Annoyed Librarian
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The Last Perk of Librarianship

It looks like the ACRL got something right in its Environmental Scan last year. It probably got all sorts of things right, but I haven’t read the whole thing, only a bit prompted by a kind reader concerned about librarian tenure and attracting good candidates.

Here’s the bit:

At institutions where librarians have faculty status, the use of contingent (adjunct, part-time and non-tenure track) library faculty may increase in response to budget constraints and the need for flexibility. Other libraries may see an increase in the employment of part-time professionals, the use of temporary or special appointments, and other personnel practices that maximize administrative and budgetary flexibility.

Some of these developments would increase the number of official Library Jobs that Suck, which would include any job that is temporary and part-time but requires an MLS and experience. Libraries that post jobs like that should be ashamed of themselves, and the rest of the profession should boycott them.

In addition to the complete disregard for librarians as professionals demonstrated by Library Jobs that Suck, there’s the gradual chipping away at some of the things that make librarian jobs tolerable in the first place, which for academic librarians often means tenure.

The kind reader also sent me this job ad for a First Year Experience Librarian, which seems like a goofy title for a librarian, but maybe that’s just me. The conditions of employment are tenuous, at least for academic librarians:

Full-time position for non-tenure-earning renewable appointment of up to three years (annual renewal based upon satisfactory performance review, need, and funding).

The job is at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, which I’m also told often has trouble attracting job candidates.

I really don’t know why, since according to its Wikipedia article, “the University of Alabama has always had a strong cultural and historical impact not only in Alabama but in the United States as a whole.” There’s the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, for example. And Forrest Gump went there. Oh, and “Parts of the Burt Reynolds film Hooper was filmed on lots owned by the University of Alabama.” Burt Reynolds used to be a famous centerfold model and all, so that’s exciting stuff.

When you add in the sweltering heat (at the time of writing about 97 degrees Fahrenheit and 80% humidity) and the devastating tornadoes, what more could any librarian want? I’m surprised librarians aren’t flocking to Tuscaloosa the way they do to New York, Seattle, and Detroit.

But let’s assume it’s true, and that the middle of Alabama isn’t a high ranking destination for librarians looking for jobs. That’s why it makes perfect sense for librarians to have tenure.

Tenure is how colleges and universities attract faculty and librarians to places nobody wants to live. Tenure says to them, “We know you don’t want to live here, so we’ll offer you guaranteed employment for life!”

Wait, there must be something wrong with that. It’s more like this: “We know you don’t want to live here, but in a tough job market we hope you’ll choose us, and if you do at least we won’t chuck your sorry librarian bottom out onto the street whenever someone gets the urge to save a little money by making the other faculty and librarians work harder for no extra compensation.”

Or something like that.

If the trend continues, librarians will slowly devolve into the itinerant vagabonds that so many academics have become, working part-time jobs at several institutions with no benefits and poor pay. Or will they?

One thing I’ve noticed about people with PhDs is that they’ll put up with anything to stay in academia. They don’t listen to reason before getting their degrees, and by the time they’ve spent ten years at their underfunded university earning a degree they’re not suited for anything else.

But librarians? Most librarians theoretically have skills that are marketable outside of academia, and except for the ones that are failed academics who still don’t listen to reason and think they’ll get cushy jobs, those librarians aren’t necessarily wedded to academic librarianship. If they’re good enough to get jobs at all, they can probably gets jobs elsewhere.

I guess there are all the librarians who believe library schools and the ALA that there is a librarian shortage will still be desperate, like all the PhDs who mistakenly thought the world would owe them a job just because they wrote a dissertation on an extremely obscure topic.

Depending on how the profession goes, it might even be the same group of people, who go back to library school thinking, “no, this time, I really will get a job!” Because that’s exactly what librarianship needs, more people who failed at other things before “settling” for librarianship.

For everyone else, maybe it’s time to listen to reason. Public libraries are in trouble, and were never much fun to work at unless you really wanted to be a social worker but liked having a lot of books around. And now academic libraries are chucking the one thing that made them attractive to a lot of people. Librarians don’t get summers off, but at least they could get tenure.

And all those places that have trouble attracting candidates now, just get rid of tenure for new hires and hire a bunch of contingent faculty librarians alongside your tenured ones. That’s bound to be great for morale.

The less desirable the position, the less desirable the candidates, too. With faculty status and tenure, at least librarians could pretend that they were important to a university and their job status wasn’t equivalent to the custodians and food workers, even if real faculty knew they weren’t real faculty.

There are plenty of librarians who value job security and faculty status and put up with mediocre pay. But who puts up with mediocre pay with no job security? No, don’t answer that. I don’t want to know. If academic libraries start treating their librarians like expendable widgets, their libraries will become as ineffective as other academic departments full of adjuncts, and the profession will be in an even sorrier state than it already is.

Then again, it’s just the library. Maybe no one will notice.

Thinking of becoming a librarian? Think VERY carefully. That’s my advice.



