The Canadian Library Association’s Failure to Advocate for Librarians and Libraries

Andrew Lockhart. PLG Member, London Ontario Chapter. M.L.I.S candidate, UWO.

UWO Librarians and Archivists, and their supporters, rally at the gates of the university on Richmond Street in London, Ontario.

The Canadian Library Association (CLA), which represents Canadian libraries and library workers who are members, sees itself as the “advocate” and “public voice” for the “Canadian library and information community.”1 The association has a simple, straightforward2 “Code of Ethics”

that outline the responsibilities of the CLA and its members. It is necessary for an association, especially one with members from disparate places and backgrounds, to have a clear code of ethics and responsibilities because it shows its members what the association stands for and what its role is. It is also necessary and expected that an association will follow through with their code of ethics by acting in accordance with them and advocating for causes that are in line with their ethics and mission. We should expect that an organization that represents Canadian libraries and library workers takes these ethical principles and translates them into actions.

However, recent issues, such as the cuts to the Toronto Public Library System, the librarian and archivist strike at UWO, and the altering of the mandate of Libraries and Archives Canada, show that the CLA chooses not to advocate and be the voice of the library community, but instead remains silent or attempts to be neutral. Meanwhile, unions such as the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and the Toronto Public Library Workers Union (TPLWU) have advocated strongly for the continued importance of libraries. Because of this, librarians and library workers should put their time and energy into working with their unions, as these are the organizations that take a real stand to protect libraries, the people who work in libraries, and the values that the CLA themselves seem unable or unwilling to defend. Furthermore, a national professional organization should be created so that librarians can better coordinate and advocate on behalf of the profession.

Let’s begin by looking at the CLA’s ethical standards. The CLA’s “Position Statement on Code of Ethics” dates back to 1976 and is reproduced in its entirety below:3

Members of the Canadian Library Association have the individual and collective responsibility to:

  1. support and implement the principles and practices embodied in the current Canadian Library Association Statement on Intellectual Freedom;5
  2. make every effort to promote and maintain the highest possible range and standards of library service to all segments of Canadian society;
  3. facilitate access to any or all sources of information which may be of assistance to library users;
  4. protect the privacy and dignity of library users and staff.

The most important point for the purposes of this discussion is number two: it indicates that promoting and maintaining the highest possible standards of service is a principle that the CLA and its members have the responsibility to uphold. Taken broadly, this means that the CLA should be an advocate for the importance of libraries in our society, and the improvement of the quality of our libraries. But the text also says that “every effort” should be made to uphold those highest possible standards: this means that according to their ethical standards, the CLA has a responsibility to do more than just advocate or release statements, but to pursue every avenue that is available to promote and protect libraries. These assertions are further emphasized by the CLA’s stated mission, “CLA/ACB is my advocate and public voice, educator and network. We build the Canadian library and information community and advance its information professionals.”5 The ramifications of these statements seem fairly straight forward: for example, if a Library was being threatened with significant cuts or a closure by a municipal government, the CLA and its members should do everything they can to “maintain the highest possible range and standards of library service to all segments of Canadian society.” At a minimum one would imagine that this would involve a strong statement of support for the Library and its staff, but it could also mean financial support or lending resources and expertise to help the Library and the members of its community promote the Library and fight against the proposed cuts.

Toronto Public Library cuts

Moving beyond our theoretical example, we can look at recent events to see if the CLA upholds its “Position Statement on Code of Ethics” and its stated mission. The first issue to examine are the cuts to the Toronto Public Library System proposed by the administration of Toronto’s Mayor, Rob Ford. These cuts provoked a huge public response, criticism from public figures such as Margaret Atwood, and a great deal of negative coverage in the press.6 The Toronto Public Library Workers Union has been instrumental in coordinating the response to these proposed cuts and increasing the public’s awareness of the issue. The union operates a blog7 that has almost daily updates on the Toronto library cuts and advocates that the Toronto city council listen to the overwhelming support that the people of Toronto have shown for their libraries. TPLWU has also sponsored the site Our Public Library,8 which acts as a nexus of information on the issue and provides ways for people to support the cause by sending letters to public officials. TPLWU has also produced many press releases, such as the recent “‘No interest in public opinion’ by Toronto Public Library board members…”, where their president, Maureen O’Reilly, strongly defends the library’s staff and collection:

