PEI

National archives reviews purchases of paper materials in digital age

Library and Archives Canada has put a moratorium on buying paper documents and books for its collection.

Library and Archives Canada has put a moratorium on buying paper documents and books for its collection.

'More and more material is available through different means.'— Doug Rimmer, Library and Archives Canada

Doug Rimmer, assistant deputy minister of programs and services at Library and Archives Canada, told CBC News this week the moratorium is temporary and only applies to items it buys. It will still acquire documents other ways, including gifts and donations, websites and government records.

Rimmer said the archives spends about $1 million a year buying publications, and is reviewing whether that will continue in the digital age.

"Because we live in a rapidly changing digital context in which more and more material is available through different means than before, and we have a responsibility to ensure that we're using our money as effectively and efficiently as we can," he said.

The moratorium is a blow to antiques dealers and antiquarian booksellers. Aubrey Bell, co-owner of Gallery 18 in New London, P.E.I., said his shop has sold a number of antique books and other publications to the National Library over the years.

"Quite a number of volumes of magazines dealing with the tourism industry in the 1920s and 1930s," said Bell.

Bell said he's worried about what the move will mean for his bottom line, as well as to others with an interest in Canadian History.

"Clearly researchers want to have more information available to them, as opposed to less," he said.

"Especially at this time when the economy is struggling, it seems unfortunate that we would be facing cutbacks at the national library level."

Rimmer said the library will likely continue to buy some material from dealers after the review, but he doesn't know how long that will take or how much the budget for that will be cut back.

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