  1. eeyore004 says:

    I’m starting to see this here in New England, too. Take, for example, the following listing:

    You’re required to have an MLIS and all of the content, systems, and library-specific knowledge of a full-time reference librarian, but for only 12-hours a week (not even half-time), flexibility is demanded, and you’re only guaranteed the fall semester (although you could get spring if you’re lucky). What IS this??

  2. In my town, the public library director is retiring, and who are they replacing her with? They are just adding the public library to the charges of the one media specialist in town. Yes, not only will she be in charge of three elementary schools and the middle school, but she’ll be in charge of the public library as well.
    Yes, this in a town that also houses a large university.

  3. While finishing library school I applied for a teen librarian position in an affluent small town suburb of Indy that paid $25k a year. In one of several EEOCtastic slips about other candidates the lady interviewing me revealed that they’d received roughly a hundred applications from all over the country with people willing to pay their way to the interview and relocation.

    A big problem is that degree inflation coupled with increasing enrollments in library school means that there is a constant candidate pool perfectly willing to take those part time positions in the name of “gaining experience.” I still see friends from library school working in book stores and having a second part time job at a library and they always consider themselves lucky to have any tenuous connection to the profession.

    Not that I can knock it too much. My first real position in the profession was a 25 hour a week night library job that paid peanuts. It sucked, but it also gave me all the right bullet points on my resume that got me my current far better job after a year of toiling in the part time salt mines. I also had a spouse who made enough to support us and then some in the meantime and networked like crazy in that time though. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people who go in without any sort of support already in place.

  4. needs a 'nym says:

    I take your larger point, and I think it’s important, but in this particular case I wonder if there might be other factors at play.

    When I saw this position posted, my assumption was that the lack of tenure and the three-year term was an attempt to avoid age discrimination lawsuits. First Year Experience programs exist to make the school seem exciting and relevant to a bunch of 18-year-olds, and in doing this you want to put your most youthful face forward. You can’t send your FYE librarians to the Carousel when their lifeclock crystals starts flashing, but you might get away with dissolving the position every three years while creating a remarkably similar, but “completely different”, position.

  5. The reason you see this, once again, is a supply glut of candidates. Libraries post these ridiculous positions because they can. The directors who always claim they can’t fill vacancies remind me of the farmers who claim they can’t get all the crops picked without non-citizen Mexican migrant workers. The rhetoric is pretty much exactly the same, and increasingly the wages between the Mexican migrants and the MLS holders are converging. This is why I use my ALA-accredited master’s degree outside the library setting, so I can get paid in a way that accurately reflects my skills & experience.

    Librarians who settle for the kinds of jobs AL is writing about are living in a prison of their own making. It’s Stockholm Syndrome.

  6. Other Factors at Play says:

    Sometimes the library directors aren’t always to blame. College and University-wide budget cuts aren’t helping our case either. In my experience, it was an admin type above the library director’s head who refused to support the library’s ability to retain positions. As far as administration is concerned, temporary positions are better for the budget. And, sometimes these administrative types won’t support the hire of directors, which leaves libraries without leadership. What academic librarians need to do is a better job of justifying library positions in a way that makes sense to administrators. Better marketing strategies to get ourselves taken seriously. Actively pursuing support when administrative types are inactive or obstinate. Showing, not telling, how the library makes the overall campus look better.

  7. Heidi Julien says:

    I write to express my strong disagreement with the negative sentiments expressed about the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa and Alabama more generally. Having just moved here, quite deliberately, from a larger research-intensive university in Canada, I can attest that this University receives very significant numbers of job applications, provides a supportive and welcoming campus environment, and delivers excellent programs to highly qualified students. Yes, it’s warm, and there is a risk of tornadoes, but conversely it never gets to 40 below zero, nor does it suffer any number of other natural disasters that befall others. My advice is to get to know a place and its citizens before passing judgement.

  8. Randal Powell says:

    Sadly, I fear there is little exaggeration in this post. The job market for librarians is bad, and the conditions of employment are unattractive even for the people who can get work. In addition, larger companies these days are exploitative of employees, and have deskilled and de-professionalized every possible position (while bemoaning the lack of an adequately educated labor pool). That leaves the unemployed choosing between equally unpleasant alternatives.

    I think the solution is for more people to start their own business. If you can start a business that takes revenue away from big companies, all the better. Many people are uncomfortable with this because they have been imbued with the mindset that they need to be an employee (sell their labor). But if you can make the switch in your mindset from “selling your labor to someone” to “selling the product of your labor to someone”, you might be able to create a comfortable income and jobs for others.

    Here’s a good blog about starting a business. Read the old articles first.

  9. Annoyed Reader says:

    I’m often in agreement with what you have to say, AL.

    In this case, I’m appalled by your bigotry. Reducing Alabamians to Forrest Gump and George Wallace illustrates your ignorance and provinciality more than it does theirs.

    As for tenured v. untenured faculty, I’m not against all untenured positions in academic libraries. I am, as a rule, a pro-union, liberal person.

    However, I have also worked in both tenured and untenured environments, and prefer the latter.

