On the Dissolution of PLG Edmonton – Some Context

The Edmonton chapter of the PLG voted unanimously to disaffiliate from the PLG and to transition into a new, separate organization.  This decision was not taken lightly and was the result of several months’ worth of discussion, both internally and with the PLG Coordinating Committee.  Our grievances are elucidated in the motion that was passed at our monthly general meeting held on June 28, 2016 (see http://plgedmonton.ca/plg-edmonton-votes-to-dissolve/). However, perhaps more context is required to understand why we took such an action.

The Coordinating Committee (CC) is the body tasked with governing the organization as a whole and is composed of at-large members and members of the Progressive Librarian editorial board.  The editorial positions are not elected and the at-large positions are supposed to be held to two-year terms with replacements elected by the PLG membership.  However, no such election has been held during the entire existence of the Edmonton chapter, which was founded in 2010.

The CC claims that no one stands for elections, which may be true but does not speak well of the democratic health of the organization as a whole.  The result is a CC consisting of unelected editorial members and at-large members who are free to remain on the board for as long as they like with absolutely no accountability to the PLG membership.  The CC does not provide reports or financial statements to membership, cannot be recalled, and makes decisions that affect the entire organization without any oversight mechanism.  Thus, we feel justified in calling the CC undemocratic.

As a chapter of the PLG, the Edmonton group was entitled to keep 50% of its members’ dues, which was $20 US per year.  In November of 2015, the CC not only raised the dues to $25 US but also claimed 100% of dues, even from members of local chapters.  This decision was made without meaningful consultation of the entire membership.  The CC did send an email to us and we responded with our concerns but the decision had already been made.  When we expressed dismay at the fact that the 50-50 dues split with chapters was being abandoned, we were told that we were free to charge whatever we wanted for local dues.  Thus, dues went from $20 US a year with $10 of that remaining in our coffers to $35 US a year if we wanted to retain $10 for our coffers.  In addition, the exchange rate between US and Canadian dollars made the price even more expensive.  These sums are quite low compared to other associations in the profession, but it is the total disregard for chapters’ rights to local dues and for accountability and transparency regarding the PLG’s finances that led us to consider leaving the organization.

We also engaged in discussions with the CC regarding the management of the Progressive Librarian journal.  We knew that this was a large expense for the PLG and also made it known that delivery of the journal to our members was erratic.  As a solution to these problems, we offered to manage and host the Progressive Librarian as an open access e-journal.  Our offer was turned down.  It was even suggested by a member of the CC that offering the journal as an online publication would not be progressive.

We know that concerns regarding the governance of the PLG have arisen before.  In fact, former member Rory Litwin provides a history of such concerns up until 2008 in this blog post: http://libraryjuicepress.com/blog/?p=469.  We reached the decision that the PLG is plagued with systemic governance problems that had been ignored for years and which the CC were either incapable of or indifferent to fixing.  These were our primary concerns and we saw no solution other than to disaffiliate.

Over the past several years we’ve also seen the Canadian context of information work evolve with many problematic changes.  Some of the more notable incidents include the cancellation of the NADP (National Archival Development Program), the LAC Code of Conduct, closure and consolidation of federal libraries, closure of public libraries in Newfoundland and Labrador, rising workplace tensions (e.g. librarians strike at the University of Western Ontario) and an overall rise in precarious employment.  While opposition and action against these changes has come from a variety of groups, including ourselves, we feel that there is a notable gap in terms of having a Canadian organization that can play a leading role in addressing these issues.

We have left the PLG over differences regarding governance, not over ideological differences.  We respect the work that the PLG has done over the course of its 25+ year history and thank the members of the wider organization for providing the community in which we have operated for the past six years.  We will now endeavour to create a new organization but hope to maintain camaraderie with the PLG.

PLG Edmonton Votes to Dissolve

The following motion was unanimously passed at the PLG Edmonton monthly meeting on June 28, 2016:

WHEREAS, PLG is not a federated organization and cannot provide support to chapters
WHEREAS, PLG is a non-democratic body that is not elected or accountable to its members
WHEREAS, PLG raises its dues without providing a mechanism for chapters to obtain local dues
WHEREAS, the due increase was justified to fund the journal but the delivery of the journal to Canadian chapters is erratic, at best
WHEREAS, the Coordinating Committee lacks awareness of the Canadian context and Canadian issues
WHEREAS, there is a need to create an organization to explicitly address issues concerning information professions in Canada
WHEREAS, there is a particularly strong lack of communication among chapters and with the PLG Coordinating Committee
WHEREAS, PLG Coordinating Committee favors advocacy of international issues over direct political action
WHEREAS, PLG Edmonton does not see any benefit in continuing to be associated PLG Central

Be it resolved that the Edmonton chapter of the PLG severs ties with the coordinating committee of PLG and agree to form a new organization by September 1, 2016. New membership dues will not be required until 2017. Current assets will be transferred to the new organization for use in new organizational business.

