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2004-2005 Annual Report

Annual General Meeting of the Council of Federal Libraries

Report of the Chair, Planning and Priorities Committee 2004-05

Marjorie Whalen
June 20, 2005


It has been my pleasure and a privilege to be a member of the CFL Planning and Priorities Committee for the past two years, for the past year as Chair. If you will permit me to make a plug so early in my presentation, let me just encourage any of you to take advantage of any opportunities to work with PPC in the future. It is an opportunity to work with your colleagues from the community of federal librarians, a community of vibrant, capable, and dedicated professionals.

At the outset, let me thank the members of the Planning and Priorities Committee who made my role as Chair such a pleasure:

Mary Low - Vice-Chair and Chair for 2005-06
Terri Tomchyshyn - Treasurer
Heather Moore - Secretary and Treasurer-Elect
All members-at-large:
Donald Bidd
Cathi Corbett
Henne Kahwa
Tony Moren

LAC Transformation

As we know, it is just over one year ago that the Act to establish the Library and Archives of Canada was proclaimed into force by order of the Governor in Council. In fact it was at CFL's Annual General Meeting last year that we had an opportunity to discuss the Directions for Library and Archives Canada (LAC) initiative. I communicated that feedback on your behalf to the transformation team in a letter to LAC in August of 2004. In that letter, I stated that:

The transformation taking place carries the promise of a national institution on the leading edge of our professions here at home and internationally. The federal librarians represented by CFL are happy to participate in these consultations and in the developments still to come.

Such a significant change of course has implications for all of us: federal librarians who look to the new institution for leadership as well as services; committees and other groups such as the Council itself and the PPC and the Consortium; and of course our colleagues who are on staff at the new institution.

For PPC, the change was noticeable this year and probably was as well to you, our members. In the new institution, the Council of Federal Libraries Secretariat found itself in the Government Information Management Office (GIMO) whose mandate is to support federal institutions in the management of information and knowledge. As LAC and specifically GIMO management sought to situate themselves in their new roles, PPC was asked to play an advisory role, rather than undertake projects and activities as it has in recent years. Changes to the Bylaws, necessitated by the change in legislation have begun and will continue in the new year with more substantive revisions.

Changes in the Federal Library Community

As we know, Library and Archives Canada does not have a monopoly on change. Rapid technological changes and volatility within the information industry and professions are having tremendous effect on our profession and our clients. Ongoing changes, actual and anticipated, within the Government of Canada are impacting federal libraries and librarians. In response, over the past two years, PPC led a Community Renewal Project to renew and redefine the role of librarians and library services with reference to the information management model of the Government of Canada.

PPC this year has carried on this work by ensuring that CFL is represented at the various IM tables in the Government of Canada. Some examples are the IM Forum and its sub-committees such as the IM Competencies Working Group, and the IM Certificate program.

Communications Plan

A common effect in times of change is that people and groups lose touch with each other. The advisory role played by PPC this year, while valuable to the community as a whole, has no doubt diminished the visibility of the CFL to its members. In response, we drafted a Communications Plan to develop strategies to:

  • raise awareness of the Council of Federal Libraries among its membership and other stakeholders; and to
  • position the Council of Federal Libraries as the professional network for librarians and libraries working within the Government of Canada.

Library Visits

An immediate communications step we took this year was to visit federal libraries, both to reach out to the community and to seek a greater understanding of the challenges and issues facing federal librarians today. Each member of the PPC visited about five to seven federal libraries with a questionnaire that covered such things as what they expected of CFL, what challenges their library faced, and what model of library service they saw emerging in the Government of Canada.

The visits were enjoyable and rewarding for all the members of the PPC and we certainly were made to feel on these visits that they were appreciated by the librarians visited. The results will be used to inform a strategy being developed by the CFL Secretariat that will assist LAC in fulfilling its legislated mandates to:

  • facilitate the management of information by government institutions
  • coordinate the library services of government institutions
  • provide leadership and direction for library services of government institutions

The results will also be communicated to you, the librarians who gave so generously of your time and opinions when we visited. In advance of that full treatment, I would just like to provide here a few highlights.

In answer to the question, "What CFL should be doing for them and their library",

  • Respondents would like CFL to be proactive in an advocacy role for federal libraries, to champion those under threat, and to communicate and promote best practices and success stories.
  • CFL should coordinate and lead libraries in dealing with and/or resolving common or emerging issues. Specifically, to develop a methodology/model (indicators/metrics) to articulate the value of libraries to "those who count".
  • CFL should facilitate community of practice activities (support collegiality, and networking) and provide guidance and resources in areas of common interest (i.e., marketing)
  • Many interviewees expressed strong interest in a renewed role for CFL in professional development activities, particularly where libraries intersect with related IM communities.

