Monday, September 16, 2013

Librarian Faculty Status and Professional Responsibilities

What does it mean to be a professional academic librarian? What differentiates librarians from professional academic library staff? What implications do changing staffing patterns in our own organization have on the university community's perception of librarians, and on our own perception of ourselves and our colleagues?

As a point of discussion, the following definition may be useful. According to this excerpt from Joint Statement on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians* (emphasis my own):


As the primary means through which students and faculty gain access to the storehouse of organized knowledge, the college and university library performs a unique and indispensable function in the educational process. This function will grow in importance as students assume greater responsibility for their own intellectual and social development. Indeed, all members of the academic community are likely to become increasingly dependent on skilled professional guidance in the acquisition and use of library resources as the forms and numbers of these resources multiply, scholarly materials appear in more languages, bibliographical systems become more complicated, and library technology grows increasingly sophisticated. The librarian who provides such guidance plays a major role in the learning process.

The character and quality of an institution of higher learning are shaped in large measure by the nature and accessibility of its library resources as well as the expertise and availability of its librarians. Consequently, all members of the faculty should take an active interest in the operation and development of the library. Because the scope and character of library resources should be taken into account in such important academic decisions as curricular planning and faculty appointments, librarians should have a voice in the development of the institution’s educational policy.
Librarians perform a multifaceted role within the academy. It includes not only teaching credit courses but also providing access to information, whether by individual and group instruction, selecting and purchasing resources, digitizing collections, or organizing information. In all of these areas, librarians impart knowledge and skills to students and faculty members both formally and informally and advise and assist faculty members in their scholarly pursuits. They are involved in the research function and conduct research in their own professional interests and in the discharge of their duties. Their scholarly research contributes to the advancement of knowledge valuable to their discipline and institution.

In addition, librarians contribute to university governance through their service on campus-wide committees. They also enhance the reputation of the institution by engaging in meaningful service and outreach to their profession and local communities.

Where the role of college and university librarians, as described in the preceding paragraphs, requires them to function essentially as part of the faculty, this functional identity should be recognized by granting of faculty status. Neither administrative responsibilities nor professional degrees, titles, or skills, per se, qualify members of the academic community for faculty status. The function of the librarian as participant in the processes of teaching, research, and service is the essential criterion of faculty status....


However, contrast this statement with the recent change in librarian faculty status at the University of Virginia (among other institutions), as summarized in a recent Chronicle article. All future librarians hired at UVa will be classified as library staff: operational and administrative, managerial and professional, or executive and senior administrative.

Should librarians be classed as faculty, or do they operate as staff? And do you think it matters?

*Originally endorsed in 1972, the statement was revised last year by the Joint Committee on College Library Problems, a national committee representing the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Association of American Colleges (now the Association of American Colleges and Universities), and the American Association of University Professors.
The complete statement is available on the AAUP website:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

29 Reports about the Future of Academic Libraries

Here are twenty-nine recent reports on the future of the academic library compiled for your reading pleasure. I've read several of these, and we've mentioned a few of them on this blog on the past (the Studying Students report from Rochester, for example, and the reading that launched this very "Rethinking Research Libraries" series). Check it out!

Link via Stephen's Lighthouse

Friday, January 9, 2009

Libraries and I.T.

Yesterday's Chronicle of Higher Ed's "Wired Campus" bulletin features an interesting letter from Pat Steele and Brad Wheeler at Indiana Univ. about the importance of productive working relationships between academic libraries and campus IT departments.

From the letter: "None of the compelling issues facing academic libraries today can be accomplished without strong support from IT departments. ...And, we should note, none of these initiatives can be advanced successfully by IT departments without the expertise, knowledge management, and relationships that librarians provide. Together we do more."

Especially interesting is the mention of cross-institutional collaboration, one example of which is the Hathitrust, and ARL's plan to introduce a new measure of collaboration in 2009.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Libraries for Hire?

There's an interesting article in today's Chronicle about Johns Hopkins' library acting as a library-for-hire to an online college --

It's managed through JHU's Entrepreneurial Library Program. Apparently this program also offers an oral history and editing service, plus rent out library facilities for outside events.

Has anyone heard of other similar programs being offered by research libraries?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Studying Students

Last year I read one of the most compelling studies of students. How do students really go about writing a paper? We librarians may think we know, but wouldn't it be an excellent idea to have an anthropologist and some librarians actually spend a year studying students to find out?

This is what the authors of Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester did. From having students map out or take pictures documenting their every move throughout the day, this study provides a much clearer picture of the day in the life of today's college student--how they spend their time, what pressures they face, when they actually start working on homework and how they go about it. One part of the study asks students what they want out of the library, and they even ask the students to map their ideal library floor plan, complete with librarian/barista staff in some cases. What happens when reference librarians work the late night shift? How can librarians work with helicopter parents? This is just a sampling, as there is so much good stuff in this study.

Even though I read this over a year ago, I still use examples from it in many of my presentations. This study offers an excellent picture of today's college student and is well worth your time. The complete text is still available online.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Tech Therapy Podcast

Have you been listening to the Tech Therapy podcast series from the Chronicle? These 15 minute segments usually cover topics of interest to librarians. This week's installment focuses on the Future of College Libraries. The hosts describe some new library building projects (treadmills in a library--seriously!) and discuss the importance of the library as place on campus. It's worth a listen, as are others from the series like Libraries vs. IT.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Name of the Rows

My mother recently sent me a copy (like, a literal photocopy copy) of this article from Cincinnati Magazine that details the changes the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has been making in its quest to be a more "21st Century Library." We spend so much time in Libraryland navel gazing over this issue in our literature, I thought it was interesting to see a popular press examination of the issue.

For you in the tl;dr crowd, the basic takeaway message of the article is twofold:
  1. There are some unique main branch services are being lost because they are collapsing service points and making subject specialists into generalists.
  2. The average library user doesn't care and usage stats have gone up since the changes have been made.
Although this is about a public library, we in our academic library can probably learn something from the experiences up in Cincinnati.