Yesterday, I attended a town hall meeting on the future of CLA, the Canadian Library Association. CLA is in a major crisis. Membership has declined drastically, which means funding has too. Operations have been slashed to bare bones. CLA leaders are now turning to the library community to determine how to proceed.

The meeting was very enlightening, although not in the way I thought it would be. Instead of being talked to, we were asked to identify ourselves and the type of library/library association we were with, and then to give our likes and dislikes of the Future Plan. There were librarians, library technicians, teacher-librarians, and library trustees. What I learned, as I listened, is how different my situation is to almost everyone else in that room.

There were a lot of lapsed members in the room, including me. I cancelled my membership several years ago, as I found CLA didn’t suit my needs (there’s where relevance comes into play). As a library technician, I felt it didn’t offer any leadership or management skills development, and working in a law library, it didn’t have the subject specific skills I needed either. That, as well as the cost, seemed to be the main reasons other people cancelled too.

That’s where the similarities ended. Others spoke of the lack of financial support to attend conferences and paying for membership out of their own pocket. Fortunately, my firm sees the value in professional association membership, and funds my membership in two organizations that I have determined are relevant to my career goals. I’ve also been to several “away” conferences, fully funded by my firm. That’s not to say I get everything that I want, but I recognize that I have a pretty sweet deal.

So what do we need CLA for? CLA is an advocate for libraries. It lobbies to maintain the library book rate, important for public libraries and probably school libraries. It follows Copyright reform to make sure libraries aren’t burdened by overly restrictive access. Those are just two of the most common causes. But, not really relevant to my situation in a corporate special library.  

The one conclusion everyone came to, including me, is that we don’t want to lose CLA. There has to be a way to support this national library organization. The executive council has its work cut out for them!

~ Karen


One Response to “Relevance”

  1. 1 B Wong

    After reading through 2nd draft of Proposed CLA Future Plan, I think being the national voice for advocacy for libraries and other information is still a vital role. As a student, I did not feel CLA was “my association” addressing my needs in the 1990s in Vancouver. I still don’t really think about them honestly. I agree that copyright reform and library book rate are good “motherhood” issues for CLA. But if ALA accredits library schools in the US why does CLA not and, a larger question, why have Canadian library schools not embraced online or distance MLIS programmes? American post-secondary institutions, like Drexel University in Philadelphia or University of Wisconsin, Madison, offer online MLIS courses. Sorry I digress…

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