July 2, 2010
“Librarians must either join the faculty or be permanently relegated to peripheral and inferior roles.”
The quote in the heading of this blog post is attributed to Arthur M. McAnally as stated in Status of the University Librarian in the Academic Community, pg. 5. I find that his statement clearly reflects reality and is equally applicable to university tenure as it is to law school tenure.
As the ABA Committee on Law Libraries reviews ABA Standard 603, academic law library directors are well advised to take interest, specifically as it relates to “security of position” or “tenure for library directors” at their law schools. The SALLD Group will be meeting on Sunday, July 10th from 3 to 4:15 in Ballroom A to discuss, as a group, the latest revision of proposed standard 603. This meeting is by invitation only, so please do not show up if you are not part of the Group.
Many of my esteemed colleagues - professionals who I admire and seek to emulate – do not agree that law librarians should be tenured. Perhaps they do not even agree that librarians should hold presumptively renewable long-term contracts. To be honest, I am not sure about the latter point but if you follow their reasoning, librarians should not need any security for their jobs because if they are not doing their job well the university should be free to fire them.
After much consideration and evaluation of personal experiences, I cannot side with them in their argument. The argument rests on a narrow definition of what tenure is and what it requires. The main point of that camp is: what faculty ‘do’ is different and so law librarians should not be eligible for tenure. It is their contention that we can do what we do without the protections and benefits of tenure at our law schools.
Perhaps talking about tenure in terms or benefits and protections does not put it in its proper place. Tenure, as McAnally points out, is about rights and responsibilities in shaping policy within the institution, providing adequate opportunities for professional development, and appropriately rewarding those who take an active part in governing their institution. One must earn tenure by taking these responsibilities seriously. Those in the anti-tenure camp might say that you do not need to have tenure to accomplish these goals. To that I say: A torts professor can also teach torts without having tenure, or even a long-term contract, but they do.
I have heard others say that they willingly gave up tenure because they found it too difficult a road when paired with managing a law library. This may be true, but the only thing it tells me is that the school failed to provide those librarians with the proper arrangement for them to succeed. Shame on your school. If the school did provide you with what you need to succeed, then shame on you.
Still yet, I hear that being a Library Director is just being an administrator – or that the Library is an administrative department. That’s just weird and I have no comment. Sorry.
The word ‘tenure,’ like every other word in the English language, is subject to evolution. Likewise, the profession of librarianship, or more specifically, law librarianship, has also evolved. The formal road to recognize our daily routine as an actual profession is about 130 years old. Undoubtedly, many of you recall Mr. Sawtelle’s 1878 statement that librarianship “ought not to be annexed to a professorship, but be itself a professorship.”
Librarians might not be exactly like a doctrinal professor, but I do not think that the function of a doctrinal professor defines the status of tenure. Tenure is defined by the institution – an institution may require more research and development and no teaching, or be focused on projects rather than scholarship. Requiring full tenure does not mean that the tenure road must be the same for all at any given institution.
Likewise, when a tenured doctrinal professor runs amuck, faculty regulations provide for a process of dismissal. Faculty regulations can be drafted to provide for librarians who run amuck too. And, also like a doctrinal professor, chances are that these situations are quite rare. Never regulate or rule based on an exception. I learned that in law school and I remember it every day that I manage my library.
I would like to thank the committee who circulated and drafted the proposed revisions. It is a difficult task and a difficult balance to measure. Although I cannot share the draft here (it is not my document to share, nor is it posted on the ALL-SIS web site or the ABA web site), I have read through it and I think they did a great job, though I wish it went further in demanding a more pure form tenure. The deans will howl regardless of the position we take and we should always start the negotiation at a high mark. I learned that in law school too.
In demanding tenure, we would be supporting the spirit and words of organizations such as ACRL, ALA, and AAUP. And, It would put us in a better position for the near future when research skills play a much more important role in the law school curriculum. We should never go backward but instead pick up the torch that our predecessors left us to carry. (VS)
"Met my share of tenured professional academic law librarians who were working on cruise control."
If provisions are not in place to fire for cause tenured librarians who are not doing their jobs, then that seems to me to be as much the fault of the institution as it is of the librarians. "Enabling cruise control", however, is not an inherent feature of tenure.
Anyway, here's a thought: We academic librarians can agree to refrain from telling court librarians what employment conditions they should and shouldn't have, and perhaps court librarians can return the favor.
Posted by: Kevin | Jul 12, 2010 6:32:44 AM
Alas, Joe, here, as elsewhere, you appear to be merely expressing your envy and resentment of academic law librarians.
Here are a few reasons for at least considering non-director academic law librarians for tenure: Like law faculty, we have JDs, we teach, we serve on committees, and many of us, indeed, are expected "contribute to the profession".
Envy, right Kevin. Spent 10 years in academic law libraries, most of the time supervising professional staff. Met my share of tenured professional academic law librarians who were working on cruise control. -- Joe
In short, many academic law librarians perform duties that are, if not exactly those of faculty, bear a distinct family resemblance to them. Why not, then, at a minimum, allow us benefits that are comparable to faculty's, particularly when many academic law librarians, like faculty, gave up much higher salaries to join this profession? Tenure or continuing appointment can, in this instance, be seen as a perquisite or an alternative form of compensation. I, for one, see no reason why we ought not to have it--especially if we are retain our professional autonomy and dignity vis-a-vis those many faculty members who see us as little more than glorified research assistants.
Posted by: Kevin | Jul 7, 2010 7:05:33 AM
Another leg of tenure that people do not really bring up is the "service to school" element. The type of service library directors provide is indeed different than anyone else in the school. Just because the level of service is different - and, undoubtedly more significant than most other tenure track professors - does not mean it should be discounted. In my opinion, service to the school is a much more useful part of the evaluation than scholarship. In law, the great majority of professors' articles are not published in peer reviewed journals, and rarely cited to by others when you look at the big picture. I think many people have swallowed the blue pill that deans dish out about what tenure means. They think it means scholarship and teaching when in fact, it means much more if they look at their historical origins.
Posted by: vicki | Jul 5, 2010 7:45:31 PM
Alas Vicki, I one of those who sees absolutely no reason for granting lifetime job security, tenure, to academic law librarians, at least not on the traditional freedom of expression grounds that are used to justify tenure, with one exception. Academic law librarian directors should have academic tenure like law profs (and should earn it in the same manner by teaching and publishing) in order to (1) vote in faculty meetings and (2) protect their job security from the revolving door that is the dean's office.
There is no good reason for granting non-directors the job security tenure provides. Let them earn continued employment the old fashioned way -- by working hard 12 months out of the year, by keeping their skills up to date, by not having to update their massive dossiers with itemized drivel that is produced based on fanciful justifications of making "contributions to the profession," etc.
Posted by: Joe Hodnicki | Jul 3, 2010 10:17:18 AM