Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Goodbye, Faculty Status

Universities just don’t know what to do with librarians. Are they faculty or staff or some weird combination of both?

Librarians often want to be faculty members, even though they don’t teach, do less research and publishing, usually don’t have PhDs in their field, and have more traditional work schedules than the real or teaching faculty. Comparing the two, it’s easy to see huge differences, but librarians want to be faculty because of the status.

On other hand, librarians aren’t quite like other university staff, either. They are often engaged in research and publication, active within professional communities, and have educational interactions with students. Many are academic dropouts with significant education and credentials.

In a lot of libraries – especially in state universities – librarians often have faculty status and in many other libraries have a similar process of rank and promotion, even if they’re not specifically faculty members.

While faculty status isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be, and plenty of academic librarians function just fine without it, librarians with it consider it to be something of a slap in the face when it’s threatened. They see it as an attack on their professionalism.

At least that’s the way they’re viewing it at the University of Virginia, where the University Librarian has just declared that no new librarians hired will have faculty status, even though some group of librarians has had it for the past 50 years. The announcement was handled the way that all significant and sweeping announcements should be handled…via email.

Based on the news article, the University Librarian and the university librarians seem to be talking past each other. The statements from the director indicate that she doesn’t know what to think about faculty librarians.

“We hire all kinds of professionals, and it was never clear why someone should be called a faculty member versus being called managerial and professional staff,” Wittenborg said. “This is an important step to take to recognize the work all library staff does.”

Possibly someone could have made it clear, maybe by articulating distinctions. All library work is important to run the library, but not all jobs are the same.

Then a couple of odd statements:

The restructured title will offer all library employees the ability to accrue leave, Wittenborg said. The move will also create a more cohesive library community, she said in an email to employees.

It would be strange indeed if librarians were no longer able to “accrue leave” just because they didn’t have faculty status. As for the more cohesive community, I couldn’t say. Are there resentful staff who aren’t faculty librarians who will now be happy their faculty peers are being eliminated?

Or this one:  “Very few universities offer faculty-level library positions.” If 50% or more is “very few,” then I guess that’s right.

I’m not sure the librarians come off any better.

Critics, however, cited the importance of the faculty designation within the University self-governance system…. Librarians who are faculty can participate in the General Faculty Council, which would not be the case for library staffers.

Couldn’t that same argument be made about any group within the university? This is basically saying we should be faculty because we want to be on the faculty council. It doesn’t address the UL’s questions about what practically distinguishes a librarian faculty member from a library staff member.

One librarian is concerned that “qualified professionals may shy away from joining the library staff in the future without the faculty designation.”

That seems unlikely given the persistent jobs crisis. Somehow I doubt a librarian on the market would take a look at UVA and think, “great library, but that no faculty status thing is a dealbreaker.”

“[The faculty title] helps professionalize what we do,” he said. “It may just be a title, but it also is a recognition of librarian professionals, [all of whom] have professional degrees.”

This one’s also a little tricky. One way to read it pretty much automatically eliminates librarians from consideration of faculty status.

Librarian professionals have professional degrees. You know who typically don’t have professional degrees? The teaching faculty. They have the terminal academic degree in their field. They don’t consider themselves professionals so much as professors, and there’s definitely a distinction. Professional degrees are what academics get when they can’t get jobs with their academic degrees.

The strangest thing about all this is that it’s the University Librarian taking the faculty status away. Usually it’s the teaching faculty and academic administration who can’t figure out why librarians have faculty status. But if even the head of the library can’t be convinced, it doesn’t bode well for the faculty librarians.



  1. This is an interesting proposition to me. I considered academic librarianship and overall loved it, but decided against it because *so many* university libraries demanded that their librarianss be faculty. I didn’t want to have to teach information literacy classes to hundreds of uninterested Freshmen and publish just for the sake of publishing to keep doing the part of my job that I actually cared about. I’d probably be working in an academic library now if things were otherwise.

    • I’m one of those odd birds that has absolutely no interest in tenure-track/faculty status — which makes finding a spot in a University library (where I’d like to be) a dicey proposition. I actively avoid the “publish or perish” gigs…and I do publish…and I do committee work. But I do it because I like to, not because I have to. I thought I was done with required research projects and papers when I was done with school.

      Someone point me in the direction of a job that rates me based on my performance of my duties on the job?