“It is a shocking show of disrespect for taxpayers. Either that or these Board members are simply afraid to face the public after they voted to cut over 100 positions from an already overwhelmed library staff and also cut 27 per cent from the materials acquisitions budget, ensuring that the library collection will go downhill.”9

This type of advocacy is in line with the second point of the CLA’s “Code of Ethics”: these cuts will certainly damage the quality of services at TPL and represent a devaluation of the profession of librarianship as a whole. Meanwhile, I was not able to track down even a statement from the CLA: if they are attempting to “make every effort to promote and maintain the highest possible range and standards of library service”, they are certainly very shy about doing so on this issue.10 The only thing on the CLA’s website relating to the Toronto cuts is a news post saying that the former head of the CLA will be discussing the issue on CBC’s The Current.11This lack of a response is disappointing. As mentioned above, cuts of this magnitude would certainly affect the standards of service and the CLA’s Code of Ethics indicates that they should be involved in this issue.

Library and Archives Canada’s restructuring

However, to give the CLA the benefit of the doubt, another issue can be examined. According to Library and Archives Canada’s biography of Daniel Caron, current Deputy Head and Librarian and Archivist of Canada,12 in 2010 he “launched [a] modernisation initiative in order to ensure [Library and Archives Canada] would be able to embrace the multiple challenges of the digital environment.”13 In a “Backgrounder” document, the CAUT indicated this “modernisation” threatens LAC’s health through restructuring, cuts, and changes to its mandate.

In May 2009, LAC announced a ten-month moratorium on all purchased acquisitions. While the official moratorium was lifted in January 2010, acquisitions have not resumed. Holes in LAC’s collection are the result of this cessation of acquisitions and will be difficult, if not impossible, to restore retroactively.14

CAUT also launched a national campaign to protect and support LAC.15 The campaign’s website provides tools to help people become informed about the issue and take action by sending letters to members of parliament. These actions by the CAUT show that the organization is actively involved in protecting our national library and archive from cuts and reorganization that would reduce the quality and service of this institution. Meanwhile, CLA President Karen Adams wrote a response to the CAUT Backgrounder. Instead of decrying the cuts, Adams writes that:

While the [CLA] shares some of the concerns outlined in [CAUT] correspondence, particularly in the areas of acquisitions and the provision of services by qualified professional staff, we also understand that Library and Archives Canada must adapt to the digital age and address competing demands from its mandate as well as from the political realities of the day. With all federal departments facing increased scrutiny and requirements to produce significant budget reductions, LAC has to make difficult decisions with regard to its collection and services.16

Despite acknowledging that the changes at LAC will affect the quality of service, Adams concedes that “political realities” necessitate these changes. Looking back at the CLA “Code of Ethics”, one can’t help but think that this letter does nothing to help “promote and maintain” LAC’s level of service. CLA seems eager to capitulate to the government’s changes to LAC and unwilling to advocate for LAC or attempt to incite the public to demand that the government support LAC financially. This again shows that the CLA either ignores its own Code of Ethics or that it is unable to put this Code into practice.17

UWO librarian and archivist strike

Another issue that recently arose was the strike by librarians and archivists (who are members of CAUT) at the University of Western Ontario in September 2011. CAUT Executive Director James Turk argued that the strike “is another example of the challenges faced by academic librarians as they resist attempts by university and college administrations to devalue librarians’ work and jobs”, while affirming the importance of the profession of librarianship, “Librarians play a vital role for faculty and students, and their having decent and fair working conditions is crucial in sustaining high quality education and research in our universities and colleges.”18 CAUT also provided a million dollar donation to the striking workers’ fund. This level of support is expected: CAUT is after all a union protecting and supporting its members. But saying that the union has a vested interest in the strike doesn’t negate their advocacy for librarians and the support that was shown. Compare this with the CLA response: UWO Professor Sam Trosow wrote a letter to the CLA listserv that provided an update on the UWO situation and gave a number of suggestions for ways that members of the CLA could support the striking workers.19 Trosow characterized the strike as “a situation where librarianship is under attack” and called for “a better and more coordinated response.” He asked that the CLA leadership “issue a statement in support, [because] it’s important that our professional associations support their members.” The response from CLA President Karen Adams was the following:

In any case of negotiations between institutions and library staff, CLA encourages both sides to work in good faith towards fair and equitable settlements that ensure the on-going provision of quality library services to users. As the Canadian Library Association, we count both libraries and all those who work in libraries as members. We cannot and will not indicate support for one side over another in the case of dispute or strike. Each situation involving negotiations is unique, and must be resolved with respect to local circumstances. (Italics added for emphasis.)

Despite not protecting libraries in the previous examples, Adams uses the need to support both the librarians and the library (i.e., management) as the CLA’s reason for not providing a statement of support. Again, the the CLA seems unwilling to address issues that are affecting the health of the profession, its workers, and its libraries.

After looking at these examples, one would be justified in asking “What exactly would it take for the CLA to take a stance and defend libraries?” The only recent statement that they have on their website that condemns an action20 is on the destruction of the People’s Library at Occupy Wallstreet in New York City.21 This suggests that in order to provoke the CLA, one must deliberately physically destroy a library; from the Toronto example “destroying” a library through cuts and branch closures is not enough to justify a statement.

By looking at these three issues, it is clear that the CLA is unable or unwilling to put its Code of Ethics into practice. Meanwhile, the CAUT and other unions are not just strong voices in support for librarians and library workers, but also libraries as a whole. Based on this, there is no point in trying to improve the CLA’s Code of Ethics or attempt to make the CLA follow these statements: the CLA has shown that it is not interested in representing librarians through its inaction and complicity on issues that its Code of Ethics indicate it should be actively promoting and defending. This may seem like a harsh judgement, but the CLA has no excuse: how can we not judge it for not upholding its own values? Why should we continue to support an association that does not support us? Instead of trying to overhaul the CLA, librarians interested in protecting and promoting the profession should spend their time and energy within the organizations that are already doing this work: their unions. CAUT and TPLWU have both shown that they will come up to bat on library issues and that they are capable of translating their support for librarians into real activism.

While I do see value in the CLA’s present activities, librarians have been left without a unified, national voice. If the CLA is unwilling to fill this role, a new national professional organization that can be a real voice for librarians and take on the critical issues facing the profession should be created.


1 Canadian Library Association, (2011), “Mission, Values, & Operating Principles.”
2 Albeit brief and less specific when compared with the ALA Code of Ethics and Library Bill of Rights and the IFLA’s Statement on Libraries and Intellectual Freedom.
3 Canadian Library Association. (1976, June). “Position Statement on Code of Ethics.”
4 The main point of the Statement of Intellectual Freedom is that Canadians have a Charter right to access information and express themselves and indicates that libraries and staff need to support these rights by providing all individuals access to the “widest variety of materials.”
6 See Teitel’s “Are public libraries an essential service?” in Macleans for examples of Atwood’s advocacy, public dissent, and negative press coverage, but there are numerous other articles available. 7
10 I looked at their position statements and news releases, and for any indication of their position in news reports, which I think is a reasonable amount of searching for their position.
11 Canadian Library Association. (2011, August 2). “The Future of Libraries on CBC Radio.” CLA News.
12 Who does not have a degree in library science.
13 Library and Archives Canada, (2011, November 17), “Deputy Head and Librarian and Archivist of Canada.”
14 Canadian Association of University Teachers, (2011), “Save Library and Archives Canada – Backgrounder.” CAUT.
15 Canadian Association of University Teachers, (2011, November 2), “Canadian Association of University Teachers launches campaign to Save Library and Archives Canada.” CAUT News.
16 Karen Adams, (2011, November 4), [Letter to CAUT on LAC], CLA.
17 It should also be noted that the CLA did issue a statement against having a non-library science professional appointed to the position of Librarian and Archivist of Canada in 2009, and then President Ken Roberts also wrote a letter with the same sentiment that strongly advocated for the role of the profession. It is disappointing that current CLA leadership does not advocate against the changes being made to LAP as they did on this previous issue. Canadian Library Association. (2009 April 20). “Position Statement of Librarian and Archivist of Canada.” CLA.
18 Canadian Association of University Teachers, (2011, September 8), “CAUT in solidarity with striking librarians and archivists at University of Western Ontario.” CAUT News.
19 Karen Adams, (2011, September 16th). [re: UWO Librarians & Archivists on strike].
20 Canadian Library Association, (2011, November 18), [Newsrelease on OWS Library], CLA News. 21 See the video “Occupy Wall Street Library Destroyed 11-15-201” by OccupyTVNY.

