January 10, 2013
I was going to call this post, “Gripes of a Vendor,” but then I checked on the author, Rick Anderson, and found that he is not a member of the publishing community but a member of the library community. His post is in The Scholarly Kitchen, the blog of the Society of Scholarly Publishing, and it is titled, “Six Mistakes the Library Staff Are Making” (in dealing with vendor sales reps). The six mistakes? Rudeness, wasting the rep’s time, knee-jerk adversarialism, failure to prepare for meetings, failure to prepare the ground for product consideration (when you get a free trial), and, lastly, “putting political library concerns above patron needs.”
Just a couple of words about Anderson’s last complaint. He explains that he thinks that focusing on the way the system is structured is a distraction from the library’s mission and from service, that it is about long-term reform rather than short term satisfaction of patron demand. I think that for most librarians who are concerned about economic aspects of the information ecology where it impacts libraries, it is directly about the mission of the library and the ability to serve patrons, in the short term as well as the long term. Anderson’s perspective as a library dean may be a little bit different from that of front line staff, in two important ways. First, he lacks the front line staff members understanding of the nature of patron needs, and second, front line staff lack a full understanding of the relationship between libraries and vendors, and the economic side of the library’s functioning. I think that a lot can be gained from better communication among people who occupy different roles in library organizations, and I would say that scolding library staff for taking an approach that arises directly from their experience serving the public is not a very constructive way to go about it. Anderson says that he plans to write something on his point about “putting politics before patrons” in an upcoming post, which I look forward to seeing.
December 10, 2012
Call for Papers for Forthcoming Book: In Solidarity: Academic Librarian Labour Activism and Union Participation in Canada
Jennifer Dekker, University of Ottawa (email@example.com)
Mary Kandiuk, York University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PUBLISHER: Library Juice Press
EXPECTED PUBLICATION DATE: 2014
With a focus on Canada, this collection will document the labour-related struggles and gains of academic librarians. It will provide historical and current perspectives regarding the unionization of academic librarians, an exploration of the major labour issues affecting academic librarians in both certified and non-certified union contexts, as well as case studies relating to the unionization of academic librarians at selected institutions. The volume will strive to include a broad representation of academic librarian labour activists and those who have rallied to the support of academic librarians in the workplace.
OBJECTIVE OF THE BOOK:
This edited collection will gather the common experiences of Canadian academic librarians and situate them in a national framework with respect to unionization. It will examine the issues that have led to the formal organization of academic librarians, the gains that have been achieved, and the ramifications of those gains. A limited number of chapters exploring relevant issues from a non-Canadian perspective are also being sought in order to provide insight and comparisons in a broader context.
The editors invite chapters that describe activities undertaken by academic librarians, unions, and related associations that further the goals of librarians in the academy from a labour perspective. Examples of topics that would be of particular interest to the editors include:
• Academic freedom cases involving U.S. academic librarians, for the purpose of comparing these to the Canadian setting;
• Librarians and governance on Canadian and / or U.S .campuses;
• Faculty or academic status of librarians in the U.S., including a comparison with Canada;
• Successful mobilization or political strategies for unionization or labour actions of academic librarians;
• Case studies of academic librarians asserting their collective rights in such a way that might provide inspiration or guidance for other groups;
• Labour action or the experience of strike within the academic library environment.
In particular, the editors would like to encourage chapters that explore the experiences of academic librarians from a labour perspective using a methodological framework as appropriate. Proposals that examine the issues from a theoretical framework are also welcome.
The editors believe that this book will be of interest to academic librarians, labour historians, and those interested in academic labour or unionization of library workers.
Authors are invited to submit abstracts and proposals of 300-500 words to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org by January 15, 2013. Notifications will be sent by February 1, 2013. A draft manuscript ranging from 1,500-7,000 words will be due by June 1, 2013. Submitted manuscripts must not have been published previously or simultaneously submitted elsewhere. Following review, articles will be returned via e-mail for revision before final acceptance. All materials will be edited as necessary for clarity. All submissions should include at the beginning an abstract of no more than 150 words, highlighting the scope, methodology, and conclusions of the paper. Authors should follow the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (2010). We welcome contributions from scholars and practitioners alike. If you wish to discuss your contribution please feel free to contact us.
