CAUT Librarians Conference Report By Vince Graziano

On October 26th and 27th 2012, the Canadian Association of University Teachers held its annual Librarians Conference under the theme “Contested Terrain: Shaping the Future of Academic Librarianship” at the Sheraton Hotel in Ottawa. You may be interested in this report by our YUFA colleague Marcia Salmon (York University Libraries). Please find below a report by our very own Vince Graziano who has attended this conference:

Overview

Academic librarianship is threatened by Wal-Mart style corporate management that cuts costs by deskilling work, outsourcing professional responsibilities, misusing technology and reducing necessary services and positions.

Assessing the Damage

Participants were divided into small structured groups to discuss how the implementation of corporate management styles has had an impact in 4 areas: funding; terms and conditions of work; management practices; hiring and promotions policies. Here is a summary of the discussion:

Funding

  • Across-the-board cuts (easier to be “fair” instead of “strategic” or “surgical”)
  • Always funds for buildings, but never for staff/collections
  • Often funds for “sexy” technology/innovation-driven projects without real merit
  • Too many administrators
  • Undue influence of vendors
  • Donations, naming rights, privatization of public space, prioritization of work from funders; “we’ll do anything for money”
  • Where does money from unfilled positions go?
  • No money for collection development: leads to devaluation of expertise, lack of control over collections
  • Lack of transparency in  budget decisions
  • Metrics, mis-use of statistics to justify budgets; since you can’t count what is valuable, administrators will instead value what is countable
  • Loss of conference attendance funding

Terms & Conditions of Work

  • Because of more junior/untenured/probationary/sessional/part-time librarians, there are fewer librarians who can speak out without fear
  • Complement decreasing, unfilled vacancies, increased workload: can’t do the community service and especially the research required to get promotion
  • Faculty have a 40/40/20 split for teaching/research/community service, while for librarians it is closer to 90/5/5
  • Erosion of specialists; librarians as “plug-and-play” generalists
  • Outsourcing expertise: online “reference”, patron-driven acquisitions
  • Doing away with liaison librarians and replacing them with “strategic” teams
  • Library assistants or graduate students doing librarian duties such as reference
  • Loss of intellectual work: less cognitive, more process-driven
  • Staff positions being cut, librarians picking up the work (and vice versa); blurring of roles; library assistants taking on teaching roles
  • Not enough time for research, too much constraint on scope for research (e.g. research tied to job description); denial or reduction of research leaves

Management Practices

  • Diluting the bargaining unit: turning BU positions into administrative positions
  • Management vs. leadership
  • Lack of transparency
  • Grooming (indoctrination)
  • False consultation; imposition of administrative whim/fiat despite “consultation”, advisory boards, expertise
  • Over-reliance on surveys: popularity contests to determine priorities
  • Librarians not on Senate, etc: denial of participation in university governance
  • Misunderstanding of “collegiality”; respectful workplace policies
  • Never-ending reorganizations; destabilisation, uncertainty
  • Bankrupt the union, admins won’t deal, so everything goes to the lawyers
  • Divide-and-conquer strategy (between departments, units, unions)
  • Customer service mentality: give them what they want, not what they need
  • Micromanagement
  • Measuring of outputs, linked to accountability

Hiring and Promotion Policies

  • Fishy stuff with hiring practices: appointments vs. actual hirings, composition of hiring committees, emphasis on headhunters
  • Salary grid placement of new hires at the lowest possible levels
  • Generic job postings
  • Making MLS preferred, not required
  • Casualization: fewer or no tenure-track hires
  • Move to private-sector-like merit systems

Librarians as Teachers, Researchers and Community Members

  • Academic status is equated with teaching, research and service
  • Theses facets play a role in protecting and advancing our profession
  • Teaching
    • Library credit courses: 27% of 62 universities have it
    • Is the course full-weight or “labs”?
    • Should we be teaching: consensus leaning towards yes
    • Unlike instruction, teaching involves evaluation of students
    • Future of academic librarianship à full-weight credit course
    • Teaching included in professional service in the duties/responsibilities of librarians
  • Cons of Teaching
    • Lack of professional preparation
    • Time requirements
    • Workload implications
    • Equitable compensation
    • Part-timers doing teaching
  • Teaching Challenges
    • Lack of standardization
    • Will those not teaching lose credibility?
    • Information literacy with a social justice context, not skills-based
    • Self-confidence: can we?
  • Benefits of Teaching
    • Closer interaction with students
    • Deeper understanding of faculty workload
    • Better way of meeting curricular needs
    • Enhanced faculty status
    • Increased intellectual stimulation
  • Why we should be teaching
    • Academic librarianship as an academic discipline
    • Revitalized role for librarians and libraries
    • Greater input in governance
  • Universities with teaching in their collective agreements: Guelph, Memorial, Saskatchewan, University of Toronto, Mount Saint Vincent University
  • Research
    • Normal component of workload
    • Should be 40% of workload
    • Need uninterrupted time
    • Should be considered as part of librarians’ evaluations
    • “practitioner-researcher”
    • Pursued for interest
    • Scholarship – advancing knowledge within a discipline
  • Community Service
    • Advancement of profession
    • Relationship with tenure and promotion
    • Distinctive definitions of service in collective agreements
    • Collegial governance is critical for academic status

What is to be done?

  • Individually:
    • Keep up research and scholarship
    • New understanding of teaching as critical thinking
    • Speak up at meetings; challenge decisions that undermine academic freedom and academic status; be pro-active not passive;
    • Increase  personal awareness and that of colleagues; discuss issues with colleagues
  • Through the academic staff association:
    • Promote understanding of librarians’ issues
    • Promote points in common with faculty such as concerns of corporatization
    • Mentoring of new colleagues
    • Meetings of librarian members of academic staff associations: e.g. discussion of the points highlighted in the section “Assessing the Damage” to see which ones apply to our library
    • Librarians’ Councils in the collective agreement
    • Getting involved: librarian member on academic staff associations executive
  • Through CAUT:
    • CAUT Librarians Committee can help with certain situations
    • CAUT documentation: salary surveys, policies on website
  • Through provincial/national organizations:
    • Concerted effort to “take back” Canadian Library Association (CLA)
    • Renouncing CLA membership, whether individual or through institutional membership
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