Additional discussion

Steven Chabot wrote a post on the CLA listserv that is worth sharing:

There has always been a tenuous argument for the professional status of librarians. This was the case in 1876 and it is still the case now. When your teacher is not professional the youth suffer, and when nurses are not professional seniors suffer. But the powers that be don’t really see how professional librarians benefit everyone. I’ve always felt that professional organizations were there to advocate for the professionals they represent.

It is perfectly clear that the CLA is not a professional organization, or an organization of professionals. The Canadian Medical Association is an association of physicians, while the ALA’s mission is “to promote library service and librarianship.”

The CLA is not a organization of professionals. This was stated outright by Ms. Adams at the recent “Academic Librarianship – A Crisis or An Opportunity” symposium at the University of Toronto. And, as the FAQ on the Future of the CLA admits, most of the benefits of the work of the CLA accrue to libraries, and only “trickle down” to librarians. If they are going to then be increasing the percentage of funding from institutions, will these institutions not now want more for their money?

If this is something that we want to change, then it is something the membership needs to advocate for. Being a new and a solo librarian, I was and very much am outside the discussion of the future and restructuring of the CLA. Those discussions happen somewhere high up in the Executive (whose 2010 budget is 10x larger than the budget allocated to member services).

In the six or so years I have been a student, then a professional, I have been ambivalent about my CLA membership. Perhaps many people have their dues covered by their workplace, but that has never been the case for me and every year I have to judge whether it is worth it for me. And some years it is not worth it and I’ve let it lapse.

If we are wondering why people are not renewing their membership and the association is not making money, I think discussions like the PLG London post are very informative as to the cause. I am sure these issues have been discussed by those up the Hierarchy.

Nothing in this post is against any of the individual librarians I’ve met though CLA. You are all amazing. 🙂

Some additional thoughts can be found on Steven’s blog, Subject/Object.


3 thoughts on “Additional discussion

  1. Andrew Lockhart obviously misunderstands the way a professional association differs from a public service union.

    A union supports its members (and only its members) in any issues they might have with their EMPLOYERS. A professional association supports its members (and others in the profession who are not its members) so that they can serve their CLIENTS to the best of their abilities – which in turn is good for the employers of those library professionals.

    Totally different goals, so totally different roles.

    • Your definition of a professional association seems rather narrow. I was working with something more along these lines:

      “professional association: A collective organization of professional workers, such as doctors, dentists, nurses, midwives, lawyers, and accountants. Professional associations provide a number of services to their members, including the provision of training, indemnity insurance, advice, and representation, and in some cases they may also become involved in collective representation and collective bargaining. In addition to servicing their members in a manner equivalent to trade unions, however, professional associations may be licensed by the state to regulate entry to the occupation through a system of examination and vocational training and to determine and uphold standards of professional expertise and practice (see occupational licensing). Because of this latter role professional associations typically aspire to speak on behalf of clients as well as their members and may be active in campaigning for improvements in professional services, particularly within the public sector.”

      (From “Professional association”. A Dictionary of Human Resource Management. Edmund Heery and Mike Noon. Oxford University Press, 2008. Oxford Reference Online.)

      I’m not saying that the CLA should act like a union, but that I would like them to act like a professional association. If they are unwilling to do this, I think that a new association for librarians should be formed. Right now there is a gap that neither the CLA nor unions are completely filling.


  2. Pingback: Life pursuit found: Radical militant librarian « shy quiet girl

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