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In 2007, Library and Archives Canada received funding over three years to develop a national strategy to improve access to library services for Canadians with print disabilities. Immediately, LAC established the Initiative for Equitable Library Access (IELA) and initiated a process of consultation to inform the national strategy. From the beginning, LAC has been working with partners to develop an appropriate and effective approach to address this important challenge.
LAC highly values the input gathered in the first phase of consultations with all stakeholders. The results provided a valuable understanding of user and library requirements, identified gaps in available services, and reaffirmed the need to collectively develop a national strategy for IELA.
One scenario for the national strategy that is currently under serious consideration involves a proposal made to the Government of Canada in March 2009 by a key stakeholder in library service delivery to Canadians with vision loss, the CNIB. CNIB proposed that one solution to the establishment of IELA would be the creation of a new non-governmental organization mandated to serve all Canadians with print disabilities. This new organization, built upon CNIB's existing infrastructure but no longer part of CNIB itself, would serve as a production centre or network resource centre for public libraries who serve people with print disabilities within their communities.
LAC will continue discussions with stakeholders and is taking opportunities to meet with groups as they hold their regular meetings. For example, on October 6th, Michel Grenier, Director General, Strategic Office, will participate in the bi-annual meeting of the Canadian Urban Libraries Council to provide them with an update on IELA and to obtain their advice on proposed next steps for IELA. Later in October, Michel Grenier will also participate in discussions with the Provincial and Territorial Public Libraries Council as part of ongoing communication with them. LAC has also initiated telephone discussions with the Canadian Library Association to maintain ongoing communications about IELA.
On November 3rd, my staff and I will be meeting with the Council on Access to Information for Canadians with Print Disabilities to seek their advice on IELA. The Council, established in 2004 to provide advice to the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, includes representatives from all stakeholder and rights holder groups pertaining to IELA. The membership of the Council, the agenda and points of discussion will all be made available through the LAC website (www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/iela/index-e.html).
In November, LAC will also hold a new round of consultations with IELA stakeholders and rights holders. These sessions will take the form of either teleconferences, in person meetings, or invitations to submit comments. Each consultation will be an important opportunity for LAC to provide you with a status report on IELA and an update on the deliverables for next year (costing model, governance structure, etc.). Each consultation will also be an opportunity to gather your feedback on a draft national strategy and to collectively identify critical activities and next steps. The IELA team, headed by Michel Grenier, will contact your organization shortly to discuss the specific approach and schedule a consultation with you.
We also invite you to consult the IELA website regularly for upcoming postings that will include the schedule of consultations in November, discussion topics, and presentations to stakeholders over the next months.
LAC values your contributions and we once again look forward to your active participation in finalizing the national strategy for IELA. At this time, please accept my thanks for your input to date and for your continued support in this important initiative.
Assistant Deputy Minister
Corporate Management Sector
Library and Archives Canada