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Getting out of the way

I don’t know if this is “just one of those things” or if it’s something that needs changing, and yet I find myself thinking about it a lot ever since Bethany Nowviskie wrote her Fight Club Soap blog post about the Nature/UC feud.

Most things on an academic campus are set up to get out of the way of scholarship — to make scholarship absolutely as easy and pain free a process as possible. After all, scholarship is the raison d’être of the institution, and scholarship is angst-ridden enough just on its own. It functions best when its practitioners are constantly right up against their limits, right where they’re most vulnerable and facing insidious insecurities. So it makes a whole lot of sense to make as much as possible get out of the way of these endeavors. But there is a cost.

Nowviski pointed out the cost from a licensing and collection development standpoint, but I’m sure that’s only the beginning. For example, newer faculty here often point out that our institution is in much better shape than many they applied to because we were still hiring faculty all the way through the financial melt-down. And it’s true; we did fare better than many other institutions. But what they don’t realize is that we had staff layoffs and FTE reductions and that we continue to lose staff through attrition, and all so that we can preserve the school’s commitment to hiring new faculty and reduce the teaching load across campus. So telling me that I just don’t know how tough it is out in the rest of the academic world where there were real job losses  is both true and not true at all. I really did fear for my job, and the library is now doing more than before but with fewer FTE, as are most other staff departments on campus. But we also do everything we can to make sure this doesn’t affect the faculty and students as they pursue their work.

Sometimes I wonder if a little more awareness would be a good thing. But maybe it’s not. Maybe more awareness would just increase angst, and goodness knows scholarship is angsty enough on its own.

Published inRandom Thoughts


  1. Barbara Fister Barbara Fister

    This is a very interesting conundrum. Sometimes, we librarians do such a good job of making things work in spite of funding issues, we camouflage the problem, and that’s not always good. Then again, we want to “get out of the way” or do the absolute best we can with limited resources, which is a good thing.

    A few years ago that due to finances, everyone, including library staff, had to put up with “furloughs” – which became permanent. We figured out how to manage anyway, and many of my colleagues had a smaller take-home packet, and still do. Another department said they simply couldn’t cope if they had furloughs, and they were exempted. Was our willingness to sacrifice actually a disservice for our patrons? Or was that other department genuinely unable to take any cuts?

  2. That’s just it, it is a conundrum. Righteous indignation seems just as wrong as total passivity to me. And frank dialog and bending over backwards both seem equally good in a healthy relationship.

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