    • In addition to those tawdry “professional degrees” you speak of, most tenure track librarians are required to have another masters degree to indicate subject specialty. Do we want our academic librarians to have any less!? Shouldn’t they understand the material?

  2. I always thought that librarians seeking faculty status was, well, sort of pathetic.

  3. cranky librarian says:

    so all you university liberrians: what do you do on breaks when all the kidz ain’t in skewl? sit around thumb twiddlin’ and complainin’ that the faculty are off?

    • No, we developed lesson plans for bibliographic instruction classes, worked on our website, conducted our liaison meetings with those professors that were around, created user guides, and held workshops for fellow librarians….

    • cranky librarian says:

      and all that exciting work took exactly one day – what to do with the rest of the break?

    • Maybe you could mash together some crappy program in a day however many of us take the time to develop decent BI sessions, which meant a lesson plan with outcomes, which meant discussing with the professor what they had hoped we would achieve, which meant practicing with our fellow librarians, which meant reviewing and rediscovering resources the library had.
      We spent the ‘breaks’ improving ourselves with respsect to our profession.
      The only time that I wasted sitting around listening to malcontents like you was during staff meetings.

    • cranky librarian says:

      and i call myself cranky? it all seems like gerbils spinning on wheels from a distance…

    • Sherry Rhodes says:

      This university librarian works only on an academic year contract, which means I’m unemployed when the students aren’t in session. That should make you feel good, that your tax dollars aren’t going toward paying me to sit around twiddling my thumbs. Based on what I see & hear about my colleagues doing, & what I do during breaks during the academic year, university librarians do the things that Greg mentioned, as well as designing & running a two-week summer program based on “NCIS” for inner-city kids to get them interested in attending college, researching & recommending new books & databases in their academic areas of specialty, deciding what books & databases can be eliminated without adversely affecting the resources available to students & faculty, working with professors to aid them in their research projects, developing & implementing programs for classes to teach librarians better instruction skills, packing & moving books, print journals, & anything else in physical form to help w/reconfiguring the library… But I’m sure that you think that that can all be accomplished in one additional day. I don’t know what type of librarian you are—or if you’re even really a librarian rather than just a troll—but I’m quite sure that I wouldn’t like to patronize your library.

  4. George Spelvin says:

    not instructional faculty: administrative/professional faculty

  5. Librarian with a status in-between faculty and staff says:

    What do you mean by “professional degree” and “terminal degree” in the second to last paragraph? Are they both masters degrees? By “teaching faculty” do you mean lecturers? Don’t most lecturers have PhD’s these days since the market is so flooded?
    Hmm. Nope, I don’t understand the distiction you’re making in that paragraph.

    • Annoyed Librarian says:

      “Teaching faculty” are distinguished from librarians with faculty status. It means the professors who are members of the faculty. Lecturers may or may not be members of the faculty depending on where they work. Professors in most fields don’t have professional degrees in the sense the librarians (or lawyers or doctors) do. They have the terminal *academic* degree in their field. Typically this is the PhD, except in some arts or creative writing departments where the MFA is the terminal academic degree. Contrasting academic with professional degrees is a common distinction.

    • Librarian with a status in-between faculty and staff says:

      Thank you for the clarification!

  6. It is one thing to have faculty status, it is another to merit it. I am certain that there are plenty of teaching professors who should not have and do not deserve faculty status in the same way that many librarians do not and should not have it. Still there is an ideal that we have of the library’s role and the position of librarians within an academic institution that is supported by allowing faculty status for librarians.

    When we do not allow librarians to achieve faculty status we are setting an upper limit of what we expect out of them. If an institution’s current librarians do not merit faculty status I would hope that the solution would be more qualified librarians, not lowering our expectations of them.

  7. Catherine says:

    Does this mean that since their librarians are no longer faculty they no longer have to publish? If faculty status meant also contributing to the field’s research and literature than I think taking away that incentive is a mistake.

    Not that one should publish solely to make tenure or keep faculty status.

  8. Having worked at a SUNY about 90 miles north on NYC as a librarian for 3 or so years I can say we were faculty in name only. While we were officially faculty, we were under the control of the Provost and not the President. We were 12 month employees and not 10 (or really 9) month as were faculty. Additionally, we were considered essential employees and so were required to be at our posts even if classes were cancelled due to bad weather. Additionally, until we were tenured, we had to prove our worth to the University with annual reviews and contracts. Finally, we were paid alot less than a typical ‘professor’ of the University even without considering the 12 months vs 10 month work schedule, even those librarians that had their PHD were paid considerably less than the faculty member who had a terminal Masters in Fine Art.

