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Library employees protest changed title

New designation for incoming employee provokes heated debate

Forty-three members of the Library Faculty Assembly signed a letter to speak out against the changing designation of all library employees to staff.

Incoming library staff will no longer be designated as faculty, University Librarian Karin Wittenborg told library employees in an email March 1. Instead, all future positions within the University library system, including vacancies created by retirements and departures as well as newly created positions, will be posted as University staff.

The decision was met with strong pushback from many in the library community. Forty-three members of the Library Faculty Assembly sent a letter to Wittenborg in February voicing their opposition to the proposed change. The faculty expressed concern about their future roles within the University community under this new system.

Under the revised policy, administrative and professional faculty already in the system will have the option to retain their faculty status.

“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.”

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.

“With the changing types of skills needed in a leading research library, it has become increasingly difficult to define what makes a new position faculty status,” she said.

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. “Librarians were given the right to be in the general faculty 50 years ago this year, and it’s something that the profession has really tried to advance over the past [half century],” said Edward Gaynor, head of description for Special Collections.

Gaynor also said he was concerned qualified professionals may shy away from joining the library staff in the future without the faculty designation. “[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.”

Wittenborg, however, said she does not anticipate a significant decrease in the libraries’ ability to recruit qualified staff.

“I see [a loss of interest] as unlikely,” Wittenborg said. “Very few universities offer faculty-level library positions.”

The ultimate decision was made by Wittenborg, though the opinions of a faculty working group, a non-faculty working group and Provost John Simon were all taken into account.


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