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MUALA Statement on Post-Doctoral Fellows at McMaster University Library

MUALA wishes to express our concern over the rising number of post-doctoral fellows associated with the University Library. The job descriptions refer to work, such as:

  • instruction in library resources
  • identifying current and future needs for a given department or faculty for the library
  • assessing library resources, support, and facilities in support of a given department or faculty
  • making recommendations to library administration for improvement
  • promoting greater awareness of library resources, services and facilities for a given department or faculty
  • promoting greater awareness within the library of a faculty’s teaching and research priorities
  • providing support as needed to students and faculty within a given department or faculty

These descriptions of current post-doctoral fellow work, and job postings for post-doctoral fellows, use the same or similar language to current, and/or recent responsibilities outlined in MUALA Position Responsibilities Statements. These descriptions are indicative that librarian’s work is still relevant.

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’s work, but not of librarians. As a result, it is difficult to countenance the seeming replacement of librarians with post-doctoral 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 post-doctoral fellows. In fact, possible collaborations and sharing of experiences strengthen the library, and the university. However, systematically replacing librarians with post-doctoral fellows is detrimental not only to the library, and the university, but also the entirety of the academic community.

MUALA Statement on the status of the Digital Experience Librarian position

MUALA formally requests the posting of the Digital Experience Librarian position as a continuing appointment MUALA position. MUALA believes that it is necessary to fill this position as a continuing appointment MUALA position, for the following reasons:

  • as evidenced in the recent University Library reorganization, this position was deemed strategically important to the library in moving forward; and,
  • the responsibilities laid out in the Position Responsibility Statement for this position directly effect the workload of other MUALA members.

This work desperately needs to be done.

Furthermore, McGill University, University of Western Ontario, York University, University of Windsor, Ryerson University, and University of Guelph all have comparable librarian positions. McMaster University itself has had two such positions. Both of which have been vacated due to resignations.

By working together with administration on a posting, and hiring process for this position, MUALA also sees this as a significant opportunity to improve labour relations and morale in the University Library.

REVIEW OF THE McMASTER UNIVERSITY LIBRARY – Update of June 22, 2011

MUALA President Rick Stapleton has received a letter dated June 1 from McMaster President Patrick Deane and Provost Ilene Busch-Vishniac, in response to Rick’s letter of May 16 in which he expressed MUALA’s concerns over University Librarian Jeffrey Trzeciak’s recent presentation at Pennsylvania State University, among other things.

The letter states that the President and Provost are “convening a review of the University Library.”  While they “have not typically conducted … reviews of the Library … this is an oversight that needs to be corrected.”  They will establish a “review committee” that will “be consulting widely”.  They will “meet with librarians (and other library staff) when they are on campus.”  Their report “will be made public and shared through our governance system in a manner identical to that used for academic program reviews.”  In addition, the President and Provost will solicit from MUALA “suggestions for external reviewers”.  They go on to say: “While we do not normally seek approval by interested parties of the members of a review committee, it is our intention to strike a committee that is acceptable to MUALA, to the management team of the Library, and to the broader campus community.  It is our sincere hope that the review team will then be able to advise us unencumbered by any concerns of bias.”

Rick replied positively to this letter on June 22, stating “MUALA will be pleased to participate in the academic self-governance procedure that you outline. We embrace this opportunity that gives voice not only to MUALA as a collective bargaining unit, but also to our individual academic librarian members.”

The review of the University Library is certainly good news.  It shows that MUALA’s efforts over the past few months, along with the support we have had from CAUT, faculty associations, and individual librarians, is paying off.

At the same time, however, academic librarians at McMaster continue to operate under challenging conditions. Last month, we lost 6 librarian positions, 5 of them through a “voluntary departure program” implemented as a result of budget difficulties, and are awaiting word from the library administration on a reorganization of the University Library. As well, the Division of Archives and Research Collections is currently undergoing a review initiated by the University Librarian, to be followed by a similar review of our Map Library. These are the very two departments that Trzeciak—in his Pennsylvania presentation–stated would next be headed by Ph.D.s or post-doctoral fellows, that is, not by librarians.

MUALA will obviously remain vigilant in this environment, and we continue to welcome support from other librarians, academic associations, and other interested parties.

MUALA Letters of support – Update of June 22, 2011

Personal letters of support

May 9, 2011 – Carol Mazur

Professional & Faculty association letters of support

May 13, 2011 – University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) Librarians Committee
May 20, 2011 – Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT)
May 24, 2011 – Association des Professeurs de l’Université d’Ottawa/Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa (APUO)
May 24, 2011 – Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA)
June 10, 2011 – Windsor University Faculty Association (WUFA)
June 20, 2011 – York University Faculty Assocation (YUFA) Librarian Members’
June 27, 2011 – Librarians’ Association of the University of Waterloo (LAUW)
June 29, 2011 – Edmonton Chapter of the Professional Librarians Guild
July 12, 2011 – Association of Professional Librarians of the University of Alberta (APLUA)
August 19, 2011 – Librarian members of the Brock University Faculty Association (BUFA)
August 25, 2011 – CAUT letter to President Patrick Deane
September 16, 2011 – The Faculty Association of Simon Fraser University (SFUFA)
September 23, 2011 – University of British Columbia Librarians and Archivists Association (UBCLAA)

Faculty association motions of support

April, 29, 2011 – Librarians’ and Archivists’ Council at the University of Regina

“On April 29th, 2011, the Librarians’ and Archivists’ Council at the University of Regina unanimously passed a motion in support of the librarians at McMaster University. The Council expresses its grave concern over the devaluing of the role of professional librarians at McMaster University library. We reaffirm the value of the ALA accredited masters degree in librarianship and the continuing core role of the library profession within the academic community.”

