Monday, 18 March 2013

Orwellian Library and Archives Canada?

Crikey. It's all going a bit pear shaped in Ottawa, with the latest developments from Library and Archives Canada ( If you're not up to speed here's the last time I covered it on British GENES, from June last year -

Anybody who has been following the situation knows that morale has been plummeting in recent months at the facility. The latest development from LAC now is a new 23 page code of conduct that suggests that social media is a threat when used by archivists as it might undermine "a public servant’s duty of loyalty to the elected government", with acts such as blogging potentially leading to "disciplinary action". Staff are also encouraged to squeal about wrongdoers, and then it all gets apparently Orwellian: “teaching, speaking at conferences, and other personal engagements" is apparently high risk and dangerous, which can lead to conflicts with staff members' duties and their "duty of loyalty".

Now to be fair, I attended a talk at LAC itself last year and managed to briefly film those in attendance for this blog - so I do have some evidence of just how dangerous the Ottawa crowd are:

You can see the problem - dangerous! (Aye, a tough crowd!) The code of conduct is available at - have a good look at pages 9 and 17.

There's a quite a bit of commentary on this - John Reid at and Sue Carter Flinn at for starters. Also the National Post in Canada

And here's a comment I have just read from a British based archivist on Twitter: "#Library and #Archives Canada - currently proving itself 2be the biggest basket case in our profession @ present".


My new book, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet, is now available from Pen and Sword. For my other genealogy books, please visit; whilst for my online Scottish based genealogy courses please visit the Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd site.


  1. When I read this first on Dick Eastman's blog, I was surprised at why people seemed to be surprised. Apparently, employees "cannot even comment about their employer in blogs, on Facebook, or on other social media." Any company with any idea should have a policy on the use of social media. Why the surprise? (I fear people still don't understand that Facebook etc can be public and sadly permanent).

    Also, it was unclear from the reports about speaking at public events, whether it was forbidden or did they have to obtain permission? If they have to obtain permission, welcome to the real world.


  2. They stand to be disciplined or fired outright if they say anything that can be construed as disloyalty. I think some of the employees are being asked to attend workshops/conferences as speakers on their off time and when confronted with an audience member about how disgruntled the public is, they could be called on the carpet if their answer is not what the employer feels appropriate. Perhaps even as much as a shoulder shrug or sigh could be taken as offensive to the employer.