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McMaster University Library Negotiations at a Breaking Point (Press Release)

After four days of conciliation, the McMaster University Academic Librarians’ Association (MUALA) has asked the Conciliator for a “No Board” report placing the Association in a legal strike position in November.

The Association is disappointed that talks are breaking down.

“We are very frustrated in the Employer’s aggressive bargaining tactics and their disregard for the crucial role our members play in the Universities’ teaching and research success. Our members very much want to be working with students and supporting faculty research rather than walking the picket line,” says MUALA President Laura Banfield.

On October 9th, 94% of the membership voted unanimously (100%) in favour of a strike mandate. With the request for a no-board, the MUALA Executive will now be in a position to call for a strike 17 days after the Ministry issues the report.

The University and the Academic Librarians began bargaining in June of this year and many significant issues related to academic rights and responsibilities, career advancement, benefits and compensation remain outstanding.

“McMaster has tabled a wage increase that is far below inflation and less than what others have received, and is trying to cut the merit pay that was agreed to in the last round. This is about equity and fairness,” says Banfield. “We remain hopeful that the Employer will return to the table with a reasonable offer so that a deal can be reached before our strike deadline”.

MUALA represents Academic Librarians who work at McMaster University’s University Library and Health Sciences Library. Academic Librarians, who are required to hold advanced academic credentials, play an integral role at research universities. Their responsibilities include: support for research and teaching; the preservation, collection and provision of scholarly materials; and, involvement in independent scholarly activity.

Contact: Laura Banfield, MUALA President, mualapresident@gmail.com
For more information visit the MUALA Website: www.muala.ca

Press Release – McMaster Librarians – Nov 3 2015

MUALA votes in support of a strike mandate (Press Release)

With a voter turnout of 92%, 100% of members voted yes in a strike vote held today and yesterday by the Academic Librarians at McMaster University. The Union Executive is now authorized to call for job action if necessary to achieve a fair and reasonable settlement with the University.

“Bargaining is stalling as a result of the employer’s demands to strip away members’ professional and academic rights” says Laura Banfield, President of the McMaster University Academic Librarian Association (MUALA). “This strike vote shows the members’ overwhelming support for their Bargaining Team and their determination to reach a fair agreement soon.”

The employer is trying to remove Academic Librarians’ right to participate in academic decision making and shield their decisions by removing agreed to criteria and processes.

Additionally, compensation is also proving to be a roadblock to a deal. The employer wants to roll back compensation and limit salary increases far below inflation.

“Academic Librarians at McMaster are already amongst the lowest paid, making far less than most other Academic Librarians”, says Laura. “The members are only looking for a fair settlement.”

A Conciliation Officer has been appointed and the first conciliation date is scheduled for October 14th.

The parties are negotiating to renew their first collective agreement, the term of which expired July 31, 2015.

MUALA represents 24 Academic Librarians who work at McMaster University’s University Library and Health Sciences Library.  Academic Librarians, who are required to hold advanced academic credentials, play an integral role at research universities, including important responsibilities in support of research, teaching, the preservation, collection and provision of scholarly materials, as well as involvement in independent scholarly activity.

Contact: Laura Banfield, MUALA President, mualapresident@gmail.com

Bargaining Update #3

At our well-attended General Membership meeting on August 27th, the Bargaining Team provided a detailed update of bargaining so far, which is summarized below.

The Team met with the employer over several days in July, and a number of items have been signed off.   It is our understanding that the employer will table a compensation package when we meet again on September 14th.

Unfortunately, the employer’s many concessionary proposals are a serious roadblock to reaching a deal.  While not all of these proposals have been discussed, they do remain on the table.  For example, with these proposals, the employer seeks to:

  • delete the requirement to use a Search Committee in the hiring process and the inclusion of members on the Committee
  • delete substantial portions of procedures and criteria associated with promotions and evaluations
  • delete the right not to do the work of other striking or locked-out employees
  • exclude contributions to MUALA as professional service
  • delete most MUALA rights to release time to engage in union activities
  • exclude work with external organizations as part of academic service

If the association agreed to these concessions, our working conditions would be seriously degraded and the employer would have almost complete discretion to hire, to assign merit pay, to evaluate performance, and to promote.  We are already among the lowest paid academic librarians in the country, and these proposals would compound our position in relation to other librarians by making us among the worst in regards to academic rights.  All other collective agreements pertaining to Academic Librarians echo to some degree the principal that as “academic staff, librarians have the right and obligation to participate fully in academic affairs.” *

McMaster’s Mission and Vision statement declares that the University values “integrity, quality, inclusiveness and teamwork in everything we do.” ** We insist that the employer live up to its own principles and rescind this erosion of our academic, professional, and employment rights.

The MUALA Bargaining Team continues to work towards ensuring that our members get a fair and reasonable agreement.  Thank you for your support and please contact us if you have any comments or questions.

MUALA Bargaining Team: Laura Banfield (President and Chief Negotiator), Neera Bhatnagar, Rick Stapleton

Bargaining Update #2

The bargaining teams for MUALA and the university employer met as scheduled on July 22-24 and 27-31.  Jeff McKeil, CAUT Assistant Executive Director, joined us for the first day of bargaining and provided constant and invaluable support throughout the entire 8 days.  As of Friday, July 31, we have recessed for the summer and are scheduling dates in September and October to resume bargaining.