  9. “Librarians often want to be faculty members, even though they don’t teach, do less research and publishing, usually don’t have PhDs in their field, and have more traditional work schedules than the real or teaching faculty. Comparing the two, it’s easy to see huge differences, but librarians want to be faculty because of the status.”

    AL, I’m shocked that you would say that academic librarians don’t teach. Certainly there are many university librarians whose duties do not include teaching, but I can’t imagine there are any universities where none of the librarians provide bibliographical instruction sessions. I’d also like to know where you got the idea that librarians have more traditional schedules than faculty members? I do night and weekend reference and instruction 5 days a week. I’m not sure why anyone’s schedule has anything to do with whether they are a faculty member or not.

    • Annoyed Librarian says:

      I should have been clearer. Librarians rarely teach semester or quarter long credit-bearing courses, which is what distinguishes the teaching faculty from the librarian faculty. Teaching bibliographic instruction sessions is very different, much less time consuming, and requires significantly less preparation. By “traditional schedules” I meant the typical 11-month schedule of librarians rather than the faculty who typically have set schedules only when classes are in session. There might be libraries where the librarians are off when classes are out of session, but I don’t know of any.

    • I see no reason why anyone publishing scholarly works with the required frequency should not be awarded tenure regardless of whether they are a professor or a librarian. I’m sure that would mean fewer librarians with tenure than professors, but that’s as it should be, since we have a much broader set of responsibilities than professors.

    • Where I work, we have faculty status, tenured/tenure track. We can and do teach credit courses that have nothing to do with the information literacy sessions we provide to numerous classes each semester. Yes, we have 12 month contracts, not 9, but we earn vacation unlike the 9 month subject based faculty. We participate actively in faculty senate and the numerous committees that are part of that body. It is easily the best library/university I have worked at because we are respected as equals in the faculty. Like other departments or programs, we also have librarians who are lecturers. They work full or part time but are not on tenure track. Being a tenured faculty member was not something I sought out, but I eventually found my way to this job. Now I would have trouble going back to an institution where librarians are not valued as equals in the educational process of students.

  10. As a tenured librarian I have very mixed feelings about tenure for librarians. I think librarians can be administrative faculty which would allow them to participate in faculty senate. I have seen how much time tenure takes away from actual work. I have seen the hiring process skewed by the “ability to obtain tenure.” Overall, I am not sure it really contributes to the running of the library.

  11. The place I went to library school actually had semester long courses taught by librarians for undergraduate students. The classes were your typical information literacy classes but over an entire semester instead of series or one-shot instruction. They included some major project at the end of the semester. In that case librarians should have tenure and faculty status but it’s really a joke because they get none of the actual benefits.

    As far as other situations, I’ve worked at libraries in which there were not semester long classes but the professors brought students in for ILI so frequently that they mine as well have. This is on top of being lackey’s for whatever departments you liaise with to make sure they have everything they want in the collection and being available to teach their students at the drop of a hat.

    In most cases librarian’s don’t have any of the benefits of tenure or faculty status. I wish it could be traded for higher pay considering the 12 month (or 11 month with vacation time) schedule.

  12. Agree with EFM. At my institution, the distinction is made through the terminology of “Academic Professional”–a middle ground between faculty and staff. However, we are still allowed to run for things like faculty senate, etc. But as a member of some of these committees, I honestly feel that they have very little, if any, impact on my job other than a check-box on my annual review.

    So it seems a bit silly to me that some librarians are so eager to be a part of these campus entities–especially since, in my experience, little goes on besides deconstructing policy and curriculum terminology. But I guess that’s just the thing for librarians who are that concerned with terminology in the first place.

    Some of you may probably say that faculty status comes with extra pay, benefits, prestige. And that’s probably true. But it just seems like a lot of smoke and mirrors to me, as all euphemisms are (bathroom tissue is still toilet paper). I’m just here to do my job.

  13. I enjoy having a faculty appointment as an archivist (rank: Librarian). I enjoy the academic freedom, challenges, and opportunities that are not offered to an exempt staff member, which I had been for five years prior. (I was also a non-exempt staff member for three years, which had considerable professional limitations.) The job is what you make it, and academic librarians with faculty appointments really need to get over this existential crisis.