    On the tenure track, I was frustrated by having to join committees that did not improve my ability to serve our patrons, and by having to commit endless hours to time-wasting, cumbersome paperwork and arcane procedures to present that work that got in the way of doing my job.

    In the tenured environment, there were more faculty who not only “gave up” after they made tenure, but they were also more likely to demonstrate territory issues and a resistance to adopt newer technologies and workflows that most engaged library professionals would consider essential to growth and survival. In their minds, there was no incentive for them to change, so why should they?

    I’m not convinced that tenure provides a librarian with the best working environment, nor does it enable a library to function at its best. I really don’t care if I have tenure as long as I can get my work done.

  10. Annoyed Librarian says:

    “Reducing Alabamians to Forrest Gump and George Wallace illustrates your ignorance and provinciality more than it does theirs.”

    Don’t blame me, I’m just repeating the Wikipedia article!

  11. Midge Farquar says:

    There must be a real person (or persons) behind the Annoyed Librarian alias. And surely this real person (or persons) knows that more than 40 people died, that librarians and library staff lost their homes — everything they own in the world, in the April 27 tornado. Our town was ripped to shreds. And yet, you have chosen to use our tragedy in order to make fun of Alabama, Tuscaloosa in particular. What is particularly horrific is that to make your point, you need not have reduced Alabama to stereotypes. What you did was pure ad hominem, on the institutional, nay the regional, level. Including disparaging remarks about Alabama added absolutely nothing to your argument except to illustrate your own prejudices.

    I’m not a big fan of yours. However, I appreciate free speech and I appreciate that your purpose is likely to stir up discussion, to be purposefully controversial. There are ways to accomplish these tasks without using a natural disaster on the scale of our April 27 tornado to reduce an entire area to vast generalizations. For heavens sake, did you notice the unprecedented flooding of the Mississippi this year? The historic drought currently affecting Texas? Why spare them your biting wit? Are there no libraries there?

    So, next time you want to make fun of people, I suggest you think about the people who actually lived through something like the April 27 tornado. Like my child’s 2nd grade classmate who lost her mother.

  12. Annoyed Librarian says:

    Midge, I normally don’t respond to offended readers, because if I did, that’s all the blog would be about. Everyone gets offended by something, and there’s always some topic that people think just shouldn’t be mentioned. But since you are completely correct that the tornado in Tuscaloosa was a tragedy that inflicted death and terrible suffering on many, I’ll respond this time.

    As for my post being an “ad hominem” attack, it’s just not true, or even an “ad urbanem” attack. Ad hominem attacks are targeted against attributes that are irrelevant to the argument at hand. For example, if someone disagrees with something posted on the AL, but chooses to attack the AL as “anonymous” rather than address the substance of the post, that would be an ad hominem attack.

    However, I had specifically been informed that the university in question had difficult attracting good librarian candidates. Why might that be?

    One reason could be the bad reputation the state has, at least outside of the south. The Wikipedia article I referred to says “the University of Alabama has always had a strong cultural and historical impact not only in Alabama but in the United States as a whole,” and then goes on to mention George Wallace, Forrest Gump, and a 30-year-old Burt Reynolds movie as evidence of that.

    Moving to the state as a whole, when people outside of the south think about Alabama, they think about Bull Connor, the Letter from Birmingham Jail, and the terrible injustices inflicted on African-Americans before and during the Civil Rights era.

    Another reason might be the weather. Sweltering summer heat and devastating natural disasters are definitely reasons people might not want to apply for a job in a place. The worse the disaster, the more it supports my point that such a place would have trouble attracting candidates.

    You ask: “For heavens sake, did you notice the unprecedented flooding of the Mississippi this year? The historic drought currently affecting Texas? Why spare them your biting wit? Are there no libraries there?”

    There are simple answers to these questions. Why didn’t I talk about Texas and Mississippi? It’s because I was talking about Alabama, and a post for a job at that university that a reader sent in for comment. How would talking about Texas and Mississippi be relevant to a post about a contingent librarian job at the University of Alabama?

    You say, “next time you want to make fun of people, I suggest you think about the people who actually lived through something like the April 27 tornado.” Exactly which people did I “make fun of”? Reread the post and find one example of any person being made fun of. You won’t be able to, because it’s not there.

  13. Annoyed Reader says:

    Backtracking and saying that you’re just quoting what Wikipedia said is pretty feeble.

    You selected and placed that information in your article to establish your own prejudices, e. g. “Why would anyone want to go to there? Beats me, because clearly the only people there are racists and retards. ”

    Besides…taking Wikipedia at face value? Is that what academic librarians really do?

  14. Annoyed Librarian says:

    I give up, Annoyed Reader. You may use the commenting space to list all the reasons why librarians, especially non-southerners, would want to live and work in Alabama. That way all the people who don’t want to live and work there now, and thus don’t apply for jobs there, will be better informed.

    And yes, I always take Wikipedia at face value. It’s more fun that way.

