I'm afraid the answer to that might be "Yes." Perhaps I'm the only one who's still interested and perhaps not, but there seems to be little movement towards launching a review of Canadian Science Library infrastructure.
Why do I think such a review is a good idea?
First of all, I've documented the devastation wrought on that infrastructure under the Conservatives. Not only do I chronicle the destruction, but at the same time you can clearly see from the assembled articles I link to in that post how much the various opposition parties -- including the now-in-government Liberals -- used those cuts to attack the science record of the Conservatives.
Clearly, damage was done those critical of the situation demanded something be done to fix it. At least some of people are in government now.
Second of all, the current Liberal government is certainly in a reviewing mood. They've currently launched a review of Federal Support for Fundamental Science as well as concurrent and related reviews of their Innovation Agenda and Environmental Assessment Review processes. Both are areas savaged by the Conservatives. And clearly the government sees and understands when that so much long term damage is done to government program capacity and capability, you have to be thoughtful and deliberate about how you go about repairing that damage. Band aids aren't the solution.
I would argue that the same is true with Federal Science Library infrastructure. That a transparent and independent review process needs to be established. But that doesn't seem to be happening.
Rather we are getting an internally developed Federal Science Library project.
Which in and of itself isn't a bad idea. The aim of the FSL project is to build a shared capacity across all the science-related departments that would effectively replace all that was cut and destroyed. Of course, this project was initiated by the Conservatives and seems to be proceeding apace without any external oversight or meaningful input. Unlike what is happening with the various reviews, where the government is clearly seeking external input. Is a review of science library capacity included in those other reviews? We just don't know.
Some more info on the FSL project from these links: Rethinking Federal Library Services - A Collaborative Model CLA 2015 presentation and mentions in the Royal Society Expert Panel on Canada's Libraries, Archives and Public Memory and the Canada's Action Plan on Open Government 2014-16 document.
Which brings me to what prompted this post in the first place. The Feds have posted a job ad for the head of the FSL. I've reproduced most of it below; it has some relevant descriptions of what the FSL project is all about.
In a sense, I'm happy to see that the government is proceeding with the project and that they're taking seriously the need to support research and policy making in their science-based departments and beyond.
But as I say, we really do need to step back and evaluate what happened under the Conservatives and plan a way forward, with the Federal Science Library project openly and transparently working with the broader science, library and science library communities in Canada to make sure that new infrastructure meets the needs of government and, by extension, all the citizens of Canada. I hope that this will be the first task of the new chief of the Federal Science Library project.
When the issues at the DFO and other libraries became apparent, everyone made a big deal of it. It was a crisis, it was a disaster, it was the destruction of our heritage and an attack on knowledge and science and evidence. It was an embarrassment. It was a travesty that all those collections were dispersed and destroyed so cavalierly and that staff with so much expertise were let go. All of those statements were true at the time and resonated greatly beyond the usual echo chambers. The anger around the destruction of Canada's science libraries contributed in some small way to the downfall of the Conservatives. But now it's time to follow through and make sure that what gets built on the ashes of that infrastructure is what's needed. We're not relying on purely internal government processes to make sure that fundamental science is rebuilt properly. No, we're having a public review process. Same with the innovation agenda and environmental review processes.
Let's do the same for science libraries.
To finish, I'll include a couple of snippets from some previous posts where I cover some of the same territory.
Your Feedback Needed: Government of Canada Launches Review of Federal Support for Fundamental Science
Library infrastructure is another Platform technology that needs to be properly funded. Science and other libraries were devastated under the Conservatives, as was Library and Archives Canada. Yes, I know we have the Federal Science Library project in progress and yes, we have a new head of LAC. I know that we already have three (!) reviews on going (see below). But given the devastation of the Conservative years, I think a review of Federal government library infrastructure is sorely needed.
Science in Canada: Some advice for a new Chief Science Officer
What hasn’t really appeared on any of the lists I’ve seen is fixing the damage that the previous Conservative government did to the science library infrastructure in Canada, most prominently to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans library system but also to the systems at Environment Canada and others.
While those libraries were being closed and consolidated, we were assured that the collections were properly merged and weeded, that new scanning and document delivery procedures were being implemented that would effectively replace the local staff and collections and that researchers would see no difference in the level of service. The Federal government did announce an extensive re-visioning of it’s science library infrastructure. Which looks good on paper.
But it’s safe to say that basically no one believed the Conservatives were up to the challenge of doing a good job of this. All the evidence that we were able to see indicated that the merging and consolidation of collections was rushed, haphazard and devoid of planning at best and willfully destructive at worst. As far as I can tell, we have nothing but the previous government’s word that the scanning and document delivery services that were rushed into the breach are anywhere near sufficient. Nor did we see real evidence that they were truly committed to the revisioning.
One of the things that the Liberals promised in their platform was to appoint a Chief Science Officer.
We will value science and treat scientists with respect.