Bargaining has progressed in a collegial and respectful manner as the two bargaining teams have exchanged views and provided revised proposals as we work toward a full and final agreement.  A number of minor and mutually agreed articles have been signed off.  Compensation and benefits have not yet been tabled.

The employer’s incoming proposals sought concessions in many areas, particularly through the elimination of processes that—in our opinion—would lessen employee involvement and increase employer discretion. The employer bargaining team described these proposals as their attempt to recognize MUALA members as professionals by removing all bureaucratic encumbrances between the administration and academic librarians.

The problem, as we pointed out, is that without agreed upon processes and clear rights for MUALA and its members, the employer will have complete discretion. MUALA and its members will have nothing to rely upon to ensure member rights and administrative transparency and accountability.

We further pointed out that while it is true MUALA members are professionals, it is also true that we are part of the academic community, which demands academic rights and involvement.   Having left MUFA in 2010 in order to become a certified union in no way changes that.  These academic rights can only be protected and enforced if they are clearly defined.

We are pleased to report that in response, the employer’s bargaining team agreed fully that MUALA members are part of McMaster’s academic community and our status has not changed because we chose to exercise our Charter right to certify as a union.

However, concessionary proposals remain on the table that limit MUALA members’ rights.  As we work through all the proposals, we are cautiously optimistic that we may reach a fair and reasonable collective agreement this fall.

MUALA Bargaining Team: Laura Banfield (President and Chief Negotiator), Neera Bhatnagar, Rick Stapleton

Bargaining Update #1

A meeting  was held with the University administration bargaining team on June 18 to exchange in-going proposal packages. (Please note, monetary proposals were not exchanged.) We have now completed our review of the administration’s package (which included consulting with our CAUT advisor), and our position and the administration’s position are rather far apart in certain key areas.
Bargaining will begin in earnest on July 22 and will continue, at least initially, until the end of the month.
MUALA Bargaining Team: Laura Banfield (President and Chief Negotiator), Neera Bhatnagar, Rick Stapleton

The McMaster University Academic Librarians’ Association stands in support of our colleague, Dale Askey

In the summer of 2012, Edwin Mellen Press filed a legal claim against a fellow librarian at McMaster University, Dale Askey, along with the University itself. In the lawsuit, Edwin Mellen Press is suing both parties for defamation, and is seeking over three million dollars in damages. The suit is in regards to a blog post Dale Askey wrote in 2010, while working at Kansas State University, expressing his professional opinion on the Press. There is, additionally, a second suit filed by the Press founder against Dale alone.

We believe that Dale, and every other academic librarian, has the right to express their opinion about publishers and other professional matters without fear of reprisals. Further, we recognize that this case represents a serious threat to the academic freedom of librarians, archivists, faculty, and academic staff alike.

MUALA stands alongside our many colleagues locally, nationally and internationally in supporting academic freedom, and Dale Askey.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————-

For McMaster University’s statement: http://dailynews.mcmaster.ca/worth-mentioning/mcmasters-commitment-to-ac…

For a statement from the McMaster University Faculty Association: http://www.mcmaster.ca/mufa/AskeyStatementFeb11-13.pdf

A collection of relevant links on the lawsuit and its implications: http://scienceblogs.com/confessions/2013/02/09/publisher-hits-new-low-su…

 

MUALA motions on AUCC/Access Copyright model license deal & Library and Archives Canada

The following motions were passed at MUALA’s AGM of May 14, 2012:

Regarding the AUCC/Access Copyright model license, and McMaster University’s stated intention to sign on to the model license deal:

  • Whereas a balanced approach to copyright, in which the interests of creators and users of literary and artistic works receive equal recognition, is in the fundamental interest of society;
  • And whereas Access Copyright has proposed an unbalanced tariff before the Copyright Board of Canada to cover the reproduction of copyrighted works at post-secondary institutions that imposes unreasonable fees, restrictions and surveillance on the university and college community;
  • And whereas AUCC and Access Copyright have entered into a model copyright licensing agreement for the reproduction and use of works at post-secondary institutions that substantially resembles the tariff before the Copyright Board of Canada;
  • And whereas AUCC has withdrawn its objections to the proposed Access Copyright tariff before the Copyright Board of Canada;

Be it resolved:

  • THAT MUALA condemns the failure of AUCC to represent the interests of the academic community with respect to copyright generally and Access Copyright in particular; and
  • THAT MUALA urges McMaster University to reconsider their intention to enter into the model AUCC/Access Copyright licensing agreement and instead to build a better system of knowledge creation and sharing based on fair dealing, open access publishing, open access course material and site licensing.

Regarding the Library and Archives Canada situation:

  • Whereas Library and Archives Canada is a crucial national institution which acquires and preserves documents relevant to Canada’s cultural and historical heritage;
  • Whereas Library and Archives Canada has a mandate to collect, preserve and make public a unified national collection;
  • Whereas services and resources of LAC are used by a large and diverse group including the general public, librarians, historians, professional writers, students, genealogists, Aboriginal communities, as well as researchers and scholars from virtually every discipline;
  • Whereas current management at Library and Archives Canada has implemented changes that are having far-reaching implications; including reduced public access, decentralization of the national collection, elimination of specialist positions, and reduced acquisitions; and,
  • Whereas the Canadian Association of University Teachers has launched a campaign to “Save Library and Archives Canada” (www.savelibraryarchives.ca) which calls for clarification in the LAC mandate, adequate funding, restoration of acquisitions and public services, and the cessation of defragmentation of the national collection;

Be it resolved:

  • THAT MUALA endorses the Save Library and Archives Canada campaign.
  • THAT MUALA circulates materials and the savelibraryarchives.ca website.
  • THAT MUALA members be encouraged to send letters to Heritage Minister James Moore through the campaign website.
  • THAT MUALA will send a letter to Heritage Minister James Moore.

