To the Editor:
As a library director at a liberal-arts college with over 40 years of experience in higher education in this country and the U.K., I can say without a doubt that we certainly are not “OK” (The Librarians Are Not OK,” The Chronicle Review, March 23).
Librarians (I use the term to include the entire library work force, not just those with graduate degrees) are educators, and our expertise is the scholarship of information and research. But the reality that exists across higher education is that librarians are often “not at the table” when it comes to discussions associated with curriculum development, recruitment, retention, spaces, and student success.
There have been countless times throughout my career that I have seen the scholarship of librarians ignored, simply because of the lack of faculty status and the rankism that exists on some campuses. I recall vividly discussing a collaborative teaching opportunity with a senior tenured colleague when they looked me right in the eye and said without flinching, “But you are not faculty.” It was as if the very thought of a librarian having something to offer in the classroom was an enigma. I thank and acknowledge the many faculty colleagues at Puget Sound who recognize the value librarians bring to the classroom, but we can and must do better across higher education.
Years ago when I was working with first-year students at a major R1 library, a student came to the reference desk confused and frustrated with their research assignment on the topic of “youth in Asia.” After consultation, the librarian soon found that the class was a first-year seminar, and the course topic was actually euthanasia. Using their expertise, they were able to reduce the student’s frustration and stress and without judgment direct them to appropriate resources. Now, you might smile at this rather simple example, but it is often the librarians that are on the front line of helping, guiding, and directing students to appropriate resources and research strategies. Some examples at my institution include how librarians worked with faculty to integrate information literary into first-year seminars, developed a number of online digital teaching kits during Covid, and helped coordinate a series of webinars for incoming students that featured collaborations between faculty and librarians. We need more of these collaborative pathways to ensure student success.
So let this letter serve as a call to academic administrators, trustees, and faculty colleagues to stop for a minute and reflect on the value of librarians and libraries. The services and support offered by the academic library are integral to the success of students, the stature of the university, and to the campus community as a whole. Librarians should not have to ask for a place at the table but should be recognized for their unique professional expertise. Librarians are critical to the delivery of information and scholarly resources to the academic community. Let them know they are valued!
Library Director , Collins Memorial Library
University of Puget Sound