Concerns about librarians’ freedom of speech: the new code of conduct at Library & Archives Canada

Nunavut Library Association members are concerned about the chilling effect a new “code of conduct” instituted at Library and Archives Canada will have on LAC’s ability to continue its traditional role of leadership and collaboration in Canada’s library community.

Leigh-Ann brought the following news article to our attention: Canada’s federal librarians fear being muzzled.

Some member comments on this issue:

“Thanks for this article, Leigh Ann.  Very scary. The one thing that bothered … apart from the muzzling activities … is the comment about how things are pretty sad when librarians are being picked on. It seems to be based on the idea that librarians are a meek and mild bunch. Not so. Jocelyn”

“This is why everyone in the Library field is feeling that LAC has completely lost touch with its primary purpose and its mandate. They are not supporting Librarianship – they are smothering it. This policy is the same as the government scientists are facing- we can have information but heaven forbid we share it, contemplate it or gasp critically think about information. Last week there was an article saying Canada has gone from first place in the best places to live list to the 13th spot. It’s hardly a wonder when we have gone without consent from a democracy to a dictatorship.  This is my personal opinion and in no way reflects the opinions of my employer, NLA, or other related parties. Jenny”

“As public servants and Librarians we have a responsibility to fairly and accurately represent how policies impact our institutions. I understand that ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’ but this policy, along with the accompanying policies at Treasury Board, is excessive. Librarians at BAC-LAC and across the country have ample reason to be unhappy. The National Library has stepped away from its role of National leadership and is assuming a much more limited mandate as the Library for the government of Canada. This has already caused most of the Provincial archive associations to withdraw from the Pan Canadian Documentary Heritage Network because funding cuts have effectively made it a shell. ….  Right now it appears that the provinces are tacking together a lot of programs to build a ‘by default’ national library service but for the sake of comparison remember that in the US the Digital Public Library of America is scheduled (or it was anyway) to open in April, 2013. We have nothing like that on the horizon in Canada. That could be a project for the National Library but right now they are so reduced in mandate and demoralized that it will never happen. We are missing opportunities because of the lack of vision and cost cutting government which can’t tell the difference between fat and muscle. Ron”

“From my perspective as a cataloguer, Canada was once in the forefront of developing standards and methodologies for multilingual cataloguing and dealing with multiple official languages, thanks to work done by LAC–now very far from the case. The once-robust national union catalogue has faded from use as its software gets more and more outdated and fewer libraries can contribute to it, especially those of us who need Unicode to meet our patrons’ needs. It is very sad to see the groundbreaking, world-class work of Canadians disappear from the world cataloguing landscape, and to be actively discouraged from participating in professional associations and conferences is the death knell for a truly professional public service. Carol”

As well, the Canadian Library Association has issued a statement on the LAC Code of Conduct, urging LAC “to revisit its Code of Conduct in order to strike a more even balance between  the duty of loyalty to the Government of Canada that all public servants have and the freedom of expression that is imperative to the work of librarians in a strong democracy.”

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