  14. I wholeheartedly agree with this article and the removal of tenure status for librarians. I’d also like to go further and have permanent tenure status removed from teaching facutly as well. At best I think tenure should be reviewed every 5 years and if the faculty member has not been performing, then tenure should be removed. This should motivate faculty members to be more engaged, creative, and up-to-date with what goes on around them.
    Tenure is all about power, politics, and security…. and 99% of people in today’s day and age don’t have guaranteed security… this would bring a touch of reality to an elite percentage of the population who have carte blanche to do as they please. We only need to look at today’s education to see its decline… I’m a librarian working as an admin, my choice, I had no interest to go the tenure way. I see some of my professional colleagues, who are tenured, work really hard trying to be “faculty” and it really makes me happy of my decision…because it is quite sad…Because at the end of the day… they are not…

    • The fact is, your post is riddled with errors and unproven assertions, beginning with the first sentence. You assert that “tenure status” is at issue – it is not. It’s faculty status for librarians that’s at issue in the UVA Library case; the librarians don’t have tenure.

      This is a serious issue. Libraries need to be agile in order to employ technologies in meeting current and emerging user needs. And this will not happen automatically. Personally, I think the approach announced by Karin Wittenborg at UVA could make the organization more flexible along these lines. At the same time, in practical terms, this step will encourage librarians, particularly younger librarians, to leave the UVA Library.

  15. ScienceLibrarian says:

    As a new faculty librarian at a small liberal arts school, I feel ambivalent about faculty status for librarians. I think whether it is a good or bad thing really depends on the institution and institutional culture.

    This was the only tenure track faculty position I applied for because I had the same reservations others have pointed out on here–I didn’t want publishing to get in the way of me doing my job and publishing just for the sake of getting tenure. I made sure before taking this job that the institutional culture lined up with my philosophy and am fortunate to work at a place that favors heavily the librarianship/teaching part of the job over the scholarship part of the job. I know a lot of places this isn’t true and I think that is unfortunate and, if possible, should change. As a librarian I think my first job is to serve my patrons through things like research appointments, information literacy instruction, collection development, creating new services, etc.

    Another important thing to consider is the functional role of faculty status–at some places faculty will not work as closely with librarians if they are not faculty. Perhaps this isn’t a good enough reason to keep it, but I think it is important to consider. I’d be happy without faculty status or tenure here except for the fact that in informal discussions with some of my departmental faculty they have explicitly expressed that without faculty status they wouldn’t listen to us. They wouldn’t come for help with GIS, with designing new assignments that incorporate a strong research components, with integrating information literacy instruction into the classroom because they wouldn’t see us as peers. For me that is a compelling reason, as it helps me help students and faculty in a more integrated and constructive way, but for others perhaps it is not a compelling reason (and at some institutions perhaps librarians having faculty status pushes faculty away).

    Also regarding teaching semester long classes, librarians at my institution have created their own semester long classes for students and a number of them teach full semester First Year Seminars (FYS are required of all incoming freshman). Just wanted to clarify that at some places librarians with faculty status can go beyond one-shots.

  16. Midwest SciTech Librarian says:

    If there is a sudden decline in forced publishing for tenure, how will I get my fill of misnamed, poorly described conference presentations that re-hash the concept of citation analysis? I guess I’ll just have to spend more time in the exhibit hall gathering all the freebies I can lay my hands on.

  17. At my institution, librarians have faculty status-we are tenured or tenure track. I am a tenure track librarian in an administrative capacity, and from my perspective, I can’t see what faculty status does for the library as an organization. In fact, at my institution, having tenured librarians serves as a hindrance to moving the organization forward, because they (tenured librarians) know if they resist any changes to move the organization forward, there is nothing that can be done to them. In theory, a tenured librarian could be terminated for poor performance, but good luck with that.

    The tenured librarians say and do anything they please (one actually said in a faculty meeting “I have tenure, so I can say whatever I want) and the untenured librarians say nothing out of fear. Unlike teaching faculty, we work 12 months a year, and don’t get official time off for research and publishing. Thinking that faculty status will make on on the same level as teaching faculty is foolish.

    I work at a public university in a state where we are facing major cuts to the higher ed budget, and tenure for librarians is up for discussion. Anything the Dean suggests to help us weather the coming financial challenges will have to be debated to death, and the ones with the loudest opposition voices will be the librarians with tenure.

