ACRL

Association of College & Research Libraries

Letters

More on the faculty status debate

To the Editor:

Brava to Beth Shapiro (“The myths surrounding faculty status for librarians,” November 1993) for having the courage to speak out against faculty status for librarians, which is a snare and a delusion. If librarians want to be faculty, they should get Ph.D.s and teach and do original research and publish scholarly articles: that’s what faculty do. I’ve never been able to understand the craving for faculty status. In any club where the Ph.D. is the minimum requirement for full membership, most librarians will always be second-class members—if taken seriously at all. (I am assuming that Harvard is still not unique in requiring doctorates of most of its tenured faculty.)

Why not spend some of this energy helping to establish librarianship as a “profession”— with its own separate integrity and validity? At my university I don’t see doctors, lawyers, or clergy affecting to be faculty; they are secure within their own professions. Librarianship will never gain the respect it deserves (but still lacks) while so many otherwise intelligent people distort the value of our considerable contribution to the missions of our institutions with claims of being faculty.—Malcolm C. Hamilton, university personnel librarian, Harvard University

To the Editor:

Beth Shapiro attempts to identify “the myths surrounding faculty status for librarians.” Sharing our opinions can be an endless process, but I disagree wholeheartedly with her opinion that “the work we do is fundamentally different from that of the teaching faculty.” My own experience in both school and academic libraries is that the role and educational objectives of the teacher and the librarian are very close—if not the same. And while research may not be “essential” for some academic librarians, it is for many others. Isn’t this true in all disciplines? And, since when has ACRL or any other group of librarians focused “exclusively on developing a research agenda”?

The other myths destroyed by Shapiro are largely straw men, in my view, having little to do with the essential role librarians have in the educational process. When she says “academic libraries exist to support the educational and research mission of the university,” she is not describing my experience in five libraries. Rather, these libraries were more central to the mission of the universities than any single academic department. Thanks for listening.—Don Lanier, health sciences librarian, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford

Bl or research?

To the Editor:

In response to Steve McKinzie’s article, “Bibliographic instruction or research: What’s in a name?” 0une 1993), some seek new truth or correction of old error in the laboratory, in social observation, or in introspection: this is (one kind of) research. If documents result, others may seek truth or error correction by analysis of them: this is (another kind of) research too. Since the second (kind of) research is necessarily based on documents it is best called “documentary research.” Since the first (kind of) research may not arise from contact with a document, but does necessarily seek the truth about the state of affairs of some (ontic or ontological) region or aspect of the world, it is best distinguished from documentary research by being called “worldly research.”

What is taught in library-based “bibliographic instruction” (BI) can only be documentary research. Still, BI teaches access to and utilization of both primary and secondary documents: the dichotomies primary/secondary (which applies only to documents, not to the research that underlies them) and worldly/docu- mentary do not map on to each other, so that BI does not, in teaching documentation, teach the actual process of the underlying research, especially in regard to worldly research.

BI should teach not merely “how to use the library," but rather how to do any kind of documentation, whether worldly (secondary) or documentary (primary and secondary). It should teach not only documentation in any narrow sense but that as an element of the whole bibliographical region. But it should not even attempt to teach worldly research (because it in principle cannot), unless librarians can teach philosophy itself as well as philosophical bibliography, chemistry as well as chemical bibli- ography, medieval French philology as well as medieval French philological bibliography. Why should a university bother to hire faculty in medieval French philology, or in chemistry, or in philosophy, if its librarians can teach and perform worldly research in these and all other subjects (as McKinzie seems to claim)?

What librarians teach is (best called) BI, or (a bit less well called) documentation, or (even less well called) library skills. But to teach research simpliciter, of both kinds and in all subjects—such a suggestion is on the face of it unaware both of what such researchers do and of the meaning of the words with which we describe them and their products.—J. M. Perreault, head of special collections, the University of Alabama in Huntsville

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