Unraveling the Bylaws Web: A Fresh Perspective on Institutional Memory

Editor’s note: This guest post has been authored by Stephanie Bennett and Rebecca Shaw. Stephanie is the Liaison Librarian for the Sciences and Rebecca is the Music Librarian at Appalachian State University.

Starting a new job can often feel like jumping into an unfamiliar river. You know how to swim, but you’re uncertain about the strength of the current or the temperature of the water. One very quick way to become acquainted with the ins and outs of a new institution is to dive head first into reviewing, revising, and writing new policies.

The following post is co-authored by two librarians who are new to Appalachian State University. Both authors hold distinct positions and come from smaller academic libraries that have different procedures and statuses from Appalachian State. Stephanie is a Collections Development librarian, serving as a liaison to the Science disciplines. Rebecca is a Music librarian who primarily works at the Nicholas Erneston Music Library, just a short walk from the main library on campus.

In early 2023, the University Libraries at Appalachian State University issued a call for volunteers to join a committee tasked with evaluating the Library Faculty Guidelines and creating accompanying Bylaws. These Bylaws are meant to assist with faculty governance at the department level. This process was in response to Faculty Senate-led revisions to the University’s Faculty Handbook. All academic departments on campus were engaged in similar work.

To initiate the process, a call was made for faculty librarians to join the governance body responsible for drafting the Bylaws document. Initially, we felt that joining the group would be unproductive. We would be two brand new faculty on a committee of seasoned librarians, joining a group that had already been working together as the Departmental Personnel Committee. Furthermore, this process can be highly procedural, with institutional memory playing a crucial role. Without it, important meaning can be lost. As new faculty, we lacked, for example, the previous knowledge that there were documents already in existence that addressed procedures. We also did not have the knowledge of the reasoning why those documents had previously been formed in the first place. However, a request was made for newer faculty members to consider joining, as a fresh perspective on policy was desired.

And so, our journey into drafting the Bylaws of our Library Faculty Guidelines, a completely new document for University Libraries, began. We started by reviewing existing Bylaws from other academic libraries. Several institutions, including Virginia Commonwealth University, Western Carolina, and the University of Cincinnati made their Bylaws documents available online. Our committee also reached out through ALA Connect to gain insights into how others approached drafting Bylaws. We received some wonderful feedback!

Robert Labaree from the University of Southern California recommended including provisions for updating the document while keeping it as concise as possible. He also suggested reviewing and aligning with the Faculty Senate Bylaws document to maintain consistency with our institution. Laura Gariepy from Virginia Commonwealth University shared that their library was considering a process to move away from Robert’s Rules of Order. This in turn led to our own discussion about transitioning library faculty meetings away from Robert’s. Although there are certain instances where we are required to use Robert’s Rules of Order, we do not necessarily need to use them for our faculty meetings. Moving away from Robert’s Rules could provide some flexibility, and conceivably allow others to feel more at ease with voicing their thoughts, without being overly concerned with restrictive procedure. 

The process of writing and revising Bylaws and foundational documents is a messy process that at times can be tedious. But it also offers an important opportunity to examine, question, and reframe how we want to function as a community of faculty librarians. Some of the topics discussed for inclusion in the Bylaws include: procedures for voting, special faculty status, faculty membership, and faculty governance committees such as the Appointment, Promotion, & Tenure Committee (aka APT). For example, when examining our process for voting, we discussed the process for making sure everyone’s voice is heard. We considered what might constitute an appropriate ballot. Would we only consider paper ballots each time? How would we handle absentee ballots, or would there ever be a time where we would rely only on electronic ballots? Moving forward, we will continue to have these conversations.

As one can imagine, navigating through multiple documents and ensuring consistency so that they all fit together seamlessly is a repetitive challenge, even for experienced librarians. For someone new, it can feel like treading water. As our committee updated the draft, we consulted with the rest of the library faculty for their input. This was done by sending out a draft for review where library faculty could add their comments. We also made space in our Faculty Meetings for open discussion of the Bylaws draft. Many suggestions lead to further revisions and discussions, and this process went on through several iterations. While this process can be tedious, it is a reminder for why having a provision in the documents for future revisions is so essential. 

