A few thoughts on publishing and tenure

I read a slew of articles last week about academic librarians, publishing, advanced degrees, and tenure. So many, I didn’t have time to write about them. A week later, however, I still have a couple of comments to make, and I’ll share them here.

First, concerning the issue of tenure–I wonder how many academic librarians want tenure and its concomitant stresses and demands. Certainly, as professionals we all desire reasonable salaries, respect from university colleagues, and the right to participate in campus governing bodies. My question, perhaps overly naive, is, are these objectives attainable only via the gristmill of tenure? My impression from the readings is that the distinction between tenured and non-tenured library positions is neither strict nor uniform. It depends on the institution, in other words.

Some academic librarians surely want tenure and are willing (eager?) to perform the activities needed to attain it, including publishing. From my experience, however, publishing is typically the province of doctoral-holding faculty in academic departments, so I would expect the faculty of LIS programs to be responsible for the bulk of research and publishing in the field. In English, those with master’s degrees do the majority of undergraduate teaching, working as adjuncts and instructors at universities or at four-year, community, and technical colleges; the demands of these positions leave precious little time for research, whether it is encouraged by the institution or not. These faculty typically will not be the ones publishing in the top journals or writing definitive scholarly monographs–this is for those at research institutions.

Perhaps there is some snobbery that accompanies the whole hierarchical structure, but there’s also the belief that doctoral-level work equips one with the knowledge, experience, and ‘seasoning’ (a combination of time and development of critical acuity) to compete as a researcher.  The doctoral student is groomed and ushered into that role.  Is there a different state of affairs in the field of academic librarianship?  Again, my impression from last week’s readings was that the MLIS does not consistently prepare its students for the demands of research and publication.  Some programs do, some programs don’t, and that appears to leave new academic librarians striving for tenure in a tough spot, relying on institutional programs, associations, and mentors to fill in the gaps. 

Although I have come across stray comments in the readings that disparage the general state of publications in the field, I don’t know enough to determine how accurate this assessment is.  However, it does make me question whether some adjustments need to be made in the MLIS, in mentoring/support/training for academic librarians, or in tenure requirements.

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Published in: on October 2, 2008 at 8:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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