  15. Annoyed Reader says:

    I was hardly beating a dead horse; I just happened to post my comment before the previous comment defending Tuscaloosa updated in my browser.

    I’m not a Southerner, and I don’t care if people do or don’t move to Alabama. I’m just pointing out that buying into lazy regional stereotypes is a cop-out and a lousy way to describe the people that do live there.

  16. Alabamans are so sensitive! Y’all should move to Detroit where we are used to people who’ve never visited bad-mouthing us in every way imaginable on a daily basis. It will toughen your skin.

  17. Lou Pitschmann says:

    Dear Annoyed Librarian:

    Before you single out one library in future blogs in order to complain about what you perceive as a widespread trend, you may wish to do a little fact-finding so that you do not misrepresent an institution or a particular job posting.

    Had you done your homework rather than shooting from the hip, you would have learned the following about the job posting at the University of Alabama Libraries:

    “First Year Experience” is a campus-wide program to ensure that students succeed academically and adjust socially to a large university environment. It is a multi-faceted program, and we in the Libraries are pleased to be one of the contributors to its success. Librarians with any number of years of experience are most welcome to apply.

    You are correct that this is a non-tenure-earning position. It is a faculty position, however, and as such has all the rights and benefits faculty status brings with it.

    The source who told you that the University of Alabama Libraries “often has trouble attracting job candidates” is incorrect. Our job postings receive dozens of applications, at times approaching nearly 100 applications. We do not have trouble attracting quality librarians. We not only have nationally recognized librarians on our faculty, we also have one who was named an LJ Mover and Shaker because of the work she has done here at the University of Alabama Libraries.

    Apparently, your source also failed to tell you that for more than ten years the University of Alabama Libraries have received annual increases to its budget to cover 100% of the price increases for journal subscriptions, books, and e-resources. We have not had to cancel subscriptions, reduce the number of monographs we purchase annually, or deny faculty requests for new acquisitions. Generally speaking, well-funded libraries attract good job applicants.

    Your source probably didn’t share with you that librarians and staff in the University Libraries have received generous performance-based merit increases seven of the past ten years. During the recent downturn in the economy we have NOT had our salaries frozen or cut; we have NOT had hiring freezes; we have NOT been placed on furloughs or any form of unpaid leave; and the overall budget of the Libraries has NOT been frozen or reduced by one cent. Your assumption that non-tenured faculty are rewarded with mediocre pay at the Unviersity of Alabama is simply unfounded.

    In reference to your statement about libraries which do not offer tenure to librarians, you said, “The less desirable the position, the less desirable the candidates, too.” The University of Chicago, Cornell University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison – three leading universities – do not award tenure or faculty status to their librarians, but they certainly attract and retain some of the finest librarians in the entire country. Your implied belief that only librarians with tenure-earning or tenured appointments can provide the quality necessary to ensure a library’s quality is a fallacy.

    As for your point that “tenure is how colleges and universities attract faculty and librarians to places nobody wants to live,” you obviously don’t know the history of tenure in higher education. Tenure is not about attracting people; it is about protecting people when their views and opinions do not suit those of others. Today, I believe tenure is also about rewarding and retaining people who are committed to striving for and maintaining excellence. Tenure is for people who have advanced their library, their institution, and their profession. Tenure is not compensation or a consolation prize for working a twelve-month year.

    Unrelated to the job posting, you felt it necessary to ridicule the University Alabama because of heat and humidity in the summer and for suffering a devastating tornado. A tornado can happen in almost any part of the continental United States. Why would anyone who is criticizing an institution’s job classification refer to a disaster that claimed 50 lives, among them 6 of its students? As for the heat and humidity, I can well imagine that you would be unhappy in most parts of the United States. Many areas of the U.S. are subject to tornadoes, not to mention Mother Nature’s other life-threatening acts such as earthquakes, ice storms, hurricanes, floods, snowstorms, temperature extremes, draughts, and lengthy water shortages.

    I prefer not to comment on your snide remarks about people with subject Ph.D.s seeking careers in libraries.

    Your statements today suggest you think Alabama has a larger number of bigots and racists than other parts of the country. Racism is not restricted only to the South. I can only assume that you are too young to know about housing restrictions existed for decades in the North. You might even be surprised to know that the most racially segregated city in the United States today in terms of housing is in the Midwest. (That’s according to a CNN report. Since I have had no opportunity to verify that information, I prefer not to name the city or the state.)

    I encourage you to drop your anonymity. Be proud of your opinions and take the virtual mask off your face and let us know who you are. More importantly, inform yourself before you single out an institution or an entire state and hold them up to ridicule, and be sure you know what you are accusing institutions and individuals of before you suggest that an entire profession should start a boycott.

    In closing allow me to add that you owe my faculty and staff as well as my university a public apology for so egregiously misrepresenting who we are, what we do, and where we live.

    Refusing to hide behind anonymity, I am

    Lou Pitschmann
    Dean, University Libraries
    The University of Alabama

  18. “Most librarians theoretically have skills that are marketable outside of academia, and except for the ones that are failed academics who still don’t listen to reason and think they’ll get cushy jobs, those librarians aren’t necessarily wedded to academic librarianship. If they’re good enough to get jobs at all, they can probably gets jobs elsewhere.”

