Image Credit: http://zapatopi.net/labs/
Last year, HLS’s founder Micah wrote a post about the “publish or perish” paradigm. He shares (or shared then, not sure if he still does) with me some apprehensions about the publishing model, in general, and how it relates to the library science world, in particular.
I entered library school wanting to be an academic librarian — an engineering academic librarian to be exact. But over time, as I’ve taken classes and had outside experiences, my desires have changed. I still want to work in an academic library setting (because I love the idea of working with such a diverse group of people), but not in the traditional academic librarian role (see my post on data curation; that’s what I want to do now). Regardless of my title, if I work in an academic library, one of things I’ll likely have to do is publish. I’ve been pondering over the last year about researching and publishing requirements of being an academic librarian. I want to build on Micah’s post by saying that I am not comfortable with academic librarians being considered faculty and having to publish as a requirement of tenure (another thing I’m not comfortable with for librarians).
Let me start by saying that I do enjoy informal research and finding new ways of doing something better or more efficiently. When I used to be an engineer, I devised novel ways to fix immediate problems almost daily. I knew the theory because I learned it in college, but I didn’t care so much about that, as long as it solved the problem. As a librarian, I want to meet the needs of my institution with novel ideas. In other words, I want to see where the needs are, then devise a solution that works in my library. If it works in yours, too, then great, but that should not be my focus. I’d be fine with simply publishing my thoughts on a blog, but I don’t want the pressure to publish peer reviewed articles in order to keep my job.
I know research and publishing are requirements of tenure track faculty positions at most institutions. It’s one of the three legs of the stool consisting of research, teaching, and service. But as practitioners, librarians shouldn’t be classified as academics simply because they work at an academic institution. Research and publishing requirements can be a distraction to simply being an excellent librarian. We can do great things without that pressure, so why not let us? Why not leave the publishing requirements to the regular faculty? Please don’t misunderstand me, I am certainly not implying that we don’t have what it takes to publish at the same level as a teaching faculty member — quite the contrary. Nor am I suggesting that we wouldn’t have much to add to the discussion. But what I am clearly stating is that conferring university faculty status and tenure requirements on librarians is superfluous.
I really want to hear from our readers on this issue. So my questions for you today are these: do academic librarians really need to be called faculty? I know it has a long history behind it, but that doesn’t make it the best way to do things. Do you think the publishing requirements of academic librarians are important or distracting? If you think it’s important, then why do we not require the same of other professions’ practitioners and even other areas within LIS, such as public and school librarians ? If you think it is a distraction, then what can we do to change the culture?