We also will need to carefully align the library’s Guidelines and Bylaws with the broader institution. Without knowledge of past situations or institutional memory, it’s difficult to contribute ideas without the fear of potentially wasting the committee’s time. Concerns about important omissions and the fear of raising trivial apprehensions, are experiences shared by both authors of this post. But, truthfully, these fears have been alleviated by recognizing that the library is relatively ahead in the process compared to other departments on campus. As we continue this journey, we will make further adjustments to our foundational documents, the Library Faculty Handbook, and our new Bylaws. We are still swimming with the current!

Divisive Concepts: Academic Freedom Under Attack in Tennessee

Editor’s note: This guest post has been authored by John LaDue. John is the Information Literacy Librarian at the Paul Meek Library which serves the University of Tennessee at Martin.

In their latest attack on public education, the Tennessee legislature has voted to amend 2022’s so-called “divisive concepts” law to expand its reach further into public higher education. Beginning with 2021’s anti-critical race theory bill, the Tennessee legislature has repeatedly attempted to dictate what can and cannot be taught in public schools. In 2022, the legislature enacted the first iteration of the “divisive concepts” law, which, in terms of in-class instruction, targeted primarily public K-12 schools, although there were many provisions that targeted higher education. That law was recently amended to apply the in-class instruction restrictions to public higher education institutions, such as the one I work at, the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Tennessee State Senator Joey Hensley denied that the legislation would inhibit the teaching of the role of racism in the United States, stating “We’re not saying people shouldn’t teach about that, and they should teach about that and how the Native Americans were treated—they were treated badly, too, [but] all of that was many years ago”. The idea that the mistreatment of Native populations ended “many years ago” flies in the face of reality and stands in sharp contradiction to the ACRL 2023 opening keynote address by Rebecca Nagle. The same legislature that recently expelled two Black legislators wants us to not teach about systemic racism because that would be divisive.

One of the outcomes of these laws is the creation of a reporting function where students or employees who feel that the school, or an instructor, has violated the law can file a report with the school and the school would have to investigate the claim and file a yearly report to the comptroller of the treasury on all such reports.

Some of the special programming I put on this year could easily come under attack, such as a lunch series on researching Black liberation movements. However, even some of the basic functions of my job can become a point of contention. As an example, I teach about information, which includes who owns and controls the production and distribution of information: the political economy of information. In my teaching, I explain to students that there are publishing companies who take works given freely by academics and then sell access to them back to institutions like UTM at shockingly high profit margins and that part of what their tuition and fees goes toward is funding those profit margins. If I do that and a student feels that I am promoting resentment of the class that owns publishers like Elsevier and EBSCO, then I can be reported for violating the law, specifically divisive concept 10 (“Promotes division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class, or class of people;”).

The ALA code of ethics, in part, states, “We work to recognize and dismantle systemic and individual biases; to confront inequity and oppression; to enhance diversity and inclusion; and to advance racial and social justice in our libraries, communities, profession, and associations through awareness, advocacy, education, collaboration, services, and allocation of resources and spaces. To uphold the ethics of our profession puts me in violation of Tennessee law.

Personally, I have no intentions of altering what I teach or how I teach it; I would rather be unemployed than unprincipled. However, this legislation has an obvious and intentional chilling effect on educators throughout the state. At the University of Tennessee at Martin, both the Student Government Association and Faculty Senate have passed resolutions condemning these laws; I call on all individuals and organizations in Tennessee and beyond to stand with us and join in our condemnation.


Allison, Natalie. 2021. “Tennessee Bans Public Schools from Teaching Critical Race Theory amid National Debate.” The Tennessean. May 5, 2021. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2021/05/05/tennessee-bans-critical-race-theory-schools-withhold-funding/4948306001/.

Buranyi, Stephen. 2017. “Is the Staggeringly Profitable Business of Scientific Publishing Bad for Science?” The Guardian, June 27, 2017, sec. Science. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jun/27/profitable-business-scientific-publishing-bad-for-science.

Fawcett, Eliza, and Emily Cochrane. 2023. “Tennessee House Expulsions: What You Need to Know.” The New York Times, April 13, 2023, sec. U.S. https://www.nytimes.com/article/tennessee-house-democrats-expulsion-shooting-gun-control.html.

Garcia, Raymond. 2023. “The Stories We Tell.” American Libraries Magazine. March 28, 2023. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/the-stories-we-tell/.

