Why Have Tenure for Librarians?

Hi, everyone–

Thank you to all of you who attended the ACRL webinar “Tenure-Track Positions: Could I Survive? Could I Thrive?” along with Gene Springs, Barbara Moran, our moderator Laura Gariepy, and me this afternoon. We were thrilled that the webinar drew (and kept) a sizable and [very] engaged audience. I’ll post a link to the webinar as soon as ACRL makes it available.

I’m sitting here in the post-presentation glow 🙂 thinking about…tenure-track positions. Thinking about tenure, and about how other tenured librarians and I have gotten here. Certainly it wasn’t easy; even the four and a half years since I received my tenure letter from the Provost haven’t dulled memories of the path.

What is it that I love about tenure-track positions, though? Why do I believe that, for some positions and for some librarians, tenure-track positions are a great match? Here are some thoughts.

  1. Tenure-track positions support high-quality research among academic librarians. The support pairs a requirement (and a scrutiny) of rigor with pragmatic support for the librarian-researcher. It requires AND supports librarians’ efforts to build a stream of high-quality research. It also rewards devotion to that work.
  2. High-quality research coming out of academic librarians benefits higher education as a whole, not just librarians. Academic librarians get to see students learning from a vantage point that’s longitudinal, that’s candid, and that has an interesting duality of insider/outsider perspective.
  3. Tenured faculty often have the opportunity/responsibility to participate in higher levels of university committee work and related functions. This brings academic librarians’ insights to higher levels of administration.
  4. Tenure-track and tenured librarians often naturally network with other research-oriented faculty and units at their institutions. This creates opportunities for collaborations, support, and truly research-centered perceptions of academic libraries.
  5. Different librarians bring different strengths to academic libraries. Some excel at administration; some at teaching; some at technical skills; some at outreach; some at research. Of course it’s a great big Venn diagram–many librarians bring numerous strengths. For those who excel at research, this is a powerful way to channel that strength, to use it to benefit their library, their institution, and their profession.
  6. And finally, I have a deep-seated belief that individuals who gravitate toward tenure-track library positions, where they know that they’ll be taking on research on top of their primary job, tend to be dedicated hard workers.

Is the tenure track the only way to go? No! Is it the only place for dedicated workers and deep thinkers in academic libraries? Of course not! However, the tenure track is an established system that typically helps librarians connect with their college or university’s community of thinkers and researchers, as well as with its resources.

What do you think? Let’s discuss!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s