Faye Lemay

Faye Lemay

Last updated on 31 July 2018

The team at Library and Archives Canada have written a 4-part series for the blog. This is the first installment...


In the past three years, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has intensified its efforts to improve its capabilities to preserve Canada’s documentary heritage. In a bid to step up its mandate to preserve and protect Canada’s digital holdings, the Digital Preservation (DP) team has forged a new path, converting what was once a series of short-term projects aimed at stabilizing the current infrastructure into building a strong foundation for an enduring and sustainable program. The main driver accelerating the momentum toward program development has been organizational support from the most senior levels of management at LAC, providing the impetus to set new directions for change.

Part 1 of this 4-part series examines the legal and regulatory obligations that provide the framework for the LAC’s preservation mandate. 

As the foremost institution in the country responsible for preserving the nation’s documentary heritage, the key parts of the current government legislation as described in the Library and Archives Act obligates LAC to:

  • acquire and preserve the documentary heritage of Canada,
  • serve as a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all
  • serve as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions and
  • be the permanent repository of publications of the Government of Canada and of government and ministerial records that are of historical or archival value.

The LAC Act empowers the Librarian and Archivist of Canada to “do anything that is conducive to the attainment of the objects” including “take measures to catalogue, classify, identify, preserve and restore publications and records”. 

Given that the institutional mandate encompasses published heritage, federal government records and private archives, these are the main policy instruments supporting LAC’s mandate to preserve: 

  1. For Published materials, legal deposit legislation, in effect since 1953 with the creation of the National Library, has served as the primary means to acquire the nation’s published outputs for access and preservation purposes. Legal deposit has been extended incrementally over time to incorporate new collection types and media, notably 2007 regulations addressing the deposit of digital publications.

Federal policies for official publications of the Canadian government are described in the Procedures for Publishing, requiring departments to provide a yearly index of publications, and deposit two (2) copies of all publications in all formats in both official languages. 

  1. For government archival records, the Directive on Recordkeeping and Policy on Information Management are the broad policy instruments that apply to digital preservation. The Recordkeeping Directive talks about the responsibilities of federal departments for the information life cycle including preservation. The Policy on Information Management re-iterates LAC responsibilities to acquire and preserve government records.

    LAC has also issued other instruments such as the Guidelines on file formats, and Transfer procedures, both of which will soon require revision.

The LAC Act and government policy instruments are the powers by which LAC exercises its digital preservation responsibilities for Canada’s documentary heritage.  However, it is clear that there are gaps in the policy framework to protect and preserve digital heritage collections. 

To address these concerns, we plan to undertake a policy gap analysis to identify where redress is required. As DPC members, we will provide updates on our progress.

Coming up in September 2018:  Part 2 - Learning from the past:  Recent digital preservation initiatives at LAC.


Scroll to top