Libraries Society of North America 31st Annual Conference
Wyndham Baltimore Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland - March 20-26, 2003
In Pursuit of Parity:
Librarians, Academe & Faculty Status
Paul Glassman, New
York School of Interior Design
Ruth Wallach, University of Southern California
Charles B. Lowry, Ph.D., Dean of Libraries and Professor, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, College Park, The Benefits of Faculty Status for Academic Librarians.
Head, Resources Services Department, Milton S. Eisenhower Library, Johns Hopkins
University, Baltimore, A New Paradigm for
the Academic Professional.
Claire Gunning, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Charles Lowry began
by outlining the history of the debate over faculty status for librarians. He
noted that the first university with faculty status was either the University of
Montana in 1902 or Columbia University in 1911. The most important point in the
history was the Joint Statement on Faculty
Status of College and University Librarians put out by ACRL and AAUP in
1972. There are two pieces to the debate; one is the granting of any rank and
two, whether that rank is faculty or academic status, the difference being
levels of privileges and perquisites. Dr. Lowry moved quickly away from the
definitions of the ranks by stating that at many research institutions there are
teaching faculty as well as research faculty, with there not being a substantial
difference between the two.
Dr. Lowry pointed out
that librarianship should be considered a discipline as well as a profession. He
claimed that the case that librarians are not faculty is based on two arguments
– that there is a better alternative and an avoiding of the challenges of
being faculty. Tackling the argument for an alternative first, he says that
different academic disciplines teach and research differently. There isn’t one
way to evaluate scholarly contributions. Librarians play a pivotal role in the
primary missions of the university – teaching and research – and to separate
librarians with an alternative to “faculty” is to separate them from those
missions. To support this idea, he quoted at length from the Joint
He also stated that the Joint Statement
held up well considering the changes to technology and networked information.
Dr. Lowry pointed out
one of the problems on this side of the debate as being that the profession
hasn’t been thought of as professional because of its identification as a
female occupation, and that although this has been changing, key groups
(especially the ACRL) have accepted the academic status as an alternative to
faculty status. Another problem is identifying library service as commensurate
with teaching and the reluctance of librarians to conduct research on the
discipline. The fact that we are not classroom teachers does not preclude us
from calling our work “teaching.” But it is the challenge of doing research
that is the largest concern. As most academicians are taught over time about
research during the Ph.D. process – time that does not exist during an M.L.S.
program – then perhaps there needs to be some understanding that research
needs to be socialized into the librarian, with assistance in getting rolling on
their research agenda. Dr. Lowry ends with the idea that although librarians’
personal research may have an impact on the research done on the campus, there
is an overall positive impact on the quality of the teaching done by the
librarians. We should think less about the benefits to the individual librarian
of having faculty status and more about the benefits to the institution.
the head of the Resource Services Department at the Eisenhower Library at Johns
Hopkins, presented the counterpoint to Dr. Lowry. She began by admitting that
she always found the concept of faculty status for librarians bewildering, and
thinking that librarians could have parity confusing. She stated that an M.L.S.
or a Ph.D. in library science is not comparable to a Ph.D. in an academic
discipline, either in honor, status or training. The Ph.D. in an academic
tradition has a deep theoretical basis and the training is competitive and
extensive. In fact, achieving tenure at Johns Hopkins takes an average of 11
years and requires an extensive publication record and a real name in the field
(e.g., inventing something, creating a school of thought or a new theory).
Library Science is a practice, not a discipline. In fact, Ms. Massey-Burzio
finds that librarians with subject Ph.D.s have lost touch with the public
service aspects of the job.
A number of claims
are made about faculty status. There is increased job security; this might be
true after you receive tenure but not prior. There are better salaries; there is
not statistically significant effect on salaries, according to a study by
Richard Meyer. Librarians can participate in committee work and faculty senates;
this is no benefit, as most faculty members dislike the committee work. There is
an increase in respect; respect is earned, not claimed, and many faculty members
may be unaware of the faculty status of the librarians. There are also a certain
number of difficulties that stand in the way of parity with faculty. The
scheduling is much different, as most faculty members are only on campus during
class time and office hours. Library instruction is not really on a par with
academic teaching, where a greater breadth and depth of knowledge is necessary.
The time spent dealing with the governance of tenure and promotion, as well as
release time and sabbaticals, is quite costly in both time and money. It’s
also important to note that the major research institutions in the United States
don’t have faculty status for their librarians (e.g., Harvard, Yale,
Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Johns Hopkins).
asks what it is that librarians think they will really acquire from faculty
status. Is it thought to compensate
for a lack of self-esteem? Or is it that librarians are invisible, so that no
one can really tell what it is that they do? She says that the practice of
invisibility has damaged the profession. Because people can’t see what is
different about librarians, they don’t know how valuable the librarian can be
in support of teaching and research. Instead of struggling to get faculty
status, we should change the way that we as a profession engages with academia,
and that by gaining recognition and appreciation, we won’t need the faculty
went on to discuss the Brandeis model of reference service that she created in
the early 1990s. By setting up a one-on-one interaction in an office-like
setting, the user is more aware of speaking with a competent professional and
more appreciative of the lack of interruptions that typically occur at a
traditional reference desk. At the same time as these reference interviews are
going on, the directional and information questions are being answered on the
front line. In the book Linguistics and
the Professions, reference service is likened to a retail encounter, without
privacy and with the possibility of being interrupted at any moment. Johns
Hopkins uses an even different model, having librarians assigned to departments.
Whereas there are not departmental libraries, the librarians have office hours
and a presence in the departments. They have the opportunity to become familiar
to faculty and students. Each department then gets more individualized, rather
than standardized, service.
Ms. Massey-Burzio concluded with the idea that increasing the visibility of the librarians ultimately increases the respect of the faculty. When this happens, librarians are viewed as valued partners in teaching process who directly help scholars do their work better, attributes that faculty status cannot provide. She finds that at Johns Hopkins, the librarians have essentially the same benefits (although parking is less good) and are treated as professionals. What more could be needed?