CLA 2009 Recap: Tech / Copyright / Leadership

Last weekend I attended the 2009 CLA Conference in Montreal. Although I’ve already reviewed some sessions that focused on tech/people intersections, I haven’t given a good re-cap of the conference as a whole. And I don’t think I’m willing to start now that a full week has passed  since the conference ended. Many other bloggers, far more eloquent than I, have already written about the weekend so it would be just as well to look them up. Instead, I’m going to render my experience into three broad categories. We love the number three, especially when categorizing and listing things, so it should work out well in the end.

1. The Tech.

I’ve written a few times about the tech conversations I had already, so I don’t want to beat a dead horse much longer except to say that CLA 2009 confirmed to me the fact that technology and social media are great tools to help people but remain secondary to the relationships we have with our communities. I’m more than happy to start a Twitter account for any organization I work with or for, but I’m going to use that Twitter account get in touch and keep in touch with the organization’s community and not just because Twitter’s cool. The People Factor remains essential to librarianship.

2. Copyright in Canada.

Copyright is a bit of an academic interest and pet project of mine, so I made a special point to attend several sessions dealing with copyright legislation, debates, and struggles in Canada. Bill C-61 may have fizzled out in Ottawa last year, but it was only by the mechanics of Parliament that it did, and we can be sure that the next iteration is in development and soon to hit us over the head again. Tony Horava at the University of Ottawa and Olivier Charbonneau at Concordia University both gave good talks that reminded us of the current lie of the land and hopefully reinforced the fact that the status quo is not good for any one or any organization. Whether you represent a culture industry, Big Media, or the average citizen, you are likely demanding and expecting change regarding copyright, digital use, and fair dealing. More librarians need to become informed about the byzantine frameworks, policies and debates going on about copyright and then get vocal on this issue.  To do so is not just to act in the interests of the profession but also to act in defense of our civil rights.  Both copyright holders and copyright users have rights and privileges under the Copyright Act, and we must see to it that ours are not eroded.

3.Librarianship and Leadership.

Our profession (let us all reserve judgment on the “whither a profession?” debate) is rather fortunate relative to other fields in the culture industry. We are part of an organized, international group of managers and leaders who know more than a thing or two about preserving and promoting the cultural, social, and intellectual interests of our communities. But the proper administration of LAMs demands more than an expertise in virtual reference, government documents and cataloguing. Our profession, privileged as it may be, needs to “take care of its own” and improve its ability to manage its resources. What’s more, I’d go so far to suggest that it’s not enough to lead only our institutions.  Rather, we must “use our skills for good” and play a larger, leading role within society. As librarians, we have a developed expertise in the organization, dissemination and use of information, and as a profession we owe it to ourselves to use this expertise to improve the communities in which we live. By developing and nurturing our profession’s leadership skills, we stand a greater chance of not only strengthening our cultural institutions but also leaving an indelible mark in society. I may only be at the start of this new career in information science, but I know enough to applaud initiatives like the National Summit on Library Human Resources that was held in October 2008.  When we consider the future of the profession, we must consider how we’re going to govern it and why we’ll govern it in such a manner, all the while reminding ourselves to question how it will fit in with and shape society at large.

That’s enough pontificating for one evening. Carry on.

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