Professional Decline and Resistance: The Case of Library and Archives Canada

The most recent issue of Radical Teacher (Vol. 99, availalbe: contains a range of articles examining the topic of deprofessionalization.  The issue covers issues affecting a number of professions including doctors, teachers and journalists.

While the topic of deprofessionalization may be of general  interest  to members of the library and archival community as we resist attempts to deprofessionalize our work, one article is particularly germane.  In “Professional Decline and Resistance: The Case of Library and Archives Canada,” Oliphant and McNally examine recent problems at LAC including the Code of Conduct.

The article provides a brief background on several LAC controversies before examining the LAC Code of Conduct (unfortunately the article does not comment on the revised Code).  The authors note, “[n]ot only does the Code prevent employees from engaging in scholarly discourse and professional engagement, it permeates employees’ personal lives and infringes upon their freedom of expression by advocating self-censorship.”  The authors also provide some insightful comments from Caron on the the library and archival professions, including noting his 2010 comment that the two professions should merge and completely reinvent themselves.  Taken collectively, the Code, Caron’s dismal leadership, and the range of other problems at LAC causes the authors to suggest that not only are LAC staff being deprofessionalized, but that the institutional weakening reverberates throughout the profession.

After documenting several of the recent LAC controversies Oliphant and McNally contrast the responses of the Canadian Library Association (CLA) and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).  In contrasting the CLA’s advocacy model with CAUT’s advocacy and activism, the conclusion is made that, “CAUT fulfilled its mandate by strongly advocating for labor, for the profession, and for researchers. The CLA distanced itself from that strategy, and opted for a less confrontational approach,” but concludes that neither was effective in resisting deprofessionalization at the federal civil service.

The article concludes by noting, “[l]ate capitalism has put government workers in especially precarious positions as free-market ideology and the rhetoric of small government and efficiency are mobilized in attacks on professional public workers and the public sphere.”

Although LAC has taken steps to revise its Code of Conduct, this article still proves useful in contrasting and comparing the effectiveness of the CLA and CAUT and their approaches to advocacy and activism.