Professional Development Funding: It’s Not Compensation, It’s an Investment in Our Libraries’ Futures

UC librarians are expected to be active and represent UC in academic professional associations. It’s part of what we’re evaluated on, it enhances UC’s reputation, and keeps our skill sets current for the benefit of our institution.  Academic librarians organize and participate in conferences, workshops, and trainings to enhance UC’s image nationally and internationally, and to bring back state-of-the art knowledge that we use to improve our libraries and the services we provide to faculty and students.

The inadequate professional development funding (PDF) in our old contract was based on a broken, decades-old funding model. It allocated fixed dollar amounts to each campus which are distributed evenly among the librarians there, regardless of the number of librarians working on that campus.  The model was so inequitable that at one campus the guaranteed PDF came out to $1270 per librarian while at another only $497 per librarian. Neither amount is sufficient, but the disparity is untenable.

As librarians, we’re accustomed to solving problems, and we offered a solution to management.  We proposed a per-librarian PDF amount of $3,000 a year – an amount that addresses the current reality and allows librarians to travel to two domestic conferences or trainings.

This is not unreasonable. Many librarians already get that amount covered when they request extra funding from their administrators, to supplement the guaranteed PDF funding from the contract.  But professional development should not be subject to the whims of a middle manager, nor restricted by funding that may limit available funds in one department or campus. Adequate per capita funding is vital, to allow all librarians in Unit 17 the opportunities they need to thrive.

Management’s response: zero increase and no remedy to the broken funding model.  They also attempted to equate professional development, an investment in our libraries’ futures, with compensation for the work we do: “We’d rather put all the money in salaries that you can spend on groceries,” they actually said.  Affording groceries is a very much a concern given the insulting and paltry 3%, 2%, 2%, 2% salary increases over four years that management offered.  But librarians also need adequate professional development to succeed at our jobs.

When you hire professionals, you invest in the tools they need to be successful – a desk, computer, software, office space, and ongoing training and professional development. You don’t say, “Do you want an office chair, or $400 more in your salary this month?” You don’t conflate “salary” with “training and development”.  You don’t make librarians sacrifice groceries for professional success. You don’t try to externalize those costs by making professional workers pay out-of-pocket for this essential investment.

To be clear: salary is compensation for the work we do.  PDF is necessary support to succeed at that work. We don’t make University administrators pay for their own travel or furniture – and they’re certainly in a better position to afford it than we are.  Professional librarians require competitive salaries AND adequate professional development funding.

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