Librarians archiving Alberta's climate-change, other reports ahead of new government

An Alberta librarian has been archiving much of the provincial government's online content — including studies on health, climate change policy and poverty reduction — to prepare for a change in government.

Project ramped up when it looked like the provincial government could change

Katie Cuyler, a public services and government information librarian at University of Alberta, is leading the project to archive much of the provincial government's online content. (John Ulan, University of Alberta/Canadian Press)

An Alberta librarian has been archiving much of the provincial government's online content — including studies on health, climate change policy and poverty reduction — to prepare for a change in government.

The United Conservative Party won a strong majority government over the NDP earlier this week and is to be sworn in April 30.

Katie Cuyler, a public services and government information librarian at the University of Alberta, said staff used to get paper copies of all government documents but that procedure changed when reports started going online.

"The problem with everything being online is that when there is a new government or new policies, they just change their websites," she said in an interview with The Canadian Press. "You can lose access to a lot of their reports or data."

Cuyler said they started the archiving project in 2011, with twice yearly downloads of government data, but she ramped it up in advance of the provincial election.

"This year was interesting because there were some industry analysts and researchers who reached out to me because they had concerns about certain data and reports that they rely upon, that they were worried would not be up anymore," she said.

Cuyler said she has archived hundreds of thousands of policy documents and scientific reports online, which will be available through an online portal with the University of Alberta or Wayback Machine.

A similar effort took place in Ontario shortly after the Progressive Conservatives won a majority government in the province last June.

Nick Worby, a government documents librarian at the University of Toronto, led the initiative there.

"Environmental initiatives like the GreenON rebate program were shuttered and then their web presence was removed within days," he said in a news release. "That information is only available now through the archives by the University of Toronto and the Internet Archive."

There have also been drastic changes to government information in the United States since President Donald Trump took office.

The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, which tracks changes to thousands of government websites under the Trump administration, has said hundreds of web pages providing climate information were omitted from a federal government website. Other pages have been substantially altered to removing mentions of climate and climate change.

Worby and Cuyler are both associated with the Canadian Government Information Digital Preservation Network, a collection of university libraries across Canada whose mission is to preserve digital collections of government information.

"I think it's a great program," said Cuyler. "It's important that we keep this information accessible and publicly available so that's why we do it."