Lawyers, Librarians, Clergy, and Coaches

No, this is not the answer to the “Top 5 Professions You Would Like to Pursue” quiz that is likely appearing on Facebook even now; it is a partial listing of the “other professional staff” positions found on American campuses cited as part of a Chronicle article on the increasing number of “support staff” in higher education. The Insider Higher Ed version of the article is here.

Both IHE and the Chronicle point to a new report by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity on “Trends in the Higher Education Workforce” that notes that the number of “support staff” positions have increased far more rapidly over the past 20 years than has the number of instructional positions. This, it is suggested, “reflects unproductive spending by academe.”

The Chronicle does a good job making clear the (very) gray areas around any conclusion that increased spending on “other professional staff” reflects “unproductive spending,” but the lumping together of librarians with other professional staff presumed not to be directly contributing to instruction is worth noting. I have seen several surveys over the years that have followed the “other professional staff” model, including those of first-year-experience programs and public engagement initiatives – librarians are administrators, managers, and, perhaps, research support staff, but they are not instructors.

And, perhaps we are not (although I have argued the opposite on many occasions), but I see echoes in this report of the 2006 debate in school library circles over the “65% solution”, i.e., the question of whether school librarians should be “counted” as instructional staff in budget allocations and reporting required by educational reform programs. Should the argument advanced by the CCAP report gain traction, and should there be any question of whether professional academic librarians contribute directly to student learning in ways that all might recognize as being “productive,” we might be wise to consider these questions advanced as part of the school library debate (Harada, 2006):

  • How does your library media center support student learning?
  • What compelling evidence do you have that students have achieved the learning targets?

How ready are you to provide the answers?

6 thoughts on “Lawyers, Librarians, Clergy, and Coaches”

  1. That line in the article about how the Dept. of Ed classifies librarians as “professionals” caught my attention as well. I had seen that before with IPEDs data and had commented on it in an ACRLog post a while back – pointing out we are not counted as instructors. I would think that at institutions where librarians have faculty status they’d be counted as faculty but that is not the case. All that aside, I can’t think of too many institutions where the library staff has become bloated with staff.

    Good to have you back Scott!

  2. Another recent article from the Chronicle continues this trend of downplaying the role of libraries. The article on campus space places the library into the same category as dorm rooms and athetic facilities, as ‘amenities’ spending, that has “nothing” to do with the core educational mission. Very troubling attitude trend.

    …Growth has happened in student amenities, too — student centers, recreation centers, libraries, residence halls. “State-funding capital has diminished, so the things that you can fund are things that can be supported by student-fee-financed bonds,” Mr. Parsons says… In some cases, “fees are larger than tuition, which means that we are putting money into buildings that have nothing to do with the core educational mission — because we can.”…

  3. At our campus, we’re treated as a “student amenity”…and we’re pretty far down the list of priorities, as well.

    Twenty years ago, the top priority on our campus master plan was to renovate the library.

    Ten years ago, the top priority on our campus master plan was to renovate the library, which had still not received a renovation.

    This year, there is no mention of the library at all, in the new 20-year campus master plan. So, according to this time line, we we still won’t receive a renovation for another twenty years!

    Granted, the college faculty responded to this omission by listing our building renovation as a top priority in the faculty-generated “Academic Master Plan” that is still in draft mode. However, the replacement of library positions lost to retirement is listed fourth as a priority for faculty “support staff”. We’re listed right under the need for new “secretarial positions”…

  4. I was a school media specialist for twelve years during which I regularly “taught” children and teens library literacy and research methods. I am now an academic librarian, and I still “teach” students, library literacy and research methods as instructors invite me to do so for their classes. Every time a librarian shows a patron how to find a book, a website, use a database, or write a paper in APA format, he/she is teaching.

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