23:3 (2008:09) 23rd Conference (2008): Tactics Session: Images of Academic Librarians

August 27, 2008 at 11:11 pm | Posted in Tactics Sessions | 1 Comment


Images of Academic Librarians: How Tenure-Track Librarians Portray Themselves in the Promotion and/or Tenure Process
June Garner and Karen Davidson, both from Mississippi State University
Reported by Christine Freeman

Going through the promotion/tenure process can be a harrowing experience for librarians. Requirements for promotion/tenure can, and do, vary from institution to institution across the country. June Garner and Karen Davidson, both librarians at Mississippi State University, have attempted to take the “sting” out of preparing for the promotion/tenure process.

Two important areas that they felt were of the utmost concern for librarians preparing the promotion/tenure process include: what types of contributions are expected for successful promotion/tenure at Carnegie institutions, and what advice would already promoted/tenured librarians give to new tenure-track librarians.

In preparing this presentation June and Karen proceeded to contact a random sample of 655 librarians from across the country by invitation letter to participate in a survey. They received 252 responses from tenure-track librarians. The largest number of respondents came from 44 libraries with a collection size of one to three million volumes. The largest geographic region represented was the Midwest, while the largest age group was the baby boomers, ages 43 to 61.

Additional information about the respondents included:  the average salary fell somewhere between $50,000 to $75,000; the majority of respondents were not particularly looking for a tenure-track position; and the top five job titles were administrator, 55; reference librarian, 40; original cataloger, 21; subject bibliographer, 16; and archivist, 13; followed closely by serial/electronic type titles.

Through their survey June and Karen were able to determine that promotion/tenure requirements vary greatly from institution to institution. One thing that most institutions did have in common was the presence of a promotion/tenure committee. All respondents stated that national presence, scholarship, and service were important parts of the tenure process. Many respondents said they worked under no specific guidelines, while some respondents stated there were no benchmarks available to know how much scholarship/service was enough.

National presence can be defined as required publications or it may mean national level service to an organization. If new librarians did not already find the requirements for national presence confusing, trying to delve into the requirements for scholarship and service is just as bad. It is important to remember that what may count as scholarship at one institution may be considered service at another.

Some examples of scholarship contributions collected from the survey included refereed articles, poster sessions, presentations, conference proceedings, web pages, and book reviews. Exactly how many of each type of contribution required for promotion/tenure is dependent on the specific institution.

Service contributions collected from the survey included serving as a national committee chair, an officer in a professional organization, a member of university-wide or non-university committees, a member of library committees, or memberships on professional committees and in professional organizations. As with scholarship contributions, the amount of service and which areas need to be represented depend on the institution.

One of the best parts of this presentation was the advice from tenured librarians to librarians just beginning their careers. Highlights included: start writing early; make writing a regular part of your work; recognize that the position is not 9 to 5 and that scholarship takes place in the evenings and on weekends; find a mentor; and get involved in associations right away.

One thing to remember as a librarian going through the promotion/tenure process is to play up your daily duties. Librarians may not be able to publish as much as the teaching faculty, but their daily job duties help keep the library up and running, which in the opinion of the presenters can be more important than publishing a journal article.

June and Karen did a good job of lifting the veil off the promotion/tenure process for new librarians. Promotion and tenure are scary. However, with the help of this presentation, available on the NASIG website, and the articles they cited at the end of the presentation, new tenure-track librarians should be able to hit the ground running and not even feel the “sting” of the promotion and tenure process.


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  1. […] Garner and Karen Davidson captured in their presentation at NASIG’s 2008 annual conference, Images of Academic Librarians: How Tenure Track Librarians Portray Themselves in the Promotion and/o…. Their handout, available online for NASIG members & conference attendees, included examples of […]

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