    I don’t buy this. I was sold the whole song and dance at library school about how my MLS would be in demand outside of libraries because companies in the private sector are desperate for people who understand how to manage information. It simply is not true — even in fields where one would assume an MLS would get recognized (i.e. records management).

    I would go to interviews and got a lot of blank stares and questions about what my degree was. They had never heard of it.

    I eventually got hired because of other experience and skills outside of my MLS.

  19. I’m no fan of Alabama, but wow, that was pretty over-the-top bad. I can’t figure out what you are trying to say….if you have a concern about non-tenure positions, fine….blog about it, discuss it, talk about the problems it brings. But what has any of this to do with Alabama being a good or bad place to work?

    You certainly have the right to say whatever you think….but with that right comes a responsibility to put in at least a tiny bit of work and thought. Otherwise you are just a muckraker, and a blight on those who blog their opinions with actual insight.

    This could have led to a very interesting conversation about tenure, and new types of positions for librarians. Instead, your rant made it a personal attack.

    But while I am here….hooray for new non-tenure jobs! I don’t care if tenure jobs stay or go, but it is nice to have options. I am young, new to the profession, and have no interest in finding a job to work at for the rest of my life. This is the kind of job that is very appealing to me. I’m young, mobile, and excited by innovative opportunities to do something new. Congrats to Alabama for coming up with something creative!

    And kudos to the dean for writing in…a very well-crafted response. Kind of makes you look like a fool, doesn’t he?

  20. Annoyed Librarian says:

    Dear Dean Pitschmann,

    Let’s ignore your sensitivity on the issue of the history of race in Alabama, your entirely false claim that I suggested boycotting your library or any other specific institution, and your implicit and questionable claim that the University of Alabama is comparable to Cornell University or the University of Chicago. Even if Alabama were at the same level as Cornell or Chicago, never having a tenure track or faculty status is not the same has having a tenure track and then hiring non-tenure track faculty.

    Let’s talk about the actual issue of the article: tenure for librarians. You say that “It is a faculty position, however, and as such has all the rights and benefits faculty status brings with it.” No, it doesn’t, including the benefit and protection of tenure.

    Regardless, if tenure for faculty is such an irrelevant concern, why are faculty so concerned with it? Are you comfortable with the increasing use of adjunct and contingent teaching faculty? Do you believe that a reliance upon such faculty to teach the majority of courses at a university is a GOOD thing? Good for the faculty? Good for the students?

    May I quote from the website of the American Association of University Professors?

    “Faculty serving on a contingent basis generally work at significantly lower wages, often without health coverage and other benefits, and in positions that do not incorporate all aspects of university life or the full range of faculty rights and responsibilities. The tenure track has not vanished, but it has ceased to be the norm. This means that the majority of faculty work in subprofessional conditions, often without basic protections for academic freedom.”

    Apparently I’m not alone in believing that tenure has a relationship to working conditions.

    So the question for you, as the Dean, is WHY would you create a contingent faculty appointment? Does the person in this job need no protection or deserve no reward, which you claim are the only relevant concerns for tenure?

    The extension of contingent faculty appointments has led to poorer working conditions and second-class status for the contingent faculty compared to tenure-track faculty. Is this really the way libraries that currently have tenure should go?

  21. Lou Pitschmann says:

    You have misunderstood my letter. I never compared the University of Alabama to the Univ. of Chicago, Cornell, or Wisconsin. I merely cited them as some of the finest university libraries in the United States and as libraries where librarians do not have faculty status. I encourage to read my letter more carefully.

  22. Annoyed Librarian says:

    And you evade the point of my comment and post. Where do you stand on creating contingent faculty positions within a tenure-track environment? I find THAT offensive. The AAUP thinks it is a bad thing, and it has had negative consequences for the working conditions of the contingent faculty. It creates a separate and unequal environment for the faculty, and is an object of criticism throughout academia. Do you think it’s a good thing for the profession? For your library? Should only some librarians have the protection and reward of tenure and not others? Is that really treating the librarians equally as professionals?

    Places that have never had tenure are irrelevant comparisons. In many fine libraries, librarians do not have faculty status or tenure. However, in YOUR library, they do, and the creation of a contingent faculty position within that structure could very easily be the thin end of the wedge to reduce the professional status of all the librarians over time, as it has that of contingent faculty in academic departments.

    Is this a road we should be encouraging libraries to go down?

