Sunday, January 24, 2016

Do We Need a New National School Library Association?

That is the question that will drive a special post-TMC discussion on Saturday January 30, 2016 from 3:30 to 5:00. The proposed dissolution of the Canadian Library Association exacerbates the already existing threat to a cohesive national school library community and puts the growth of national projects at risk. Yet forming a new association is itself a potentially risky venture. The purpose of the discussion is to consider the opportunities and the threats, and determine whether there is indeed enough interest and support for forming a new association. If so, the next step is to form a working group to conduct further research and draw up a proposal to put to the wider school library community.

In preparation for this discussion, Anita Brooks Kirkland has written a paper titled, Toward a New National School Library Association: The Case, Considerations, and Potential Models. The paper details the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of various models that might be considered.

We encourage everyone attending TMC who is interested in this discussion to stay for the special extended session. It would be very helpful for participants to read the paper in advance of the discussion.

The full paper is available for download here.

Here is the paper's introduction, for your immediate consideration.

Over the past decade, there have been ever increasing challenges in sustaining a cohesive school library network across Canada. We arrive in 2016 at a point where what remains may cease to exist entirely, with the proposed and indeed probable dissolution of the Canadian Library Association (CLA).  Informal discussions amongst school library leaders from across Canada demonstrate considerable interest in establishing a new national school library association.  

The dissolution of the CLA poses an immediate and real threat to the continued publication of its online journal, School Libraries in Canada. It presents at the very least a weakened base of support for initiatives related to Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada (CLA, 2014). Voices for School Libraries, a network that exists under the auspices of the CLA will lose its home base, and a national home base for our research symposium, Treasure Mountain Canada, ceases to be a possibility. While the proposed new Federation of Canadian Library Associations, which will most likely replace CLA, will have advocacy as its focus, the voice of the school library sector may be weakened even further as a consequence of the new association’s proposed structure.

While the risks of not establishing a new national school library association are huge, the risks inherent in creating a new association are very real, too. It is one thing to have compelling reasons for moving forward, but without careful consideration of the practicalities involved, any attempt may be doomed to failure. 

The purpose of this paper is to explore the goals that might frame the creation of a new association, explore philosophical and practical considerations, and suggest an action plan for moving forward.  This is an “eyes wide open” approach. Good will and enthusiasm can take us so far, but it is extremely important to explore the strengths and weaknesses of various organizational approaches. The opportunities for advancing school libraries that might be realized by a new national association may be significant, but the external factors that might put those opportunities at risk also need to be clearly understood. 


  1. Anita, there are so many salient points here. One that stands out to me is that ‘relying on fees alone promotes the vision of members as a resource to be drawn on rather than an audience to serve’. Also it seems significant the advice that the initial management of a new association would benefit from ‘volunteers and a skeletal staff, usually drawn from the profession or retired members of the profession is preferable for consistency’.

    What a watershed conversation this will be on Saturday, from your paper to the Voices for School Libraries!

  2. I am really looking forward to hearing what people think!