Friday, January 19, 2018

Deprofessionalization in Academic Libraries

In response to the situation at Mount Allison University, to phase out the position of University Librarian, the Canadian Association of Professional Librarians has posted this letter:

CAPAL/ACBAP Open Letter to Mount Allison University

January 19, 2018
Re: De-professionalization in Library Leadership

The Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians / l’Association canadienne des bibliothécaires académiques professionnels (CAPAL/ACBAP) is concerned that recent strategic decisions in Canada’s post-secondary institutions threaten to undermine the academic purpose, function and professional autonomy of Canada’s academic libraries.

Despite the libraries in universities and colleges being more heavily used than ever, and librarianship being a well-established academic profession, what librarians actually do and in particular how they contribute to an institution’s academic mission remain poorly understood. Case in point: Mount Allison University, where administration is seeking to phase out the position of the University Librarian and replace it with a managerial position that would emphasize operational and corporate priorities over academic library issues. As well, St. Lawrence College was recently in the headlines for seeking to eliminate the full-time university librarian position and replace with a new management position.

These moves to de-professionalize leadership positions in academic libraries are only part of a larger general trend towards increasing adoption of para-professional and non-specialist staffing models: Cambrian, Canadore, Confederation, SS Fleming, Lambton, Loyalist, Northern, Sault, and St. Clair colleges are currently without faculty librarian positions.

An academic library is a unique, hybrid environment – a place of learning and discovery, as well as a service point. Unfortunately, it is the latter transactional aspects of library operations, along with the physical presence of books on shelves and databases on the computer, that constitute the common and limited understanding of what a library is. What is missing is an accounting for the behind-the-scenes expertise, theoretical foundations and strategic planning that are the purview of academic librarians in making collections available, but more importantly, to make them discoverable, thereby supporting curricula design, teaching and research. Although much has changed in the way we access information in the 21st century, spiraling subscription costs, open access mandates for publicly funded research, the evolution of scholarly communications, and emerging recognition for data stewardship affirm the academic librarian’s central role in the preservation and sharing of knowledge. Librarians are no longer the “keepers of books” but rather partners in the cultivation, facilitation, and sharing of knowledge. We are intimately tied to the research life cycle and bring valuable expertise to matters of knowledge production, dissemination, and preservation including intellectual property, copyright, scholarly communications, bibliometrics, and open access issues.

The proposal at Mount Allison reflects a failure to understand the academic librarian’s role as an educator, teacher and faculty colleague. Academic librarians not only connect users with the information they need, but more importantly, they help students situate, evaluate, and contextualize such information. Universities and colleges play a key role in inculcating students with critical thinking skills, which are essential for a functioning democracy, especially in the age of fake news and rampant misinformation. As professionals committed to facilitating access to uncensored and unbiased information, academic librarians are integral to the fulfillment of an institution’s academic mission and its responsibility to society.

The move to de-professionalize leadership positions in academic libraries therefore threatens to undermine the scholarly role of the library in post-secondary institutions. In downgrading the position of the University Librarian to that of a manager, the position may have limited autonomy or ability to plan strategically for library operations. Furthermore, managers with no background in librarianship cannot be expected to understand or incorporate into their planning all the forces, factors and practices described above. Librarians’ education, judgment, professional expertise and status contribute fundamentally towards making academic libraries what they are.

This trend suggests that the academic library is instead being seen simply as a dispensary of goods, the throughput of which can only be assessed in terms of efficiencies, rather than the quality of the scholarship it facilitates or the careers and life chances it might inspire.

For these reasons the Board of CAPAL/ACBAP strongly objects to the de-professionalization of library leadership positions, and urges the administration of Mount Allison University to reconsider their decisions, and retain a professional librarian as the head of your library.

CAPAL/ACBAP is a national organization representing academic librarians and the profession of academic librarianship in Canada. Our mission is to promote, advance, and support the profession of academic librarianship for the advancement of research, teaching, and learning at accredited post-secondary institutions and to further the professional interests of our members. We believe that our academic communities are enriched when academic librarians are respected, supported and recognized as equal academic partners in the building of excellent teaching and research communities.

CAPAL/ACBAP Board of Directors: Mona Elayyan (York University) Douglas Fox (Victoria University in the University of Toronto) Mary Kandiuk (York University) Laura Koltutsky (University of Calgary) Emma Popowich (University of Manitoba) Eva Revitt (MacEwan University) Lisa Richmond (Wheaton College) Harriet Sonne-de-Torrens (University of Toronto Mississauga) Courteney Waugh (Western University) Anna Wilson (University of Alberta)


Saturday, September 09, 2017

The Graphic Says it All!

Source: Library Workers Facts + Figures, 2016 Dept. for Professional Employees

Saturday, October 29, 2016


The obsolescence of librarianship is the elephant in the room (Steven Bell,“Promise and Peril of AI for Academic Librarians,” From the Bell Tower, We as librarians refuse to address the eminent demise of our beloved profession. Isn’t it our duty to examine the ugly truth and share it with those hoping to enter a career for life?