41 thoughts on “The Canadian Library Association’s Failure to Advocate for Librarians and Libraries

  1. Rather than discard an entire organization and start all over, wouldn’t it be better to seek to replace the existing leadership of CLA? I don’t know what that would take but it would have to be easier than your suggestion.

    • The CLA already has a particular mandate in mind. Karen Adams spoke at UWO yesterday and she said that the CLA does not represent individual librarians and that they will be changing the statements on their website to reflect this.

      To me, the CLA has chosen its role and it is up to us to create a new association that fills the space that they have left.

      If the CLA wants to become a professional organization, great. But I don’t think that that is at all likely as the CLA seems to be actively moving in the opposite direction.


      • Huh? CLA is an abstract entity, not a person – it can’t have anything “in mind”. Karen Adams is a person with something in mind, but if the membership disagrees, they could replace her. If the membership doesn’t care enough to do that, that same group of people is not likely to succeed at the hard work needed to create a new organization.

      • How about “it seems that the leadership of the CLA already has a mandate in mind.” 🙂

        If the CLA membership wants to change the direction of the CLA, that would be great. But to me it seems like it is too late at this point.


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  3. When I think about your three examples it becomes apparent that current CLA leadership does not support the unions that are promoting the profession. As you pointed out the CLA Code of Ethics is sound (for the most part). Why not advocate for a change of leadership or a re-organization of CLA to include the voice of the unions that are promoting the profession? Boycotting the CLA in its entirety seems like a drastic and unnecessary measure.

    • Matthew, I think that I answered this in another reply, but I’m not calling for a boycott of the CLA. I think that they have set a particular mandate and that you should get involved with them if that is what you are interested in. If a large group of librarians want to work to redirect the CLA, I would support that, but it seems like at this point we need a real professional organization and that the CLA is not interested in that role.


      • Thanks for the info on the Karen Adams presentation and the updated CLA mandate. Her statement about not representing individual librarians makes it clear where the CLA is headed under her leadership. It’s disappointing news to say the least. Whether working to redirect the CLA or creating a new professional organization, changes seem to be required for the good of the profession.

  4. Just a comment on the work required to start a new association vs overhauling the CLA. I am not convinced that the former would be any more work than the latter – I believe librarians wishing to change the direction of the CLA will face concerted opposition. Library administration currently controls the direction of the association, supported by those wishing to move into library management positions. I don’t mean to suggest this situation is a deliberate plot or anything – it’s a combination of association work being good for an administrator’s c.v. and affording networking possibilities, juxtaposed with a growing disaffection towards the CLA from rank and file librarians. Change in this association would require a very large group of people to move into CLA, from ALL sectors of librarianship, and they would have to join committees, form networks, attend every conference, vote at every AGM…and hey if there are enough people willing to do this, I for one am game. But I’m not convinced it would be any less work than starting anew. Sometimes it’s easier to start from a blank slate.

    • What maybe we need is a professional association. Not a group for those professionals who wish to take the administrative road… there is and for 30 years has been a tilt away from ‘line librarians’; those of us in the trenches.

      It would be very difficult to get CLA to change. They’ve not changed in the 30 yeasrs I’ve been around, and I don’t see anything on the horizon.