    • As an untenured-librarian, I believe that, as you describe, self-governance is one of the parts that makes the whole experience worth it.

  18. The lack of rigor in much of the literature can be stunning at times. Unfortunately there is little energy and enthusiasm in the investigation of faulty studies due to the lack of readers, and the political stakes at hand. It saddens me that there is a very productive author of papers with incorrect statistics and findings that cannot be repeated. This only reinforces the perception that the publishing game in librarianship is not up to par with other fields, and exposes the desire for faculty status as a bit of a fraud. That is not to say serious research is nonexistent, perhaps just that it can be the exception and not the rule.

  19. library_yeti says:

    Librarians don’t teach or do research? What rock have you been living under, A.L.?

    There are plenty of us who develop and teach credit-bearing courses.

    At my University I am expected to publish and present at conferences. To develop new curriculum. Even if this weren’t required, I consider it a duty to my profession to explore new intellectual territory and convey my findings to other information professionals.

    And who wouldn’t want the perks of faculty status:
    protection under academic freedom policies
    more support and release time for professional development
    a flexible schedule
    increased access to some of your most important constituents: other faculty
    better benefits

    If you are an academic librarian and don’t consider faculty status to be a privilege worth pursuing, I question your sanity and your work ethic.

    • library_yeti says:

      I left out perhaps the most important perk of having faculty status:
      through participation on campus governance committees, faculty senate, etc., the ability to shape the future direction of your institution and to make sure that the role of libraries has a place in that future.

  20. I am one of the librarians questioning faculty status, so I guess you are questioning my work ethic and sanity. You mention that being able to serve on campus governance committees, etc. can help shape the future direction of your institution. At my institution (a public university) newly elected governmental officials are preparing to make a drastic overall of public higher education. Members of faculty senate, etc. are are clueless on how to respond to these changes, because they are clinging to the mindset that nothing they do is wrong, and that because they are academics, anything they want to teach should be allowed. These legislators are going to eat these folks for lunch. Any suggestion of return on investment, data driven decisions, etc. is met with disdain by academic faculty- but that is the language our current governor and legislature speak. Meanwhile, faculty members (including librarians) keep saying what they do can’t be measured and can’t be accurately assessed.

    I work more than 40 hours every week, and I don’t get time off to research and/or write, unlike teaching faculty. As a faculty member, I don’t get better benefits than non faculty members-we all have the same crappy health insurance benefits from the state.

    You mention that librarians that have faculty status will have their academic freedom preserved. Not trying to be snarky (I really am curious) but can you cite some examples of librarians that were harmed by their inability to teach what they wanted or publish what they wanted because they didn’t have faculty status? How common is this for librarians?

    • library_yeti says:

      Academic freedom means more than protection. It means creative license as well. For instance, I was able to develop and teach a course that falls outside the “traditional” path tread by librarians. Academic freedom creates an environment that fosters experimentation. Want to teach a course on the history of the internet? Urban legends and internet hoaxes? The history of misinformation? 3 credit hours? 2 credit hours? 1 credit hour? I have the freedom to make those decisions.

  21. I’m going to second library_yeti. I was a visiting faculty at my last university. Currently, I’m academic staff, and I miss the perks of faculty status. I’m actually leaving this non-faculty position for a 9 month tenure track gig in a few months. I’ll be giving up lack of control, unequal footing with faculty, and lack of research time/money. I love faculty status. It helps me do my job – instruction.

  22. For all the comments I’ve read on this and other sites that are reacting to the UVa Library announcement, including those that have mention the AAUP and the ACRL standard, I’m surprised that I haven’t noticed any that call explicit attention to what may be the most crucial issue with respect to faculty status for librarians, namely academic freedom.

    While there may be some disagreement about whether librarian merit faculty status on the basis of their job responsibilities (not all “librarians” these days have direct or indirect teaching responsibilities, after all) or types of advanced degrees (academic vs. professional/terminal, requirements for which vary by library position and institution), I suspect there is somewhat less disagreement that librarians should be granted the same academic freedom protection that teaching and research faculty are granted.

