Labor in Academic Libraries

Source: Emily Drabinski, Aliqae Geraci, and Roxanne Shirazi, Issue Editors, Library Trends, Volume 68, Number 2, Fall 2019

Articles Include:
Participatory and Ethical Strategic Planning: What Academic Libraries Can Learn from Critical Management Studies
Danya Leebaw

Abstract:
This paper introduces a subfield of management studies, “critical management studies” (CMS) in order to rethink mainstream management practices in academic libraries, with strategic planning as an illustrative example. Mainstream management models from the corporate sector prioritize efficiency, productivity, and numerical measures for assessing impact. Academic libraries have generally borrowed uncritically from this mainstream management praxis, but how well does this serve our needs, especially when it comes to the most complex issues we face? CMS draws on critical theory to interrogate the methods and goals of mainstream management, with an emphasis on denaturalizing “taken for granted” practices and prioritizing ethics and worker equity. After providing a brief overview of the history and adoption of mainstream management in academic libraries, this paper focuses on strategic planning as an illustrative exploration of CMS principles in an academic library context. Strategic planning is a common managerial practice that has been embraced by academic libraries and generally modeled after mainstream approaches. Yet, CMS scholars contend that traditional strategic planning reproduces workplace inequities and universalizes managerial interests. In this article, I employ ideas from CMS to rethink library strategic planning by opening participation, reframing problems, and embracing our ethical agency.

“Being in Time”: New Public Management, Academic Librarians, and the Temporal Labor of Pink-Collar Public Service Work
Karen P. Nicholson

Abstract:
Time is a site of power, one that enacts particular subjectivities and relationships. In the workplace, time enables and constrains performance, attitudes, and behaviors. In this qualitative research study, I examine the impact of the values and practices of new public management on academic librarians’ experiences of time when engaged in pink-collar public service (reference and information literacy) work. Data gathered during semi-structured interviews with twenty-four public service librarians in Canadian public research-intensive universities, members of the U15 Group, serve as a site of analysis for this study. Interview data were first analyzed using thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006) within a constructionist framework. Sharma’s (2014) theory of power-chronography—time as power—was then used as an analytical framework. Findings suggest that, in keeping with research on the temporal experiences of faculty, academic librarians’ temporal labor is structured and controlled by the logics and institutional arrangements of new public management. Moreover, like their faculty counterparts, academic librarians experience temporal intensification and acceleration. However, as marginal educators and members of a feminized profession, librarians also encounter “recalibration” (Sharma 2014), the need to modify the tempo of their own labor to be “in time” with the dominant temporalities of faculty and students.

“The Power of Knowledge, Objectified”: Immaterial Labor, Cognitive Capitalism, and Academic Librarianship
Sam Popowich

Abstract:
This article analyzes current trends in academic librarianship from the perspective of Italian autonomist Marxism. With the rise of new technologies and the advent of a period variously called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” “Industry 4.0,” and “The Second Machine Age,” academic librarianship is undergoing various changes in work-flow, technology, and service provision. The body of thought that developed out of the Italian Marxist tradition provides ways of thinking through and understanding these changes by placing them within a larger dynamic of capitalist development and the restructuring of labor processes. After looking at changes to academic librarianship from the perspective of immaterial labor and cognitive capitalism, the paper offers ways that academic librarianship can think about the possibility of resistance to these changes.

Low Morale in Ethnic and Racial Minority Academic Librarians: An Experiential Study
Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, Ione T. Damasco

Abstract:
Library and information science (LIS) literature about workplace bullying and burnout in academic libraries continues to grow, and a recent study has revealed the experience of low morale in the same environment. Concomitantly, research focusing on continuing recruitment, promotion, advancement, and retention problems for ethnic and minority librarians; links between North American library values and workplace abuse; and historiographies on the historic marginalization of minority librarians has also appeared in LIS literature. Citing aforementioned developments in LIS literature and the racially homogenous participant make-up of Kendrick’s 2017 study of low morale in academic libraries, this follow-up qualitative study focuses on racial and ethnic minority academic librarians to understand this group’s experience of low morale. Emerging data validate the development, trajectory, and health-related consequences of low morale; center the load of additional impact factors; and highlight the impact of low morale on recruitment and retention efforts of racial and ethnic minority librarians employed in North American colleges and universities.

Reconsidering Technical Labor in Information Institutions: The Case of Analog Video Digitization
Zack Lischer-Katz

Abstract:
Technical labor is still typically made invisible in the functioning of academic libraries and other information institutions even as they begin to disseminate technical and craft knowledge through makerspaces and other sites of library innovation. This paper seeks to recover one type of technical labor, digitization, as information work that embodies mental and manual activities and is both materially and intellectually productive. This paper draws on findings from an empirical study conducted by the author from 2015–2017 that used qualitative-interpretive methods to study the discursive and material practices of professional media preservationists as they worked to digitize analog video recordings in small-scale, high-quality (“artisanal”) digitization projects. One key finding of this research is that in order to produce “legitimate” digital copies within their institutional contexts, media preservationists must coordinate their physical and mental activities to develop understanding of the invisible electrical signals that carry the encoded video information, blending objective and subjective modalities of knowledge. These findings have implications for understanding how the invisible labor of digitization has significant mental as well as manual dimensions, contributing to ongoing debates in information studies and the digital humanities on the relationship between “doing” and “signifying” in terms of knowledge work.