The level of denial within our profession has reached frantic proportions. The professional literature is awash with articles on ways to keep librarians employed and remain relevant to stakeholders. A review of recent library job descriptions illustrates we will do anything, or become anybody, to stay relevant: patent and copyright attorneys (copyright and scholarly librarians), in-house statisticians (data librarians, cheminformaticists),and data managers of electronic health records (medical informaticists).

In a real stretch, librarians at the San Diego Public Library are trained to identify victims of sex trafficking. I didn’t go into librarianship to become a social worker or statistician. This denial of our true professional core [is] very sad....

—Barbara A. Wood, Grad. Libn., Health & Human Svcs., Kennesaw State Univ., GA
Source: Wood, Barbara A. 2016. "Obsolete profession." Library Journal 141, no. 12: 12.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Newfoundland and Labrador, deprofessionalization concerns

"In the Fall of 2015, a new Executive Director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Library (NLPL) system was appointed. The original job posting for the position highlights the desired qualifications of applicants, as follows: “The required knowledge and abilities would normally be acquired through successful completion of a Master (sic) degree in Business, Finance, Public Administration, Library Science or related field from an accredited university, plus significant managerial experience.”

This excerpt from the job advertisement highlights a trend that is becoming a growing concern for professional librarians, and for the NLLA: the systematic deprofessionalization of librarianship within the NLPL. Only a librarian, having graduated from an ALA accredited graduate program in Library Science/ Studies, can fully understand the unique needs and concerns of libraries, and act effectively on behalf of their libraries, users, and employees, in this role; yet, nowhere in this ad, is an ALA graduate degree in Library Science required. In fact, a background in Library Science is listed only after other qualifications which are not designed to equip professionals to work and function as Librarians.

"Despite these competences that can only be acquired through the completion of a Master’s degree in Library Science, the NLPL’s actions suggest that the organization does not value professional librarians. As the voice of Newfoundland and Labrador libraries and library workers, it concerns the NLLA deeply that the NLPL appears to be undergoing this process of systematic deprofessionalization. In addition to this most recent position, it is our understanding that the Regional Manager for the Central Division was hired last year based on a similar advertised set of qualifications; and that, as a result, neither the current Executive Director nor the Regional Manager for the Central Division hold a Master’s degree in Library Science from and ALA accredited program. Previously, both these positions were occupied by individuals with professional librarian qualifications."

Full Article

Saturday, August 08, 2015

A Diminishing Profession

Excerpt from an interview at the,Hiring Librarians, blog, July 2015

How many permanent, full time para-professional (or other non-professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?
√ 3-4

How many permanent, full time librarian (or other professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?
√ 1

Can you tell us how the number of permanent, full-time librarian positions at your workplace has changed over the past decade?
√ There are fewer positions

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with para-professional workers over the past decade?
√ Yes

Friday, March 13, 2015

Bill C-51, Government's Excuse to Watch YOU!

Privacy Commissioner raises concerns about Bill C-51

Daniel Therrien, Privacy Commissioner of Canada

"The debate over the federal government’s new anti-terrorism bill is raising profound questions about the tension between privacy and security.

Most Canadians would agree that terrorism represents a growing threat and that we must respond with appropriate national security measures when new threats arise. But at what cost?

In my view, Bill C-51 in its current form would fail to provide Canadians with what they want and expect: legislation that protects both their safety and their privacy. The proposed legislation does not strike the right balance.

The scale of information sharing between government departments and agencies being proposed in this bill is unprecedented. The new powers that would be created are excessive and the privacy safeguards being proposed are seriously deficient.

All Canadians – not only terrorism suspects – will be caught in this web. Bill C-51 opens the door to collecting, analysing and potentially keeping forever the personal information of all Canadians in order to find the virtual needle in the haystack. To my mind, that goes too far.

This is really about Big Data, which relies on massive amounts of information that can be analyzed algorithmically to spot trends, predict behaviours and make connections. The implications for privacy are serious – especially when we are talking about the highly sensitive information that Canadians entrust to their government.

The legislation would allow for the personal information of Canadians to be shared if it is deemed “relevant” to the detection of new security threats. That’s an extremely broad standard that suggests the bar to permit the sharing of Canadians’ personal information has been set far too low.

In this way, the Bill would provide 17 federal government agencies with almost limitless powers to monitor and profile ordinary Canadians, with a view to identifying security threats among them.,/p>

The end result is that national security agencies would potentially be aware of all interactions that all Canadians have with their government. That would include, for example, a person’s tax information and details about a person’s business and vacation travel.

While the potential to know virtually everything about everyone may well identify some new threats, the loss of privacy is clearly excessive."

Full comments:

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Winter Greetings!