Stay tuned for what’s to come! 

REMINDER! Registration for PLG Edmonton Organize & Assemble V closes TOMORROW!

Registration for Organize and Assemble V: Gender and Sexuality in the Information Professions closes TOMORROW!

PLG Edmonton is hosting a one-day refereed event at the University of Alberta School of Library and Information Studies that will focus on how issues of gender and sexuality are playing out across the information professions – in the services we provide, in our professional relationships and institutional structures.

We are very excited about this year’s event and we hope to see you there!

For more details check out the Symposium schedule. The program will be posted shortly!

Registration will be open from February 16th to March 2nd. Register here!

Organize and Assemble V
9 AM – 5 PM
Rutherford South (Room TBA)
School of Library and Information Studies
University of Alberta

Registration is NOW OPEN: Organize and Assemble V: Gender and Sexuality in the Information Professions

We are very excited to announce that registration for Organize and Assemble V: Gender and Sexuality in the Information Professions is NOW OPEN!

PLG Edmonton is hosting a one-day refereed event at the University of Alberta School of Library and Information Studies that will focus on how issues of gender and sexuality are playing out across the information professions – in the services we provide, in our professional relationships and institutional structures.

Our excellent keynote speakers are Tim Janewski, Director of Library Services and Gerry Segger Heritage Collection at the King’s University in Edmonton and Dr. Alvin Schrader, Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta and Adjunct Professor, Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services.

For more details check out the Symposium schedule. The program will be posted shortly!

Registration will be open from February 16th to March 2nd. Register here!

Organize and Assemble V
9 AM – 5 PM
Rutherford South (Room TBA)
School of Library and Information Studies
University of Alberta

MAP

CRTC Needs Input from Canadians on Broadband/Basic Telecommunication Services

The CRTC has initiated the second phase of its review of basic telecommunication services (CRTC Notice of Consultation 2015-134 – see the news release here: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1027549 and Notice of Consultation here http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2015/2015-134.htm).  This review is crucially important as the CRTC is listening to Canadians to determine what telecommunications services should be considered as basic (and therefore supported by subsidies) in the digital economy.  In the last such review (2010-11) the CRTC decided that broadband should not be considered a basic telecommunication service (see Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2011-291 http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2011/2011-291.htm).

Public participation and input in this process is essential.  Despite significant progress, there continues to exist a significant set of digital divides in Canada (both rural-urban and low vs. high income).  For example, while urban Canadians have universal availability to wireline broadband at the lowest broadband speed (1.5-4.9 Mbps), only 87% of rural households have such broadband speeds available.  At higher speeds this difference becomes considerably more pronounced.  For speeds greater than 10 Mbps rural availability drops to 37% (see CRTC Communications Monitoring Report 2015, p. 211 (http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/publications/reports/PolicyMonitoring/2015/Cmr.pdf).  There are also marked differences for internet use and income.  For example, while 98.4% of Canadians in the highest income quintile make use of the internet at home, only 59.7% of Canadians from the lowest income quintile do so (the average for all quintiles is 83.9%) (see CRTC Communications Monitoring Report 2015, p. 22).

While it is unclear what the CRTC will decide, public input is necessary to ensure that the Commission makes a decision that is in the best interest of all Canadians. As library and information professionals, we should be acutely interested in ensuring that the decision addresses the continued digital divides in Canada.

Reading the Context of 2015’s Ed-Tech Trends

Reading the Context of 2015’s Ed-Tech Trends

Audrey Watters is currently releasing a thrilling series on The Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015 on the HACK EDU blog for anyone interested in a critical approach to education technology. Watters’ articles investigate the political, economic and ideological trends that shaped education technology in the last year. The articles tend to focus on the American context, but she makes more of an effort to include the rest of us than most coming out of the US. The fourth in the series, “Credits and Credentialing” was released Dec 9 with an unknown number of articles to come. There are lots of reasons to read all four articles, but I’d like to draw special attention to the third in the series: “The Employability Narrative” released on Dec 7.

Watters approaches the issue of education for employment from a number of angles and makes some important points: Using US labour department statistics she pokes serious holes in the argument that higher education is failing students by not providing them with practical job skills and is leaving them un-prepared for a precarious job market. Here’s a choice quote: “How does one defend against that precarity? It’s probably not just a “fix” for or by or through education – well unless you like invoking silver bullets as ed-tech entrepreneurs and politicians sure do. But surely it isn’t up to the institution of (higher) education alone to address employability and economic precarity.”

She goes on to critique the rhetoric that poses teaching everyone to code as a solution to the sexist and racist discrimination and bias in the tech sector. Citing statistics that show women leaving tech in droves and the arrest of 9th grader Ahmed Mohamed for bringing a homemade clock to school, she writes, “You sorta get the feeling that when people say “everybody should learn to code” in order to close that so-called “skills gap” that there’s an asterisk there: certain restrictions may apply.”

“The Employability Narrative” and all the articles so far in Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015 are worth a read!