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