British Columbia Library Association

Academic Librarians Section update

By Roën Janyk

The Academic Librarians Section is conducting a review of its current mandate and name. This has been an ongoing discussion within the section for a number of years. In 2010, ALS, then known as the Academic Librarians in Public Service Section (ALPS), distributed a survey titled, “ALPS Future Directions.” This survey generated a report that addressed many of the same problems that ALS faces today. This included a debate around whether ALPS should be changed to ‘Academic Library Staff in Public Service’ or ‘Academic Library Staff’ and whether the mandate of the section should be expanded to those beyond public service. Comments from respondents indicated that the proposed names were too broad and lacked focus for the section, that the purpose of the Section could be lost by broadening its scope, and that a number of other existing and newly formed BCLA sections and interest groups provide focused opportunities for all library staff. Based on the feedback from the survey, a resolution was passed at the 2014 BCLA AGM to rename the Academic Librarians in Public Service Section (ALPS) the Academic Librarians Section (ALS).

As many BCLA members are aware, the ALS acronym is shared with a debilitating health condition. As a means of addressing this issue, the 2014/15 ALS executive proposed another name change. However, it became apparent at the 2015 ALS annual general meeting that the broader issues previously raised had not been adequately addressed and needed to be revisited before moving forward with another name change. The ALS executive required further  direction from membership to explore this issue further and  respond to requests for greater inclusivity (i.e., a name that included reference to all library workers, not just librarians). This is a controversial issue with strong arguments for the status quo and others for change. As a result, the ALS executive developed and delivered a new survey that was sent to the ALS membership in November 2015.

Comments from the 2015 survey had some similarities to those in the 2010 survey, including concern that broadening the section’s scope could adversely affect its focus. There were also suggestions for more collaborative partnerships with other BCLA sections and interest groups. There was also an increased interest in demonstrating inclusivity that includes a section made up of staff from across academic libraries.

To help move us forward, the ALS executive is forming a temporary working group to investigate the naming issue further, review the current membership survey results, consult with members as necessary, and prepare a set of recommendations for ALS membership by mid-April and to BCLA by April 29, 2016, in preparation of the 2016 BCLA annual general meeting. If you would like to participate in this working group, please contact a member of the ALS executive. The recommendations could range from taking no further action, to a simple name change, to a more thorough rewriting of the mandate of the section. Please note that the members of this working group will not be responsible for writing any revisions to the mandate.

Other Section News

The Academic Librarians Section of BCLA ran a successful December meeting on Friday, Dec. 4, 2015. If you missed the meeting, a recording of the morning presentations is available here. Meeting space and live streaming was generously donated by SFU Belzberg and SFU Bennett Libraries. ALS will be looking for a new location and host for the 2016 annual event. If your organization is interested, please contact our Education Coordinators Kevin Stranack or Andre Iwanchuk.

ALS Members should begin thinking about nominations for the 2016 ALS Outstanding Contribution Award. The award committee is currently being formed and a call for nominations will go out soon.

The ALS Executive would like to welcome Colleen Pawliuk, who has taken on the role of UBC iSchool’s ALS Student Representative. Thank you to our outgoing student representative, Blake Hawkins, for all of his work with the section. If you would like to get involved with the Academic Librarians Section, the Executive will be seeking an Education Coordinator (1st year), as well as a Chair Elect for 2016/17.


Roën Janyk is the Chair of the Academic Librarians Section.

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