Daily Archives: August 18, 2010

Is A Response Even Worth Our Time

A Facebook friend messaged me to say “ACRLog needs to take this on”, in reference to this comment associated with a Slate piece on why tenure should be abolished. Andrew Sullivan who blogs for The Atlantic shared a few paragraphs from the Slate piece with his readers. It generated a fair number of comments in favor of and against tenure. No one in the academic librarian community seemed to care much about the original piece or the bulk of the comments until one of them attacked our right to have tenure.

My personal inclination is to ignore this comment completely. What I would like to take on is why academic librarians get their panties in such a twist so worked up about this sort of thing? This is an off-the-cuff comment to an opinion piece. It’s not like it’s a well researched, well thought out essay in The Chronicle that might actually dignify a response. For all we know the comment is from a disgruntled librarian who got turned down for tenure and now holds a grudge against librarians who have tenure. Are we so insecure about our professional status and our right to claim tenure status that we have to defend it against every feeble critique. And what’s the point of doing so anyway? Is there anything any of us could write that would change the commenter’s mind – or the mind of anyone who’s against tenure? We’ve all seen dozens of impassioned arguments for and against tenure. Have you ever read a single response or comment along the lines of “What you had to say actually made me change my mind on this issue”? I sure haven’t.

You answer, “but Steven, we should respond not to change this writer’s mind, but to make sure that all the other people who read it know that tenure for librarians is a good thing – and that we conduct really valuable research and that we are really, really busy helping faculty and students and that we really deserve tenure – and that if nothing else we have to correct misstatements and attack outright lies”. I understand that argument – we want the truth to be known. But who is it that we are so worried will read this tripe and believe it? Our faculty colleagues? Our academic administrators? Do we have so little faith in their ability to think critically about the issues that we feel the overwhelming urge to offer up a counter-argument? Do you think your provost will be swayed by this comment’s exquisite logic and well documented arguments? “Hmm, according to this anonymous comment, our librarians don’t have anything to do now that all research can be done with Google. Why did we let them have tenure in the first place? Maybe we should rethink that.” I’m sure that’s how it’s going to go down. Didn’t this article convince us that our academic administrators really do like us and that they have our backs – or are we going to let our inferiority complex get the best of us once again?

My preference is to just ignore this negativity all together. Rather than taking the time to write an impassioned essay defending an academic librarian’s right to tenure (which has already been done anyway) or justifying why we deserve to have our jobs, I suggest we all put our effort into doing what we do well every opportunity we have which is making a difference in our academic communities in service to our students, faculty and staff. If we do that well I think we’ll have no reason at all to constantly allow ignorant fools to push our buttons and manipulate us into responding just the way they know we will. So get your panties untwisted take a moment to think about this and then get back to work.

Just Around the Corner

It’s the middle of August, which means that the Fall semester is coming up fast. Posts about beginning the new academic year on the right foot are starting to pop up all over the higher ed blogosphere. Here’s a couple that have caught my eye recently:

1. Earlier this month Tenured Radical* encouraged us to “conjure–for a second–a week in mid-semester.” What will our days (and nights) look like? How stressed out will we be? What plans can we make now to minimize our stresses later?

While her post focuses on faculty who teach full-time rather than academic librarians, there’s lots of good advice here for us too. A central thread of her post is know your limits, and know when to say no. Of course, saying no can be difficult–I often return to Emily Ford’s excellent post How Do You Say No? at In the Library with the Lead Pipe when I need a refresher on strategies for declining with grace.

*(Tenured Radical’s post was also published at Inside Higher Ed.)

2. And here are a few tips from the good folks at Prof Hacker:

• Before the summer winds down, why not take some time to get your CV in order? Even if a job change isn’t on the horizon for you, it’s a good idea to have an updated CV in case you’re asked for it–for example, many grant applications require a CV.

• How do you keep track of your plans for the new semester? Creating a checklist of things you need to do is a great way to prepare for the start of school. Again, many of these are teaching-specific, but librarians need snacks and supplies, too!

• And while it seems almost impossibly far away, the holiday season is sooner than we think, and the winter holidays arrive when many of us in higher ed are at our busiest. Some advance planning now can help make a smoother end to the calendar year.

What advice do you have for getting the new school year off to a good start? Please share any strategies that work for you!