    Academic freedom touches on many aspects of a librarian’s work, from decisions regarding collection development (what should be included/excluded/removed from library collections and under what circumstances) to the content of the opinions they express on matters relating to academic governance (which has been mentioned in several postings). Taking the Encyclopedia Brittanica’s definition of academic freedom as representative of a common consensus of its meaning: “Its basic elements include the freedom of teachers to inquire into any subject that evokes their intellectual concern; to present their findings to their students, colleagues, and others; to publish their data and conclusions without control or censorship.” To the extent that librarians make intellectual inquiry into various disciplines (including their own professional domains of library and information science) and to the extent that they publish or otherwise communicating their findings and opinions, the principle of academic freedom provides a measure of protection (and responsibility) for their activities that goes beyond general First Amendment freedom of speech protections.

    Consider the current case of Dale Askey, the librarian at McMaster University, who was threatened with lawsuits for remarks he made about the quality of Edwin Mellen Press as a publisher of academic works. The “Academic Librarian” blogger at Princeton regards the issue of academic freedom (rightly, I think) as being highly relevant to this case; see:

    Taking away library faculty status would seem to have the consequence of taking away the protections and responsibilities of academic freedom that come with faculty status and diluting the meaning and import of academic freedom for other members of the academic community.
    In this light, the Joint Statement on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians, which was prepared by the Joint Committee on College Library Problems, a national committee representing the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Association of American Colleges (now the Association of American Colleges and Universities), and the American Association of University Professors, seems particularly relevant for the situation at UVa, which after all had its president removed and only to be reinstated following strong appeals to the principles of academic freedom and faculty status.

    “College and university librarians share the professional concerns of faculty members. Academic freedom is indispensable to librarians in their roles as teachers and researchers. Critically, they are trustees of knowledge with the responsibility of ensuring the intellectual freedom of the academic community through the availability of information and ideas, no matter how controversial, so that teachers may freely teach and students may freely learn. Moreover, as members of the academic community, librarians should have latitude in the exercise of their professional judgment within the library, a share in shaping policy within the institution, and adequate opportunities for professional development and appropriate reward.”
    “Faculty status entails for librarians the same rights and responsibilities as for other members of the faculty. They should have corresponding entitlement to rank, promotion, tenure, compensation, leaves, and research funds.”

  23. In my current status, I have access to all the things everyone alluded to– academic freedom, etc. But I don’t think it’s a problem that my institution refers to my status as “continuing eligible” instead of “tenure track” or that I am an “Academic Professional” instead of “Faculty.” Getting caught up in terminology (and the perceptions thereof) is half the problem. It’s this kind of all-or-nothing thinking (“I have to be faculty status or I’m doomed”) that gets librarians in trouble.

    I agree that the whole “visiting status” issue is a problem and decreases retention–and is something that should definitely be taken seriously. But do librarians have to toot their horn so loudly by saying, “Yes, I’m faculty too!” ? I think it just makes us look like we’re trying too hard.

    • A lot of what WriterLibrarian says here makes sense to me, though I prefer to have a clear and common designation as faculty for my own context (large research institution, all kinds of faculty on campus and off, etc.). I certainly witness an abundance of insecurity on the part of librarians with faculty status about being taken seriously as faculty and seen as peers and such… I think if we focused on excelling at our positions and offered clear definitions of how success is defined, then we will be taken as seriously as we can ever hope for. I’m sure the dossier of a faculty librarian would have as much in common with an engineering professor as would a studio art professor, or trombone professor, etc.

    • Terminology is important in academia though! That little semantic game will bite you in the butt at some point.

  24. I deliberately sought and found a faculty, tenure-track librarian position recently because I’d spent a number of years in a non-faculty librarian position (we were considered staff) and it was a complete dead-end both in terms of promotion and in terms of the ability to do research and scholarly activities. There was absolutely no promotion pathway available and any opportunities to do research or publication, even to attend professional conferences, was absolutely at the whim of the library director. In my newer position, I’m on a clear tenure-track and promotion pathway. Yes, there are additional demands in terms of service (serving on committees) and research (publish or perish as the cliche goes) but those are a positive thing, in my opinion. I know I’ll get clear rewards for what I accomplish, the process is set institution-wide as for any faculty members, and I’ve found that our academic colleagues treat you with much more respect if you have faculty status. Instead of being a staff member that is supposed to serve them, you’re a fellow faculty member and they’re more willing to collaborate and see you as an expert in your field. That’s just the way it is.