      It might be best to consider starting a professional association which could reach from system or branch level all the way through nationally and perhaps internationally. Focus on practice of the profession, not on management issues. No trustees allowed; only professional librarians; issues of concern to working professionals, not just their bosses… and it need not even require a convention… it could happen over the net. Just sayin’.

      Don’t take on the CLA. An in-fight is not what we need. We need to focus on our professional situation: jobs, wages, change, etc.

  5. Really what does CLA do for Librarians? Give out awards, that no one pays attention to? Not comment on School, University or Special library issues? Hold a conference no one attends? Charge for a meaningless membership? I would love to be part of a new organization that recognizes professional librarians and the various roles they play in Canada, I want a Canadian ALA, not another Canadian Library Association that does nothing! We need more opportunities like Northern Exposure to Leadership, not a blank calendar of events. There are amazing Canadian Librarians out there and if we could hear more from them it would help us all connect on moving our profession forward, a news reel of copyright on the main page really does nothing for me. Maybe CLA works for those who attend all the Ottawa events? But then it should just be the Ottawa library association.

  6. I am one of the many librarians who have gone back and forth in renewing my professional membership with CLA, mainly because I don’t really know what I get for my money.

    It is clear that the CLA has not been representing the needs and emphasizing the important of librarians for some time. A quick look at the advocacy committee—Copyright, Information Policy, Services for Persons with Print Disabilities, and School Libraries—none of these emphasise the importance of librarians. If librarians did not exist and all positions were replaced by non professionals these issues would continue to exist and could be advocated for by CLA.

    CLA does not advocate for librarians. It advocates for libraries. It is clear from the trials at McMaster and now Harvard that libraries feel as if they can run without librarians. I for one have always questioned what I get for my dues to CLA—except for an over-priced over-hyped conference which I have to pay out-of-pocket anyway.

    On a closing note about the executive committee, a look at the ,a href=””>2010 Annual Report shows the largest budget item by far is the Executive itself, at $516,214. Member services stands at $54,395. And with the recent ,a href=””>restructuring all the benefits we saw at the local level support were cut, with funding on a “project” basis. That is, if we decide your funding is worth it. But, we will give you an electronic space and “a chance to meet in person at the national conference.”

    What is stopping Networks from just forming on their own, if we are not going to get funding support. All the tools are in place, and we certainly don’t need anyone to allow us to meet at conferences.

    What does the Executive do for that $516,214? Are we sure that our money is being well spent?

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  9. As a library tech studying towards a MLS degree through an American school, I was conflicted as to whether I should join CLA or ALA. Despite the (much) higher cost… despite the fact that ALA offers more relevant and accessible learning opportunities… despite the eye rolls, shrugs, and other signs of indifference I got from current librarians when inquiring about the benefits of joining CLA… I joined CLA. A move I’m already regretting… and now I know why.

  10. Thank you for the post. Many, I know, agree with your analysis. Libraries do need librarians, and librarians need an national association to advocate on their behalf. CAUT has stepped in to be that advocate in several cases. The CLA has its uses however, namely networking, professional development, and advocating on issues that are acceptable to university and library boards. There is some value in this, but yes, CLA should revise their positions to remove the obvious hypocrisies here. They should also rely more on funds from institutional memberships and not individuals.

  11. The CLA has done absoulutely nothing to support, let alone advance, the professional status of librarians in Canada. (Nor does the ALA, btw. I tried to raise the issue at a recent ALA and was met with incomprehesion about the need for professional unions dedicated to an agenda that yes, includes salary and benefits, but wld mainly act as a lobbying group for professional issues.)
    If the CLA is serious about treating librarians as professionals then they should have a session dedicated to setting an agenda at the next CLA conference in Ottawa. I’d be happy to contribute. Walking the talk of professionalism is key to saving public libraries. It never ceases to amaze me that the CLA does not seem to get that.

  12. I’m a librarian at TPL and I whole heartedly agree with your conclusions about CLA’s lack of voice for librarians, espeically in these times when budgets are being slashed both in municipalities, provincially and federally.

    How can CLA stand by idly as our profession is being degraded? Furthermore, the library schools at U of T and Western should be doing more to stand up for the rights of their alumni, that they continually pump out while the job market stagnates….