  23. I would like to clarify the kind of position we are posting at UA. AL states it is contingent or adjunct. This is not the case. While it is not a tenure track position, it is what is referred to here and at other institutions as a clinical faculty position. These positions are initially short term, just like tenure track positions. They do, in fact, have the rights, benefits and pay of tenure track faculty. What they also do is free the person from the requirements of research. Research is still possible and those currently in these positions are doing valuable research that relates to their jobs and promotes the profession. For example, one faculty member worked on disability issues while another has worked on outreach and information literacy. A third is very involved in assessment and usage and is able to explore trends and issues that will improve service for the University Libraries and for the University at large. Two have received internal grant funding for projects and all three have been supported with travel and continuing education funds. There are clinical faculty members in many departments who have been at the University for many years and who have also earned promotion. They are prominent members of their discipline’s community. (I can think of several in Nursing and Business.) Again you and your informant should make sure you have your facts correct before publishing hurtful remarks.

  24. ambivalent reader says:

    I grew up in Alabama and lived in T-town for over a decade. Tuscaloosa has its perks, but I’m glad I no longer live there. There are many intelligent, sane, and even liberal Alabamians–so be careful what you say–but the state as a whole is about as red as you can get.

    I also worked as a librarian for UA. I’m glad I didn’t get tenure there, partially due to mismanagement by administrators.

  25. Annoyed Librarian says:

    You can call it whatever you like, but a faculty position without the possibility of tenure is a contingent faculty position. However nicely you treat your own “clinical faculty,” they do not have the same protections that tenured faculty have. It sounds like the University of Alabama has been blessedly free of the budget problems many universities have had in recent years, but were the library to suffer from a sustained budget crisis, or for that matter just a change to an administration dedicated to reducing the size of the library staff, how protected would these “clinical faculty” be?

    I mean, seriously, are you really trying to claim that contingent faculty are equal to tenure-track and tenured faculty in all their protections? As an experiment, ask how many of your tenured librarians would be willing to exchange their tenured position for a clinical/contingent position?

    I think we both know the answer to that one.

  26. ambivalent reader says:

    UA libraries is like a revolving door. Whatup Lou!

  27. Lou, if you’re still following this, can you share with us some of the history of the kinds of positions available in UA libraries? Have there always been “clinical faculty” positions as well as tenure-track positions for librarians? Is your university moving away from faculty tenure-track positions in general? Why? Is your university truly an example of the general trend AL is referring to?

  28. Lou, if tenure is irrelevant, and your “clinical faculty” are so well supported and happy, and this contingent position is just to “free the person from the requirements of research” while giving them all the rights and privileges of faculty, why not make the tenure track optional for this job?

    You could give the winning candidate a choice: you can work hard and earn the privilege of tenure, which is not guaranteed, but if earned will protect you from bad bosses, evil administrations, and casual firing by people who don’t like what you say; or you could work hard and we’ll continue to employ you until we get bored with you or just don’t want you anymore for any reason whatsoever. That seems simple enough.

    Or you and your minions could keep ignoring the real issue and go on about how offended and hurt you are.

  29. I don’t see the problem with this job posting. Not everyone (like me) finds tenure all that desirable. I saw this job opening and thought, “Wow. That is exactly what I’m looking for.” Too bad I’m not in a position to move right now, or I would apply for it in a heartbeat!

    As a side note, relying on Wikipedia and Forrest Gump to determine how you feel about a place is pretty weak and causes me to think about your bias in your entire argument. But, that is totally your opinion, even if I think it is a ridiculous one.

  30. I think we're missing the point... says:

    Regardless of what one’s opinion of Alabama is, the U of A example provides an accurate lens into what is becoming a nationwide problem: lack of retention. People who were offended by the stabs at Alabama, while unfounded, missed the bigger point–that when tenure/permanent positions are not available, well-qualified librarians will find positions elsewhere, and the quality of work done at that institution will go down. And this isn’t just happening in the south…it’s everywhere. Recently, I left another institution because my visiting position was cut. At my new institution, I went to a faculty orientation session in which the first question asked of the provost was whether permanent positions were supported. Said provost asked how many in the room were hired for non-tenure positions. 90% of hands (including mine) went up.

  31. Ilike Toread says:

    Kudos to Dean Pitschmann for putting his opinion out there. You gotta respect a Dean who is willing stoop low enough to go on record in this flashy, but often vapid, wasteland we call the blogosphere.

    Did you really site Wikipedia…what university do you work for? Let me guess, Phoenix Online!

    I think you do owe the University an apology, because you are in the wrong here. You could have easily trashed the hiring practice in question without trashing the institution, and effectively anyone who works for it.

    To you, Dean Pitschmann, I would suggest canceling your library’s subscription to LJ…no one was probably reading it anyway.

  32. Annoyed Librarian says:

    Yes, kudos to the dean for writing a thousand words without ever addressing the point of the post or the problem of the rising rate of contingent faculty within higher education. It was a masterful evasion worthy of a skilled politician!

    And by the way, dear, it’s “cite,” not “site.” If you’re going to indulge in irrelevant pseudonymous ad hominem attacks on me, the only encyclopedia anyone ever uses anymore, and such fine institutions of higher education as the University of Phoenix, you really should learn how to spell.

  33. I think the argument for librarian tenure is weak. Also it is my opinion that the literature stacks up quite poorly with other fields. Fears of status are just that, fears of being less than tenured faculty, having less tenured faculty. The fact is that librarian’s are different, and the me too game is farcical. It is well and good that Alabama allows people to serve without tenure requirements. Is it a good place to work? For me that is a different topic.