  25. I have no faculty status at my university and I am treated as an equal. If a university doesn’t treat someone as an equal because they don’t have faculty status then there is something wrong with your university culture as a whole and you should be kinda ashamed that sort of thing goes on not proud that you are given an arbitrary title that give you permission to feel like you are an equal!

  26. ScienceLibrarian says:

    In my mind, this misses the point a bit. Like it or not, academic culture at research universities is, by and large, based upon prestige (which faculty status serves as a proxy for). As a librarian, I’m not interested in reworking the entire fabric of academic culture and upending this tradition, but in serving my patrons (students and faculty) as best I can right now. At my institution, in its current form, that means having faculty status. At other institutions faculty status may be irrelevant or detrimental. For me, I think it’s more useful to think about whether faculty status has a practical benefit (or detriment) in the institution I work in, not whether it is “good or bad” philosophically.

  27. No one has mentioned job security in this thread! Currently in my institution, we have mostly faculty librarians who for the most part really do meet the criteria of being faculty especially in relation to a typical humanities professor. Junior faculty bust their butts to do their jobs well and do good scholarship, and senior faculty seem to keep it up as well. If you get tenure here, you earned it! But, there are some librarians who are not faculty. We are constantly worrying about the job security of these folks. That is no way to function. It is detrimental to their personal health and their morale on the job.

    My personal opinion is faculty status is good. But if we’re going to be faculty, then act like faculty and stop being doorstops for the world. And for the record, I would most certainly overlook a position that did not have faculty status.

  28. library_yeti says:

    Annoying Librarian says:

    “Librarian professionals have professional degrees. You know who typically don’t have professional degrees? The teaching faculty. They have the terminal academic degree in their field.”

    Guess what, AL? At my college an MLIS is considered a terminal, academic degree. Librarians are faculty who teach. Sorry you haven’t had either of those privileges in your work experience. But don’t drag all of us down with you.

  29. library_yeti says:

    The biggest impediment to librarians in terms of being seen as “academics” is their inability to reinvent themselves due to an inferiority complex. You have a Master’s degree in a field that involves research and teaching. Use it by contributing to the scholarly discourse in your field. Break new ground by expanding what is typically considered our range of expertise. Develop and teach theme-based or discipline specific information literacy courses. Don’t settle for being a 2nd class citizen, people! Start claiming your role as a member of the “teaching faculty.” And for God’s sake, only take jobs at colleges that will consider you more than a lackey.

  30. One topic not discussed in this thread is related to grants. In our institution, only those with faculty rank are allowed to apply for grants and contracts or serve as principal investigator of applications and resulting projects. Without faculty status I would have been unable to bring in nearly $250k in funding which resulted in various research projects, including one which created and distributed open source software that was once used by thousands of libraries internationally.

    In short, the impact of the removal of faculty status and the ability to perform research could impact all types of libraries in ways that you may not be readily apparent.

  31. I’ve been a librarian for eight years now in public and academic settings and I’ve never understood this strange system we have for academic librarians. If you want to teach and do research, you get a PhD and become a LIS professor. If you want to practice, you get an MLS and get to work. Can you imagine if the university accounting department offering tenure to staffers who are on a committee or two and teach two one-hour classes per quarter so they can do a poster session at some conference? It’s just weird and nonsensical. The only decent argument for faculty status or tenure is academic freedom, but again, that should apply to professors of LIS, not working staff librarians.

    • LIS professors also tend to conduct the most valuable research. I agree, two clear and logical paths.

  32. Despite my glib comment earlier, I think there is no right answer to this. If every university, in every state, whether private or public all functioned the same and were organized the same then we could actually have a discussion about faculty status but they are not so we can’t.

    I have seen librarians who teach literacy classes almost year round and do a ton of research and involved myriad of committees who probably deserve faculty status. And other librarians who do, do a wonderful job but doesn’t require committee work or publishing and rarely have to bring work home. I personally prefer the latter, not because I am lazy, I love my work but I did go into librarianship so that I could work in academics and get all the fun parts of helping students learn but none of the grading or publishing stresses. (And I do committee work because I happen to love it.)

    I think it is good that some universities have faculty status if that is what you want but if you don’t it probably good that there are universities that don’t.

    I really think this conversation is pointless for the reason stated in my first paragraph and all it does is pit librarian against librarian when this isn’t even a problem that needs to be solved.

  33. library_yeti says:

    @Jonesy: is there anyone on this discussion thread who discusses anything other than “getting to work”? Are you implying that librarians with faculty status who choose to focus on research and teaching without getting their PhD don’t work hard?