Submission of proposals should include:
Name of author
300-500 word abstract
October 2, 2012
I liked this post from Hack Library School, written by Amy Frasier: “Whither Reference?” Amy notes with alarm that reference isn’t being taught as a standalone class at her library school. I want to note for the benefit of more senior and cynical readers that this is a current library student who is concerned about the lack of a reference course at her institution…
May 25, 2012
Robin Pogrebin has an article in the New York Times from Wednesday, titled, Former Employees Feel Silenced on Library Project. They don’t just “feel” silenced though. First two paragraphs:
The New York Public Library’s plan to turn part of its flagship Fifth Avenue research center into a lending library has unleashed a torrent of commentary, with scholars, writers, artists and students signing a petition and writing articles, many of them critical. But one highly informed contingent has been notably silent: former curators, department heads and librarians.
That’s not because this group has no opinions. On the contrary, some former employees say they are eager to participate in the debate over the $300 million proposal, known as the Central Library Plan. But they say they can’t because they signed a nondisparagement agreement when they left, promising not to criticize the library in exchange for the additional pay known as severance.
October 13, 2011
I spent the better part of Wednesday at VuStuff II, a small regional gathering hosted by Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library, which focused on the intersection of technology and scholarly communication in libraries. The attendees were an interesting mix of people from academic and special libraries, and included library directors, archivists, systems librarians, special collections librarians, reference librarians, technical services librarians, and more. In the group discussion session, some of us regretted the lack of representation from public libraries. It sounded like it is now on the agenda to do outreach to that sector next year.
I’ve been impressed with what’s going on at Villanova for awhile now. Not only are they doing some of the most interesting, cutting-edge work that I’ve seen in terms of presenting digital content from their special collections, but the culture of their library work environment is very different (and I might judge it as “better”) than what I know of in other libraries and work settings. This is an outsider’s view, based on perceptions gleaned from what people who work there have told me and things that I’ve read. The following are some of the things I find particularly intriguing and feel might serve as a good model for other places to consider: 1) Falvey library staff are given time to explore special projects based on their own interests. By doing this, the library is taking a risk – some work hours may indeed be “wasted,” but new products and new services may be born. A lot of workplaces harp on the need for employees to be “creative,” “collaborative,” and “innovative,” but very few actually provide the time and space to support their staff in doing this. 2) Falvey funds technology. Money for digital projects and technology-based services is written into the budget. Many workplaces expect staff to “make do” with no financial support or else fund projects on an ad hoc basis. Falvey models the fact that superior technology-based projects require dedicated, on-going funding. 3) Falvey diversifies the responsibility for technology. There is no one staff position that is responsible for technology initiatives; rather, various aspects of technology are integrated into the job descriptions of numerous library staff members. This means that if a library staff position is cut or a staff member leaves, technology initiatives don’t evaporate along with that change. 4) Falvey supports open access. The VuFind product they’ve developed for use as a flexible library resource portal is available for free through a GPL open source license. The digital library content they present is available freely to anyone (with a few exceptions for some materials with outside restrictions). Instead of partnering with commercial interests to market a product, Falvey keeps to the ideal of libraries providing information and resources free-of-charge.
I think that Joe Lucia, Villanova’s university librarian and the director of Falvey Memorial Library, deserves a lot of credit for his leadership in these areas. I missed his opening remarks at the conference, but found his questions and comments throughout the sessions to be interesting and thought-provoking. He seems to be looking further forward than many library directors, asking questions like “What does it mean for libraries if the ILS as we know it is dead in the next five to eight years?” “What does it mean if 80% of the content of our book collections is available electronically?” A word to the wise is that the two books he specifically mentioned were Siva Vaidhyanathan’s The Googlization of Everything and R. David Lankes’ The Atlas of New Librarianship.
The presentations at the conference were informative and sometimes inspiring. Amy Baker of the University of Pittsburgh described the preservation of archival mining maps project that her institution has been involved in, spurred by a mining accident in western Pennsylvania. Working in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection, this project is a good example of a university/government partnership that provides publicly available information in order to help protect people and property. It reminded me that while librarians and archivists rarely see our work as possibly having life-or-death consequences – sometimes it does.
