritage.

And while specialist groups within LAC continue to acquire material according to established frameworks, LAC must articulate a harmonized collection development strategy. Furthermore, there is no overarching national strategy for acquiring documentary heritage, nor is acquisition linked or shared with other institutions in a scheme of formal arrangements.

To respond to these challenges, LAC needed to re-examine and re-imagine its approach to its main functions of Acquisition, Preservation and Resource Discovery. LAC began a process to strengthen its documentary heritage management activities; the process aims to be integrated, value-driven, evidence-based, consultative, and collaborative.

Meeting the Challenges: The New Framework

The way forward to tackle all of these issues requires a renewed focus. The organization will adjust its priorities and mechanisms: LAC needs to ensure that it knows what documentary heritage is most important for Canadians; how much documentary heritage it can acquire and sustain (describe, manage, make accessible, and preserve for the long term); and how and where to target its efforts. Additionally, it needs to consider new roles around partnering and collaborations to contribute to a distributed network of institutions working with common objectives.

The renewed focus will be based on four guiding principles and key roles.

The four guiding principles are:

  1. Significance
    Significance refers to the documentary heritage material that best represents the development of Canadian society and its identities, cultures, values, and experiences, which is captured for past, present, and future generations of Canadians, and for others interested in Canada.
  2. Sufficiency
    Sufficiency is LAC's capacity to fulfill its mandate in collecting Canada's documentary heritage in adequate quality and quantity to meet the objectives of the institution and Canadian society.
  3. Sustainability
    Sustainability at LAC aligns acquisition activities with the institution's capacity to preserve and make accessible documentary heritage over time.
  4. Society
    Society emphasizes the broad social context within which LAC exercises its documentary heritage mandate. The principle encompasses both the special attention LAC gives to reflecting Canadian society, and the importance it places on serving and benefiting society through use of the collection and by exerting other forms of influence within the information society.

The key roles are:

  1. Foundation Building
    LAC will create relationships within its designated communities, by offering and receiving guidance, advice, support, and consultation through both formal and informal approaches.
  2. Collaboration
    Collaboration, or partnering, is joint activities or transactions involving LAC and other parties with compatible objectives who agree to combine resources (financial or in-kind) to share in defined risks and benefits. These activities can vary in complexity and time investment, can be consultative, advisory, contributory, operational, or collaborative in context, and are likely to derive from Foundation Building activities.
  3. Program
    A Program is a collection management process that is designed in response to a shared, ongoing, or strategic need or opportunity. Programs are accessible to multiple participants/applicants (rather than a single partner) and are characterized by an integrated sequence of activities that support significant, sufficient, and sustainable acquisition.
  4. Transfer
    Transfer occurs when LAC has specific legal obligations emanating from the Library and Archives of Canada Act regarding Canada's documentary heritage. LAC can enter into a formal agreement with a third party to ensure fulfillment of its legislated mandate to acquire, describe, preserve, and give access to Canadian documentary heritage.

While the principles and roles apply slightly differently to each of the three business pillars, they inform all aspects of the Framework.

Three Business Pillars

A. Acquisition
Acquisition is largely about finding the most meaningful documentary heritage in a world of abundant information. The institution is mandated to acquire the documentary heritage of Canada and as such takes on a social responsibility. This notion needs to be based on a common understanding across the institution with all acquiring parts working in unison to develop an integrated and collaborative repository of documentary heritage. The acquisition of documentary heritage by the organization must therefore meet the definition of significance; it must be sustainable for the long term; it must document subjects or themes that are not already sufficiently represented within the collection; and it must serve and benefit Canadian society.

B. Preservation
Library and Archives Canada holds a vast collection in a wide range of formats. This combination of legacy material and new media puts acute pressure on existing capacity, the current organizational model, skills, and infrastructure. LAC's mandate to preserve in a sustainable manner is challenged. Across Canada, institutions face similar challenges, and there is an opportunity to create a national perspective and partnering in preservation.

C. Resource Discovery
People increasingly expect to be able to find information easily, immediately and autonomously. LAC needs to reorient the way it connects with Canadians, thereby increasing the presence, visibility and relevance of Canada's documentary heritage to potential users and clients searching for Canadian information. "Resource discovery" refers to the people, the processes, and the technologies by which users discover and locate materials within the LAC collection. As with preservation, there is little utility in acquiring documentary heritage that cannot ultimately be shared. Additionally, there is a need to align LAC's stewardship of the collection with the changing expectations that are emerging with the global information context: descriptions need to be more visible and access needs to be more instantaneous. The focus of change in this business activity will be found in two areas: re-engineering the systems and processes for description within the institution; and, increasing our collaboration with users and creators to optimize resource discovery.

The Way Forward
Each of LAC's three business pillars will develop related orientation instruments within the next 12 months, along with accompanying guides to shape the application of the Documentary Heritage Management Framework to LAC's practices. They will be developed iteratively through a series of working groups and pilot projects that will rely on the professional expertise that can be found across the organization and will reflect extensive consultation within the organization and with concerned stakeholders across the country. The end state is a framework that will be responsive to the needs of Canadian society, ensuring that LAC continues to be relevant in the coming years.


1 "Documentary heritage" is a comprehensive term referring to the variety of material that LAC collects. The Library and Archives of Canada Act defines "documentary heritage" as "publications and records of interest to Canada".

2 At LAC, the term "Resource Discovery" includes description, discovery, access, and services to the public.