May 20, 2011 – Librarians Association of the University of Waterloo

“Executive members of the Librarians Association of the University of Waterloo join other library associations to voice our support for librarians at McMaster University. We are deeply concerned by the stated intensions of McMaster’s chief librarian to stop hiring ALA-accredited librarians. We question the wisdom behind a decision that will result in reducing or eliminating the inclusion of trained, dedicated professionals in this setting. We feel that this will not only have an immediate negative impact on the morale within the McMaster library system, but it will also lead to an erosion of sound stewardship practices over time, threatening the welfare of a collection on which scholars and students depend.”

Thank You for Your Support – Update of May 16, 2011 [1/4]

MUALA is grateful for the support we have received from librarians, faculty, academic associations and others from across Canada and the United States as we face a reduction of librarian positions at McMaster due to budget cuts, and attempt to deal with the fall-out of University Librarian Jeffrey Trzeciak’s controversial address of April 8 at Pennsylvania State University.

If after reading this series of updates (2,3,4) you wish to lend support to MUALA, we recommend that you e-mail the McMaster President and Provost to express your concerns. Please cc MUALA at contact (AT) muala.ca.

Dr. Patrick Deane
President and Vice-Chancellor
McMaster University
presdnt (AT) mcmaster.ca

Dr. Ilene Busch-Vishniac
Provost and Vice-President Academic
McMaster University
provost (AT) mcmaster.ca

University Library Budget Problems Result in Loss of Librarian Positions – Update of May 16, 2011 [3/4]

In February of this year, in the midst of bargaining for our first collective agreement, MUALA was informed by the University that it had “experienced a significant change in its financial circumstances, which now necessitates certain cost reductions within the bargaining unit.” MUALA reluctantly signed a “Voluntary Departure Program” agreement in which members who have attained the ‘Rule of 80’ (age + years of service = 80 or more) were offered an early retirement package. As of May 1, five librarians have accepted the package and have retired.

The agreement also stated that if “the Program results in insufficient cost reductions the Parties agree that they will meet to negotiate the terms of further reduction initiatives.” We were advised by the University administration on May 4 that the “cost reductions” had fallen short of the target by over $80,000. Shortly thereafter, one of our members announced her resignation in order to accept a position at another institution. Her departure means that the University’s target has been sufficiently met, so no further reductions are necessary.

These developments mark the second time in his short tenure at McMaster University that University Librarian Jeffrey Trzeciak has overseen the reduction of librarian positions as a means of dealing with budget problems. Just two years ago, the University Librarian announced a voluntary separation package that resulted in the departure of two librarians, as well as other library staff. Shortly thereafter, he announced that two other librarian positions were declared ‘redundant’. To our knowledge, these 2009 layoffs marked the first time in recent years that a University Library in Ontario implemented librarian layoffs as a means of dealing with budget problems. (Meanwhile, the Faculty of Health Sciences Library here at McMaster—which does not report to the University Librarian—has had balanced budgets without layoffs during the same period).

While MUALA members are relieved that the recent resignation of one of our members has eliminated the possibility of other layoffs a mere two years later, we are dismayed at the departure of 6 of our librarian colleagues, reducing the number of academic librarians at McMaster University Library to 12, with 7 at the Faculty of Health Sciences Library. These 19 librarians serve a University population of 21,173 full-time undergraduate students and 3,025 full-time graduate students (2009-2010), as well as 894 fulltime instructional faculty members—1,434 including clinical faculty (numbers taken from McMaster University website).

 

MUALA Review of University Librarian Jeffrey Trzeciak – Update of May 16, 2011 [4/4]

The Review

Jeffrey Trzeciak’s appointment as McMaster University Librarian reaches the 5 year mark later this year. MUALA believes that directors of libraries should be subject to comprehensive 5-year reviews. Accordingly, we undertook a representative opinion survey of our membership in October, 2010, using a survey instrument published by the Association of Research Libraries. The survey consisted of 52 questions addressing five key aspects: vision, leadership, administration, communication and effectiveness, and was completed by 22 of the 25 MUALA members. The University Librarian received an overall performance rating of ‘poor’ from 16 of 22 respondents, and a rating of ‘fair’ from the remaining 6 respondents; he did not receive any overall ratings of ‘excellent’ or ‘good’.

