Today the members of the Canadian Library Association (CLA) voted overwhelmingly to disband the organization. I’m a member of the Executive Committee of CLA that moved the motion to do this.
In many ways it’s a sad day. CLA has been a voice for libraries since 1946 and for many, me included, it has been a tremendous source of professional engagement (I’ve been a member since 1976).
But CLA has declined in relevance and value. A lack of faith in the association (for a variety of reasons) lead to declining memberships and diminished revenues. The vibrant CLA of the past had become an unsustainable organization unable to meet member, and prospective member, needs. It was time for it to go.
In many other ways, however, today is a very exciting and important day because it clears the way for a new vehicle to act as the national voice of libraries: the proposed Canadian Federation of Library Associations.
Many national and regional library associations came together over that past year or more to craft a new organization. It was extremely difficult work. The resulting proposal is not CLA revised or revisited but a new start with new people and a new vision of how to proceed.
It has been easy for some to snark on the sidelines and disparage CLA. I have been impressed by those who had similar reservations about CLA but were prepared to put in the hard work to find a new solution.
The Federation model isn’t perfect. There will be substantial challenges. But the need for a national voice for libraries was broadly and vocally supported.
CLA is over. The Federation is not CLA. It’s time to move on.
My sadness about the demise of CLA is more than tempered by the excitement of a new way forward; a way that will be shaped by those who want to be involved and want to make a difference.
One of the members at the Special General Meeting where CLA was dissolved made a passionate plea for the importance of libraries in underserved communities. We as a library community have lots of work to do to address those and many other needs.
I urge you to follow the work of the Federation and to participate in it through one or more of the many library associations who form the organization. It is our voice to have or to lose.