The Berkeley Unit 17 labor-management meeting took place on Thursday, October 25.
Rita Evans, Harrison Dekker and Jesse Silva spoke for the librarians at the campus; UC AFT also was represented by Karen Sawislak (UC-AFT Executive Director), Alan Karras (UC-AFT Vice-President and UCB Grievance Steward) and Michelle Squitieri, the UC-AFT Field Representative for UCB.
The Berkeley representatives were Susan Wong, Director of Human Resources for the UCB Library, Elizabeth Leavitt of the UCB Academic Personnel Office, Debra Harrington, UCB Labor Relations Manager. UCOP was represented by Deanna Dudley, the Unit 17 Chief Negotiator.
Deanna Dudley, the UCOP Negotiator for Unit 17, explained that UCOP has requested this series of meetings at each campus to learn about the professional concerns of librarians. She stated that the University wants to hear from the unit about their issues –and that she personally is looking to be educated about the work that librarians do for UC.
Susan Wong began the meeting by observing that there are tremendous changes happening in libraries and the profession of librarianship. New skills are needed to meet these challenges. The Berkeley library has embarked on a year-long dialogue called the “New Directions” initiatives — the library is bringing in external experts in global research libraries to give talks and hold workshops that are meant to spark input and new ideas about the library of the future. All library management and librarians are being encouraged to collaborate in this project.
In terms of staffing, Wong noted that the headcount of Unit 17 librarians at UCB has stayed stable for many years. Traditionally, Berkeley librarians have stayed on for long careers. Now, due to retirements and some turnover, the Berkeley libraries are hiring constantly — she noted that for the last 1-2 years, she has always been in the midst of 8-10 searches for librarians. To attract the best candidate, the library needs to be competitive in the salaries it can offer — it is especially difficult to attract top librarians in particular specialized areas. In addition, to deal with retention issues, the library wants to be able to be more flexible and time-sensitive in its ability to make counter-offers.
Next, a librarian explained the unique structure of the UCB library system. There are at least 30 separate libraries on campus. Doe/Moffitt/Bancroft and subject speciality libraries (such as Education/Psychology) are under the University Librarian and are funded through the Library budget. Affiliated libraries are organizationally tied to Colleges and Schools, are headed by Deans, and have separate funding streams. Affiliated libraries handle all of their own functions, while the other libraries share centralized technical services.
The first part of the discussion briefly focused on workload, as one of the librarians explained how he found on his first day of work that he had been assigned responsibilities for a range of subject areas that were not part of the description for the job he accepted. Another was promoted to the position held by her supervisor upon his retirement — and her previous job has never again been filled.
The Unit 17 librarians then initiated a discussion that largely focused on the issues of salary, support for professional activities, and the practice of appointing librarians in non-librarian titles (in order to increase their pay).
In general, Berkeley librarians greatly enjoy their work, and the first-rate academic opportunities available to them. Nonetheless, about half the librarians at the campus with 5-10 years of experience say that they are thinking about looking for work elsewhere — and the reason is that UC salaries do not come close to matching the cost-of-living. This is especially true for early-career librarians.
Even though UCB does not hire at the Assistant Librarian level (because, as management acknowledged, the salaries at this level simply are too low), other public libraries in the area pay far more to early-career librarians. For example, the San Francisco Public Library pays $56,000 to librarians straight out of school and salaries at CSUs are at similar levels.
In answer to a management observation that, in general, people leave jobs more frequently these days, the librarians pointed out that there would be far fewer people thinking about exits from UC if a long career at UC could be rewarded like a long library career at the CSUs. They also made the point that Berkeley long has recognized that it needs to pay its faculty well to attract the best faculty — so why hasn’t the University recognized that it needs to pay well to attract (and keep) the best librarians?
The librarians observed that they are expected to be professionally active on a national or even international level in their areas of expertise — yet they are not given the financial support to carry out these activities. There are no sabbaticals. Funding for travel to professional conferences is very uneven and mostly inadequate. And salaries are not sufficient for librarians to absorb costs out of their own pockets. Finally, it is insulting when librarians are not listed as course instructors and are not allowed to serve as the PIs of their own projects — two situations that occur with some frequency at UCB.
Finally, a major part of the discussion turned on the question of out-of-unit classifications. It was noted that 10-15 librarians at the CDL are in the programmer/ analyst series — but that when UCB librarians are “on-loan” to consult with that project, they stay in Unit 17.
The librarians made the point that they want to be recognized and supported as members of their profession — and that to remove librarians from the Professional Library series solely for the purpose of paying them higher salaries devalues the profession and Unit 17’s contributions to the University. The real answer is to fix the librarian salary scale so all academic librarians can be recognized adequately for their contributions.
In answer to management comments about the need for “flexibility” in hiring, recruitment, and retention, the librarians agreed that UC would need to do more to attract and keep librarians with cutting-edge skills, since there are a lot of new employment opportunities in the private sector for librarians. But they noted that people always come to the UCs because they are academics: they want to do research, to teach, and to work with top faculty and students. It will harm the integrity of the academic track if UC pushes for a system where librarians with especially marketable skills could get jumps in salary that boost them past colleagues who have worked for years to build their record of achievement as academics.
Finally, it was noted that at UCB, librarians are not able to communicate in a non-adversarial way with the upper management of the Library and there is some sense that the UCB libraries maintain very much of a top-down culture. The librarians expressed their disappointment that no one from the high levels of management had attended the L-M meeting. All agreed that more communication within the organization at all levels is necessary.
This was a very thoughtful give and take. In general, Berkeley has been a campus where the union has been involved in productive discussions with labor relations. Managers freely shared their thoughts in the session — and often agreed with points raised by the librarians. It is clear that both sides (at least at UCB) see problems with the salary structure for the unit.
Special thanks to Harrison, Jesse, and Rita for so ably representing the Berkeley librarians.
Unfortunately, the UCR labor-management meeting scheduled for Wed. Oct. 24 was cancelled at the last minute due to UCR Labor Relation’s mistaken belief that the campus would be closed that day due to fires in the area. We are working on rescheduling the UCR meeting in November.
The next local labor-management meeting are:
UCSD — Friday, November 2 UCLA — Wednesday, November 7
Karen Sawislak UC-AFT Executive Director
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