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Citizen Today, August 2011 - Managing government archives - EY - Global

Citizen Today, August 2011

Managing government archives

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“We need to innovate the way that we do business or we won’t benefit from technological innovations.” Dr. Daniel J. Caron, Chief Librarian and Archivist for the Library and Archives of Canada

Canada and The Netherlands: leading the way

Internationally, Canada and The Netherlands belong to a group of 10 to 15 countries which are taking the international lead in entering the age of digital archives.

“Too often, and in too many countries around the world, leaders of archival institutions must hear from their suppliers that records management is not one of their top priorities. It is our duty to show them that good records management and archival policy support good government,” says Martin Berendse, the National Archivist of the Netherlands.

Canada embraces the digital era

As Canada’s top Librarian and Archivist, Dr. Daniel J. Caron focuses on the acquisition, development, preservation and accessibility of public information resources.

The ambitions of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are further reaching and include preserving the heritage of Canada and facilitating cooperation among communities involved in the acquisition, preservation and diffusion of knowledge.

The modern tools of the digital archives allow LAC to better reach its goals. However, there are drawbacks. For example digital content can be easier to forge.

Collaborating on digital archives

There are 800 archives across Canada and 2,400 libraries. Caron sees the need for these institutions and the individuals involved to improve collaborations to archive more efficiently.

One avenue to better collaboration is requiring digital, not paper, archive submissions. By 2017 LAC will only accept digital records from government.

“We need to innovate the way that we do business or we won’t benefit from technological innovations,” says Caron.

The Netherland’s vast archive

Martin Berendse, the National Archivist of the Netherlands, is responsible for nearly a thousand years of history including maps, drawings, and images.

Although the archives continue to add new documents, it’s their use of the expanding digital medium, not the new content, which is increasing visitors.

“There is simply no comparison. Our websites have also caused the numbers of visitors to rise exponentially,” says Berendse.

Digital’s unique challenges

One challenge to using digital formats for archiving is that type of file or storage device used becomes outdated faster than paper. For example, a paper book written 30 years ago may be easily read, but it could be more difficult to access information on a 30 year old floppy disk because it’s challenging to find the correct computer to read the older disk.

“How can we store digital information in a way that we can logically access in 7, 10, or 15 years’ time?” asks Berendse.

Yet, it’s worth pursuing digital and The Netherlands is looking toward Canada regarding this issue.

“In Canada, a plan has been formulated with a deadline when the government will start supplying information in digital format only. In the Netherlands, we should also set ourselves a deadline from when information will only be created and distributed digitally,” he says.

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