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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 https://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 https://library.mcmaster.ca/news/8848

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

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

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

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

[6]McMaster University Library. (2008). Liaison program pairs librarians with faculty.Retrieved fromhttps://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 https://library.mcmaster.ca/news/8848

[8]McMaster University. Office of Institutional Research and Analysis. (2012). University statistics.Retrievedfromhttps://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 fromhttps://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/characteristics

[10]McMaster University Library. Blended Learning Task Force. (2011). Report and recommendations.Retrievedfromhttps://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 fromhttps://blended.blog.lib.mcmaster.ca/files/2008/10/blendedservicestrainingreport.pdf

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

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

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

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

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

[17]Bank of Canada. (1995-2012). Monthly and annual average exchange rates.https://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 https://library.mcmaster.ca/libraryscorecard

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

MUALA-submission-to-review-team (FINAL).pdf

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.