Meeting Update – Sept 8th Workload Issues for Librarians

At the Workload Meeting organized by the UTFA Librarians committee (Rm 127, Rotman) from 12-2, we shared many good ideas and obtained a good sense of some of the immediate concerns in our community. THANK YOU!

Another meeting will be organized in 2-3 weeks to provide an update to the Librarians at our three campuses. Separate meetings are being arranged at UTM and at UTSC for individuals and small groups.

In summary, for those who could not make the meeting today, here is a list of some of the points raised and discussed. First, everyone was okay with beginning this discourse with general principles and guidelines which define academic librarianship and which will help to determine a workload norm for everyone across our three campuses, departments and institutes. The first policy needs to set the tone, assert basis rights and ensure there is a consistent approach to establishing workload for all.

Here are some of the points raised:

  • Preamble to the new workload should articulate the everyday problem of being stretched too far in the professional practice activities. This is a serious problem with ramifications for the community. This was a concern expressed by all.
  • Members in smaller libraries are concerned about the inability to take research leaves because there is no support to ensure the work will be done when they take leaves. There are currently no internal, open support networks, which will offer secondments in a fair manner, exchanges or the ability to temporarily work on a job for someone else who needs to take a leave. Administration has failed to establish a fair and open support for librarians to take academic leaves in a practical, real sense.
  • Increasingly librarians are encouraged to take research leaves part-time rather than full-time, so that they can continue to do the work. This is not a situation which would be acceptable for faculty.
  • Harriet Sonne de Torrens (HST) pointed out that it is the responsibility of management, within the library system and within the university, to ensure that libraries have the funding and support needed to properly support the needs of the community, not to simply overload individuals who don’t feel they can fight back.
  • The research leave statistics in the central intranet website for librarians is flawed. Many campus and departmental libraries have been asked not to use  this site.
  • There is a need to define what describes the expertise of academic librarians versus those who do not have a library degree and work in technician or administrative positions.
  • Ensuring time for all three areas of academic librarianship must be articulated in the new workload policy: service, academic scholarship, professional activities.
  • It was agreed that percentages for the three areas would be a good way to define and enable individuals to negotiate their terms of employment and duties. Norms should be established to help individuals argue for their individual cases.
  • The question of what defined the ‘whole’ and how we define that was discussed. There is a general view that defining a work week by hours, such as 9-5, is not the best approach as it does not work for most. It was suggested that we examine this further and look at how others are defining this.
  • There was a consensus that the most vulnerable should be protected in this policy: those without permanent status and those on contract.
  • There was a consensus that there should be an appeal process set up if there is no consensus between a librarian and the unit supervisor in terms of workload.
  • There was a consensus that the ‘norm’ when defining the workload should take into account the number of students per librarian, in order to reach any kind of consistency between our three campuses.
  • A request was made to Sandra Langlands to openly distribute the notes from the Workload Committee meetings, including the first, to the whole community. She said she would look into this.
  • Questions were asked about how the community would be engaged in responding to the workload policy being formulated. Sandra Langlands explained there has been no discussion so far on this topic, but she guessed that a call for comments from librarians will be made when the policy is openly posted for input. As she explained there had only been one meeting and many issues remain unresolved.
  • HST explained that UTFA has established an internal Workload Committee to ensure consistency between all three streams in the association. Prof. Judith Teichman chairs this committee.
  • HST agreed to put several examples of workload language and policies on the UTLibrarians blog for the community to consult.
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