Canadian Library Association Set to Restructure

On May 25th CLA Executive Council put forward two resolutions, to postpone elections (considered an unconstitutional but necessary move) and to operate on a zero-based balanced budget going forward. I have heard that, to balance the budget, it will mean closing down some or all divisions and special interest groups. These resolutions were voted on at the AGM on Saturday, June 5th.

Like most law librarians in this country, I am unfortunately not a member of the Canadian Library Association (CLA). Some of my colleagues, however, have been members of its CASLIS division for specialized libraries (as opposed to public, academic or school libraries). There have been so many associations to join that I have not made the time or commitment to our national association. At the same time, I have watched their advocacy campaigns and been supportive of their work.

Many library-related associations are currently challenged to keep up membership numbers what with the current economy and the number of associations in existence, and CLA has been no exception. Apparently expenditures have been exceeding their income, to the point where they must now either reorganize or close down completely.

What, then, will CLA do with such a scaled-down structure? I have heard that their new focus will be on advocacy. To follow the tweets coming out of the CLA2010 conference, including the AGM, I have set up the tool Twapper Keeper (I agree, what a horrible name!) to capture the tweets marked with the tag #cla2010: Still, most of what I see are reactions rather than the actual thrust of the discussion.

I will keep my eye out for official communication from CLA as to what happened at the AGM, and will be watching with interest as to what comes of the restructuring. Since my own interest is mostly with the advocacy side, ironically this renewed focus may be just enough to bring me in as a member.


  1. We’ve joked for years that if you put two librarians in a room, they come out as a new association. With the proliferation of interest groups, associations and virtual meeting places, I wonder if the profession has reached capacity. There are only so many people willing/able to step up and be involved, and we’re all being pulled in many directions.

    I wonder how well the CLA is going to be able to make the case to have people/institutions pay for memberships when they may not see a direct benefit for the work the association does. Advocacy is important, but it’s hard to win dollars from your members if the association down the street is offering programs which may be of direct, personal benefit.

    I think that the British have created a licensing body for information professionals, to which all librarians must belong. Is such a body needed in Canada, and could CLA fit the bill?

    Like you, Connie, I can hardly wait to hear more from those actually in attendance. The Twitter feed has been tantalizing, but pretty light on detail.

  2. Hi Connie:

    I am sure the actual resolutions will be on the on the CLA website soon when staff gets back to the office. However you have reported it fairly wrong and mis-characterized the process and the intent.

    1. First, the actions of the board and executive council were within the boundaries of the CLA constitution and the law (Ontario). It would be very wrong on many levels to state otherwise. The members also went through a two step process that endorsed all of the actions of the EC as well as the election decision. Characterizing it as ‘unconstitutional’ is incorrect and if I was a member of the group who were responsible for the decision and sought legal advice on the decision I’d be angry at that opinion especially on a law blog.
    2. The elections were temporarily suspended in Feb. and the members voted on Saturday in Edmonton at the CLA AGM to reinstitate the election of the CLA President/president-elect. This will follow the standard process. Again, to state on this blog that all CLA elections were suspended is incorrect. The EC and the CLA division leadership on the board need to continuity to make these urgent change recommendations to the membership for a vote. To add aditional learning curves for new people seems counter-productive and I agree with that.
    3. The member (quorum achieved in a large meeting) at the CLA AGM voted to have a balanced budget (not zero based which is a process) in 2011. It is expected that this can be achieved in 2010 due to the successful conference. A balanced budget necessitates not doing any more expenditures than absolutely necessary so divisions and other units will not receive funds but can work with their reserves. Budget dollars will be spent on advocacy (especially the new copyright legislation) and the restructuring work (legal advice, etc.) When interim financial reports are available CLA committed to share them with the members.
    4. No decision has been made to shut down divisions and there is a consultative process started at Edmonton and going online in July to underpin the restructuring decision. Watch for communications. There were many many ideas discussed including turning the divisions into commnuities of practice that use technology to lower governance costs.

    This is a complex pocess and we all want CLA to be our national voice. There has been a lot of misinformation out there and I felt the need – as someone who was in the room all week at CLA and saw the committed people work diligently there to solve our issues in the Canadian library community. I thought it was great that they committed at CLA to have conversations with non-members too.



  3. Hi Stephen:

    Thanks kindly for clarifying for me (and all of us). As I obviously wasn’t in Edmonton, I was going by what had I had heard said in public meetings by CLA representatives and by the May 25th notice by the CLA Executive Council. Just to briefly respond to your notes above:

    1. In its May 25th notice, the CLA Executive Council said:

    “While the motions were made in the best interests of the association, it has since been brought to our attention by Parliamentarian Eli Mina that we have exceeded our constitutional jurisdiction with the motion to defer the 2010 elections. The Executive Council discussed Mr. Mina’s advice and determined that the circumstances were very serious and that the health of the Association made it imperative for it to act in the manner that it did.”

    But perhaps I was being influenced by tweets when I characterized it as “unconstitutional”. I was not meaning to imply that it was wrong, in fact I can see the need for these actions and think they are doing the right thing (from what I can tell).

    2. Thank you for the additional context. I see how my post is misleading. However, I did not say the CLA elections were suspended, I said they were postponed.

    3. The resolution put forward on May 25th for the AGM used the phrase “zero based balanced budget”. I was merely paraphrasing this resolution:

    “Resolved, that the CLA Executive Council be urged to take all measures within its authority to ensure that CLA operates within a zero-based balanced budget.”

    I appreciate your updating us on the process. I was attempting to write a neutral blog post to make law librarians and others interested aware of the changes taking place.