Supporting Librarians in Contract Appointments

by Elizabeth Stregger, Systems Librarian, Mount Allison University
@estregger on Twitter

Last week was Fair Employment Week in Canada. CAUT and many faculty unions held events and made statements to try to improve conditions for contract and part-time academic workers. My career as a librarian has included contract appointments at University of Manitoba, University of Saskatchewan, and Mount Allison University. The changes in roles and institutions, as well as the terms of the contracts themselves, have created challenges in getting started as a researcher. In this blog post, I want to share some of the things you can do at the individual, library, and institutional level to support your colleagues working under limited-term contracts.

Be open to telling us about your own research journey. I ask my new colleagues about their research as soon as possible. This gives me some context for the research culture at the library. I’ve particularly appreciated it when colleagues have taken a bit more time to tell me about where they got started or about contributions that are less tied to a particular institution or role.

Ask us if we’re interested in collaborating on short-term projects. Using the C-EBLIP Brain-Work post on collaboration by Shannon Lucky and Carolyn Hoessler has helped me to be clear about my goals, skills, and bandwidth in these conversations. I’ve appreciated colleagues who have held research meetings at lunch time or after work to minimize the impact on my day-to-day work. When one of my collaborations led to a conference presentation, a supportive colleague reduced the financial barrier of attending by sharing the cost of driving and an Airbnb.

At the library level, give us the opportunity to do some new work and take part in planning discussions. The background reading and environmental scans in planning discussions are good first steps in the research process. Being part of these conversations makes it easier to think of small projects that are aligned with what the library is trying to accomplish. Being part of a pilot project and a new initiative has greatly expanded my professional knowledge.

Include us in the research culture and campus groups. At the University of Manitoba, librarians on contracts are included in the New Archivists and Librarians Group (NALG), which helped create a sense of community and provided a forum for discussion. At the University of Saskatchewan, I was able to attend C-EBLIP research workshops and the exceptional C-EBLIP Fall Symposium. These events are inspiring windows into practical evidence-based research. At Mount Allison University, I was invited to both university and union sponsored new faculty orientation events. I also participated in the MAFA Research and Creativity Fair highlighting Contract Academic Staff research. These activities have extended my network well beyond the library.

Advocate for research time and professional expense accounts in the collective agreement. Having research days and a professional expense account as a full-time contract librarian at Mount Allison University means that I finally have the same support as my colleagues. I can attend the conferences most relevant to my current interests. I can take the time to concentrate on scholarly activity without being preoccupied with my next meeting or the grocery list.

In closing, I’d like to thank all the librarians, faculty members, and unions that support librarians in contract appointments. And an even bigger thank you to my personal mentors and colleagues who have provided guidance and feedback in my career as a librarian so far.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

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