Statement on the University Library External Review Team Report

The Report of the McMaster University Library Review Team has been released, and is now publicly available.

MUALA has reviewed the report and views it as a general framework for moving forward in a positive manner. Prior to the external review,MUALA had little faith in the process given the issues we outlined regarding the review. We believe that the review is too lavish in its praise of the University Librarian and does not adequately acknowledge his negative impact. Given the imminent departure of the University Librarian, MUALA hopes that the interim University Librarian and University Library administration will act upon the recommendations raised in the report. To do so would be a major and welcome step forward in redressing neglected core service functions to their previous levels, and improving labour relations between the University and MUALA. Furthermore, we request that the university create and share a timeline about how and when the recommendations raised in the Report of the McMaster University Library Review Team will be implemented.

MUALA would like to highlight some key recommendations from the report that we consider as priorities:

Budget

A budget audit that identifies how allocations are currently being made.

MUALA recommended, in our submission to the University Library Review Team, that a forensic audit of the library be conducted. In the absence of a forensic audit, we request that the university proceed with the audit recommended by the External Review Team, and that the audit be carried out in an open and transparent manner.

New University Librarian

The new University Librarian should be an individual with outstanding communication skills as well as visionary leadership.

The new library leadership team should focus on stabilization, change management and an organizational culture of consultation, engagement and transparency.

We support these recommendations, and we request to be consulted with, and have representation at the table for the search and appointment of a new University Librarian.

Staffing

An audit of the staffing of the university library that benchmarks against a group of peer institutions with a view towards making available funding for a few key hires that would be part of a package to help a new University Librarian to get off to a good start.

We believe that the University Library is severely understaffed with regard to librarian positions. None of the 8 librarians positions vacated in the last 24 months have been filled. It is clear that the review team agrees, “The most noticeably affected group is the librarians whose numbers have dipped too low.” We request that MUALA be involved with the staffing audit, and the interim administration work with MUALA in filling vacant positions.

Space

An audit of the use of space in the university library and the availability of study space throughout the campus with a view of aligning the needs of the students with the space available.

MUALA agrees with the review team that, “at this point in the evolution of the university library, the use of space in the library [should] be more deliberate and fit in with larger institutional goals.” Moreover, we recommend a moratorium on space changes until the recommended space audit is completed.

Communications

Regularly scheduled staff meetings and other regularly used forms of communication to make as transparent as possible how decisions are made and how resources are expended. This is especially critical in working with the librarians and the postdoctoral fellows.

A cooling off period of stability, rich communication and transparent action under an internally- appointed interim University Librarian drawn from the current leadership team.

MUALA heartily endorses these recommendations. Good communication is at the heart of a healthy organization. Re-establishing open and transparent communication with staff would be a first step in addressing low morale in the University Library, and instigating positive change.

 

As stated above, MUALA views this the External Review Report as framework for moving forward. We trust that the interim University Librarian and University Library administration view it in the same manner and will use it as a bridge for positive change.

MUALA Submission to the McMaster University Library Review Team

Executive Summary

McMaster University Academic Librarians’ Association (MUALA) has reluctantly decided to participate in the University Library Review convened by the President and Provost. Our reluctance is rooted in the fact that none of MUALA’s recommendations for Review Team appointees were accepted, nor were our concerns over the selection of the Team memberships adequately addressed. With all due respect to the Review Team Members, five of the seven reviewers have close affiliations with the University Librarian. As such, it is possible that these members could be perceived as favouring positions put forward by the University Librarian at the expense of other points of view.

Despite these reservations, we have decided that we must make a submission to the Review. Realizing that the Library’s achievements of recent years will be provided to the Review from other sources, our submission will focus on our concerns about the way in which the Library has been managed over the past six years. While we realize that the Review is of the Library and not the University Librarian, we also recognize that the University Librarian has gone to great lengths to fashion the Library in his own image. In fact, in many ways, the Library has become synonymous with the University Librarian. Therefore, many of our concerns focus on the University Librarian.

Here is a summary of our concerns, which are detailed in our full report:

1.    Relations with librarians: Relations between librarians and the University Librarian have deteriorated to the point whereby the librarians have a longstanding non-confidence motion in the University Librarian, and have taken the drastic step of leaving the faculty association in order to unionize. We contend that the University Library suffers from a culture of fear and intimidation, poor communication between management and staff, inequity in treatment of employees and staff groups, and extremely low morale.

2.    Staffing – Role of librarians: Not only have eight librarian positions been lost, but also the roles of librarians within the University Library have changed, including a diminishment of management responsibilities. For several years now, librarians have no longer been encouraged or supported to pursue professional development opportunities related to management or leadership, such as the ARL’s Leadership and Management Skills Institutes or the Northern Exposure to Leadership program. The egregious dismissal of the Scholarly Communication Librarian in 2009, one week before she was to begin a board-approved twelve-month research leave, has effectively discouraged librarians from applying for the research leaves to which they are entitled, and has widened the schism between the librarians and the Library administration.

