Federal libraries taking a hit – ‘troubling trend’ with ‘bottom line impact’

Federal Government of Canada libraries are taking a hit.  The Ottawa Citizen covered the closure of the HRSDC library earlier here and the HRSDC Library posted their update earlier today on the FLC-CBF listserv (login required) and copied here.

This is not the beginning nor the end – inside reports confirm a range of libraries have already experienced cut backs in personnel, with some of these cuts going back over the years.  Health Canada library, for example, had about 50 staff only three years ago – now they’re down to about 8.  Our own shop (Natural Resources Canada library) lost 7 library staff in December 2011 when a number of term, co-ops and contract staff were not able to be renewed.

To be clear, libraries are not alone – the restructuring and related layoffs are pretty widespread and crossing numerous occupational categories and programs, with many of the initial waves of layoffs not widely reported.   The cuts have generally been made under the rubric of functional review or a separate process called strategic review and the anticipated to be more impactful outcomes of  Strategic and  Operating Review (SOR), ultimately to be confirmed in the upcoming Federal 2012 budget (February/March).

Next steps / Reprieve?

This is hard to say, but I think things are going to get worse before – well – they get worse. If one major department can close its library, why not others? At the very least it points to a trend that hasn’t appeared to find its bottom yet.

The reprieve may be possible positive outcomes from preliminary discussions at various levels about moving towards either a more clustered approach to library services or some kind of “whole of government” library service model.  This would see varying degrees of increased integration and sharing of technical and other infrastructure, including people and services.

One thought on “Federal libraries taking a hit – ‘troubling trend’ with ‘bottom line impact’

  1. Dan Scott

    Wow. Just read the rationale from the strategic review for the closing of the HRSDC Library and… wow.

    I imagine that I’m like most librarians in that I spend much of my time trying to enable people to do more of their research online (acquiring electronic resources, providing reference assistance via email, licensing or building tools to support research, etc). I find it hard to believe that succeeding at making people capable of more efficient online research would justify the subsequent closure of the library. But I can believe it, sadly.

    Sorry to hear about the loss of so many positions at your library. We’ve lost a number of positions over the years as well, and it makes it impossible to continue to provide the level of service that we want to offer. Pretty demoralizing :/


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