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Tenure & Academic Librarians

October 1, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve wanted to make this a place of more thoughtful posts, but I also didn’t want to lose this idea- which is very possible given that my firstborn is now taking up a lot of my mental attention and I have much to catch up on both at work at school.

I made the front page of the Daily Dish a little while back with the defense of Academic Librarians listed below. But if anybody is interested in responding, I would like to know what you think- is tenure for Academic Librarians desirable/justifiable/necessary? Let me know- I’m still on the fence about this issue.

I was extremely disappointed to see this discussion on tenure take such a nasty turn. It’s that not that I necessarily disagree with your reader’s post about librarians and tenure – I think the burden of proof should be on librarians if they want to receive tenure. (This article from the Chronicle of Higher Education has a more informed and measured take on the subject.) However, in a truly uninformed and citation-less rant about the uselessness of librarians today, your reader really misunderstands the profession.

There are a number of universities that grant tenure, but the vast majority of academic librarians do not receive or achieve tenure. Of the institutions that do grant librarians tenure, most require that a *second* master’s degree be held by the candidate for subject specialty. Indeed, at my own mid-sized academic library, I can easily name a half-dozen librarians with PhDs in non-library/information science fields, just off the top of my head. Furthermore, many academic librarians do teach or co-instruct classes.

As far as librarians “struggling to be relevant” or “find something to do,” I literally have never met an academic librarian who has time to spare in their jobs. Yes, the work is shifting from the traditional passive model of information assistance – that is, waiting at a desk for the questions to roll in. And yet, it has shifted to a much more intensive and active role coordinating with IT departments and vendors to make the non-findable-through-Google electronic resources easily accessible to faculty and students. This is not to mention that librarians are at the forefront of digital storage issues, in addition to access and collection issues. Any other “free” time is now spent on outreach and collaboration with others.

And finally, the dig about the salary was really uninformed and misleading. Starting pay for the academic librarian positions in the Midwest are currently in the $35,000-45,000 range (max), depending on experience and qualifications. Given that many of these jobs require additional degrees or certifications, I really bristle at the implication that academic librarians are somehow overpaid and irrelevant.

Let me know what you think- Thanks!

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