3.    Staffing­ – Postdoctoral fellows: In the area of staffing, MUALA is not opposed to working alongside postdoctoral fellows. In fact, possible collaborations and sharing of experiences strengthen the Library, and the university. However, in the midst of repeated restructuring of the Library and the recent cuts to librarian numbers through a drastic reduction in the salary budget, postdoctoral position and posting descriptions recognize the value of librarian work, but not of librarians. As a result, it is difficult to countenance the seeming replacement of librarians with postdoctoral fellows.

4.    Collections: In the area of Collections, the dissolution of the Library’s liaison program has meant that systematic two-way communication between the Library and academic departments has largely fallen by the wayside. The loss of broad expertise and outreach, particularly in the sciences and engineering, threatens to make Library services increasingly marginal to faculty in these departments.

5.    Archives and Research Collections: In Archives and Research Collections the Library has—on two occasions since 2010—entered into agreements that may bring embarrassment to the University. In both cases, the situation may have been avoided if the Librarians with expertise in the respective areas had been adequately consulted. It would be nice to say that these occurrences were isolated incidents, but the University Librarian frequently acts in a cavalier manner with little or no regard for the long-term consequences of the actions taken.

6.    Information literacy instruction: Regarding information literacy instruction, the lack of staff and resources means the University Library can offer little in terms of programmatic support to students. Despite the success of the liaison program, the University Librarian disbanded it in 2011 “due to budgetary realities”.[1]The liaison model continues to exist for the Faculty of Business and the Integrated Science Program, with the resulting uneven support for students and faculty across campus, and a lack of subject expertise among the librarians. These developments deviate from the collaborative, curriculum-integrated model identified as a best practice for information literacy instruction established by ACRL and will almost certainly have a negative impact on the information literacy skills of McMaster students.

7.    Public services: In 2008, the Library announced the introduction of ‘blended service’, a new model of service delivery whereby research help, access services (circulation and ILL) and information technology assistance would be offered from a single service point by paraprofessional staff, removing librarians from front line service. The benefit of removing librarians from this role was never explained by Library administration, and the quality of service in the new model has never been measured. While the Library administration claims to espouse evidence-based decision making, the dissolution of the Liaison Program and the implementation of a blended services model belie this claim.

8.    Library as space: The allocation of Library space, one of its most valuable assets, has been shortsighted at best and disruptive and detrimental to its service mission, at worst. The Library’s giving or trading away space has necessitated ongoing, costly later moves, particularly affecting collections and study space. Mills Library in particular is in a constant state of disarray, with books and furniture stacked in public areas, and seating areas hastily created in hallways and other high traffic areas.

9.    Budget: In general, there is a lack of transparency regarding the Library budget. The budget is managed in a haphazard fashion, with periods of largesse and extravagance followed by draconian budget cuts, leaving us to question the University Librarian’s abilities to manage a budget and exercise fiscal restraint. A number of excuses have been made by Library administration for its numerous budget shortfalls, including the downturn in the stock market and fluctuations in the CDN/US exchange rate, even though the CDN/US dollar exchange rates have been close to par during the University Librarian’s tenure.[2] Given the opaque nature with which budget is treated in the Library, MUALA would welcome a forensic audit of the University Library.

10.    Assessment and Strategic Planning: While the University Library has made some positive steps towards developing a more thoughtful approach to strategic planning and an evidence-based decision-making process, MUALA is deeply concerned that there is a disconnect between the strategic objectives described in the new Balanced Scorecard and the actual direction that the Library takes. For example, the re-purposing of library space, the library’s new catalogue, and the blended service model for the delivery of reference, circulation and ILL, have not been evaluated to gauge the success and/or impact of these decisions. There are concerns that when monitoring the University Library’s progress towards meeting its goals, problems and concerns raised by staff are ignored and glossed over so that only a very positive report is given. As a result, staff are disillusioned by the strategic planning and scorecard process, believing it to be mainly a public relations exercise.

In recent weeks, we have learned that the University Librarian will be departing McMaster University at the end of the current academic year. We look forward to a fresh start with a new University Librarian. Our expectation in going forward is that the new administration will—as espoused in the University’s mission statement—“value integrity, quality, inclusiveness and teamwork in everything we do.”[3] Under the present University Librarian, we believe that these qualities have been neglected. We hope that we may soon participate in yet another, more positive, transformation of the Library that manages to incorporate these values even as we continue our commitment to “creativity, innovation and excellence” in serving the students, faculty and staff of McMaster University and the wider community. We look forward to an administration that genuinely supports open communication, transparency, collaboration and collegiality.

 


Full Report

(Appendix 1: MUALA Review of McMaster University Librarian Five-Year Term 2006-2001, and Appendix 2: Defining the Healthy Organization, are both available in the PDF document below)

MUALA has reluctantly decided to participate in the University Library Review convened by the President and Provost. Our reluctance is rooted in the fact that none of MUALA’s recommendations for Review Team appointees were accepted, nor were our concerns over the selection of the Team memberships adequately addressed. With all due respect to the Review Team Members, five of the seven reviewers have close affiliations with the University Librarian.  As such, it is possible that these members could be perceived as favouring positions put forward by the University Librarian at the expense of other points of view.

