Response to CLA Executive’s Draft Mission Statement

The latest CLA Digest contains a new draft mission statement. If you want the CLA to be an active voice supporting the profession, this is a huge step backwards. Beyond the vague, uninspiring language, notice the lack of any mention of librarians or library workers:

“CLA is the national public voice for Canada’s library communities.

We champion library values and the value of libraries.
We influence public policy impacting libraries.
We inspire and support learning.
We collaborate to strengthen the library community.

Executive Council is looking for your ideas and suggestions as to how CLA can best implement this draft mission to make it a reality.  Comments welcome!”

That the executive can be so self-congratulatory given the issues that surround the profession shows how disconnected they are from the activities of librarians and from those of us entering the field who are worrying about the perceived value of librarianship in the 21st century.

You can’t promote libraries without promoting the people who work in and run these libraries (including administrators). Institutions are just lifeless buildings; it is people that animate them, innovate within them, advocate for them, and give them meaning and purpose. By turning their backs on people, the CLA ignores what libraries are really about, and the people who make them function.

But looking beyond the content of the draft mission, the CLA executive should have communicated to its members BEFORE drafting the new mission to ask for input. This is token representation and it should trouble any active CLA member.

Note that the executive asked only for comments on the new mission and suggestions on how to implement it. This implies that the executive has already decided on the mission and that the role of members is merely to accept it and support its implementation. Comments are welcome, but this language does not show real interest in input from membership. Instead of asking for comments after the fact, why not collect some data by polling members to see what they really want the organization to be? Why not have a forum discussing the issue at the CLA conference this summer? Why not ask librarians who are not currently members of the CLA for their views in order to increase membership and strengthen the association?

Two answers jump to mind: perhaps the executive thinks that this process would take too much time and effort, or perhaps the executive is uninterested in creating a mission that reflects what it’s members and potential members want. Neither of these is acceptable. These are our leaders: we should expect more from them. CLA could strengthen the library community by demonstrating democratic values and operating in a more ‘bottom-up’ fashion. Good leadership involves modeling the way for others. CLA should be teaching new librarians how to lead in this new century, and they should be an example of making decisions based on sound data.

Of course, if the membership was properly consulted, maybe those of us advocating for change would be drowned out by those who want to maintain the status quo (we hope not), but until CLA actually collects some data, how can they presume to make decisions about the mission and goals of the organization? Why not try to create something that librarians across the country actually want to be a part of?

We strongly suggest that CLA members voice their displeasure with this new Mission Statement and demand more from their association. Please share your thoughts on the CLA listserv and ensure that the CLA’s mission reflects the values and role that you believe CLA should have, and that it inspires new librarians to join and help develop the association and the profession.

Andrew Lockhart and Peggy McEachreon, PLG London.

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4 thoughts on “Response to CLA Executive’s Draft Mission Statement

  1. How does the CLA make decisions of this sort? While these meetings are open to the public in person, those of us who can’t make it to Toronto on that particular morning are left out of the loop.

    After this meeting was completed I sent a message to the CLA head office for the minutes of the meeting. I got no response. In a day and age when it is just standard practice for organizations to have full disclosure of their minutes on their websites, what is stopping the CLA from doing the same?

  2. I’m sitting in a session at the CLA conference session where the mission is under discussion. There are a lot of comments about the lack of representation of the individual. The response so far has been that in order to be inclusive, specific job titles (ie. librarians) have been omitted. The Director of CILIP is here and offered his opinion and critique of this omission in contrast to CILIP’s mission. Further discussion indicates that this mission is solidifying that professional issues may need to be dealt with via other channels. The formation of a CLA Network for professional librarians may satisfy that need; the current library technician’s network is offered as an example of how well it can work.

    I’ve asked for clarification about whether or not the mission is in draft, and yes, there will be an Executive meeting tomorrow to discuss the themes that arose from the discussion. The definition of the “we” to better emphasize the individual and further explanation of the values as mentioned in the mission are the two major concerns that were heard.

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