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In Defense of Librarians, Librarianship, and Library Resources and Services

There seems to be a concerted effort to dismantle the possibility of appropriate, quality library service at Kutztown University. This onslaught began two years ago with the announcement that the Library Faculty would be providing advising services for students who have not declared their major field of study. The projected number of undeclared students was 850 for the fall semester of 2011 when this would be implemented.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Astor_Library_cartoon_by_Chip.pngWhen the librarians regained their breath, they had questions, questions, and more questions. Where were they going to fit what amounted to another full-time job into their job descriptions as librarians? When and how were they going to learn a whole new job? What would be done about providing staff support?

There was no question that they are capable of doing the advising. The question was why or whether they should be endangering the focus and quality of the full-time work they were already doing as librarians!

With constant pushback against the inappropriateness of the whole concept, the Library Faculty did manage to make some slight inroads in the determination of the university administration to ignore reason. By having the 200 or so transfer students farmed out to the faculty in the Tutoring Department the ten librarians were left with 600 or so to advise. The writing of the contractual job description was a farce. The Administration dictated the process fully outside the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between APSCUF, the union representing the faculty of the 14 state-owned universities and the State System of Higher Education. The Administration directed the writing, not the department chairperson and the faculty member as the CBA requires.

Late in the summer of 2011 came the next assault. The Audio/Visual collection was given to the library to manage and integrate into its overall program. Initially, it was welcomed. HOWEVER, one of the two salaried support staff persons was sent to another department on campus and the other was fired. The grad assistant was not reinstated and only one student assistant was rehired where about twenty had been necessary to cover the hours that the collection is available to the KU community. This situation is putting a much heavier workload on the support staff and the library student assistants who must spend time and energy running down and up the stairs to serve the public. Thus, we have the proverbial give with one hand (a collection which the Library Faculty appreciates the opportunity to develop) and taking away with the other hand (by removing all funding and support staff).

These two situations show serious disrespect for librarian’s professionalism and value and the value of library resources and services that promote and support the intellectual growth of our students and faculty in this educational institution. In my opinion, the fact that the Dean of Library Service has been reassigned from reporting to the Provost to reporting to the Assistant Provost who directs Advising means the Administration has no respect for the Library Faculty or the library as an essential part of the educational process. This is particularly unfair to our students, the reason institutions like Kutztown University exist. The Library Faculty and the library support staff will do their very best, but at this level of overload our students will suffer. The university mission and our students have also been disrespected.

In outrage and sadness,

The Raging Mother Hen

NOTE: Background: Since the mid ‘60s, there have been twelve librarians at Kutztown University. The numbers grew briefly in recent years, but through attrition there are currently ten Library Faculty. There has also been a decline in the numbers of support staff. In contrast the student body has grown from less than 3,000 in the 1960’s to over 12,000 today. Where is the logic in tripling the workload in the light of the decreasing numbers of people to do the work?

Claire Andrews | The Raging Mother Hen is a recently retired Kutztown University librarian and a long time activist and officer in her faculty union, APSCUF

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