The Joint Committee on College Library Problems, a national committee representing the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Association of American Colleges (now the Association of American Colleges and Universities), and the American Association of University Professors, just released a Joint Statement on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians, reaffirming the recommendation that college and university librarians ought to be granted faculty status.
Let me state right up front that I think academic librarians play a vital role in the research and teaching missions of colleges and universities. And I think libraries at institutions like mine are well served by hiring librarians with very strong scholarly backgrounds — especially for positions with a disciplinary focus. And academic freedom and participation in university governance by librarians is cool and good and righteous. But slapping faculty status on librarians as a way to get those things, without a commitment to holding librarians to comparable standards as other faculty is a bad idea.
Unless we are held to standards for scholarship, teaching, and service that are equivalent to the standards used for hiring, promotion and tenure decisions for the rest of the faculty across our campuses, then we should not expect faculty status. I would be happy to be proven wrong on this, but it is my impression that librarians with faculty status are rarely held to equivalent standards for hiring, promotion, or tenure. A snarky way of saying this would be to note that I am absolutely certain that no scholar would get tenure at MPOW on the basis of teaching workshops, holding office hours, and publishing case studies — but that seems to be a valid and common route to tenure for librarians at peer institutions. For an even snarkier send-up of the state of library “research” see But What about the Academics?.
Less snarky, but same point, is to compare hiring criteria. I know of no academic library that regularly requires a PhD for librarian hires (plenty, including my own, require an advanced subject degree, with PhD preferred). I likewise know of no research university that does NOT require a PhD for faculty positions within academic departments.
The recent joint statement from the AAUP Council and the ACRL states that promotion and tenure “criteria and standards may differ from traditional classroom faculty, but they must be comparable in rigor and content” (emphasis mine). Where standards for librarians are truly comparable, either individually or institutionally, then perhaps faculty status is appropriate. But it seems to me that is rarely the case.
That’s it. That’s my whole problem with faculty status for librarians – that without comparable standards, it is meaningless, silly, and potentially counter-productive to the goal of promoting librarianship as a full-fledged academic discipline.
(Note: It occurs to me that I might someday apply for a job at an institution that grants librarians faculty status. In which case … Just Kidding! And of course, that institution is obviously an exception.)