Eric Lease Morgan of the University of Notre Dame demonstrated the Catholic Research Resources Alliance website (the “Catholic Portal”) and explained how it uses the VuFind product to draw together metadata from various formats and sources into one seamless product. I was particularly interested in its ability to perform full text searches and construct KWIC word concordances. I’m not sure how well known or well utilized this site is, but I think it holds a great deal of potential for researchers in literature, history, religious studies, and other fields to mine text data for a variety of purposes.
Eric Zino of the LYRASIS library network explained the Mass Digitization Collaborative, undertaken to help libraries digitize selected resources in a cost effective way. Unique items of historical value have been the major focus, although participating libraries are free to choose any materials they wish to include (provided copyright restrictions are met). Digitized materials are made publicly available via the Internet Archive, and can also be hosted locally. This project underscored the benefits of libraries working together to cut costs, minimize staff time spent on projects, produce consistent products, and share content more broadly.
I missed the final presentation of the conference, which was Rob Behary of Duquesne University speaking on his library’s project to digitize the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper. His presentation highlighted some of the benefits of moving from microfilm to digital content. Most librarians will agree that efforts like this, to preserve smaller regional publications with a unique focus or viewpoint, are an important service that libraries should be involved in.
All in all, this was an interesting day with plenty of time for networking built in. I enjoyed reconnecting with former colleagues and students, and meeting some new people as well. It was particularly rewarding to be with a group of people who were interested in moving library services forward into the 21st century, while still retaining the traditional library value of open access to information. I suspect that organizers may be seeking larger quarters for future VuStuff gatherings as its reputation continues to grow.
September 9, 2011
The Long Island University Faculty Federation is on strike. Librarians are included. Information is available at the LIU Faculty Federation home page.
University of Western Ontario Librarians are on strike. (Link goes to recent news from the Faculty Association.)
From the press release announcing the strike:
“It is with great regret that we make this decision,” said Bryce Traister, UWOFA President. “We simply haven’t seen enough movement on the key issues important to our members. We find it disrespectful and I am personally disappointed that administration didn’t see fit to address longstanding challenges.”
Outstanding issues at the table include: a long-standing pay gap of 20 per cent between Western Librarians and Archivists – most of whom are women – and colleagues at comparative universities in Ontario. Other issues include staff complement and workload.
June 29, 2011
McMaster University Librarian Jeff Trzeciak’s recently revealed in a talk at Penn State that he plans not to hire librarians in the future at his library, setting off a firestorm in Canada. (He said that he plans not to hire MLS holding librarians for professional positions but people with PhD’s in other fields instead.) The University of Alberta’s PLG Student Chapter has issued an insightful response to Trzeciak’s comments, summarizing them and putting them in the context of labor-management conflict. This management trend has been in the air for a while, but Trzeciak’s statement seems notable for laying the cards on the table. I have to say that I appreciate his candor in highlighting this issue before the library community in a way that may enable some further intelligent responses and strategy (though it was surely not what he intended to do). Thanks to Sam Trosow for posting the statement.
May 19, 2011
No comment on this other than to say that Koofers is incredibly slimy, and it rankles me that they seem to be getting some tacit support from legitimate institutions. Here is a post by my friend Nicole Pagowsky on how Koofers ripped off one of her student papers and posted it to their for-profit site with a copyright notice.
I guess the good part is that the English language now has a useful new verb: “to koofer” – to steal something, claim it belongs to you, charge money for it, and then when called on it to pretend that it never happened.
January 2, 2011
Folks at the Progressive Librarians Guild have put the full text of back issues of their journal, Progressive Librarian, online. Coverage goes back to issue number one, from 1990. I was on the editorial board of Progressive Librarian for a number of years, and consider them an important venue for library literature that works to strengthen the ties between the profession of librarianship and the left political philosophies that are akin to it. Back issues have been available through Proquest and Ebsco for some time, but their accessibility on the web will give a new level of exposure to the ideas there. Check it out.
April 26, 2010
I want to suggest a possible strategy for reference departments in academic libraries.