Kim, Jane, and Randall Barnes. 2023. “UT Martin’s Faculty Leadership Formally Condemns Two Tennessee Laws as Racist, but behind Closed Doors.” WPSD Local 6. April 25, 2023. https://www.wpsdlocal6.com/news/ut-martins-faculty-leadership-formally-condemns-two-tennessee-laws-as-racist-but-behind-closed-doors/article_efd94a4e-e3de-11ed-a033-07fccfd39aaf.html.

Kruesi, Kimberlee. 2022. “Colleges Face Legal Risks under ‘divisive Concept’ Bill.” AP NEWS. March 8, 2022. https://apnews.com/article/education-lawsuits-race-and-ethnicity-racial-injustice-tennessee-072fe36a7a05b3f931a71ba82d217209.

Lamb, Zacharie. 2023. “UT-Martin Student Government Passes Resolution Condemning Tennessee’s Laws as Racist.” WKMS. February 27, 2023. https://www.wkms.org/education/2023-02-27/ut-martin-sga-passes-resolution-condemning-tns-recent-education-laws.

Quinn, Ryan. 2023. “Tennessee Again Targets ‘Divisive Concepts.’” Inside Higher Ed. April 18, 2023. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/faculty-issues/diversity-equity/2023/04/18/tennessee-again-targets-divisive-concepts.

Tennessee General Assembly Legislation. n.d. “HB 1376.” Tennessee General Assembly Legislation. Accessed April 28, 2023. https://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB1376.

WBIR. 2023. “TN Bill That Allows Students to Report Professors Who Teach ‘divisive Concepts’ Passes House and Senate.” Wbir.Com. March 6, 2023. https://www.wbir.com/article/news/education/new-bill-would-strengthen-rules-over-what-can-be-taught-in-classrooms/51-ddd267e4-3d98-4de0-bb2e-3284740b4cb7.

Zalusky, Steve. 2021. “ALA Adopts New Code of Ethics Principle on Racial and Social Justice.” Text. News and Press Center. July 28, 2021. https://www.ala.org/news/member-news/2021/07/ala-adopts-new-code-ethics-principle-racial-and-social-justice.

Navigating Hard Times in the Higher Ed Landscape

We’ve been experiencing some staffing issues on my team in recent months. While these issues have been difficult to navigate, they are (fingers crossed) temporary and the end is in sight. (Maybe I’ll knock on wood, too, for good measure.) At the same time, though, we’re confronting broader and more lasting budget, staffing, and workload issues across my organization. While the particulars of these challenges might be specific to my institution, it seems that we’re all dealing with related barriers, delays, and diversions (or full-on road closures, perhaps, to take this metaphor further) across higher ed. It’s my turn to coordinate a collaborative post and I’m curious to hear from my fellow ACRLoggers about how they’re working through some of the questions and dilemmas inherent in this difficult landscape. Readers, we’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences, too, in the comments. 

How does communication around budget and staffing challenges happen at your institution? What about those communication practices works well? What changes to communication practices do you think would be helpful? 

Angie: I think greater transparency and assessment is needed around the question of whether to invest in new hires or improve compensation for existing staff. Offers for new hires present certain challenges to compensation equity. But for lots of reasons I can imagine this a path of least resistance compared to a process of examining the inequities across existing staff compensation–nevermind the additional workload distributed to staff as a result of turnover. It’s also tricky, though, when transparency is intertwined with needs for confidentiality. And conversely, when transparency of that inequity can exacerbate morale issues inherent in this. Practices that could be helpful might focus transparency around the factors influencing both ends of these decisions. I also think it will be imperative to address those factors through the more diverse and complex lens of individual equitability over systemic (in)equality. 

Hailley: Our institution is facing budget challenges so it has been a topic of conversation in just about every group I’m a part of. Our Dean has been good about providing budget updates to the Leadership Team (which I’m a part of) and through regular email updates to the entire library. Even if the news is “There is no new news” it’s good to feel like we know as much as we can, at a moment where things are constantly changing and shifting. I think a challenge that exists in these situations is finding the right balance; you want folks to feel like they are “in the know” but you also don’t want to overwhelm with information or constant updates. Finding that sweet spot with frequency is a challenge and I think so much of it depends on the situation, the organization, and the trust a leader (or leaders) have with their people.  

