December 1, 2020

Editorial: “Ottawa’s Muzzling of Librarians’ Free Speech is Intolerable”

“Ottawa’s Muzzling of Librarians’ Free speech is Intolerable” is the title of an editorial published on Monday by the Calgary Herald about the new Library and Archive Canada Code of Conduct. We agree not only with the title but what the editorial has to say.

We posted about this story (including plenty of reaction) last week. Our post also includes a link to the full text code of conduct document.

From the Editorial:

 Ottawa’s deliberate muzzling of federal librarians and archivists, a move which comes complete with a new code of conduct, jargon about “high-risk” activities, threats of discipline, and a hotline to rat out miscreants, is truly chilling.

Librarians and archivists would seem to be the most innocuous of souls, so it’s hard to imagine what activity they could engage in that would be so “high risk” as to merit this type of censure. These are the folks who give talks at schools, speak at conferences, address groups of amateur genealogy enthusiasts, and publicly discuss the preservation of historic texts, among other educational activities. Yet, according to the new code of conduct, all of these activities – done on the librarians’ own time away from work – must now be approved ahead of time by their managers.

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Some of those codes may well be merited in departments where highly sensitive information is handled, but only rampant and absolutely unwarranted paranoia could see a need for it among employees whose job is to preserve and disseminate historic and reference information for the public. Before any LAC employee can accept a speaking engagement, six criteria have to be met – including that the subject matter not be related to LAC. That effectively rules out anyone sharing their knowledge with the general public.

Read the Complete Editorial

See Also: Minister distances self from library code (via Ottawa Citizen)

Heritage Minister James Moore, who is responsible for Library and Archives Canada, has been quick to distance the government from the code that has been denounced as a “muzzle” by several critics.

“Library and Archives Canada operates at arm’s length,” Moore said when questioned about the code in the House of Commons on Monday.

“We were not consulted on the code of conduct,” said Moore, who repeatedly told opposition MPs to direct their questions to Daniel Caron, head of the LAC.

While Moore insisted the controversial code is a LAC creation, agency staff have told Postmedia News the LAC met with other federal departments when developing the new code.

We will continue to update this post with additional stories and resources.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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