The “Annoyed Librarian” makes some bold statements about Jeff Trzeciak’s recent comments about how the McMaster University Library will not be hiring academic librarians in the future. Most of us probably would not agree with many of the comments on the “Annoyed Librarian’s” blog, but it leads to some reflection:
Is it academic security that has prompted such an outcry from academic librarians in Canada and the US? To some extent, yes. Why?
Well – here, at the University of Toronto we have a 30-year old MoA and a Librarian’s Policy that offers faculty and librarians less protection that the USW collective agreement offers its employees at the University of Toronto.
Is this the only reason why we are concerned? No – there are other reasons:
- Firstly, the rise of professionals from the areas of business and technology in academic libraries doing what traditionally has been done by academic librarians has shifted not just employment opportunities, but more importantly, the very values and guiding principles which build great collections and maintain a balanced approach to the research and teaching needs of academic communities. This is happening in the United States and in Canada, in fact, we are seeing and struggling with this now at the University of Toronto.
- Secondly, it is important to remember that while we share many concerns, undercutting the academic profession of librarianship in Canada does not have the same consequences as it does in the United States. In Canada we do not have the equivalent number of universities and colleges; therefore, there are not the same numbers of opportunities for working as an academic librarian.
- It may be that the collections of McMaster University Library do not compare with those at the University of Toronto, as the “Annoyed Librarian” states, but does this mean, as Jeff Trzeciak has said, that we do not need academic librarians at an academic institution? Is money going to be the guiding principle at all levels?
- Jeff Trzeciak’s views are deceptively lacking a historical understanding of our profession. Libraries without librarians is a narrow, short-sighted perspective that will have serious, long-term implications. Look back 100 years and see what was happening when non-librarians and academics were building our collections and resources based on personal preferences, in isolation and without the scope or understanding of what the future needed? There were reasons why the profession, the professional i-schools and the organizations supporting academic librarianship evolved and why today, academic librarians are networked globally with institutions and colleagues around the world. Do the administrators of McMaster University really believe that post-doctoral candidates will fulfill and sustain the long-term research and teaching needs of McMaster University?
- We care about our colleagues at McMaster University Library. Last time Jeff Trzeciak openly turned on his staff, we saw they were forced to separate from their association with McMaster University Faculty Association and form a separate union to represent their interests.
- We recognize flamboyant theatricality when we see it and know that irresponsible comments by senior administrators cause not only isolation between colleagues within institutions but isolate institutions from their professional context. The danger is that when senior administrators like Jeff Trzeciak, first make comments that isolates his staff, which, in turn, result in divisions in the community – this can lead to isolation or stigmatization of the institution. Surely, this wasn’t the goal?
So, what can we do about it, apart from grumble and complain?
- Continue to voice your objections, articulate the complex, bigger issues which arise from speaking out and thinking about our own current situation.
- Find ways of openly supporting your colleagues at McMaster University Library, vocally and visibly. How can one do this? Here is what CAUT is proposing that we do:
- Write a letter to the President and Provost of McMaster University.
- The UFTA Librarians Committee will be responding on behalf of our community but we urge others, individuals, to send letters. Remember the impact the letter writing campaign had here at UT over the Faculty of Arts & Science crisis last summer?
- Contact your representatives in our professional organizations. They have a responsibility to openly, vocally and visibly support our profession.
- Inform your representatives from the Vendors who are participating in the May 17th conference at McMaster University. They do not know what is happening – if they did, they too would be concerned.