Wednesday, March 20, 2013

More evidence that LAC has lost its mind ...

... is in the archives' Code of Conduct that is being discussed around the net. That's the one that says that for archivists and librarians, things such as speaking at conferences, participating in social media, or joining non-governmental organizations are "high risk" activities. You can read the whole document on Scribd here. (Possibly posting it there was a high risk activity for someone -- in which case, thanks. Quill and Quire also provides a link to the document, but, hmmm, it has gone dead.)

A lot of the commentary links this gagging of archivists to the obsessive control style of the Harper government.  They surely deserve it.  But it also builds on the perpetual push-pull that goes on between any hierarchy and its employees, particularly between governments and civil servants, but also observable between universities and professors, publications and writers, and so on.

And part of the solution, frankly, has to be demonstration of backbone by the scholars and professionals and intellectuals who work in such environments. Historians, archivists, librarians, scientists and others who work in the public service are always going to have some manager telling them that their brain now belongs to the Queen and they cannot think out loud without permission.  And they will always have to resist that. Public servants do have obligations -- not to make policy and not to undermine policies they are employed to implement, as this code hammers home endlessly -- but professionals and scholars working in employment situations also have professional obligations, and for archivists and historians that includes participating in scholarly discussions at conferences, on social media, in private organizations.  It's not easy to tell that to a manager (or a dean, or a publisher), even with a union that should be behind you -- but from time to time it has to be done.

But what the whole thing demonstrates again is how completely the policy apparatus at LAC has been taken over by bureaucrats entirely insensitive to the professional requirements of archivists and other scholars.  Having a non-archivist running LAC once seemed like it might be an interesting experiment.  Clearly the experiment has failed.

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