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  14. Fascinating discussion! For years I have been critical of CLA. As an MLIS grad and an educator of technicians, I have found it very difficult to promote CLA membership. The challenges facing libraries and their future could be better addressed through a national association. So, too, could the perception of library workers – of all types!

    With that said, I think it is not necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Indeed, if library folk are unhappy with the organization, they need to become part of the effort to CHANGE it. For fifteen years I have heard people complaining of CLA and few have stepped up to the plate to be a part of change. So, who is to blame for that? Last year, at the CLA conference, I was amazed at how few stood up and openly challenged assumptions, even though they were happy to comment outside of sessions. This year, I had a session accepted that gives me hope that CLA might be able change….I am going to discuss the inequities within our own workplaces – how we treat each other.

    Perhaps what is really needed are a bunch of library people to get ticked off, fed up and TAKE SOME ACTION at being part of constructive change. How many people have directly challenged the executive and their apparent lack of tenacity and leadership? How many have actually done something to make it better? Maybe we are finally ready….

    • I see your point, although of course I disagree with (edit: #13). I am sure that the CLA does good things, but from the perspective of a m.l.i.s. student, it’s pretty disheartening that it has no stance on any of the serious issues that have come up over the last eight months.


      • You are not the first MLIS student to question CLA, and will not be the last. I certainly found the lack of any serious CPD via CLA disheartening when I was researching it back in the day. And as a practicing special librarian, CLA as a whole can be frustrating at best for complete lack of integration or even awareness that there are more librarians working outside of the standard definition of libraries=academic/public/school systems. Yet there is a vibrant special library community within CLA, always has been, that has worked within that structure to meet the needs of Canadian special librarians who want a Canadian voice. Voluntary associations are messy difficult beasts that only get better when people engage actively.
        It is essential to recognize what can be done to effect positive changes for Libraries must focus more on those who use them than those who work in them; this has to be done in the context of who can and should undertaking these activities based on a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities across the very wide spectrum that is Librarianship (which is not about a degree!!!)

  15. I won’t be rejoining either the CLA or the OLA. They have both made themselves very clear: they support library executives and boards: they do not support library workers, ethics, professional practice or employment standards. Their silence during the attacks on the Toronto library makes their position very clear: they don’t really care much. (That said, I must applaud OLA president Tanis Fink for at least writing to the province to beg Minister Chong not to cave in and change the provincial laws to suit the ill-advised and uneducated board of TPL.). I’ve been to dozens of OLA conferences, and participated in CLA. I’m done. I’m out. No support for library workers = no support FROM library workers. I am actively campaigning among my colleagues to keep their money in their wallets until CLA and OLA grow into their mandates. Goodby CLA. Nice knowin’ ya.

    • Unfortunately, withdrawal of support doesn’t really move us forward very quickly. It would be ideal if people would become members if only to swarm the AGM and demand change. As members, we have the right to demand it. It is just that most members slip away, disgruntled. Only, there is no effective alternative national association. So, why not get voted in? Shake it up? Is it not worth the effort to regain control over our national association? What are we afraid of?

  16. I am so sorry to read this post and the string of comments. I think there are a great many misunderstandings at its core.

    Any assumption that CLA can or should enter into local labour issues paints a grey world as black and white. CLA cannot wade through the details of every local budget or strike issue and make a determination about which side is “right” or which side is promoting the best possible future for a particular library system. Even skilled mediators and arbitrators have to meet with all parties and conduct lengthy discussions before making recommendations or delivering verdicts about relatively simple issues.

    This is one reason why we saw very little comment on the Toronto Public Library budget from CLA or OLA or even the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries, whose office space is provided by TPL.

    The suggestion that CLA had an ethical obligation to enter into the debate is wrong for several reasons.

    Firstly, it is not productive. I am more familiar with the situation at TPL. Public support saved the TPL 2012 budget and any visible hint that this support was fostered or created by outside associations or administrative forces would have blunted that effective voice.

