Learning, the act of gaining knowledge, is a craft unto itself. It starts with questions - the what ifs, how abouts, whys, . . . leading from the unknown to the known, through inquiry, experimentation, travel, and of course pure accident.

This is about how it happens in my life.

Random Thoughts on Roles and Responsibilities

It's good that this discussion is happening.  I've got a few points to add. I am a proud member of the CLA and I make NO claim to speak for the Canadian Library Association.
  1. Work place based collectives advocate for their members, no one else, and certainly not for any "profession".  The use of language resonating with professionalism is a tool used for achieving bargaining goals. 
  2. In any Library there is a wide range of skills, training, degrees and responsibilities represented by the collective, not just those who have chosen an MLS.  
  3. What is good for the Library and what is good for the people represented by the collective are not the same thing, and can in fact be quite incompatible. A dollar spent on wages and benefits is not spent on the materials and content: you know the stuff that people actually go to a Library to use
  4. Libraries do not exist to employ Librarians
  5. Libraries are for the Members (a term us Library users prefer to be called, according to David Lankes in his Atlas), in that service community
  6. Members using a Library are concerned about service and product, not with the specific education of the person involved in providing that service or product
  7. The current educational path that within the Library community leads to one becoming a "Librarian" is a very recent construct in the grand history of Libraries and the Librarians that serve in them.  
  8. Librarians were originally born of passion for the written word, an understanding of it's power, a desire to serve the conjoined needs of content and it's users, and a willingness to learn via apprenticeship and immersion in the arts of Librarianship  
  9. The role of a voluntary association is by nature very different than that of the work place based collective, regardless of the industry.  Getting involved in the details of any one workplace isn't the point.
  10. In the case of the Canadian Library Association, advocating for Libraries and those who work in them cannot include taking a position on one side of the bargaining table, if only because of the simple fact that the CLA has active and passionate members on both sides of that table. 
  11. Advocating for Libraries is really about advocating for the user members of our Libraries, not for any one system or way of doing things or history of who does them in our Libraries
  12. The specifics of any Library workplace may be of concern to the CLA, or to any other voluntary Library Association, in so far as any number of activites negatively affect the user members served by that workplace
  13. Given points 3-6  and 9-10 above, it is simply wrong to suggest that the CLA has not upheld it's Code of Ethics by failing to engage in workplace collective bargaining politics
  14. A fuller investigation of the CLA's advocacy activities demonstrates significant success across many areas that touch the lives of every day Canadians, whether they are Library members or not. 
  15. The good news is that the CLA's successes benefit Libraries and ALL those who work in them in myriad ways, even those who are disdainful and sometimes quite hateful towards it.
  16. Seeking some new kind of professional body for librarians is a purely Provincial responsibility. Such a badge will do nothing to enhance the abilities or skills of someone interested in serving in a Library, but it might make the chance of finding a job more difficult when it leads higher staff costs. 
  17. Choosing to engage constructively with others through a voluntary association on projects that take time and create long term benefits is more fruitful than complaining about what is lacking now


  1. If the CLA had issued a statement like: "As an advocate for Canadian libraries, the Canadian Library Association sincerely hopes that a fair and equitable outcome can be achieved for both sides involved in the current (strike/dispute/issue, etc.) at (insert location here), so that library members can once again receive the highest levels of service." A statement like this demonstrates respect for all those involved, including library members. In contrast, the purported "neutral" stance that the CLA has taken during recent disputes (such as the Librarians and Archivists strike at the University of Western Ontario) is not fooling anyone. They did take a side, and it was the side of the administration.

  2. I would agree with what seems to be the summary conclusion of your points: that the library exists for its users, not for librarians.

    But I'd be every wary of disconnecting the service of those users and professionalism, which what points 6-8 seem to imply. The history of the modern public library is bound up completely with the movement towards the professionalize librarians. Sure, there were libraries and therefore "librarians" since the beginning of writing. But most of the innovations we've seen which make the library oriented towards it users and not the "protection" of the collection—open stacks, accessible catalogues, rational classification and shelf order, open public spaces allowing for study, bibliographic instruction—all of these are the result of the early professional librarians who came together at the first ALA meetings.

    Was there something called "social work" or "nursing" before there were professional nurses or social workers? Sure. But we now recognize that there is a benefit to their professional training. Librarians are not exactly educators, but they are the facilitators who encourage users to become self-sufficient learners with passion about the written word and now all forms of culture, as you've indicated. Why shouldn't we strongly defend and advocate for the benefits of professionalization to society?

    In light of this discussion I've been rereading Garrison's *Apostles of Culture,* who quotes and 1876 Boston Alderman saying that anyone could run the library with only a few weeks training. This attitude of government comes and goes, and right now it is back. I see no service to our users or to the library by discounting the important work of trained professional librarians and library technicians who take their work and vocation seriously.

  3. Well stated, Steven! Currently, we are struggling with addressing the educational expectations of some of these professionally-minded folk, technicians, because we have had so little support and input from the profession. While, we have an advisory committee and seek input, what we need (a library technician program) is a strong professional body who goes beyond publishing "Guidelines" (that LIT heads had the sole hand in revising) and promote standards and interest that show that what we do is complex and valuable.

    Unfortunately, much of the groundwork needed to remind stakeholders of the value of library services - of all kinds - goes well beyond providing reactionary position statements and press releases. It should not even come to that in cases like Toronto Public...CLA should have been promoting and educating stakeholders on the role of libraries long before....the failing of the organization have been long term and complex.

    As I have taught in our promotional planning course, promoting your worthiness is about inserting yourself into the social fabric of your community and COMMUNICATING with it on a constant basis. Here, we see an organization that has failed to effectively have CONVERSATIONS with its stakeholders (current and prospective members) and the broader community. CLA executives should read David Lankes book, "The Atlas of New Librarianship".

  4. Lankes' Altas is awesome, good reading for anyone interested in Librarianship. I also suggest reading sections 91 and 92 of the Canadian Constitution to get a firm grasp on why constant clamouring for most kinds of national level standards etc for education, professional regulation, funding etc is is absolutely futile.

  5. Tanya,
    I disagree on futility...In my faculty of Professional Studies, most applied and professional fields are accredited. I have submitted a proposal (spent my sabbatical on it) for the same for Tech programs and have forwarded to all of the Canadian Library Associations for review...I would love to circulate to a wider audience in hopes that the pros and cons can be examined and discussed. I have three tech associations on board already. While we are not managing "public risk" like health science, there are many attributes to a professional standard that does not fall within government regulatory control - a quagmire anyway.