Jen: I agree with Angie and Hailley that transparency and frequency of communication are key considerations here. I’m happy to say that leaders in my library system are practicing both; they’re regularly providing information on what’s happening within the library organization and across the university. My institution is huge and I think size, as Hailley alluded to, can be a complicating factor in all this. Despite any leader’s best efforts, there are bound to be gaps and oversights in communication. Inevitably, some of us won’t be privy to the details and confidences of those top-level or nitty gritty conversations yet we still feel the effects of them–budget cuts or staffing shortages or what have you–on a regular basis, even daily. That contrast can make it easy to feel overlooked and undervalued. I think it’s important to remember how important it is for us to speak up. I, for one, know I can sometimes get tunnel vision in my middle management position (that also includes daily service desk responsibilities and instruction), just trying to uphold our team’s responsibilities and meet users’ needs. I sometimes forget that administrators aren’t seeing what I’m seeing and that the on-the-ground perspectives I can offer are essential. And administrators, even those with the best intentions, may sometimes assume or forget to ask how their difficult decisions are playing out in the day-to-day reality of our work. It’s up to us to tell them.

Justin: Agreed with everyone else for the need for transparency and communication. Our University Librarian and other members of the library admin team regularly present to our Librarians’ Council on current and upcoming staffing changes and challenges. This gives librarians context and a chance to ask questions about any staffing issues coming up in our library system. As well, every winter our University Librarian shares her budget presentation with all library staff. This gives us a great look into the direction of the library and any budget constraints that present challenges. Again, this gives library staff the opportunity to ask questions and get greater clarity on the library’s budget. 

Is your organization experimenting with any new models or practices to address staffing issues? What ideas would you like to try if you could?

Angie: In addition to an increase in staff turnover, my library (and probably yours) is finding fewer candidates applying for the positions that we can advertise. At the convergence of these two realities, effects on staff workload and hiring practices certainly require rethinking. In hiring, I’ve been asked to consider what experience and skills I can realistically expect to attract, for example. What represents a full time need, and how do we address that need when it is not?  What at a given moment do I have the resources to train for, or train quickly enough? And that answer may be different at different times. Current approaches to developing position advertisements as well and how we maintain current position descriptions has involved a lot of rethinking and re-translating skills, and seeking experience that might fall outside of the traditional library contexts. I recently advertised and hired a license specialist position, in which for the first time we explicitly sought legal expertise in the requirements. Also a first, I included my general counsel in the interview process, and learned that it is not uncommon across the University to find professionals with law degrees not working as lawyers. As librarians, with many diverse credentials and career backgrounds, this should not surprise us. Take advantage of (in the best sense, and equitably compensating for) the fact that many people may seek to leverage their careers and expertise in different ways. 

Hailley: One of the hats I wear in my role is helping to coordinate our reference services. One commitment we as coordinators made this spring was if we lose librarians, we won’t try to stretch ourselves thin by covering desk and consultation gaps. We got to put this promise into action at the end of February when one of our colleagues left for another job. We reviewed the schedule, used our reference data to identify the popular times at the desk, and made the decision to cut back on hours. We worked with folks to rearrange a few schedules, with an eye towards creating a consistent experience for our users and student employees. It felt good to have the data to make an informed decision and also to not ask folks to do even more with less (a phrase I’m never really a fan of). 

Jen: Managing the multiple long-term absences on my team these past few months has meant that I’ve needed to take over primary responsibility for many key circulation workflows. Historically, I’ve done these jobs rarely, if at all, so I’ve had to learn or re-learn a number of procedures — and make room for them in my schedule. Thankfully, as I mentioned, my small library is part of a huge system so I’ve been able to ask my colleagues at other locations who are already skilled in these areas for guidance when needed. This is a clear advantage of a large organization like mine. While each of our locations and populations is unique, there are certainly similarities in positions and responsibilities, making it easier to get help. It makes sense, then, that there’s talk about how we might share work and positions across locations–whether as a way to fill a gap while someone is away or as a nature of the position itself (and a cost-saving measure). Still, though, as long as we have physical spaces and students on site, we need people here, too. And with such lean staffing already, I struggle to think about new ways to reorganize our team. There’s a limit to what we can do with only so many hours in the day and so much on our plates already. I think we need to be realistic, as Angie and Hailley are also suggesting, about reducing hours or programming or what have you. At the same time, though, I’m thinking about ways to better recognize and reward the range of responsibilities my colleagues have, at both individual and structural levels. How can I show my appreciation better? How can I support their work better? What can I do to enhance their decision-making power? 