  34. About 17 years ago when I decided to change jobs, I applied to the University of Virginia and the University of Alabama. I thought both to be outstanding institutions. I ended up at the University of Alabama Libraries. To all you librarians out there, UA is an outstanding institution. And Alabama is an amazing state, with great culture, industry, and very nice weather. Hey, I parted with my Minnesota snow shovel before I moved to Alabama with no regret. Sure, the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and the University of Texas in Austin, a couple my former places of employment have wonderful libraries, but I can say with conviction that the UA Libraries stands with the best. Dust off your resume and come to Alabama. Roll Tide!

    John Sandy, head, Rodgers Library for Science and Engineering, The University of Alabama (in Tuscaloosa)

  35. Dot dot dot says:

    Does tenure protect people from getting fired even if they produce content for an online journal that pays them while one is still on the clock at their library?

  36. Libraryless Librarian says:

    “Depending on how the profession goes, it might even be the same group of people, who go back to library school thinking, “no, this time, I really will get a job!” Because that’s exactly what librarianship needs, more people who failed at other things before “settling” for librarianship.”

    I finished a graduate degree in a social sciences field and worked at a job I was vastly overqualified for for several years before deciding to go to library school for this exact reason – I thought it would make me more employable. I was not, however, “settling” for librarianship, and you know what? I’m an awesome librarian. Seriously. Not only am I great at what I do, but I’m extremely passionate and enthusiastic about my work. I went to a well respected library school that explained to students that tenure shouldn’t necessarily be a factor in applying for jobs. I knew early on that I didn’t want the baggage that comes with a tenure-track position, and I ended up taking a 2-year fellowship position at an academic library after finishing my MLS because I wanted to explore my options before settling into a particular university or area of librarianship. The First Year Experiences position is something I definitely would have applied for. As a new librarian I wanted this lack of commitment, and I’m sure other new librarians feel the same way. I’m not excusing universities who shortchange their librarians by offering mostly part-time or semi-permanent positions, I’m just saying that some of us have different priorities. I currently work at a non-profit institution that requires its researchers to have a MLS, although we’re not affiliated with a library. So… I did think very carefully about becoming a librarian, I decided that tenure wasn’t something that interested me, and I wasn’t willing to put up with anything to stay in academia. And I’m proud to call myself a librarian even though “librarian” isn’t currently in my job title. I don’t think that people who enter librarianship as a second career because they hope it makes them more employable are the real danger to the profession. I think the danger is jaded librarians who clearly hate their job.

  37. I would be horribly embarrassed to be caught using Wikipedia as a source for any article I was writing. As the “possibly the most successful, respected, and desirable librarian of her generation” you should know that anything from Wikipedia is suspcious as a noted source. Perhaps you should pick up the phone to conduct an interview or two instead of relying totally on the internet for your information…a trip to Alabama might do you some good.

  38. Just posted an editorial at addressing some of the criticisms of AL on Library Journal. “‘Annoyed’ Strikes Again.”

  39. Just posted an editorial that addresses some of the criticisms regarding AL on Library Journal. It’s at

  40. Tenured Librarian says:

    I find it amazing that so many posters here don’t want the benefits of tenure? Really! I think it proves AL’s point that we must be a bunch of self-sacrificing social workers that like books, even in academic libraries. It’s all about serving the customer? I thought it was supposed to be about facilitating student learning, which in some cases requires librarians to take a stand on the ways in which information literacy has not become a significant outcome of an undergraduate education. This is a tough thing to do without tenure.

    • Tenure is fine for some people, but don’t assume that because I don’t require that in a job that I am a “self-sacrificing social worker.” I work in a tiny (as in one room) academic library and find ways every day to make radical changes in the lives of students and how this library operates without the “benefit” of tenure.

      You or AL may not appreciate what I am able to do daily without tenure (for some reason you think you can’t do it), but I know that I am more than a social worker and so do my superiors. That is enough for me!

    • Tenured Librarian says:

      Sarah, you are confused by what I wrote. In no way do I think what you do at your institution is less important or critical because you don’t have tenure. Nor do I lack appreciation for that work, or for the work of social workers, for that matter.

      What I do find confusing is when those on the academic library job market would prefer positions without tenure. That seems incredibly self-sacrificing to me. That’s not maligning those who are willing to accept a job that doesn’t offer that benefit, as about half of academic library positions do not. I have worked at institutions with and without tenure for librarians, and it does make a very significant difference in terms of librarian stature on campus and job security.

      Our colleagues in other departments would undoubtedly find a tenure track job more desirable so it’s very strange that many of us don’t. Are we not good enough or deserving enough to strive for that benefit in our profession. Perhaps it’s just another example of the low self esteem of many in our field.

