Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dear Annoyed Librarian #10: Faculty Status!

Dear Annoyed Librarian,

I've just accepted a tenure-track job at Dungheap State University and I just wanted to write to tell you how excited I am! I now have faculty status! I'm a real member of the faculty! Faculty status is a huge boost to my self-esteem, because now all the other professors will take me seriously. This means I get to publish stuff, and I also have an important voice in the governance of my university. Also, once I get tenure, my academic freedom will be protected!

So what do you think of that, Annoyed Librarian!


Pleased as Punch


Dear Pleased,

Why, oh why can't librarians just be happy to be librarians? Congratulations on your appointment to the tenure track. It must be very exciting for you. I'm glad it provides a boost to your self-esteem. I've heard of people who need such boosts, though I've never had a problem there myself. There are, however, some things you should be aware of.

Definitely keep telling yourself that you're a faculty member. You have faculty status, and nothing says "I'm really important to this university" like having faculty status. Just keep repeating "I'm a faculty member, too," and maybe someone will actually believe you.

As you will eventually realize, faculty status is divided between the teaching faculty and the non-teaching faculty (or whatever you happen to call it in your library). You can remember this distinction more easily by noting the division between real faculty and pseudo-faculty. You are pseudo-faculty.

As hard as it may be for you to believe, the real faculty will never accept you as real faculty. I don't accept you as real faculty, and I'm merely a lowly librarian. So you can imagine what the real faculty think of you. Try telling the professors of physics or economics or philosophy that you're a real professor, just like them!

You see, real professors have PhD's in relevant scholarly fields (I'm of course not counting the "professors" in education or social work or library science or anything like that). Often they actually had to work hard and study for years and learn a lot of stuff to earn that PhD. (Perhaps you also have a PhD, but probably not in librarianship, and if you do have a PhD in librarianship, you will be taken even less seriously.) You, on the other hand, managed to complete one of the least intellectually rigorous master's programs around, except of course for the M.Ed. and M.S.W. programs.

And real faculty are ideally engaged in research and teaching, in either increasing the knowledge in their field or in helping to pass it on to the younger generation or both. You're not engaged in any of that. You might think you're increasing the knowledge in your field, but yet another shoddily conducted case study of your chat reference pilot just doesn't cut it as serious research.

Most importantly, real faculty are on the academic calendar, which means they have their summers and holidays off, and in fact only have to show up to teach and attend committee meetings and hold office hours. They have a lot of autonomy and freedom. You, of course, are a regular 9-5 employee who might get a month's vacation and a "research" day once a week or so. Until you get tenure, you'll have to show up and actually seem to be working, just like the glorified office clerk the real faculty take you for. After you get tenure, you can stay home a lot more, but you'll still be considered a glorified office clerk.

But, you'll say, I have to publish! Just like the real faculty! Yes, that's true, you will have to publish. And you don't really have the time to do much research. And your most likely poor training in either social science or humanistic disciplines means that you won't be able to write anything worth reading. Your poor training and requirement to publish are, of course, what help to make the quality of library literature the poor mess that it is.

And I have tenure! Yes, if you're fortunate, you'll have tenure. And that's very important to protect your academic freedom. You need protection when you express your controversial views about introducing folksonomies into OPACs. This is radical stuff! No, of course you don't need to protect your academic freedom. But tenure is very important to protect your own job when you get so burnt out from doing such boring work that you decide to stop working when you're 45.

Thus, as far as I can tell, you have all of the burdens and none of the benefits of the real faculty. The only people who take the faculty status of librarians seriously are the librarians, and not even all of them.


The Annoyed Librarian


Bennie Visher III said...

Brilliant commentary about an academic librarian being pseudo-faculty. And I also consider every librarian to be "a glorified office clerk."

I earned my MLS from SUNY-Albany in May 2000. Ironically, I held only one librarian job -- and that was part-time and temporary.

Indeed, I learned that all the studying that I completed at graduate school prepared me for years of performing clerical tasks. And one only needs a high school diploma to do such work.

Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Dear Annoyed,

You make me laugh so hard. I used to be a social worker. Now I'm working in an academic library and getting my MLS. Your criticism of the library field (and other fields) is real and valid. And yet I continue on because there's things I love about it - mostly the people. But there is hope for me: I am under no illusions about tenure and I have no interest in it. Thanks for helping me laugh at myself.

Taupey, the Bush Kangaroo said...

You can of course get drunk at the Faculty Club and laugh at jokes where there is a double entendre in Latin.

It is double sad that, as you point out, someone who reads and writes their entire academic career...reading and writing.

I differ, though, in that the sad state of social science "research" is willful ignorance of mathematics and statistics, which makes H.L. Mencken's aphorism look downright sunny.

AL said...

My motto is, if you can't laugh at yourself, then laugh at somebody else. Of course, I laugh at librarians all the time, and for some reason I stay a librarian.

Anonymous said...

I managed to get through library school by taking a steady regiment of opiates. I highly recommend it to anyone as it will give what you're learning a glow of world-historical importance. However, keep in mind the crash is rough. To get through it, I recommend reading Rayford and Ranganathan with a tincture of belladonna and mint in hand.

Anonymous said...

I am also convinced that academic librarians' rush to get on the tenure train is a big reason why we are so disconnected from our user base who see us chiefly as either people who get us stuff or people who prevent us from getting stuff. At my university, we are given the dual (and vague) titles "Reference Librarian" and "Assistant Professor." Assistant Professor of what? Who cares? We're faculty!

Merriwyn said...

When doing my Grad Dip of Sci(Info Serv) - AKA a degree to make me a librarian after my real one (BPsych) I was astonished at the totally appalling level of 'research' in the literature. I actually read in a peer reviewed journal an article based on 'what my son and his friend said on the porch one afternoon'. They also interviewed the boys a few years later, and this was supposed to make the 'highly representative' sample of two boys who were the children of academics somehow legitimate. I was so depressed. How can we claim to choose decent material for the library when we can't even be bothered making sure our own research isn't total garbage?

P.S. This may seem like a dumb question, but what does MSW stand for? Don't hold my ignorance against me, I'm not from America, we probably call it something else in Australia.

Merriwyn said...

Just figured it out, Masters in Social Work or somesuch eh? I did't think about it til I read another comment mentioning social work. I thought it must have been a library thing - oops - now I feel like an idiot.