Justin: At the University of Manitoba Libraries, we’re moving to more centralized and universal positions, both with library technicians and librarians; there’s less emphasis on specialization. This allows library services to be spread among a greater pool of staff and while subject specialty and expertise still plays a role, for certain services it’s easier to spread the load among the full complement of our librarians. One issue we’ve had with librarians is with leaves – both research and parental leaves – and retirements. These create holes throughout our library system, which other librarians have to cover, which is especially problematic if specific libraries or departments have fewer librarians. We’ve begun hiring leave/vacancy replacement librarians who are hired on terms, with the intent to cover for positions which are temporarily vacant due to leaves or retirements. As an entry-level librarian, these term positions are great to get experience, but you always have an eye to getting a permanent position. Regardless, it’s a good ‘stop-gap’ to not only get more entry-level librarian positions, but also to help continuing librarians manage their workload.

Veronica: Staffing issues were one of the major drivers of the dissolution of our liaison program and department in 2021. People were retiring or moving and we weren’t getting those positions back. We didn’t have a 1:1 ratio of liaisons to colleges, much less departments, and workload imbalance among librarians was a huge area of concern.  Our liaison program was unsustainable so we dissolved that department in favor of 3 functional departments: Research Services, Teaching and Learning (which I oversee), and Collections Strategies and Services. This gave librarians the opportunity to focus on a functional area of expertise and allowed for more consistency around services. 

When staffing issues mean workload issues or budget issues call for hard decisions, how do you, your team, or your organization adjust expectations and/or (re-)prioritize? 

Hailley: I’ve been thinking about this a lot as a department head. When I meet one-on-one with folks in the department, I continue to ask them about their workload and where they are placing their time and energy. This gives me a pulse on the unit and I have a better sense of what we as a team can do (both in the short and long term). I’ve also been better about extending timelines and deadlines. Everything doesn’t have to be done immediately. I’m trying to be better about thinking through the semester rhythms and the larger priorities for the library and assign work accordingly. Finally, I think talking about workload and uncertainty as a team is so important. We have to acknowledge that things are difficult and the team might need to make difficult decisions in the upcoming months. If we are able to come together as a team and set our sights on what is important, I think that helps make prioritization clearer.  

Jen: Hailley’s comments about getting a sense of the big picture and practicing open communication for shared understanding about priorities in order to make these challenging decisions resonate with me, as well. I’m reflecting on the kinds of questions I’ve used to inform this kind of prioritization and it seems that they center around considering the stakes involved… Who will be impacted? How and to what degree? Is this central to our mission? What are the trade-offs? What is lost and what is gained? 

Justin: Being in a liaison librarian position, I’m not typically involved in high-level decision-making regarding system-wide priorities due to staffing or budget challenges. I would hope that decision makers from all levels of academic libraries weigh and measure priorities and make a short- and long-term plan to address the questions that Jen poses. I really appreciate the times when I have the chance to provide input and feedback into addressing our library’s overarching mission, goals, and priorities,—and especially when there’s internal and external pressures, whether that’s staffing or budget—it feels rewarding to help guide the direction of your library.

Veronica: I have a colleague who introduced me to the idea of “right-sizing,” as in, when you lose people to new career opportunities, retirements, or budget cuts, you need to right-size your department. There is literally no way that 3 people can accomplish the same level of work as that done by 10 people. This is when departmental work has to change. Certain things will just not get done, and that is an indicator to the greater campus community that the budget sacrifices made by a library or university have an impact on library services and resources. As Hailley mentioned, it’s important to stay informed on the status of workload for the librarians you supervise (if you supervise) and ensure that they are doing the job they were hired to do, rather than the job of 2-3 people without additional compensation. 

We’d love to hear how things are going at your institution and how you’re navigating budget, staffing, and workload challenges. We hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments.

On-Boarding Colleagues: A Collaborative ACRLoggers Post

Recently, I’ve found myself talking and thinking about on-boarding. How do you successfully bring a new colleague into your organization? What types of on-boarding have you experienced that have worked? If you could be in charge of on-boarding, how would you do it? How can every person in an organization be an active participant with on-boarding? I thought these questions might be good to bring to the ACRLoggers group for our February collaborative post. Readers, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments! 

