Reflections on Serving on the 2018-19 LAC Youth Advisory Council
July 12, 2019
My name is Erica Vanden Bosch and I was a member of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Youth Advisory Council (YAC) for 2018-2019.
What is the LAC YAC?
The Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Youth Advisory Council (YAC) is an external advisory council that provides a youth perspective on LAC’s programs and services. Basically it’s a group of young people who give their feedback on the access, use, preservation, and promotion of documentary heritage in Canada.
What were the language requirements?
The council was bilingual. All emails, presentations, agendas, minutes, and other materials were provided to members in both official languages. Presenters spoke in either French or English and members were encouraged to communicate in the official language of their choice. That being said, it was not a requirement to be bilingual. If someone needed a translation, there was always a person nearby who was able to bridge the language gap.
Who were the members?
The 2018-2019 cohort was made up of 20 members between 19 and 25 who lived in the National Capital Region (NCR). Most of the members on the council were post-secondary students or young professionals. Members had different levels of familiarity with LAC’s programs and services. There were members who had used LAC services extensively as part of their own academic research and members who had no prior experience interacting with LAC programs and services. The different backgrounds and experiences of the members meant we had many different perspectives during our discussions.
How did it work?
We met once a month for three-hour sessions. Usually the meetings took place on weekday evenings from 5:00 pm until 8:00 pm at 395 Wellington Street. The sessions were organized by two LAC employees, Heather Husby-Wall and Hillary McLeod. Our meetings were structured but flexible. In a typical meeting, there were one or two discussion items. For each item, a speaker would present their topic which involved a tour, an activity, a demo, or a presentation. Then, the presenter provided us a format to share our input. We used a variety of feedback mechanisms such as small discussion groups, flip charts, surveys, and (my personal favourite) dotmocracy.
What topics were covered?
We discussed several topics including LAC’s social media presence, online collection searches, co-lab crowdsourcing platform, in-person visitor experience, acquisition of digital materials, as well as the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) Summit for 2019. An example of a discussion question would be “What new types of media should LAC preserve as part of Canada’s cultural heritage”. Then there would be flipcharts where we could vote on options (e.g. video games, YouTube videos, tweets) or write our own suggestions. Afterwards, we would be asked if anyone wanted to share why or why not they believe a certain medium should be preserved. In addition to the meetings, there were also opportunities to get involved in other activities. For example, I volunteered for the Prime Minister and the Arts exhibit launch, attended the Services Consultation Committee as a guest, and volunteered for the GLAM Summit 2019.
How was your experience?
Being a member of the LAC YAC was an amazing experience. I gained a better understanding of how LAC works and I got to share my ideas to make it better. I also learned a lot from my fellow members. It was fascinating to hear what my peers thought was important and what they thought was outdated.
How can I get involved?
If you are a young person, I highly recommend that you apply to participate in youth councils. There is the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, the Digital Youth Advisory Committee (Treasury Board of Canada, Secretariat), the RCMP National Youth Advisory Committee, and I expect others. If you are not eligible to join a youth council, I encourage you to reflect on the underrepresented groups served by your organization (such as youth, LGBTQ2, indigenous peoples) and whether organizing an external advisory council would be a suitable way to give them a voice in your organization.