Despite these reservations, we have decided that we must make a submission to the Review.  Realizing that the Library’s achievements of recent years will be provided to the Review from other sources, our submission will focus on our concerns about the way in which the Library has been managed over the past six years. While we realize that the Review is of the Library and not the University Librarian, we also recognize that the University Librarian has gone to great lengths to fashion the Library in his own image. In fact, in many ways, the Library has become synonymous with the University Librarian. Therefore, many of our concerns focus on the University Librarian.

Relations with Librarians

Over the course of the University Librarian’s tenure, relations between Library administration and librarians have effectively come to a halt. This relationship, poorly managed by Library and university administration, led to not only a unanimous vote of no confidence in the University Librarian, but to the librarians taking the drastic measure of separating from the faculty association and forming a union in response to what was happening mainly in the University Library, and was an action of last resort.

McMaster librarians have undertaken two studies that attempt to address the many issues in the work environment. A 2009 study, Defining the Healthy Organization (Appendix 2), was done as a part of the Balanced Scorecard initiative, “Nurture a Healthy, Dynamic and Collaborative Organization”, which brought to light issues around common purpose, communication, inclusion, and job satisfaction. The second study, based on an ARL library survey for reviewing library directors, MUALA Review of McMaster University Librarian Five-Year Term 2006-2011 (Appendix 1), addressed four areas: leadership, communication, administration, and effectiveness.

Both studies demonstrate that McMaster University Library suffers from a culture of fear and intimidation, poor communication between management and staff, inequity in treatment of employees and staff groups, and extremely low morale. Further, the reports indicate that the University Library is managed like a “one-man show” where poor decisions are made due to lack of consultation with staff.

Staffing

MUALA would like to reiterate its statement below on the recent increase in postdoctoral fellows in the McMaster Library:

In the midst of repeated restructuring the Library and the recent cuts to librarian numbers through a drastic reduction in the salary budget, such position and posting descriptions recognize the value of librarian work, but not of librarians. As a result, it is difficult to countenance the seeming replacement of librarians with postdoctoral fellows.

Given MUALA’s responsibility of promoting the welfare of academic librarians employed at the university, MUALA views this as yet another symptom of the erosion of the role of academic librarians on campus, and condemns these actions by the University Library administration.

Furthermore, MUALA is not opposed to working alongside postdoctoral fellows. In fact, possible collaborations and sharing of experiences strengthen the Library, and the university. However, systematically replacing librarians with postdoctoral fellows is detrimental not only to the Library, and the university, but also the entirety of the academic community.

While the number of postdoctoral fellows in the University Library continues to increase, librarian employment in the University Library could be likened to a revolving door. Positions are created and then filled temporarily (e.g., Digital Experience Librarian, Immersive Learning Librarian, GIS Librarian), declared redundant (e.g., Strategic Initiatives Librarian, Scholarly Communication Librarian), or sometimes not filled at all (e.g., Business Fluencies Librarian, Media Fluencies Librarian). Librarians who resign or take leaves are not replaced, leaving service needs unmet and resulting in a loss of knowledge and expertise.

The following is a summary of changes to librarian staffing since 2006:

  • Hires:
    • 8 librarians
  • Reductions:
    • Voluntary separation packages – 8 librarians
    • Redundancies – 2 librarians
    • Resignations – 6 librarians
  • Total Reductions – 16 librarians
  • NET loss of 8 librarian positions

The impact of the loss of librarians at the University Library has also had an impact on services provided in the Health Sciences Library. Librarians in the Health Sciences Library now find it difficult to refer students to librarians in the University Library since these latter no longer have designated subject or liaison areas. There has been a loss of expertise for specialized support & searching, e.g., patent searching, help with maps. Finally, joint programs such as Medical Radiation Science are no longer equally supported by the University Library.

Not only have librarian positions been lost, but also the roles of librarians within the University Library have changed: only two positions remain that involve the supervision of Library staff, and one additional position exists that includes the supervision of students. The result is that management as a means for career advancement no longer exists for librarians. The heads of services positions in Mills, Thode andInnis libraries, formerly occupied by librarians, are now held by members of The Management Group (TMG), none of whom holds an MLISand some of whom don’t hold a library technician’s diploma. The position of Director of Maps, GIS and Data, formerly a librarian position, is now held on an interim basis by a postdoctoral fellow with no managerial experience and no experience working in libraries.

For several years now, librarians have not been encouraged or supported to pursue professional development opportunities related to management or leadership, such as the ARL’s Leadership and Management Skills Institutes or the Northern Exposure to Leadershipprogram. The dismissal of the Scholarly Communication Librarian in 2009, one week before she was to begin a board-approved twelve-month research leave, was decried by the McMaster University Faculty Association Executive in a letter to McMaster’s President, Provost and Chair of the Board, declaring the “nature of the termination to be outrageous and the decision itself ill considered”.[4]This egregious action has effectively discouraged librarians from applying for the research leaves to which they are entitled, and has amplified the schism between librarians and the Library administration.

