I mean, it is pretty sensational as library stories go. The leadership of Canada’s national library organisation ordering goons to force kindly, grey-haired civil liberties advocates from a conference? Scandalous! CLA first hoped the story would die, but when it became apparent that the general Internet consensus from librarians was condemnatory (One very influential fixture of the LIS Twitterati asked “WTF, CLA? Shameful, inexcusable”) they elected to dig in their heels and issue a statement in defence of their actions. Reaction to the statement ranged from expressions of profound philosophical revulsion to pleas for reconciliation and dialogue.
While I cannot endorse the latter position and indeed have given a great deal of thought to why it is in error, I can understand it and I deeply respect the people who hold it. It’s not an easy matter, to be sure. Even if the CLA has become a national embarrassment and a threat to the reputation of librarianship, why make that more publicly known than it needs to be? The CLA failing to live up to its principles isn’t exactly a new complaint, after all.
Well, there’s one thing curiously missing from this point-counterpoint between the critics and diplomats - and that is any strong voice speaking out in support of the CLA (even the CLA’s voice on this has been more of a whimper). This would tend to indicate that the whole affair either (a) really is aesthetically repulsive or else (b) it’s at least so tainted by association that publicly defending it would seem impolitic.
Library Journal is no exception to the rule, and their inclusion of the story means that the cat is now firmly out of the bag. The CLA’s attempts to downplay the seriousness of the incident (“A mere procedural quibble, my good sir!”) must be judged unsuccessful. I think it is also illustrative that when discussing CLA’s efforts at advocacy LJ makes no mention of CLA’s much-vaunted “day of action” on Parliament Hill, which CLA has resolutely clung to as the strongest proof of their philosophical bona fides in what is perhaps the most significant attack on Canadian LIS/AS infrastructure of all time.
Instead, LJ draws attention to the fact that CLA does not see any further role for itself in advocacy against the changes taking place in Canadian society or its information infrastructure; instead we are to accept that “enhanced engagement with LAC management and with relevant federal Ministers and Members of Parliament is the best way for CLA to influence the impact of the budget reductions.”
To my mind this is a deeply unflattering piece for the CLA, albeit one that is careful to couch itself in terms of journalistic propriety. I think the information included and the information omitted is quite significant. What do you think?