We often think of on-boarding as the logistical pieces – getting a new email, setting up a laptop or device, knowing where to park, and having access to all the right systems and listservs. However we know there’s much more to on-boarding. In your opinion, what should be our philosophy with on-boarding? What should our ideal approach be? 

Justin: I always think of on-boarding as setting up the new hire for success. That definitely includes the more logistical components that Hailley mentions, but also providing long-term support, things like mentorship, communities of practice, and more relational components to the profession. We’re in a helping profession and that includes helping and supporting your colleagues. 

Alex: In addition to what Justin said about giving the new hire what they need to succeed, I think it’s important to give them the knowledge and opportunities they need to find their own place in the organization. A lot of that “place” is dictated by the job they were hired to do, but this extends to committee involvement, social ties, etc. It’s important to be aware of your own biases when introducing someone new to an organization you may have been with for a long time. Are they the right person to fill a gap on a committee that you highly value the work of? Maybe, maybe not. Do they need to know you had a negative experience with someone in this other department ten years ago? Probably not. Introduce them to everyone and give them the room to have their own interactions, identify where they can be of help, and draw their own conclusions.

What’s something you experienced when being on-boarded at an organization that you really appreciated or valued? 

Justin: I really appreciate my library’s community of practice for early-career staff, called the New Archivists’ and Librarians’ Group. It’s a great place to share any issues early-career librarians and archivists have, and to talk about it in a safe space with your colleagues. We often talk about logistical pieces like our annual performance reviews and preparing for promotion, but we recognize the value in creating community; getting to know the early-career librarians and archivists you work is such a wonderful thing.

Alex: During the interview for my current position, I was given equal time to talk to and interact with staff as well as faculty in the library, which I appreciated. This extended into the onboarding, as I had one-on-one meetings with everyone in my library in the first two weeks, to get to know their roles and responsibilities as well as them as people.

Hailley: When I started my first academic library job, my immediate supervisor set up meetings for me that stretched throughout the first six weeks of my job. I got to meet many people, at many levels, throughout the library. It was a nice way to ease into things, move around the building, and create connections. In this job I also had a secondary supervisor. She found an opportunity for me to join the Common Read Committee, which put me in touch with colleagues across campus and gave me a project to jump into. When I think about on-boarding, I often think of these two supervisors; they were intentional about bringing me into the fold, getting me connected with colleagues, and giving me work I could start.

For supervisors, what are strategies or approaches you take when getting ready to on-board someone new into your department/unit/organization?

Hailley: As I mentioned above, I am definitely informed by my past supervisors and the ways I have been on-boarded into organizations. In thinking about on-boarding people into my department, I remind myself not everything and every introduction has to happen right away. I try to space out information and introductions over a longer period of time. I find ways to provide documentation, but also give colleagues space to read, digest, and reflect on their own time. I also try to involve as many folks as possible in on-boarding. While it’s great to hear from me as their supervisor, I want new colleagues to hear about the organization and department from their peers. Finally, when I think about on-boarding students into the library, I try to think about what context they will need to be successful. How do I set up conditions for them to have the information they need to do the work I want them to complete? 

For those not supervising, what are approaches or things you do to help welcome and on-board someone who is joining your department/unit/organization?

Justin: As someone who’s been leading our new archivist and librarian group, I heartily encourage them to join us and attend meetings; it’s such a great and welcoming group! I also encourage new hires to reach out and talk to me or other librarians with any questions they have. I try to live my life by treating others how I would want to be treated, and I really, really, really appreciated the welcome and support I was shown when I was first hired. I try to remember that for anyone new that starts at my library. 

Alex: I emphasize that I have an open-door policy whether you have a work-related question, want to know where the best Mexican restaurant is in the area, or just need to decompress and talk about literally anything else for a few minutes. Sometimes you need Alex the Access Services & Instruction Librarian, and sometimes you need Alex the Chimichanga Enthusiast or Alex the Pretty Good Listener.

How can or does on-boarding look different for those coming in as new professionals vs colleagues joining our organization who are mid or late career? Should we employ different strategies (and why)? 

Justin: Definitely introducing those logistical things unique to your institution is important and ensuring mid- and late-career librarians are aware of anything unique to your institution (e.g. promotion and tenure guidelines). I’d also focus on establishing a welcoming and supportive work environment, which I think every librarian, regardless of career stage, can appreciate. 

