Here Today, Where Tomorrow? Monitoring and Making Sense of Government of Canada Web Content Changes in a Post-Depository Environment (E10)
Amanda Wakaruk, Government Information Librarian (University of Alberta Libraries)
Catherine McGoveran, Government Information Librarian, University of Ottawa
Michelle Lake, Government Publications Librarian (Concordia University)
Article by: Lydia Thorne
In their panel session, Here Today, Where Tomorrow? Monitoring and Making Sense of Government of Canada Web Content Changes in a Post-Depository Environment, the speakers examined the Government of Canada’s ever-changing web presence and current issues with government publications in academic libraries.
The first presenter, Amanda Wakaruk, examined the issue of web archiving and Government of Canada web content. From early Common Look and Feel Protocols to the more recent Web Renewal Action Plan, government information, which is increasingly only available online, is being eliminated- often before it has a more permanent home. Wakaruk used various cases to illustrate how any Government of Canada web content that is deemed ‘Redundant, Outdated or Trivial’ is being removed prior to being archived. Some examples that Wakaruk mentioned included data from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and Industry Canada, in which many electronic trails simply lead to dead ends.
The next two sessions, lead by Catherine McGoveran and Michelle Lake, complimented the first, as their presentations dealt with issues of accessibility, space constraints, and how libraries are managing government publications collections today. In her presentation, McGoveran discussed the collection development procedures for government publications at the University of Ottawa. She addressed important questions, such as: What is the state of affairs in Canada? What are libraries doing in a post-depository environment? What do changes in access mean for libraries? How are libraries partnering or sharing their collections? This last question was addressed by Michelle Lake, who reviewed overcrowding issues at Concordia and their strategic action plan. Concordia, located in Quebec, is an interesting case study, as they ‘share’ geographic proximity with the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) and McGill University. With space becoming an increasing concern for libraries across Canada, many libraries are partnering together to share resources- ‘if someone has it, maybe we don’t need it’ is the underlying philosophy or one factor that impacts these weeding decisions.
One of the main points from the session that resonated with me is a question that was posed by Wakaruk: “How do you know what’s been lost once it’s gone?” An ever increasingly digital and technological environment is also a post-depository one. While having information available electronically and making it more accessible is important, this fact does not negate the need for print resources, or at the very least, multiple copies of materials, if they are born-digital. The trade off between accessibility and space is a common concern that links all three presentations- with government information only available online is having only one copy enough? Will Big Data become lost data? How will having only one shared copy affect access to library materials? What is the role that libraries will play in web harvesting in the future? Only time will tell.