  34. library_yeti says:

    @AL: In response to your comment: “there might be libraries where the librarians are off when classes are out of session, but I don’t know of any.”

    There is a gigantic region of the U.S. where a certain type of academic librarian with faculty status is normally off for most, if not all, of the summer. I’m not going to give up the goods though. You’re librarians. You figure it out.

  35. academic_librarian says:

    As an academic librarian, a big part of my job is to help graduate students and faculty with their research, and help teach them how to be more effective researchers. I don’t know how I could do this well without having done research myself. Doing my own research helps me use resources and tools in a much more in-depth way than providing reference service does, and helps me understand what faculty and students are going through and might need help with.

    Some of my research has arisen from questions that came up in my teaching, and my teaching brings in issues and examples from my research. I wouldn’t be able to do my “regular” job, especially faculty liaison and instruction, nearly as well if I didn’t do any research.

    Teaching faculty talk about the necessary interconnection between research and teaching–the research informs the teaching, and vice versa. It works the same for academic librarians. This interconnection is one of the major historical and philosophical foundations of our university system and is the reason why university librarians usually have some kind of academic status and are expected to do research. Research is not a useless add-on to your real job if you are an academic librarian–it is part of your real job and informs the other parts. People who don’t like this should maybe think twice about whether they want to be academic librarians.

    • All librarians conduct research of some sort, not all librarians publish. The question is what is the impact of our publishing other than to provide peer status to other faculty.

  36. There are many who would say that goes for most scholarly publishing.

  37. WeedingGirl says:

    There’s at least one really good reason that academic librarians want to have faculty status: it allows them to belong to the faculty union (if there is one at their institution). Union members have more protection against being fired arbitrarily than non-union employees. In this political and economic climate, wouldn’t you rather have the union there to represent you when some Tea Party nut job decides that your job should be de-funded?

  38. One of the aspects of this discussion I’ve wondered about is the issue of 12 month contracts for academic librarians who go through a tenure process. I think this issue is extremely significant for subject liaison librarians. If the customers are gone in the summer, the amount of work is marginalized. Sure we can keep ourselves as productive as possible, but 40 hours worth of work per week during the months of June and July? For many academic liaison librarians, its just not there. My point here is that if we are going to make librarians jump through tenure hoops, why not give them 10 month contracts? If the students and profs aren’t around to serve and collection budgets are spent, who really benefits from having librarians on campus during the summer? If we can’t justify paying tenured librarians as well as tenured profs, why not at least give them the lifestyle? They can better manage elderly and young family members and come into the office whenever they need to for a project. And lastly, imagine the implications for retention: Once academic librarians enjoy the flexibility of that lifestyle, how willing might they be to give it up for 10K more at another university?

    • I work in an academic library and I can tell you from experience that there is PLENTY of work to be done during the summer months. Websites get updated, links are checked, lib guides are done, citation style guides are updated, new databases are reviewed, and if technology changes occur, they generally happen here. In addition, weeding also occurs here as well. Last summer we weeded our collection of reference books, which included shifting items as well done by circulation students. HUGE PROJECT and the circulating books need to be done still as well. In addition, we are currently doing an inventory on all circulating items to make sure that the items on the shelf and the what the catalog says we have actually match up. Not too mention people going on vacation, and others having to cover their workload.

  39. I’m all in favor of faculty status for academic librarians — but I don’t like the devaluing of faculty status by awarding it to librarians who don’t have doctorates and don’t engage in research of the same rigor and quantity as that of the regular departmental faculty. Likewise, many librarian “faculty” are paid far less than their counterparts in other departments. Librarians fail to meet real standards for faculty status, so they’re granted a lesser kind of faculty status in return.
    In my view, real faculty status (with nine-month contracts, equal pay, and serious research requirements) is essential if we want librarians who are fully committed to the scholarly enterprise — but in too many cases, the faculty status that’s granted to librarians is not real faculty status. The loss of THAT kind of faculty status is hardly a loss at all.

  40. For those faculty librarians who do teach credit bearing semester long courses, are you expected to teach on top of your 40 hours and therefore get extra compensation, or do you teach the class during your regular hours and therefore no extra compensation? This has been an issue at our school for starting credit bearing courses. Our library director and provost disagree on the right approach, which has all but stalled our attempts to get these classes going.

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