Hailley: Okay, so I wrote this question but I’m having a hard time answering it. This is a question I’ve been mulling over. I think as Justin mentions, there are obviously common on-boarding threads across all new hires. However, I’m wondering if there are different focuses depending on when you’re coming into a new organization and at what level (middle management, admin, etc.). No fully formed thoughts yet but something I’m chewing on.

Any other thoughts on on-boarding? Are there any resources you rely on or any last comments you’d like to make? 

Justin: With job precarity becoming more common, I think it’s important to ensure you’re setting up librarians with skills and knowledge that not only benefits their current position, but also positions in the future. I recommend reading Julia Martyniuk, Christine Moffatt, and Kevin Oswald’s “Into the Unknown: Onboarding Early Career Professionals in a Remote Work Environment.” Though focused on remote on-boarding, I think their recommendation to “[cultivate] a sense of belonging for new hires” is such an important part of the on-boarding process.  

Alex: I think we generally think of onboarding as being done after a couple days or weeks, but it should really be a one-year process, in my view. I started my job on January 2 several years ago, and all the year-end reports and statistics and processes like that were brand new to me even though my one-year anniversary was a week or two away the first time I encountered them.

Hailley: I agree with Alex. Especially within academic libraries, on-boarding is a year-long process so you can see the rhythms of fall, spring, and summer!

How Many Books? In What Formats?

This post comes from a guest poster, Scarlet Galvan. Scarlet is the Collection Strategist Librarian at Grand Valley State University. 

A blogger for Inside Higher Ed recently published a plea for a more nuanced understanding of IPEDS data on academic libraries. Like that blogger, I also wish data about academic libraries offered more detail about their work and position as necessary infrastructure. I remember the failure to meet each other as colleagues has collective outcomes.

IPEDS is not designed to capture data about academic libraries accurately. This is a problem because of how familiar IPEDS data is to the rest of higher education, how our colleagues across the university will reach for this data with trust and certainty. Tools like IPEDS flatten complexity, offering a rather facile view into deeply complicated systems. There are many qualifiers. ACRL’s 2015 alignment with a portion of IPEDS questions to streamline reporting means how we conceptualize the work of other institutions faces similar constraints. 

After skimming IPEDS data, the blogger’s suggestion, “…maybe academic libraries can avoid layoffs in lean budget times by cutting down on the roughly 40 percent of spending that goes to materials and services” comes down to individual approaches. I can only reflect on my experiences and note the marked difference in organizational capacity when leaders view challenges as opportunities as opposed to choosing what is comfortable.

Even when reducing a collections budget like this is an option, it’s not a decision that comes from a place of strength and would destabilize our teaching, learning, and research missions. That said, subscription-based resources make up the majority of collections expenditures in academic libraries. These carry a yearly inflation rate of 5-7% or more, though a growing number of library workers are working to recalibrate these contract terms. It’s cheaper to keep people. Most university employees do not receive similar increases to their salary and benefits each year. Still, an actionable response is to better understand how our university budgets work in order to clearly see them for what they are: articulated values.   

Statistics describing the collection shift continuously as the way we define those things evolves along with scholarly communications ecosystems. IPEDS could offer a snapshot at best. Meanwhile, content providers engage in decades-long campaigns to consolidate and monopolize research infrastructure, impact metrics, search algorithms, mining user data, and even hiring processes.

What metrics might be used instead? What questions could we ask for a richer understanding of the impact of libraries and library workers in higher education? These things are much harder to get at than numerical totals in broad categories like budget allocations and collection totals. For example, we might consider what percentage of research output is Open Access, measure institutional investments toward open infrastructures, acknowledge and document the expertise to make archival collections findable, build research data management plans, measure student outcomes based on faculty authored and adopted open publications, or capture the incentives we offer for such work for accreditation, tenure, and promotion. Until different metrics can be included, we’re left to specific definitions of value and indigent questions. “How many books? In what format?”

Additional Reading: 

Lamdan, S. (2022). Data Cartels: The Companies that Control and Monopolize Our Information. Stanford University Press. https://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=33205

Wilson, M., & Cronk, L. (2022). The NERL Playbook. Commonplace. https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.2b8579b0

Scholarly Publishing and Academic Research Coalition: Elsevier’s Acquisition of Interfolio: Risks and Responses. https://infrastructure.sparcopen.org/interfolio-acquisition