Concerns were expressed that CFL is under-resourced, and that LAC might not have the time/energy/resources to support federal libraries at this time. Specifically they asked: "how can CFL and LAC play a role for federal libraries without resources"? There also exists a perception that LAC does not understand federal libraries and their challenges.

Respondents were also asked what direction they see federal libraries taking and what model they see emerging in the future. While there is solid recognition of the relationship between libraries and IM -- a number of respondents are already linked into their departments' IM activities / program -- some interviewees emphasized the importance for libraries to move beyond IM to knowledge management. "We can aim higher than that", said one librarian. Particularly since, it was stated, the strategic value of IM is not recognized by high-level managers in the GoC and the discipline of IM requires more definition.

There was also general support for a move towards shared services with the suggestion that a leadership opportunity exists for LAC to take this on.

Librarians were then asked what challenges are being faced within their library and libraries within the Government of Canada.

Within their libraries, key challenges were:

  • strategic planning (key positioning of library services within parent organizations as well as within GoC)
  • funding (limited and/or stagnating budgets)
  • human resources (limited career paths for LS; conversion of LS positions to AS; finding / retaining competent, bilingual staff; high turnover; retirements; succession planning)
  • space (justify keeping or acquiring more).

On a more general level, they expressed concerns about promoting the value, maintaining the profile, and ensuring the credibility of librarians and libraries. They also expressed that the link between a successful government research agenda and the ability of libraries to properly serve their clients is not recognized.

As I said, much interesting material has come out of these visits and much commonality showing that we are sharing challenges and viewpoints. By taking your views and aggregating, those into a full report, your opinions and challenges will be heard by the CFL and the Government Information Management Office of LAC.

Annual Fall Seminar

CFL was active on other fronts this year as well. The Annual Fall Seminar took place in September attracting 142 participants to learn about "Emerging trends and technologies: what do they mean to libraries?" The committee faced many challenges but managed to present a very satisfying day to all participants. Thanks are due to the hard work of Minda Bojin, Freda Christopher-Taylor, Eileen Lim, Mary McCoy, Barbara Porrett, Alison Whiddon and Chair, Rita Bolar.

Work is well underway for the 2005 Annual Seminar to be held September 14 on the topic of Ahead of the Digital Wave: Transforming services, Building communities. So mark your calendars for that. Sachiko Okuda, Minda Bojin and Barbara Kaye are hard at work with Convenor, Freda Taylor-Christopher.

Agatha Bystram Award

The 2004 Agatha Bystram Award was presented to GeoPortal submitted by DFO-Science-Canadian Hydrographic Service-PAC. The project officer was Don Vachon. A strong honourable mention was given to Elizabeth Jorgensen of Canadian Heritage and Parks Canada Legal Services for her exceptional service to clients and outstanding management skills. Appreciation goes to Convenor, Margo Jeske, and her committee Trisha Lucy, Glenn Newton, Marcelle Saint-Arnaud, Doug Salzwedel, and Catherine Young.

Work is underway by this year's committee on what will be the 10th annual Agatha Bystram Aware. Committee members are:
Johanne Boucher
Maureen Dubiel
Donna-Lynn Kent
Glen Newton
Catherine Young

… and Honourary Chair, Monica Czanyo.

Ongoing challenges

I think that I can speak for all this year's members of the Planning and Priorities Committee of the Council of Federal Libraries that it has been an extremely rewarding year representing you, the librarians in the Government of Canada. Your talents, creativity, and dedication are unsurpassed and your value to the work of your clients beyond question. I encourage you to work closely in the coming year with the Council of Federal Libraries as they work to consolidate this message and get it out to decision-makers. Dare I throw you out an additional challenge - assert yourselves as active partners with the CFL, seeking and responding to opportunities to work with the PPC.

The challenges are many for federal libraries and librarians at this time but as always, times of change and transformation bring with them opportunities for renewal and recast communications. Do your part within your own departments of being visible, being constructive, and demonstrating value.


In conclusion, I must thank the staff of the Council of Federal Libraries Secretariat: Joanne Cournoyer, Carole Julien, and their support Natalie Verdon. It has been a joy to work with such professional and conscientious people. Thanks as well to Steering Committee Co-Chair, Bernard Dumouchel who is consistently supportive of CFL and the Planning and Priorities Committee. And finally, thanks to Marilyn Osborne, Director General of the Government Management Information Office. Finding herself in this brand new position with the daunting task of supporting federal institutions in the management of information and knowledge, Marilyn has taken the time and interest to learn about the federal library community. Let's continue to support her as she supports us.