    Secondly, one way the Toronto Public Library Board plans to address its budget problem is through the implementation of RFID and self-check. Thousands of library systems use RFID. It is inexpensive and the public likes it. Where budgets are good, staff can be re-deployed in ways that provide more value to customers. Where budgets are tight and cities are struggling, RFID can preserve services that may have disappeared. It may be appropriate for Toronto’s CUPE local to concern itself with a potential loss of jobs, but it is not appropriate for CLA or OLA or FOPL to suggest that the introduction of RFID represents a loss of service.

    In the comment string, emotions trump reason when the CLA “Executive” budget is listed as more than $500,000. Even a fast glance at the budget makes it clear that the auditor considers all CLA staff to be an “Executive” expense. To suggest that this is a frivolous cost is akin to suggesting that the staff at any organization are unnecessary.

    I have to add that there is a disturbing thread in the comments. New librarians are often being hired with an eye toward their management potential because so many current managers will soon retire. If younger librarians do not wish to become managers, then they have to be prepared to be managed by people with no library expertise. Personally, I hope to see libraries managed by librarians and library workers who accept management responsibilities.

    The posting lauds unions for their support. Where they function well, unions tend to focus on the protection of individual members. Where they function well, management teams tend to focus on the longer term value and relevancy of organizations. Both viewpoints are valuable and they are often allied. During times of stress, such as budget pressures or rapid change, these two approaches can clash. No outside group, given only glimpses of complex local issues, can fully appreciate the spot where that clash needs to be resolved.

    I am sorry to hear that so many of the respondents to this posting see little value in CLA. The work it is doing on a national and international level is critical to our future.

  17. I’m not against management or managing: I just want a professional association that stands up for the profession. I think that I made that argument fairly clearly, albeit a bit sharply, in the post.

    But beyond that, you really don’t see the three issues that I brought up as attacks on the profession? These are more than labour disputes. I also think that it is pretty facile to say that if the CLA had entered into the debate in Toronto, it would have undermined the grass roots response to the TPL cuts: the TPLWU were coordinating the response, releasing statements to the press, attending council meetings, etc. and can’t see how it could be argued that the CLA getting involved would have been that different or corrupted the public response. But feel free to elaborate your point.


    • Yes, Ken, with all due respect – I wondered the same thing about your post as Andrew. TPLWU’s involvement did not tarnish the grassroots support for libraries and librarians – in fact they galvanized it. And I think a stronger response from the national and provincial associations would have lent more credibility to the cause – as of course the CLA and the OLA could not be accused of trying to protect their own jobs, and Torontonians would have been clear that national bodies representing libraries thought that the massive cuts proposed to TPL were not in the best interests of library users. This would have been very helpful. CLA would not have needed to speak to particularities of the budget – but just affirm the value of libraries and librarians to communities at a time when our mayor and his brother were undermining them. Also remember that the budget “crisis” was not the bargaining table. Similarly at Western, when the BOG was publicly saying libraries would be largely unaffected by librarians being out on strike – the CLA could have easily sent a note wishing for a speedy end to the strike and taking issue with that particular statement – reminding Western that librarians are important to the good functioning of libraries…. and that well-functioning libraries are what users need. Again, not exactly taking a position on contract negotiations – just affirming the value of librarians to users.

      And I think this is the crux of the problem – for a while now it seems that the CLA is unable or unwilling to acknowledge that staff (of any designation) are important to the library. Somehow the Library is presented as existing independently of the people whose labour make it possible. Librarians as troublesome and annoying people who get in the way of change. Leadership as only possible from the top. This divisiveness is the worrisome trend in my opinion. Sometimes this is put forward as the only tenable position given that the CLA also “represents” library technicians and admin – but I don’t see conflict here. The CLA should not generally take bargaining positions, yes – but it should publicly at least recognize the value of library workers of all stripes. These small actions would go such a long way towards easing the tension AND making membership and involvement in the CLA more enticing to library workers.

      All of the above notwithstanding, I think there is room for multiple associations with slightly different interests which interact with one another amicably even when their positions might diverge. Certainly other professions operate this way – think healthcare – perhaps rather than seeing this as a giant conflict, we might view it as professional maturation.

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