Magazine article American Libraries

Canadian Librarians Explore Ways to Deliver the Goods in Tough Times

Magazine article American Libraries

Canadian Librarians Explore Ways to Deliver the Goods in Tough Times

Article excerpt

To say that librarians attending the 49th Canadian Library Association conference in Vancouver June 14-18 had a riot would not be a mere metaphor: The news of Vancouver's loss to New York in the National Hockey League finals led to street violence in which many bystander librarians were teargassed. Adding to the attendees' discomfort were reports at the conference that librarianship may itself be losing to other players in the information game. In the light of such events the conference theme, "Delivering Quality in Tough Times," seemed more than apt to the 1,338 delegates.

The good news, however, is that CLA appears to be over its own tough times. After clearing up a $185,000 deficit, which saw the elimination of seven staff positions and cancellation of the Canadian Library Journal in late 1992 (AL, Nov. 1992, p. 822), the association is coming around financially. At the Annual General Meeting and executive council meetings Treasurer Deb deBruijn announced that, due to the high turnout in Vancouver (several hundred more than expected) and the presence of 153 exhibitors (23 more than projected), CLA would see conference revenue of at least $45,000, which will boost the association's preconference revenue surplus of $13,000.

CLA Executive Director Karen Adams's report indicates that advertising revenues have increased 37% over the same six-month period in 1993. CLA's exclusive Canadian distribution rights for ALA books have meant a 114% improvement in sales over the same period in 1993. And OLAM, CLA's electronic services distribution company for CLA institutional members, has signed a standing agreement of $800,000 (U.S.) with the Canadian government's Department of Supply and Services.

Membership numbers, however, are a different matter. Although personal memberships, at 2,376, are slightly higher than those of June 1993, institutional membership fell by 56 to 720. Overall membership stands at 3,203 (a decrease of more than 1,200 over the past two years).

National Librarian of Canada Marianne Scott announced some downsizing herself at the first executive council meeting: the cancellation of the National Library's Multilingual Biblioservice (MBS), at an expected annual saving of $900,000. Initiated by the National Library in the mids 1970on a recommendation from CLA, the MBS has aided foreign-language collection development in public libraries across Canada. The MBS's new role, Scott said, will be advisory only. It is the first major program to be cut by the NLC in 10 years.

The deinstitutionalization of librarianship

Membership downturns and government cutbacks weren't the only bad news heard during the conference: Fears were frequently voiced that if action isn't taken soon, the free-market information industry will "deinstitutionalize" librarianship. …

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