Collections

The University Library collection supports research and teaching in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Business, Sciences, and Engineering. Forty-two academic departments and programs designate a faculty member to serve as liaison to the Library. Until 2011, and the dissolution of the Library’s liaison program, each department was also matched with a librarian who worked with the department to deliver instruction, guide collection decisions, communicate Library initiatives, and hear faculty concerns. Although we maintain good relations with individual faculty members, systematic two-way communication has largely fallen by the wayside. McMaster University Library librarians are no longer closely tied to the departments, and have lost the staff who would inform the Library of changes in curriculum and research interests.

In the spring of 2010, the professional complement within Collections was reduced from three librarians (the AUL Collections, Collections Services Librarian, and E-Resources Librarian) to one and a half, with the AUL Collections taking on significant responsibilities in Archives and Research Collections, and responsibilities for purchased collections consolidated onto a single librarian. Librarians in the Business school continue to actively manage online and physical collections for that faculty, but this is now the exception. The loss of broad expertise and outreach, particularly in the sciences and engineering, threatens to make Library services increasingly marginal to faculty in these departments.

Monographs are selected by the faculty liaisons from emailed lists of new publications. Until 2011, librarian liaisons assisted with selection when the faculty neglected this task, to ensure that all subjects were at least minimally covered. Short-term e-book loans provide some current content for missing areas.

Archives and Research Collections

The recent Organizational Review of the Library’s Division of Archives and Research Collections by Dr. Ken Cruikshank (Professor, Department of History) and Vivian Lewis (AUL, Organizational Development) raised many issues supported by MUALA, including concerns about staffing levels and storage space.  Of perhaps even greater concern to the Librarians is the fact that the Library, on two occasions since 2010, has entered into agreements that may bring embarrassment to the University. In both cases, the situation may have been avoided if the librarians with expertise in the respective areas had been adequately consulted.

For confidentiality reasons, the details of the two cases cannot be provided here, but in one instance, the Library (or the University, acting on advice from the Library) accepted a collection as a donation on terms that contradict accepted professional standards. In the second instance, the Library engaged with an outsourcing company that has resulted in what we would describe as an inferior digital product, a product that is being promoted by the Library. In the past, when consultations with librarians were the norm, it may have been possible to ensure that the donation agreement did not contain elements that contravene professional standards, and that the digitization project was undertaken with more attention to accepted practices.

It would be nice to say that these occurrences were isolated incidents, but the University Library­—and in particular, the University Librarian—frequently acts in a cavalier manner with little or no regard for the long-term consequences of the actions taken. It is hoped that consultations with librarians will resume in the immediate future to help prevent such potentially embarrassing situations from occurring again.

Information Literacy Instruction

According to its mission statement, “the University Library advances teaching, learning and research at McMaster by: teaching students to be successful, ethical information seekers…”[5] In fact however, the lack of staff and resources means the University Library can offer little in terms of programmatic support to students.

In 2007, the Library instituted a Library Liaison program that paired librarians with departments, programs and campus and community partners.[6] In our opinion, the Liaison program was highly successful, resulting in a strengthening of partnerships between librarians and faculty, as evidenced by a significant increase in information literacy instruction classes (399 classes in 2008/09; 389 classes in 2009/10; 481 classes in 2010/11) and one-on-one consultations between librarians and students (100 consultations in 2008/09; 146 consultations in 2009/10; 509 consultations in 2009/10). Despite these successes, the Liaison program was disbanded in 2011. According to Trzeciak, “due to budgetary realities, we no longer have the staffing resources required to assign librarians to specific departments, thus making the Liaison Program unscalable and unsustainable over the long term.”[7]

It should be noted that despite the University Librarian’s assertion that the program was being cut because it is “resource intensive” and“unscalable and unsustainable”, this model continues to be supported in a few specific areas: the faculty of Business benefits from the services of two full-time librarians, one serving the undergraduate population and the other providing support to MBA students, and the Science Fluencies Librarian is integrated into the Integrated Science (iSci) program, an elite program with a small enrolment of approximately 140 students. In contrast, the instruction needs of students and faculty in the Humanities and Social Sciences are met by only four librarians, each of whom who has another primary role in the Library, with instruction being but one of their position responsibilities. The Faculties of Engineering and Science, with an enrollment of 11,953 FTE in 2011-2012[8], are served by one librarian, who devotes much of his time to the iSci program.

The result is uneven support for students and faculty across campus, and a lack of subject expertise among the librarians. Requests for instruction are met on a first-come first-served basis. This reactive model deviates from the collaborative, curriculum-integrated model identified as a best practice for information literacy instruction established by the Association of College and Research Libraries[9] and will almost certainly have a negative impact on the information literacy skills of McMaster students.

One solution to this problem was a hasty creation, over the summer of 2011, of a series of generic online modules that cover basic information literacy skills. These modules were originally envisioned by the Blended Learning Task Force (a team comprised of instruction librarians and Library staff) to be supported by a librarian in-class, in the true sense of blended learning.[10] In practice, however, the Library administration has made clear that these modules will not be supported with in-person information literacy instruction provided by a librarian.

Public Services (Reference, Circulation and Interlibrary Loan)

In the spring of 2008, the University Librarian announced that the McMaster University Library would introduce ‘blended service’, “a new model of service delivery whereby research help, access services and information technology assistance would be offered from a single service point. …A blended service training team was established, and was responsible for:

  • Developing a curriculum and training materials appropriate for new staff and for existing staff members moving into blended service desk positions
  • Scheduling sessions and booking rooms
  • Providing sessions in a timely, coordinated way
  • Publicizing the schedule of sessions via a blog (see http://blended.blog.lib.mcmaster.ca)
  • Seeking ongoing feedback from staff regarding usefulness of sessions and areas for more training.

