University Depends on Librarians, Not Wikipedia

    Dear Editor,

    It could be argued that a university’s most central facility
    is its library. Particularly at a major research institution like the
    University of California, the library is not only the primary repository for
    accumulated knowledge but the springboard for furthering that knowledge,
    whether the user is a student just beginning to explore a field or a faculty
    member at its forward frontier.

    Over the last quarter century, the science of information
    storage and retrieval has progressed immensely. Today’s libraries are not just
    repositories for books and documents, but technologically advanced
    communication centers with a global reach.

    University-level research requires far more than Google and
    Wikipedia, and this university’s information search and retrieval systems are
    growing increasingly sophisticated. Librarians, especially in the UC system,
    must master more skills than ever to aid students, faculty and other
    researchers. One would expect that, as professional demands increase,
    librarians would receive a concomitant share of the university’s resources.

    Unfortunately, even as student numbers and fees increase,
    along with dramatic jumps in top-administrator salaries, librarians have been
    losing ground to the rising cost of living.

    A recent survey of UCSD’s 61 professional librarians
    revealed that most work more than 40 hours a week. Part of this is due to the
    rising student population, and the library staff has not been increased enough
    to keep up. The remaining librarians spend more time than ever working without
    increased compensation. While the majority report a high degree of job
    satisfaction, they do wish the library had sufficient staff to accommodate
    their expanded needs and more time to pursue professional activities such as
    their own research and training. While many librarians also report overall good
    working relations with library management, it is time for university
    administrators to treat these information professionals as equal and respected
    partners in our educational mission. After all, university administrators are
    willing to raise compensation for themselves and to attract and retain Academic
    Senate faculty members in California’s
    expensive environment.

    “Money is not everything,” said Fred Lonidier, president of
    the professional union for non-senate faculty and librarians at UCSD. “But
    salaries have a major impact on the kind of librarians we can recruit and
    retain.”

    If the administration will not provide them with more time
    for professional and creative work, more staff or salary commensurate with
    their duties, the UC system will soon inevitably face reduced research and
    information services.

    And that, we absolutely cannot afford.

    — Victor Chen

    The Professional Union for Non
    Tenure-Track Professors and Librarians

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