Reduction(s), resilience, reinvention, RIF (reductions in force), retirement, restructuring, reorganizing, retention, revenue, and the list could go on. The story of what has been happening at my college for the past three years is not unlike many others, although our situation may be a bit more dramatic.
The first version of this post contained several paragraphs explaining how my institution and my library as part of that institution, got here. Where is “here”? It will sound familiar to many of you. “Here” is four years of budget cuts, elimination of open staff and faculty lines, over 10% of the college’s staff taking advantage of a separation incentive package, and low morale. But “here” is also a new food pantry for students opening up and exciting open pedagogy initiatives (yup – this is a domain of MY own!).
I tell you this not to ask for your sympathy, or empathy, or pity. I decided to write about it because the realities of work every day have become, for me, a test of my own integrity as a librarian, as a senior administrator, and as a colleague to my coworkers in the library.
I have been reading and rereading the BeerBrarian post from last July, Academic Libraries and the False Promises of Resiliency. In that post, Angela Galvan writes, “Resilience offers opportunities for survival, but only if it comes from institutions and not to exploit workers, which is how resilience is currently modeled in higher education in particular. Resilience in libraries is point blank exploitative.”
I don’t talk about resilience with my coworkers. And I have never been able to embrace the value of academic libraries work that is immersed in ROI, analytics, and other forms of reporting. I’ll write about that value stuff some other time. What keeps me up at night is my commitment to helping staff continue to feel valued in an environment where insecurity has been the norm for a while.
What am I doing? Promising everyone I won’t lie to them, but may also sometimes have to tell them that I cannot share everything I know (and I’m OK with that). Listening to concerns, fears, and rumors. Being attentive to requests from the pay grade above mine for us to take on more work resulting from the recent staff departures so we become part of those conversations.
But I am not sure all that is enough.