All existing Access Services’ staff members from the three university libraries were expected to participate in the training.”[11]

The blended services initiative has been costly in terms of increases to staff pay grades and staff time needed to prepare and participate in the training program. The benefit of moving librarians out of front line service was never explained by Library administration, and the quality of service in the new model has never been measured. While the Library administration claims to espouse evidence-based decision making, the dissolution of the Liaison Program and the implementation of a blended services model belie this.

Library as Space

The allocation of Library space, one of its most valuable assets, has been shortsighted at best and disruptive and detrimental to its service mission, at worst. The Library’s giving or trading away space has necessitated ongoing, costly later moves, particularly affecting collections and study space. Mills Library in particular is in a constant state of disarray, with books and furniture stacked in public areas, and seating areas hastily created in hallways and other high traffic areas.

The University Library, or perhaps more accurately, the University Librarian, has strong ties with the Faculty of Humanities, as well some departments and programs on campus, including the Centre for Leadership in Learning (CLL), the School of Geography and Earth Sciences, and the iSci program. The result of many of these relationships has been the physical integration of the Lyons New Media Centre, formerly housed in the Faculty of Humanities, the CLL and the iSci program into the University Library. Each has been given large amounts of space—entire floors even—in the Library, at the expense of space for study and collections, and at the expense of the larger campus community. Recent additions to the first floor of Mills Library, The Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship and the Bertrand Russell Centre, commandeer prime, visible real estate while restricting access to a limited few. We detail a few specific examples of these space allocations below.

iSci in Thode Library

In 2009, the bulk of the third floor of H.G. Thode Science and Engineering Library was given to a small program in the Faculty of Science, called iSci or Integrated Science. At capacity, this program will have an enrolment of 240 students; current enrolment stands at approximately 100 students.[12] In 2011-2012, with general student study space at a premium, and student council demanding the University provide more study space,[13] much of the print journal collection was moved from the second floor of the Thode Library into closed storage to make room for a floor of quiet study.

The Centre for Leadership in Learning in Mills Library

The fifth floor of Mills Memorial Library contains a large area that is separate from the general Library space. Until 2010-2011, this space housed much of the Library staff working in Mills. In a significant move, the entire area was emptied in 2011 in order for the space to be used by a unit distinct and separate from the University Library, the Centre for Leadership in Learning. Of the entire working area that once housed two Library departments, now only two librarians have offices. While we acknowledge that the physical integration of a teaching support services unit into the Library could result in stronger partnerships and the offering of joint programs of benefit to the campus, in reality, it has had little or no tangible impact on Library programs and services to date.

The McMaster Health Forum DialogueSpace in Mills Library

Adjacent to the Lyons New Media Centre on the fourth floor of Mills Library is a large, well-lit conference room that is the home of the McMaster Health Forum’s DialogueSpace. This room (used for 15 events in 2011)[14] is solely used by the Health Forum, and is not shared with the Library, leaving this space underused. It should be noted that the McMaster Health Forum has no affiliation with the University Library, and the rationale for devoting Library space to this organization, at the expense of Library use, has never been made explicit.

Budget

In general, there is a lack of transparency regarding the Library budget. The budget is managed in a haphazard fashion, with periods of largesse and extravagance followed by draconian budget cuts, leaving us to question the University Librarian’s abilities to manage a budget and to exercise fiscal restraint. As a case in point, in March 2009, the Library was a Cum Laude sponsor of the ACRL Virtual Conference, contributing between $15,000-$19,999 US, the only academic institution to contribute to the conference on the same level as large, for-profit vendors such as EBSCO, Elsevier, ProQuest and Thomson-Reuters.[15] During this same period however, a significant deficit was announced. A voluntary separation package was offered to librarians and managers, and one month later, two librarian positions were declared redundant. In an e-mail issued on Friday, April 24, 2009, to Library staff, announcing the firing of Donna Millard and Barb McDonald, the University Librarian stated: “At this time I feel no further staff reductions will need to be made, and that we can put this salary budget reduction initiative behind us.”[16] However, since that announcement, staff reduction through voluntary separation packages and attrition has been consistently invoked as a strategy to attempt to manage the Library budget.

One justification offered by the Library administration for these numerous budget shortfalls has been the downturn in the stock market and fluctuations in the CDN/US exchange rate. In fact, CDN/US dollar exchange rates have been close to par during the University Librarian’s tenure.[17] Travel or conference funding (for those who are able to secure it) is not subject to any assessment of return on investment.MUALA does not understand why after a series of dismissals, involuntary separations and resignations there never seems to be a budget surplus, or at least none that is communicated to Library staff. Library staff can never be certain whether or not the budget is balanced, making the end of each fiscal year a period of considerable stress, and each new deficit announcement an unwelcome–but not unexpected–surprise. Given the opaque nature with which the budget is treated in the Library, MUALA would welcome a forensic audit of the University Library.

