Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to call the meeting to order.
Before we get started, I would just like to make sure everyone has the documents they're supposed to have.
Does everybody have their paperwork in front of them? That's good.
I would like to introduce our witnesses. Mr. Young, the parliamentary librarian, is here, and with him is Lise Chartrand, who is the director of finance. I don't know who else is coming. We expected to see here Sue Stimpson, the director general of corporate services.
A voice: She's here.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Blaine Calkins): Is she? Okay, very good.
And there are some other folks here.
Mr. Young, I would prefer to just leave it up to you to introduce who is here. And due to the limited space we have at the table, during the questioning rounds, if we have to call somebody up to answer a question, Mr. Young, feel free to do so, so that we get the appropriate information we need.
Given that we have a very short timeframe, I'm looking at about a one-and-a-half-hour meeting. We have some committee business that we need to discuss, so I'm looking at about a one-hour period or so during which we can hear your comments, Mr. Young, in regard to the estimates. Then, of course, the remainder of that time will be for questions.
There'll be no particular order for questions. If you want to get on the speaking list, I would certainly encourage you to indicate to one of the clerks that you would like to ask a question, and we'll simply go that way.
Is that all right with you, Madam Co-Chair? Do you have any comments you would like to start with?
Madam Chair, Mr. Chair, members of the committee, good afternoon.
I'm pleased to meet with you today to discuss the Library of Parliament's plans and priorities for 2008-09, based on our estimate submissions to the speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons last December.
I am joined by Ms. Lise Chartrand, the library's Director of Finance.
Around the room is the senior management team for the library. We start with Dianne Brydon. I've just named her interim director general of access and learning. She's been the director of parliamentary public programs. Also here is Jacques Sabourin, director general of the research branch; Lynn Brodie, director general of IDRS; and Allan Darling.
The we have the PBO gang: Mostafa Askari, the new director working for Kevin Page; Sahir Khan, Kevin Page; and Sue Stimpson, who doesn't want to infect you with the flu. We've all been suffering from the flu, so some of us are the walking wounded here this afternoon.
As I had mentioned before, I'd very much like to see this committee evolve into an effective management board for the library. I believe we'd all benefit enormously from your ongoing advice and support for the library's service development agenda.
I understand that committee members have been provided with a copy of our 2008 -- 2009 Report on Plans and Priorities, which outlines our ongoing activities and the major initiatives we are undertaking over the coming year.
The library's operating budget, as set out in the 2008-09 main estimates, stands at $39.7 million. This represents a net increase of 8.2% over last year's budget, and it's primarily to cover non-discretionary items such as employees' salary and benefits adjustments as a result of collective agreement negotiations with the bargaining groups.
Naturally, the increase in non-discretionary spending over last year reflects our plans for initial implementation of the new Parliamentary Budget Officer functions within the library, in line with statutory requirements set out in last year's amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act.
It also reflects the modest annual augmentation of our collection budget to accommodate year-over-year increases in publisher and vendor prices for print materials and electronic resources.
Our planned spending related to discretionary items, therefore, amounts to only a 1.1% increase over last year's budget. These new funds will allow us to hire two additional librarians and two analysts to support requests from committees and individual parliamentarians.
In May 2007 I launched a road map for renewing the library centred around three strategic priorities. These have since guided our efforts to rebuild the organization's infrastructure and position it to meet the needs of a 21st century Parliament. They include modernizing our knowledge management capacity, strengthening our management support capacity, and operationalizing a new parliamentary budget officer function.
Over the course of the past year we strengthened our executive management team--most recently by hiring a new director general of the research and the information service, Sonia L'Heureux, who will be starting with us in June. We have also consolidated our corporate services function, adding a new IT directorate that will play a critical role in supporting the development of our electronic products and services to Parliament.
We embarked on a policy modernization program with a view to upholding the highest standards of accountability and transparency. We reworked outdated policies related to collections, contracting, and hospitality, and closed policy gaps in important areas such as employment equity and diversity, partnering, and use of the main library building. We also began implementing a planning and reporting framework that will bring a new rigour to the library's objective-setting and performance measurement activities.
We piloted a visiting scholar program, with librarian-scholar Tim Mark, who is sharing his knowledge and expertise on a range of issues of special interest to the library.
We also piloted our new research publication InfoSeries with an issue on Afghanistan.
This is just a sample of our recent accomplishments in support of the library's three strategic priorities. I am particularly proud of the steps we've taken to build our internal capacity. I think we're a much stronger organization than we were 12 months ago.
In 2008-09, as set out in the report on plans and priorities you have before you, we will take further steps to consolidate our infrastructure and improve our accountability and transparency, but our focus will turn to delivering enhanced services to parliamentarians.
This year we will increase our ability to manage and share knowledge by strengthening our internal information management systems, establishing a program of partnership development with academics and other information organizations, and phasing in more systematic consultation with clients about the products and services they need.
Our InfoSeries pilot generated an enthusiastic response. This underscores for me the value of developing a research agenda for the library that will help us deliver information and knowledge products on topics as they emerge on the parliamentary agenda. Sustaining such a research agenda will require dedicated resources, and we will be developing a business case this year to spell out our plans for moving ahead on this front. Meanwhile, we are targeting early fall for the second edition of InfoSeries, which will address the subject of Arctic sovereignty.
We are also working to integrate improvements to our seminar series within a broader framework of a parliamentary learning program. We have begun developing a major policy orientation session for parliamentarians, and have held some preliminary discussions around the possibility of extending seminars to party caucuses.
