The LAUW journal club met at the end April with the highest attendance of any of our meetings yet. A large group of us discussed – what else? – the situation at McMaster University and University Librarian Jeff Trzeciak’s recent presentation at Penn State. Instead of focusing on an article like we usually do in our “journal” club, we used John Dupuis’ blog post McMastergate in chronological order, or, Do libraries need librarians? as a starting point for discussion. The idea was to review Trzeciak’s presentation and read whichever blog posts were of interest.
Many of us had already discussed the events well before the meeting. However, this provided an opportunity for us to collectively share ideas and viewpoints, as many of us work at different locations within our library’s system.
Like many others, the thing that alarmed us the most was Trzeciak’s idea of replacing librarians with post-docs. We agreed that this decision lacked foresight on many levels. Not only would post-docs lack the essential professional training required, but they hearts wouldn’t be in it. How many post-docs do you know whose goal it is to work in an academic library? They might like libraries – or probably even love them – but a position in an academic library would not be the end-goal for most. It would be a stepping stone. Then what kind of investment or strategy is it to hire post-docs to replace librarians? The only answer we could think of is short-term financial gain.
Which brings us to…
If this is all about saving money, what’s with Second Life, the gaming librarian, and deciding to flip the heads of public and technical services? Maybe it’s about being innovative and “shaking things up” then, as a way of best-serving students and faculty? But that’s funny…
Because rarely in his talk did Trzeciak mention how all of the changes he has implemented at McMaster have improved student success or satisfaction. Do McMaster students like their library? Beyond turnstile counts and shiny new spaces, how have the changes benefitted them? Who knows! And with an “instruction program in decline,” we can only guess at what faculty members think.
After a fruitful discussion, perhaps the biggest question that arose for all of us was, how did Jeff achieve such latitude in his position? What is going on McMaster, really?
To end, here is a more formal statement of support from Waterloo librarians, written and posted on the CAUT list recently by the President of the Librarians Association of the University of Waterloo, Jane Forgay:
Good afternoon Colleagues,
Executive members of the Librarians Association of the University of Waterloo join other library associations to voice our support for librarians at McMaster University. We are deeply concerned by the stated intensions of McMaster’s chief librarian to stop hiring ALA-accredited librarians. We question the wisdom behind a decision that will result in reducing or eliminating the inclusion of trained, dedicated professionals in this setting. We feel that this will not only have an immediate negative impact on the morale within the McMaster library system, but it will also lead to an erosion of sound stewardship practices over time, threatening the welfare of a collection on which scholars and students depend.
Jane Forgay, MA, MLIS
LAUW President 2011/2012
University of Waterloo Library