Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why Librarians Should Be Faculty: A Short List

Gray and rainy this week, leaves continuing to drop

Back in April, I wondered whether librarians should be classified as faculty or administrators, because in reality we are neither. Since then, I have formed the definite opinion that we should be faculty. Below are my reasons, briefly. While perhaps no one reason alone would be persuasive, taken collectively I believe there is a strong case for librarians having faculty status at a college or university.

#1: Librarians are part of an academic discipline. Some who see information sciences as a skills-based subject might turn their noses up at it, but I think most would at least agree that it's a relevant field in this age of ubiquitous technology. There are plenty of topics ripe for serious study due to all of the new types of data currently being generated, and this is research that practicing librarians are capable of and should be encouraged to do.

#2: In light of our discipline, when a course is proposed that involves some aspect of information literacy or information science, librarians should naturally be contributing to it. In New Jersey, for example, there exists a transferable General Education course involving information literacy. Information literacy is a topic that librarians have been championing for years. Yet, there is little obligation to consult librarians about the creation of such a course if the librarians do not have faculty status.

#3: When it comes to collaborating with faculty members, comparable status might get some measure of attention. If librarians are classified with the "blood-sucking overhead," that likelihood dims. (And yes, I have heard an administration referred to in this way, although not at my current institution.) This can make outreach work extremely difficult, as faculty are free to treat librarians more as servants than as equals.

#4: Many librarians are already teaching in the classroom, or have expertise in an additional subject besides information science, or both. And although the library as a department is beholden to the larger institution, many everyday duties of librarians directly involve teaching and learning in ways that the everyday duties of administrators do not. Thus, the concerns of librarians are more closely aligned with faculty.

This topic does not seem to be debated much, but I know where I stand the next time it comes up...


  1. In my experience, adminstrators are ultimately staff and whether at the top or bottom of the totem pole face similar problems as other staff: high-turnover and lack of long term (career long) investment in a particular institution and its community. This mutual, career-long investment from both the individual and the institution is the ultimate point of tenure faculty status. Should the guardians of the information that makes the work of the academy possible make, and be reciprocated with, this kind of investment, or should they be on 5-year plans to move somewhere better and clock out at 5:00 pm? You want librarians to be faculty. This is a no-brainer for the institution to me.

  2. Two things that jumped to my mind if librarians are also faculty: research requirements (the publish or perish factor) and sabbatical leave opportunity. ;-)

  3. I agree with both these points. Added to the list!