Librarian status and awkward graduation moments

Do academic librarians at your university have faculty status, or are they staff? Are they something in between? Do you even know? It’s a huge topic for many of us…

Our institution recently adapted a tenure and promotion document for academic librarians. This document was in the works way before I even arrived almost 2 years ago. But the topic of whether librarians are faculty or not is a big one for me.

Before I arrived here, I worked at a university where the librarians were tenure track faculty. However, as the music librarian, I worked for the School of Music, not the library, so I was not tenure track faculty- I was staff. It was a frustrating 4 years for me as I tried to do professional development without any support, and tried to have my status changed with no success. I finally accepted I would have to look somewhere else for the right position, and that’s how I ended up here.

I did a sort of informal poll on Twitter just to see what other librarians’ situations are. It seems the majority of academic librarians have a similar situation to us: They have faculty privileges and responsibilities, and some sort of tenure and promotion in place, but are not called “faculty”. As one friend pointed out, does it really matter what we are called if we have the same privileges and responsibilities as faculty?

This brings me to my experience this Saturday at Spring graduation. I enjoy going to graduation, especially since I’ve been working on my doctorate. I get really excited seeing the doctoral students get their hoods and walk across the stage. The librarians- just like faculty- have the responsibility to represent at graduation every semester. I attended the last two in a row (at least. I’ve lost count), so I was sure I wasn’t on for this time.

However, our department administrative assistant contacted me about a week before graduation telling me that I needed to go to the 2:00 ceremony. Now, even though I enjoy going, it’s never that easy for me to just “go” somewhere with 3 kids. I had to work out childcare with their dad. I even wrote back asking if I could go in the morning because that would be easier childcare-wise, but I decided since College of Education was graduating in the afternoon, I would just go ahead and go to that one and watch the folks graduate with the degree I’m working on.

Whenever we are scheduled for graduation, we usually get an envelope in our box on Thursday or Friday before the ceremony with a letter and a parking pass. However, I got my letter, but NO PASS.

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Even though the letter promised an enclosed pass, there was none. I was told I would have to pay 5$ to park in public parking. Seriously? I was upset about this.

Thankfully, after asking- repeatedly- somehow they found a pass for me. Ok, crisis averted. I felt like a significant member of the faculty I mean library (see, even I’m not sure what to call us?)

On Saturday there was a marathon relay happening so most of downtown was going to be closed off. I knew this and knew I needed to allow extra time, however, my childcare was late. So I had a very limited time to arrive at the graduation location. Detours, traffic, I just barely made it. I was so flustered as I ran from my car to the building at 1:55 for a 2:00 graduation, I forgot both my mortarboard and my hood. So I was pretty much just wearing my gown (and a tank top and yoga pants underneath). Nice.

When I got there I found someone in charge and tried to check in. “Oh, the librarians were supposed to be at the morning ceremony.” Seriously? Really??? REALLY?

Well, I was at the end of the line because I was late, hanging out with the College of Education faculty, who all have doctorates and puffy hats and remembered their hoods… but dang it, I was going to get credit for attending after what I went through to get there.

There was a moment when the president asked the faculty from the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the College of Business and the College of Education to please stand. I wasn’t really sure what to do. I don’t fit into any of those categories. So I kind of halfway stood up because NOT standing would have been more conspicuous and I didn’t feel like causing any trouble. It would have been awkward had the president said, “Thank you to all those faculty who are here… and that one librarian.”

So I guess my point is we have the same rights, the same responsibilities, the same tenure-track-like system, but there are still moments when not being “faculty” is a little awkward.

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