We will take steps to meet our client needs more systematically and strategically, beginning with an assessment of their perceptions of the library and the services and products we offer. Some of you, as joint committee members, will be called upon to share your thoughts and opinions and to explore areas where we can strengthen our programming and enhance our services. This is to take place before June.
To support many of these new initiatives and to reflect the additional roles and responsibilities she has been assigned over the past year, Dianne Brydon will take on the title of interim director general of learning and access services. She will lead the development of a comprehensive new parliamentary learning program; support the implementation of a centralized publishing, editing, and design group; and develop the library's client relations portfolio.
To excel in delivering services and products to parliamentarians, the library staff must work from a foundation of solid governance and management practices. Steps taken over the course of the past two years have significantly strengthened our financial and human resources, and our IT management and planning.
We remain committed to our objective under Parliament's long-term vision and plan to bring library staff, who currently work out of 10 different buildings, under fewer roofs. Consolidation is vital to facilitating organizational efficiency and ensuring seamless service to Parliament during a period of considerable disruption, as historic buildings are restored across the precinct. So I am very pleased to tell you that Lynn Brodie, director general of our information and document resource service, has accepted a special assignment to focus on long-term accommodation planning for the library.
We must have the proper tools and systems in place to provide clients with access to information and electronically delivered products and services. Sue Stimpson, director general of corporate services, together with Ken Cameron, director of information technology, will guide the development and management of the information management environment within the library over the coming year.
As you all know, Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer, assumed his responsibilities at the end of March. He has begun staffing and setting in place the administrative infrastructure to build a team and, to date, has engaged an executive assistant and the two senior directors I introduced earlier. In short order, a national recruitment campaign will be launched to continue to build capacity for this new function and service to Parliament.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has been regularly meeting with parliamentarians and other stakeholders, including this committee, to better articulate the types of services and level of support required.
The funding pressures for this area, however, are still a relative unknown, and it is uncertain whether they are sufficient to allow the PBO to meet the needs of parliamentarians in this startup year.
Before closing, I'd like to draw your attention to an important matter involving the amendment of Canada's copyright legislation, which, if you believe what you read in the newspapers, may soon be introduced in Parliament. The new Copyright Act is apparently intended to modernize Canada's copyright law for digital works on the Internet and to reflect Canada's obligations under international agreements for intellectual property.
What is missing from the current legislation is a specific exemption from copyright infringement for parliamentary and legislative libraries. Other countries--including Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom--have such an exemption in their copyright acts. I believe Canada's amended Copyright Act should include one.
The Library of Parliament's interest in copyright reform is two-pronged. First, as a tool of parliamentarians, we seek to adjust copyright law in order to enhance its ability to meet the information and research needs of Parliament and parliamentarians. Second, as a library, we share the objectives of other publicly funded libraries for a copyright law that will properly balance the rights of copyright holders and libraries and their clients.
You should have received a copy of a briefing note that I recently sent to the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House on this issue. As it indicates, my staff and I have had preliminary discussions with various government representatives and have prepared some general background outlining how the exemption works in other jurisdictions and explaining the need and rationale for supporting such an exemption in any new Canadian Copyright Act.
I would encourage the members of the joint committee to think about how they might help get this exemption incorporated in our legislation, possibly by reporting back to the House of Commons and the Senate on this matter or by otherwise sharing your views with the speakers and your colleagues. In ensuring that you and your successors have the timely access to information needed to perform your work, you will be doing Parliament an important service.
In conclusion, I just want to say that I appreciate this opportunity to report on the library's plans and priorities. We've set an ambitious agenda for program and service development, but I'm confident that we're on the right path and are building a 21st century library for a 21st century Parliament.
In this vein, and in summary, I'm seeking your support for the direction we're taking to modernize the library, and the modest increase in budget required to ensure that effective service is maintained. I am looking forward to your ongoing collaboration as we pursue initiatives to support parliamentarians.
Thank you very much.
I want to thank Mr. Young and all of his colleagues in the library.
One of the things you stressed in your presentation today is the sea change in management excellence. The library has been noted for quite some time for its excellence in research and outreach, not only to parliamentarians but to Canadians generally. We see that in action.
One of the things you have articulated here is that you've taken on a deliberate course to improve the management processes within the library. For example, I was shocked to actually see that the library's offices and staff are spread over ten buildings off the parliamentary precinct. That must be quite a management challenge.
I was also interested in your comments about the consolidation of editing, typesetting, design services, and so on. That really must still be a problem when you have people spread over ten different buildings and offices around the downtown core in leased accommodations. These are the kinds of issues that must bring significant challenges to maintaining consistency and quality within the product offering of the library.
I don't know if you want to comment on that, but my last point would be that in order to do all this, you have to spend money to improve efficiency in order to actually get to this point. You're making clear that the discretionary budget of the library has gone up by only 1.1%. Do you have the resources to be able to fulfill this mandate to really improve the process, the management structures, and improve quality and consistency within that kind of a scope?
I'll put it in this context. I asked for and received a briefing document not so long ago that really showed that the resources of the Library of Parliament have not been substantially increased over the last number of years. Yet the demands by parliamentarians on the library have been very significant. There have been not only statutory demands--i.e., for the parliamentary budget officer--but also an increase in representation in the House, and the demands of extra committee work, which is a discretionary demand, but it's still there.
Do you have the resources to get the job successfully done, to improve management processes, and to improve structure while at the same time really keeping up the high-quality work that the library has been known for?