I think a lot of library administrators who have an eye on the future see less of a role for reference, at least in the way we currently understand it. As they see it, it seems to me, it’s a waste of money to have someone with a graduate degree sitting at a reference desk helping only a few people throughout the day. And as they see it, the demand for reference service is declining. They’re ready to staff the desk with paraprofessionals or students, and they’re ready to outsource much of collection development and consolidate that function to a smaller group of staff members. There is a vague idea of deploying MLIS holding librarians in new ways, but also a sense that they can save a lot of money by employing fewer of us. As I see it, that puts reference librarians in the position of having to strategize a future path and determine a role for ourselves that we actually want and that is suited to our particular expertise as the library’s connection to faculty and students.
At the same time that we are facing that challenge, there is a trend in higher ed that I think we can use as an opportunity. It’s the emphasis on assessment. It is an opportunity because the assessment mandate gets worked out to favor activities that have measurable learning outcomes and disfavor those that don’t. An accreditation body visits a university and asks them to improve its assessment practices. The university responds by asking units – academic departments and others – to develop their own assessment plans based on a list of educational objectives. The template for the assessment plan is designed with academic units in mind, and non-academic units may complain a little and treat the requirement as a bureaucratic hassle and a meaningless task, since they are not directly involved in producing educational outcomes the way academic departments are.
The opportunity for reference, and for the library as a whole, is to use the new assessment plan to secure a role where information literacy objectives (or related objectives) are emphasized. We can elaborate on what it is we teach in classrooms and while we are helping students at the desk or in our offices in order to create assessment measures that support what we want to do.
We can describe research skills that are not taught outside the library. ACRL’s information literacy standards talk about them in very general ways. I like to think about how we help students understand aspects of the bibliographic landscape of a field. Teaching them to make sense of their search results in the context of their own research problems is important educational work. The assessment piece gives us the opportunity to tell campus administration that we want them to hold us accountable for teaching students how to do research. The process tends to be designed to allow us to set our own objectives, so it gives us an opening and an opportunity to be proactive about our future in our institutions. We can take the bull by the horns.
March 17, 2010
I have an article in the current issue of Progressive Librarian that I have put online this morning: “The Library Paraprofessional Movement and the Deprofessionalization of Librarianship.” It says something that some people won’t like, but it’s something that I think is true and something that I think we should discuss openly. It’s in the Fall/Winter 2009 issue, which is number 33 (no volume number). In the journal it’s on pages 43-60.
January 15, 2010
Colonel Morris Davis was fired from his job at the Congressional Research Service for opinion pieces he wrote about the military commissions system (he is the former chief prosecutor for the Guantánamo military commissions). The ACLU is suing the Library of Congress on his behalf in this free-speech case.
This is the second time recently that the Library of Congress has been on the wrong side of a high-profile lawsuit. The other was transexual Diane Schroer’s lawsuit over not being hired to work at the Congressional Research Service after she announced that she would begin living as a woman. (Schroer won the lawsuit.)
September 29, 2009
London, ON Unionized librarians and archivists at the University of Western Ontario have voted overwhelmingly to support strike action to back their bargaining goals of fair evaluations, job security and equitable salaries and benefits.
A total of 88% of UWOFA-LA members voted in favour of authorizing their union to call a strike. The ballots were cast over two days, September 25 and 28. Librarians and Archivists have been without a contract since July 1, 2009.
“This vote demonstrates the determination of our members to ensure a fair and equitable settlement,” said Regna Darnell, UWOFA president. “The work of librarians and archivists is at the heart of university life, and should be recognized as such.”
Conciliation to help advance contract negotiations began Thursday September 24. Further meetings with conciliator John Quinn are scheduled through to the end of October. UWOFA-LA members will not be in a legal strike position until a no-board report has been requested and sixteen days have passed after its receipt by the Minister of Labour.
“Our negotiating team is committed to use the scheduled meetings to achieve a fair deal,” said Darnell.
The 55 Librarians and Archivists at Western rank 91st out of 113 research libraries in North America when it comes to salaries and benefits.
For further information:
Regna Darnell, UWOFA President (519-661-3016)
September 19, 2009
Just want to alert you to this article by John Buschman in Academe, the magazine of the AAUP (American Association of University Professors): “Who Defends Intellectual Freedom for Librarians? The ALA should defend librarians as the AAUP defends faculty members.”