  41. I’m an LOL (laid off librarian). I was laid off in June 2010, after 20 years as a public librarian. I was laid off along with all of the other p/t librarians (many of us working moms with 20 year careers–it was a “RIF”, so this was allowed by our union) at an urban library system which no longer employs p/t librarians. I can’t find another p/t public library job in the area, so I’m now planning to go back and get a 2nd masters–an MSW. I loved being a librarian in public libraries for 20 years, but I guess I HAVE always wanted to be a social worker (who liked having a lot of books around)! :)

  42. I didn’t think the State or University of Alabama was insulted all that terribly. Much ado about nothing.

  43. J. Maxwell Miller says:


    “There’s the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, for example. And Forrest Gump went there. Oh, and “Parts of the Burt Reynolds film Hooper was filmed on lots owned by the University of Alabama.” Burt Reynolds used to be a famous centerfold model and all, so that’s exciting stuff.

    When you add in the sweltering heat (at the time of writing about 97 degrees Fahrenheit and 80% humidity) and the devastating tornadoes, what more could any librarian want? I’m surprised librarians aren’t flocking to Tuscaloosa the way they do to New York, Seattle, and Detroit.”

    How dare you insult my school and state. If you want replies that address the main points of your original post, as you accuse Dr. Pitschmann of not doing, then you should not have gone on such a callous, despicable, and obviously loaded diatribe that adds absolutely no substance to your argument about tenure, in the first place

    You obviously know nothing of Alabama and the University of Alabama and, as such, should keep your mouth shut on these subjects and keep your snide insults to yourself. Bringing up fictional characters or 50 year old history clearly proves your ignorance.

    Worst of all, though, is that anyone who would speak of a devastating weather event that killed 40 people and literally destroyed the lives of thousands more in such a disgustingly tongue-in-cheek fashion, “what more could any librarian want,” is utterly repulsive.

    Libraries are destroyed every year all over the world by natural disasters. Great librarians go to places like Haiti and Japan simply to rebuild libraries. They do not need tenure and usually do not even receive compensation. On the other hand, if a librarian would turn away from the University of Alabama because the area was just ravaged by such a horrible natural disaster, then I, wholeheartedly, would say they are not the type of person I would ever want to be employed by my Alma Mater anyway.

    J. Maxwell Miller
    SLIS Class of 1997

  44. I find this post interesting considering your post just a few years ago treating tenure as something to be ridiculed.

    • The Liebrarian says:

      If you read closely you can see that AL hasn’t changed their view of how librarian tenure is perceived by others (non-librarians) in academia. There are two different discussions going on here, one about the mis-perceptions a newly tenured librarian may have and one about job security, pay etc.

      2011 – “With faculty status and tenure, at least librarians could pretend that they were important to a university and their job status wasn’t equivalent to the custodians and food workers, even if real faculty knew they weren’t real faculty.”

      2006- “As hard as it may be for you to believe, the real faculty will never accept you as real faculty. I don’t accept you as real faculty, and I’m merely a lowly librarian. So you can imagine what the real faculty think of you. Try telling the professors of physics or economics or philosophy that you’re a real professor, just like them!”

    • Libraryless Librarian says:

      People are allowed to change their position on issues over the years. I actually consider it a sign of maturity and personal and professional growth. Liebrarian just pointed out that AL hasn’t, in fact, changed her position on tenure, but it would be OK if she had. I mean, I thought communism was a good idea when I was in high school – God forbid I be held to my opinions forever.

  45. Red John of the Battles says:

    I see the furor on this post has died down now, but I did not have time to comment earlier. I wish I had, but I had stuff to do. People like J. Maxwell Miller and Pitschmann have good points, but they and other supporters of the University of Alabama and the state shouldn’t get too bent out of shape. Few people who didn’t already share the Annoyed Librarian’s ill-conceived and bigoted opinions of Alabama and the U.S. South will actually adopt them just because they read her buffoonish diatribe. Of course I could remind her and her readers of other things associated with Alabama, like all the USAF personnel trained at Maxwell and Keesler who are currently defending her right to post buffoonish diatribes, or the scientists at Huntsville who developed the rockets that took human beings to the moon. (Most of them actually finished *their* dissertations, unlike her.) Now that I think about it, though, more preferable than pointing out those things would to point out that the Annoyed Librarian (given her posts about the lack of attractive, single, straight men in the library profession)is probably just acting out against Alabama because she knows that in a competition for the the few attractive, single, straight men who actually *are* in the library profession, women in UA Libraries and the UA SLIS program would kick her ass. Given what she herself has said about ass-width among librarians, it probably wouldn’t be hard to miss anyway. And I guarantee you Alabama babes (including female faculty, staff and students of any college or school of the University of Alabama – even the librarians) are hotter, smarter, and more fun than her. And she knows it. So does Chip – Alabama girls don’t have to *pay* him for giving them backrubs and serving martinis.

  46. Annoyed in Alabama says:

    You claim the right to change your mind over time — “God forbid I be held to my opinions forever” — but don’t bother to note that Alabama — and all of the US — has made great changes since the “stand in the schoolhouse door.” How about a little fair play here?

  47. I think the same as you, my point of view. Best wishes! (:

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