Assessment and Strategic Planning

The University Library has made some positive steps towards developing a more thoughtful approach to strategic planning and an evidence-based decision-making process. It has adopted the Balanced Scorecard approach to strategic planning and performance management, which we acknowledge is an improvement over past practice. MUALA is deeply concerned however, that there is a disconnect between the strategic objectives described in the Scorecard[18] and the actual direction that the Library takes. For example, one strategic objective states that the Library will “create world class teaching and learning spaces”. In recent years we have seen prime student study space re-purposed for external think tanks and elite programs (see Library as Space for examples). Another strategic initiative states that the Library will “improve discovery and access to scholarly resources” when in practice the Library’s new catalogue system lags behind many other universities’ in terms of ease-of-use, clarity, and functionality.  A third strategic initiative states that the Library will “strive for exemplary service that is responsive to user needs”. The Library moved to a “blended service” model, removing professional librarians from the research help desks and replacing them with circulation staff that completed an in-house training program. It would be difficult to describe this as “exemplary” service. What is most disconcerting is that in all these cases, there has been no effort made to gauge the success and/or impact of these decisions.

In addition, there are concerns that when monitoring the University Library’s progress towards meeting its goals (i.e., monitoring progress of strategic initiatives), problems and concerns raised by staff are ignored and glossed over so that only a very positive report is given. As a result, staff have become disillusioned by the strategic planning and Scorecard process, believing it to be mainly a public relations exercise.

Conclusion

In recent weeks, we have learned that the University Librarian will be departing McMaster University at the end of the current academic year. We look forward to a fresh start with a new University Librarian. Our expectation in going forward is that the new administration will—as espoused in the University’s mission statement—“value integrity, quality, inclusiveness and teamwork in everything we do.”[19] Under the present University Librarian, we believe that these qualities have been neglected. We hope that we may soon participate in yet another, more positive, transformation of the Library that manages to incorporate these values even as we continue our commitment to “creativity, innovation and excellence” in serving the students, faculty and staff of McMaster University and the wider community. We look forward to an administration that genuinely supports open communication, transparency, collaboration and collegiality.

 

[1]McMaster University Library. (2011, August 30). Changes to liaison / instruction in the University Library: A message from the University Librarian. Retrieved from http://library.mcmaster.ca/news/8848

[2]Bank of Canada. (1995-2012). Monthly and annual average exchange rates. Retrievedfromhttp://www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/exchange/exchangeratesinpdf/

[3]McMaster University. Office of Public Relations. (2012). Fast facts: Mission & vision. Inspiring innovation & discovery. Retrieved from http://www.mcmaster.ca/opr/html/opr/fast_facts/main/mission.html

[4]McMaster University Faculty Association (MUFA). (2009). Librarian dismissals. Retrievedfromhttp://www.mcmaster.ca/mufa/LibrarianDismissal2009.pdf

[5]McMaster University Library. (c.2011). Mission, planning documents and reports.Retrieved fromhttp://library.mcmaster.ca/mission

[6]McMaster University Library. (2008). Liaison program pairs librarians with faculty.Retrieved fromhttp://library.mcmaster.ca/news/2940

[7]McMaster University Library. (2011, August 30). Changes to liaison / instruction in the University Library: A message from the University Librarian. Retrieved from http://library.mcmaster.ca/news/8848

[8]McMaster University. Office of Institutional Research and Analysis. (2012). University statistics.Retrievedfromhttp://www.mcmaster.ca/avpira/universitystatistics.html

[9]Association of College and Research Libraries. Institute for Information Literacy.(2003, 2012). Characteristics of programs of information literacy that illustrate best practices: A guideline. Retrieved fromhttp://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/characteristics

[10]McMaster University Library. Blended Learning Task Force. (2011). Report and recommendations.Retrievedfromhttp://online.blog.lib.mcmaster.ca/files/2011/04/BLTFRecommendationsApril-9-2011-1.pdf

[11]McMaster University Library Blended Services Training Team. (2009). McMaster University Library blended services training 2008-09. Report and recommendations. Retrieved fromhttp://blended.blog.lib.mcmaster.ca/files/2008/10/blendedservicestrainingreport.pdf

[12]McMaster University. Faculty of Science. Integrated Science Program. (2012). Admission requirements.Retrievedfromhttp://www.science.mcmaster.ca/isci/prospectivestudents/admissionrequirements

[13]The Silhouette. (2011). Campus capacity: Bursting at the seams. Retrieved from  http://www.thesil.ca/?p=716

[14]McMaster Health Forum. (2012). Events.Retrieved fromhttp://www.mcmasterhealthforum.org/index.php/aboutus/ourwork/events

[15]Association of College and Research Libraries. (2009). ACRL footnotes – preview issue. Retrievedfromhttp://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/customnews/acrl09_preview/index.php?startid=6

[16]McMaster University Faculty Association (MUFA). (2009). Librarian dismissals. Retrievedfromhttp://www.mcmaster.ca/mufa/LibrarianDismissal2009.pdf

[17]Bank of Canada. (1995-2012). Monthly and annual average exchange rates.http://www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/exchange/exchangeratesinpdf/

[18]McMaster University Library. (2011). Library Scorecard: strategic objectives, measures & initiatives 2011/2012 (revised February 22, 2012). Retrieved from http://library.mcmaster.ca/libraryscorecard

[19]McMaster University. Office of Public Relations. (2012). Fast facts: Mission & vision. Inspiring innovation & discovery. Retrieved from http://www.mcmaster.ca/opr/html/opr/fast_facts/main/mission.html

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