Andrea Cecchetto

Andrea Cecchetto, a member of the IFLA North American Regional Division (NARD) Committee and the chair of its Global Advocacy Working Group, was recently appointed as the Chair of the Canadian Federation of Library Associations / Fédération canadienne des associations de bibliothèques (CFLA-FCAB). Meg Mering, NARD’s Information Coordinator, interviewed Cecchetto about her new role, CFLA-FCAB’s strategic priorities and mandates, and ways CLFA-FCAB and IFLA can support each other’s priorities.

Tell us about yourself – your professional duties and your involvement with the CFLA-FCAB) in the past and other library associations.

I’m honoured to be assuming the role of Chair of CFLA-FCAB. I’ve served on the board for two years already as Treasurer and the Ontario Representative. Prior to joining CFLA-FCAB, I was the President of the Ontario Library Association in 2020 and 2021. I’m also involved with IFLA’s North American Regional Division as Chair of its Global Advocacy Working Group. In my day job, I am the Director of Service Excellence at the Markham Public Library in Ontario, Canada. In this role, I oversee public service and operations, as well as our Organizational Transformation department which includes organization development, employee learning, and Research, Metrics and Evaluation. I also lead the system’s Digital Literacy Strategy.

Tell us more about the CFLA-FCAB. It is a Federation of Canadian Library Associations. What does that mean? It sounds a little like IFLA but on a national not an international scale!

There are definitely some similarities! Like IFLA, CFLA-FCAB is a federation of member associations, including provincial/regional associations, as well as those representing specific sectors within Canadian Librarianship. CFLA-FCAB is national in its scope and concerned with issues that cross over the interests of our membership – these strategic priorities overlap with many of the areas of focus for IFLA. We have five strategic committees: Intellectual Freedom, Copyright, Metadata and Cataloguing, Climate Action and Indigenous Matters – these committees develop standards, policies and otherwise contribute nationally to the body of knowledge in these areas. Like IFLA, CFLA-FCAB has a focus on policy development and advocacy. The Federation’s mission is to be the unified voice of the Canadian library sector. We achieve this through our work with stakeholders. We champion and amplify key issues affecting libraries. Often this looks like engagement with the Federal government and can also involve working with other agencies at the national level.

In your new role as Chair, I understand you have embarked on a listening tour. What have you heard from Association members across Canada during your first 100 days?

It’s been a great opportunity to check in with stakeholders to find out how CFLA-FCAB can better contribute to the Canadian Library landscape. We are a small volunteer-based association, and we know we have to raise the Federation’s profile in order to be more effective in some of our advocacy work. Something that came out of these discussions is the need to collaborate and calibrate more frequently with other national associations to ensure we are all pulling in the same direction on key issues.

Member engagement was identified as an area for CFLA-FCAB to focus on this year, and as part of that, the need to be clear and focused on what our unique niche is as it relates to advocacy.  It has been interesting to hear what gaps and key priorities our stakeholders identify – for example, there are certain areas that fall within the political jurisdiction of the provinces, but also have national impacts and implications. Education, including the role of school libraries, is an example of this, and is directly related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals #4, Quality Education. CFLA-FCAB is well positioned to support work in this area and articulate to national level stakeholders how libraries support these international commitments.

As a result of these stakeholder discussions, the Board has identified several key initiatives we are pursuing this year, including the development of a robust communication strategy, a new advocacy plan and a governance review.

CFLA-FCAB has recently released a new strategic plan. What are some of the strategic priorities and mandates for 2024 and beyond?

Our new strategic plan also focuses strongly on advocacy. When we were developing this plan last year, we reached out to members and ‘advocacy’ was by far the most common priority identified as a strategic goal. We have objectives around formal government relations work with the federal government, but also goals to collaborate with other national associations and agencies on joint issues. To give a couple of examples, CFLA-FCAB has a very active Copyright committee that pulls together expertise from both academic and public sector knowledge specialists. Our Intellectual Freedom Committee recently announced a joint project with the Centre for Free Expression to track IF challenges across the country. Our newest committee, the Climate Action Committee, compliments work that is happening regionally through provincial associations by focusing on Federal stakeholders – this committee secured federal funding for a national campaign which would have been inaccessible for regional organizations, but which ultimately secures a different platform to amplify their work. These are some examples of how we will focus our efforts on strengthening capacity for the Canadian library sector through collaboration.

The focus areas of our strategic committees are critical to this work, and these committees are very active on their files; as a board we want to support this work but also see a role for CFLA-FCAB in working alongside other national associations in amplifying the Canadian perspective internationally through organizations like IFLA. This strategic plan highlights the SDGs as well, which could be a unique way CFLA-FCAB champions the work of Canadian libraries nationally.

How can CLFA-FCAB support IFLA priorities and vice versa?

CFLA-FCAB does not have a big infrastructure behind it by any means! It is a volunteer group. What does this mean for priorities?

It’s true – the board and all our committees are entirely comprised of volunteers, so we are mindful of our capacity. We don’t want to be immobilized by this either. Given the limited resources we work with, the best way to provide value to our members, and the broader sector, is to make sure we stay focused on where CFLA-FCAB can add value uniquely. We are working with our government relations firm, for instance, to create a multi-year advocacy plan that will focus our efforts on a few key files and allow us to be very strategic about where we choose to engage. Ultimately, we are taking the approach that it will be far better to do a few things very well than take on too much and dilute our effectiveness.

This is another reason why sector collaboration will be critical for CFLA-FCAB – we’re not unusual in having limited resources so we want to avoid duplicating effort and focus instead on opportunities for collective impact. We are planning additional consultations for the spring and want to hear more from stakeholders about what this looks like. Our Board is composed of representatives from several of our member associations, and our success depends on our ability to effectively engage these relationships – that’s why working with our fellow associations and consulting them on their priorities will be so valuable in getting the support we need to achieve our mission.

You are Chairing the NARD Global Advocacy Working Group which focuses on the UN SDGs. How does CFLA-FCAB hope to be involved in this area?

SDGs are a huge opportunity for CFLA-FCAB to add value! This was something top-of-mind in considering our strategic plan. SDG engagement is an area of opportunity for Canadian libraries. This is something where I see CFLA-FCAB being able to take the lead, given we have both regional and sectoral representation within the Federation. By linking our strategic priorities to the SDGs, we can use the framework of the SDGs as a common language to convey the impact of the library sector. NARD’s Global Advocacy committee identified a few key areas related to SDGs on its workplan including education, advocacy, and benchmarking – CFLA-FCAB makes great sense as a Canadian partner to support this work. I can see CFLA-FCAB supporting certain IFLA priorities like updating the Library Map of the World, and when it comes to regionalizing advocacy priorities, CFLA-FCAB is a natural fit to take this on for the Canadian sector. It’s a great example of the sort of niche CFLA-FCAB can occupy that creates value for the sector, and for CFLA-FCAB and its members.