The Meeting with the President and Provost

The MUALA executive requested a meeting with McMaster University President Patrick Deane and Provost Ilene Busch-Visniac in order to present them with copies of the resulting report. Our request was granted, and the meeting was held on March 22. The executive summary of the report we presented to them is available here.

At the meeting, we requested that: (1) the University implement a formal review of the University Librarian’s first 5 years at McMaster; (2) our report be included as part of this review; and (3) regardless of 1 and 2, we receive a formal written response from the President and Provost on the concerns raised in our report. We were informed by the Provost that the University Librarian had already been re-appointed, and that a review had been conducted by the Provost last autumn. We expressed disappointment that MUALA had not been invited to participate in the review. The President and Provost thanked us for our report and promised to reply by the end of April. We would like to emphasize that the tone of the meeting was open and cordial.

The Written Response of the President and Provost

The MUALA executive received a written reply from the President and Provost on April 11 (the memorandum was dated April 6). They stated their agreement with us that the renewal of a University Librarian appointment “ought to follow a process similar to that for Deans” and “incorporate a review by a duly appointed committee.” The implementation of such a process “should certainly be in place prior to the next opportunity for renewal of the contract for the University Librarian.”

Regarding our overall concerns, they went on to say: “we have made recommendation to Jeff that we hope will address some of the issues raised in the report. We are optimistic that actions Jeff has agreed to take will enable the Librarians to work more effectively with him as a team.”

MUALA’s Reply to the President and Provost

MUALA President Rick Stapleton replied to the University President and Provost in a letter dated May 16. He thanked them for implementing a review process and requested that MUALA be represented on the review committee.

Rick then stated the following:

Regarding your overall response to the issues we raised in our report, we can only express our deepest disappointment. The “recommendation” you made to the University Librarian to “address some of the issues raised in the report” obviously fell on deaf ears. As you no doubt know, on April 8 (two days after the date of your letter), the University Librarian addressed a conference at Pennsylvania State University; his address was broadcast via web streaming and was viewed by several MUALA members. Among other things, the McMaster University Librarian stated that:

* Four librarians were about to retire at McMaster (Director of Research Collections, Director of the Map Library, Science Librarian, and Engineering Librarian).
* The two retiring Directors would be replaced by Post-Doctoral Fellows or PhDs.
* The number of librarians at McMaster University Library was now at its maximum level.
* No librarians would be hired at the University Library in the future.

These statements are contentious on several levels. First of all, none of these announcements had been made here at McMaster prior to the presentation; in fact, none of the retiring librarians had even signed their retirement packages as of the date of his presentation. Once again—repeating behaviours evidenced in our report to you—the University Librarian has shown a complete disregard for respectful relations and communication with academic librarians at McMaster.

Of even greater concern, however, are the University Librarian’s blatant statements that librarians are to be replaced by non-librarians and that no librarians will be hired at McMaster in the future. If nothing else, such statements are insulting to MUALA, to academic librarianship and to the spirit of employer-employee relations at McMaster. His comments tarnish not only his reputation, but the reputation of the University as a whole.

We are genuinely perplexed why the University administration permits the University Librarian to behave in such an unprofessional manner. As our report clearly indicates, such behavior is not out of character—in fact, his presentation simply adds further evidence to our findings.

After our meeting with you in March, we were hopeful that you might initiate a substantial review of the University Librarian that would lead to a positive transformation of the administration of the McMaster University Library. We are very disappointed that no such transformation has occurred, nor does it appear to be imminent. In the absence of any sign of action on the part of the University to address the issues at hand, we have therefore concluded that we have no choice but to bring our concerns to a wider audience both here at McMaster and in the broader academic and public communities

MUALA Response to LMC Meeting of September 6, 2011 action item from agenda item #4

In response to the morale issue action item from the September 6, 2011 Labour Management Committee meeting:

Action: Nick Ruest would bring forward to MUALA members the offer from Jeff Trzeciak to meet with individual librarians as an attempt to start rebuilding trust and discuss strategies for improving morale and communication. Nick Ruest will also solicit ideas to improve morale from the MUALA membership. Jeff Trzeciak will await Nick Ruest’s response.

The MUALA membership passed the following motion in response:

MUALA members state that given that we have a long standing motion of non-confidence in the University Librarian, and given that we’ve undertaken a review of the University Librarian that we have submitted to the President and Provost, and given that the President and Provost have established a review of the University Library, we would prefer to defer any meetings with the subject of morale until the University Library Review is completed, afterwhich we anticipate meeting with the University Librarian in a structured and mediated format.

MUALA update – April 14, 2011

During negotiations earlier this year leading to our first collective agreement, MUALA was informed by the University that it had “experienced a significant change in its financial circumstances, which now necessitates certain cost reductions within the bargaining unit.” As a consequence, MUALA is currently negotiating with the University administration regarding these cost reductions, which include voluntary separations (retirements) and may include involuntary separations (layoffs). Once these negotiations are completed and the staffing levels reduced, there will be a reorganization of the roles of academic librarians at McMaster University Library. When this reorganization is finalized, MUALA will have an opportunity to comment on the whole process.