Empty Presence: Library Labor, Prestige, and the MLS
Maura Seale, Rafia Mirza

Abstract:
In this essay, we explore the relationship between the MLS and professionalization within librarianship broadly and then look more specifically at academic librarianship, which increasingly turns to other means of professionalization, such as more prestigious forms of credentialing, due to its precarious existence within higher education. The emphasis on professionalization through credentialing invisibilizes library labor, which is already feminized and devalued. Academic librarianship instead seeks to gain prestige and power by associating itself with whiteness and masculinity, rendering its specialized work and knowledge domain unimportant. Removing the MLS requirement from professional library positions will not address these broader issues, and as hiring trends demonstrate, might already be a moot point. Prestige, professionalization, and credentialing within academic librarianship have been debated since the inception of the profession; the interaction of these with gender ideologies and a predominantly female workforce has received attention since the 1970s. Librarianship’s constant state of crisis and search for external markers of prestige can only exist comfortably outside of historical memory and critical analysis, however. This essay problematizes individual solutions such as credentialing that paper over systemic sociopolitical issues; specific solutions are beyond the scope of this paper, but we do suggest that solutions need to account for broader context, such as current and historical gender ideologies.

Scope of Work, Roles, and Responsibilities for Academic Librarians: Tenure-Track vs. Non-Tenure-Track Professionals
Eric Hartnett, Wendi Arant-Kaspar, Wyoma vanDuinkerken

Abstract:
The purpose of this multi-institutional study is to determine how many academic libraries have chosen to institute a two-track system for their librarians: tenure-track faculty and non-tenure-track faculty. It will approach this inquiry in a two-fold manner, first with a survey questionnaire sent to library deans or directors of research libraries and then with the collection and analysis of formal policy documents from these libraries defining the expectations and work of librarians on the two tracks. This study will highlight how these tracks are distinctive in terms of the scope of work, workload, and other related factors and the implications for the development of the profession. Results of this study will add to recent research and perceptions of librarianship and higher education by providing an understanding of how these factors influence the organizational culture of academic libraries.

Librarians in the Academic Ecosystem
Rachel Applegate

Abstract:
Much of what academic librarians do does not look like what “faculty” do—classic, stereotypical, tenure-track, classroom faculty. Instead, it looks like support work, or administration, or is invisible: all things that are distinctly not valued by classic faculty. Much of the research in library literature, the talk among academic librarians themselves, seems to center on benefits and privileges, and the distinctions are not based on faculty vs. librarian status but on other factors; for example, salaries for librarians, as for economists, English faculty and nursing instructors are mostly set by discipline and market conditions. It will be more productive for librarians to take a political and strategic perspective: with one overarching realization, and one focused goal. The realization is that the “faculty” role is itself diverse: it is not classic nor stereotyped nor even “classroom” in many cases. The variation within the group “faculty” is in many respects more significant than the variation between the groups “faculty” and “librarians.” The focused goal is to seek the status that will place librarians in the decisions of which they should be part.

From Slavery to College Loans
kynita stringer-stanback

Abstract:
My story begins back in 1793 when November Caldwell was “gifted” to Helen Hogg Hooper (whose father-in-law, William Hooper, signed the Declaration of Independence), the wife of the first president of UNC–Chapel Hill, Joseph Caldwell. November Caldwell is my great-great-great-grandfather. Currently, I owe over six figures in student-loan debt to the very institution that enslaved my ancestors. We are at a particular place in the political history of our nation. White supremacy is morally corrupt. It requires that we deny the humanity of human beings for one reason or another. It is hard to stand up against white supremacy because folks who do are often ostracized from their families and communities. We have all been socialized to believe in white supremacy—it was one of our nation’s founding principles. In this essay I hope to break open a dialogue about the white supremacist hegemony institutionalized within our neoliberal university system. Connecting the past atrocities of slavery with actual educational experiences of the descendants of those who served the proslavery institutions has not been widely publicized or talked about. We must interrogate our history or we will be doomed to continue to repeat the horrific inhumane atrocities.

Lessons from the Field: Organizing a Faculty Union in the Era of Janus
Kelly McElroy

Abstract:
On June 27, 2018, the Oregon Employment Relations Board certified United Academics of Oregon State University (UAOSU) as the sole bargaining unit to represent teaching and research faculty of our university. On the same day, the United States Supreme Court released its decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 31. In this personal narrative, I will describe our organizing campaign, considering our success in the light of Janus. I conclude with reflections on how what I have learned from organizing continues to shape my work as an academic librarian.

Democratizing the Union at UC Berkeley: Lecturers and Librarians in Solidarity
Margaret Phillips, David Eifler, Tiffany Linton Page

Abstract:
This article explores how librarians and lecturers at the University of California, Berkeley, worked together to make their union more participatory in a context of increasing corporatization in public higher education. Written as a case study, we examine this ongoing revitalization process initiated by lecturers in the summer of 2016 and how it transformed librarian activism and bargaining strategy. For context, we also examine the history and unique nature of the University Council–American Federation of Teachers, the union representing both librarians and lecturers. We discuss why librarians had become ambivalent about their union and how an active group of librarians changed the culture in the organization and worked to bring members’ voices into the 2018/2019 librarian contract negotiations. Engaging membership and encouraging participation required a group of committed organizers, with the support of paid union staff, to actively seek feedback from members, to communicate regularly, and to organize solidarity events. Throughout this process, the local worked to build coalitions with other campus unions, and members became increasingly aware of the important role unions play in protecting and advancing the mission of a public university and as a site for social justice activism.