You Asked: “What is wrong with the U of T POLICIES FOR LIBRARIANS?”

UTL librarians are currently discussing what is wrong with our current Policies for Librarians . The recent question posed from members is “What is wrong with our policies?” There is a lot to consider and to understand, in terms of current employment policies others have at the University of Toronto and in terms of what constitutes ‘the norm’ or ‘academic standards’ for the profession of academic librarianship in Canada. So the UTFA Librarians committee will begin to present responses to this question on this website in a series of blog postings. We should state from the start that we believe the profession of academic librarianship is a core, academic position, which requires the same academic rights and respect as those teaching. The importance and value of what academic librarians contribute to the quest for higher learning, knowledge and research equals what teaching staff contribute to an academic community. Faculty and librarians share a symbiotic relationship, interdependent upon each other. Here is a short list.

First, why are we seeking changes – what is the history of these policies?

  • The Policies for Librarians were formulated in the mid-seventies and approved by U of T Governing Council in 1978. That is 38 years ago. The world, the profession of academic librarianship and post-secondary education was very different then. Article 51, Research and Study Leaves, was last up-dated in 1991. Nothing else has been renegotiated with UTFA.
  • UTFA (University Faculty Association, representative for librarians) never signed off on these policies. Why? Because at the last minute, unknown to UTFA, article 46-47, pertaining to the dismissal of librarians due to fiscal stringency or financial exigency was inserted by the Executive of Governing Council without approval by UTFA.

Second, what precisely is out-of-date in the policies? Does it matter?

  • Reference to 50 libraries is no longer correct (Preamble). Without a precise reference to the libraries included in a policy, it leaves the door open to discretionary changes.
  • The position of the Personnel Librarian no longer exists. So where do librarians go for assistance in understanding the current policies?
  • The PFL does not mention the MoA (Memorandum of Agreement) which protects librarians with academic freedom and has up-to date information on research and study leaves and outlines the grievance process; there is no mention of the WLPP Workload Policies and Procedures which outlines librarians’ workload, areas of responsibilities.
  • Librarians’ responsibilities in the PFL do not correspond to those described in the WLPP or the Library Unit’s policies on workload, areas of responsibilities.
  • Article 51, Research and Study Leaves, does not reflect negotiated settlements, monetary amounts or terms, approved for librarians leaves over the past 38 years.
  • Since 1978 UTSC and UTM campuses have become mini-universities with large libraries. The policies do not reflect the growth or changes that have occurred in the UTL system. There is no recognition of these changes in the use of nomenclature in the policies or internal library structures or management hierarchy. For example, is it sufficient or even relevant to say  “The term department head used in this document is appropriate only in the Central Library, and shall be understood to mean for a librarian outside the Central Library, the Principal, Dean, Director or other administrative officer to whom that librarian is responsible.” (in the Preamble)? Great clarity is required.
  • terminology needs to be updated and be used consistently across all library units: Why do UTSC and UTM have “Ad Hoc Promotion Committees” ? What constitutes “Ad Hoc Departmental Committee” for promotion versus “Promotion Committee” (Article 39).
  • Article 51, when describing a reason for dismissing a librarian, dangerously contravenes some basic rights in the Human Rights Code and in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: “…where, without fault on his or her part, the librarian is prevented by a cause or matter beyond his or her control from carrying out reasonable duties, including, without limitation, physical or mental illness or injury, except where and so long as the librarian (or his or her legal representative) makes no claim against the University for salary or other remuneration.”  This is most certainly out-of-date. The policy does not reflect the University’s policies nor legislated policies.

Third, what is wrong with the librarian policies?

There are many flaws in the current policies which no longer reflect standards in the profession of academic librarians or even rights others working in the library system have acquired through their collective agreements. Our practices are not always reflected in our policies, this becomes evident when you read about what our policies say about new appointments. The list of concerns is long. So we will introduce the areas of concern in a series of blog postings. Here are some of the more serious problems in the Policies for Librarians (PFL).

New Appointments

  • There are no policies or specific requirements for a SEARCH COMMITTEE when seeking new appointments. The only place where a search committee is needed is for the Chief Librarian. We need to have these details in writing for all librarian postings.
  • There is no clear policy on how or where to advertise for librarian postings, leaving much discretionary control to others to interpret which leads to inconsistency across the three campuses.
  • The PFL does not spell out who or how a shortlist is determined when determining the best candidates for a position. This is inadequate.
  • Policies must reflect practices and vice versa. It can not be left to the good will of leaders to determine how best to interpret and proceed.

Lack of Collegial Processes and Peer Reviews in the Promotion Policies

  • Unlike other institutions and as in the case with faculty at U of T, a Promotion Committee will determine when individuals are eligible for a promotion. In our policies it is the role of the supervisor: “the librarian’s supervisor should assess the librarian’s suitability for promotion and may wish to make a recommendation for such a promotion” (Article 13). What if the individual does a great job but challenges the status quo and the supervisor resists putting the person’s name forward for promotion? Is this fair? We need policies to prevent these situations.
  • Criteria for permanent status lacks peer review and is based heavily on the opinion of a single individual: “31. Effectiveness in work performance shall be judged primarily, but not exclusively, on the basis of supervisory evaluations of previous performance.” This is not reflective of a collegial process in an academic environment. Normally, peer reviews pertaining to work performance play an equally prominent role. New policies need to lessen the authority of the single supervisor in the promotion process and introduce transparent processes known to everyone. Peer reviews can take different forms, they can be internal and external, and active at different stages of the process.
  • There is no promotion committee formed for promotion from Librarian I to Librarian II. Who decides? “Promotion in rank from Librarian I to Librarian II is recommended by the department head subject to approval of the Chief Librarian or his or her designate. ” (Article 14).
  • Rather than having a single promotion committee there are different types of promotion committees. A different kind of committee is struck for promotion in the different ranks. For example, see PFL/13, the “Ad Hoc Committee on Promotions” (for librarians outside of the Central System); PFL/15 Ad Hoc Committee (Lib II to III);  PFL/17 Senior Committee on Promotions;  PFL/39 A Committee on Permanent Status. This leads to idiosyncrasies and inconsistent standards, as well as, considerable confusion for members. Equitable treatment becomes highly questionable.

THE LIST IS LONG. THIS IS A START. WE HOPE IT HELPS TO PROVIDE SOME ANSWERS TO THE QUESTION RAISED. MORE TO FOLLOW…

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One Response to You Asked: “What is wrong with the U of T POLICIES FOR LIBRARIANS?”

  1. Rochelle says:

    “There is no clear policy on how or where to advertise for librarian postings, leaving much discretionary control to others to interpret which leads to inconsistency across the three campuses.”

    Are you intended to enshrine in policy where job ads have to be posted? That seems dangerous to me. The best location to post a position may vary greatly based on the kind of position in question. There are new areas in librarianship that aren’t well supported by the usual channels, so the librarians with those skills and experience may not be looking there, and therefore it would be harder to find them.

    Additionally: if you enshrine specific communication channels in policy, you’re setting up to have to revise it very frequently as publications change and new ones appear. Good policy is good; good policy shouldn’t make it harder to find and retain good librarians.

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