We will appoint a Chief Science Officer who will ensure that government science
is fully available to the public, that scientists are able to speak freely about their
work, and that scientific analyses are considered when the government makes
The CSO hasn’t been appointed yet, but I see no reason why we should all start thinking about what that new person should set their sights on when they start.
I propose that the new Chief Science Officer, in collaboration with the Minister of Science, the Minister of Heritage and all the rest of the science-related Ministers convene a special advisory panel to take a look at what’s left of Canada’s science library infrastructure and make any recommendations that are necessary to restore the collections and service levels to what Canada’s Federal government scientists (and all Canadians) need and deserve while the proposed revisioning takes place. At least fifty percent of the membership of this panel should probably consist of librarians and other stakeholders that currently employed by the Federal Government in any capacity. I also believe that this advisory panel should remain in place as a steering committee for the revisioning of the new Federal Science Library.
At the end of the day, the collections have been dispersed, the staff laid off and the physical spaces repurposed. So much of the damage that was done cannot be repaired.
I should be clear that I don’t think the function of this group should be to point fingers or assign blame or rehash past mistakes. It should be forward-looking and patron-focused, with a mission to make sure patrons have the services and collections they need in the short, medium and long term.
Comment and Response in Comments Section of above post
November 7, 2015
I like and applaud your efforts here to bring attention to the challenges in federal science and departmental libraries. In this case you are misrepresenting facts. The Federal Science Library (FSL) is nothing to do with past government and everything to do with library directors and their enlightened directors general working to preserve and create a more sustainable model for the future…together. FSL is being built entirely from current library operating budgets…creating scale and economy and sharing investment in new technology that none of us could realize separately – through what is a unique partnership built on years of collaboration. We need support for what we have built largely through our determination NOT to have our libraries thrown under the bus in efforts to reduce costs in departments. We invite shining a light on our efforts of the last three years designing and finding a way to gain endorsement in our departments and as an Open Government Open Information core commitment.
November 7, 2015
Hi ScienceLibrarianToo, I’m glad to here I’m wrong here and that the FSL project represents a sincere effort to design and build a better federal science library infrastructure. But you have to admit, for people on the outside looking in, it’s really hard to tell if that is the case. Especially given that the old infrastructure seems to have been dismantled before the new one is put into place.
So maybe an interesting way to shine that light and build that support and endorsement is by engaging a steering committee or advisory committee or something that includes external stakeholders. (If there’s already such a thing and I just don’t know about it, that’s great too and I’m happy that’s in place.)
I really do wish you well. I want to reiterate that my post wasn’t at all meant as criticism or finger-pointing at the librarians and library staff at the various federal science-related ministries (and LAC as well, to be honest) who have no doubt laboured under difficult circumstances over the past few years.
Chief, Federal Science Library
Ottawa - Ontario
This is a 2 year term position from the date of reporting.
Assignments and secondments may be considered according to NRC's policies. Interested applicants seeking an assignment or secondment opportunity must seek approval from their supervisor before submitting their application.
Help shape and build the Federal Science Library (FSL). FSL is a collaborative initiative between seven science-based departments, including the NRC. FSL is an integrated library model which provides expanded library services to members of participating departments. NRC is the technical lead for the FSL initiative and is the named employer of the FSL support team.
We are looking for a vibrant and dynamic Chief to support FSL. The Chief would be someone who shares our core values of impact, accountability, leadership, integrity and collaboration.
Working closely with library teams across seven departments and agencies, you will be responsible for the innovation, direction and management of FSL. This includes management of the FSL operations support team, the scientific knowledge base/systems, and the provision of expert strategic advice to senior management and external authorities.
Applicants must demonstrate within the content of their application that they meet the following screening criteria in order to be given further consideration as candidates:
Graduation from a recognized post-secondary institution with a master's degree in library science or in library and information science.
Significant experience in the creation and/or implementation of strategic or operational plans.
Significant experience in the management, design and delivery of library and information services in a federal government setting.
Significant experience managing a team.
Significant experience managing a budget.
Experience leading collaborative projects involving multiple stakeholders.
Experience providing strategic advice to senior management.
Condition of employment
Bilingual imperative CBC/CBC
Information on language requirements and self-assessment tests
Candidates will be assessed on the basis of the following criteria:
Expert knowledge of issues, trends, best practices and solutions supporting the delivery of library services.
Knowledge of the legislative and policy framework related to the management of information and library services in the Government of Canada.
Knowledge of library/information science theories and principles, practices and processes including integrated on-line systems and electronic database management.
Knowledge of program management and framework planning and development.
Conceptual and analytic ability (Level 3)
Initiative (Level 3)
Partnering (Level 3)
Teamwork (Level 3)
Communication (Level 3)
For this position, NRC will evaluate candidates using the following competency profile(s): | Management Services
View all competency profiles.
Update 2016.08.08. A couple of grammar issues fixed. Thanks Ziad!