This article, written by Grace Bourret, Diversity Outreach and Engagement Librarian, appears in the Fall 2022 issue of The StFXAUT Beacon.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) 2022 Librarians’ and Archivists’ Conference took place in Ottawa and online on October 21-22, 2022. The theme of this year’s conference was Collective Resistance to tackle the fact that the status and working conditions of Librarians and Archivists are currently being challenged and transformed by technology, efforts of de-professionalization and the global pandemic. Throughout the conference, I had the privilege of listening to plenary discussions and participating in workshops to learn ways to strengthen the profession and build solidarity amongst professionals across the country.
Need for Solidarity: De-professionalization
Despite the role of Librarians and Archivists being relied on more heavily in academic institutions, there remains to be a misunderstanding of what Librarians do and how they contribute to an institution’s academic mission. This was evident within the recent organizing efforts of Librarians from Laval University. As Librarians Joë Bouchard, Gaston Quirion and Daniela Zavala-Mora explained, most Francophone universities do not provide Librarians with sabbatical or provide any institutional support for research as there is a general lack of understanding of what a Librarian is and what their role is within the university. This has subsequently caused there to be an absence of Francophone Librarians’ experiences in Information Science scholarship. The Librarians at Laval University have been raising awareness by publishing articles on their case study, providing strong analyses and seeing how Librarians at other universities are being treated. Through conferences and plenary discussions like the one at CAUT, the Laval Librarians hope to bring awareness of their situation outside of Quebec and hope to continue allying with Professors and gaining support from Librarians at other institutions in efforts to professionalize the field.
Need for Solidarity: Racism
The significance of Librarians in our current political climate was also highlighted at the CAUT conference. The keynote speaker, Alison Macrina explained that white supremacist publishing organizations such as Antelope Hill Publishing have been found on library platforms such as Hoopla. These results came up when using simple searches for Judaism and the Holocaust which is extremely harmful to library users and is an act of blatant misinformation and racism. As a response, Macrina’s organization, the Library Freedom Project offers to provide free defensive and offensive training for library workers to fight against racism and white supremacy. Macrina stressed the need for Librarians to be aware that vendors are putting white supremacist content in their catalogues and for Librarians to fight back against these vendors and continue to raise awareness.
Need for Solidarity: Open Access
It was also demonstrated that open scholarship is ideal as it supports both scholars and universities. As McGill Librarian Jessica Lange noted, commercial publishers charge significant amounts of money and often leave scholars who submit to these publishers with little to no ownership. In contrast, open access repositories can act as a site of resistance as there is no cost to them and it is a scholar-owned infrastructure. Additionally, Melanie Brunet from the University of Ottawa highlighted the importance of Open Education Resources (OER) to contribute to student success as it is not dictated by commercial markets and does not force students to buy expensive textbooks, thereby making it more accessible. These speakers demonstrated that Open Access Resources are a useful way to fight back against commercial vendors and reclaim power back to the institutions, scholars and users themselves.
One of the most useful aspects of the conference was the workshops that took place on Day 2. In the workshops, participants were divided into breakout groups to organize campaign plans based on a fictional scenario related to common issues that are experienced in academic libraries. This helped conference attendees understand how to create a communication plan, file grievances and how to organize effectively within an academic institution. It was stressed in these workshops, to read and understand your Collective Agreement and to develop working relationships with different Faculty Members and Professors across your institutions to gain solidarity and support for issues that you may be facing.