Special Presidential TF on the Status of Librarians

Historical Overview

1. Background

a. Background: Task Force Formation

  • The Status of Librarians Task Force was formed in April 2001 by ALA President Nancy Kranich in response to many concerns raised by ALA members and leaders about status—and particularly about the difficulty of recruiting to the profession and about appointment of non-librarians to key library leadership positions.

  • The task force was charged to (1) to articulate those issues facing the profession that may be characterized as issues of status (e.g. comparable worth, public recognition of librarians), (2) to recommend strategies for addressing those issues, (3) to recommend specifically those strategies which should be followed by the American Library Association (as opposed to those which could/should be followed by other stakeholders), and (4) to define the scope of questions (financial, legal, organizational, research) which must be addressed by the Association in order to adopt those strategies.

  • Several ALA standing committees relating to some part of the above charge were asked to appoint liaisons to the task force: Status of Women in Librarianship, Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment Advisory, Public Awareness Advisory, Minority Concerns and Cultural Diversity, Research and Statistics, and Pay Equity.

  • ALA’s legal counsel was asked to provide a background document: American Library Association Tax Status-Basic Rules. The document supplied outlines the permitted and prohibited activities for 501(c)3, 501(c)5 and 501(c)6 organizations.

b. Background: ALA—Structure and Related Activities

  • ALA is a 501(c)3 educational association. ALA’s defined purposes are primarily public (not professional) purposes. ALA membership has, from the Association’s beginnings, been open to
    any interested individual or organization on payment of dues.

  • The recruitment, training and utilization of library personnel has, nevertheless, been a continuing ALA interest. Past ALA activities related to the status of librarians or other library workers have been focused in several, arguably related, areas:

    (1) Personnel Education and Utilization. As early as 1923, an ALA committee presented a suggested scheme for graded library service. There has been regular ALA activity in this area. In the 1920s, the ALA Committee on Salaries published a report comparing the salaries of teachers and librarians; ALA cooperated with the Bureau of Public Personnel Administration, Institute for Government Research, on a survey of library personnel (
    Proposed Classification and Compensation Plans for Library Personnel); and, in 1927 the ALA Committee on Schemes for Library Service issued a report based on that study.
  • In 1937, ALA Council created a “board” on salaries, staff and tenure, which became the Board on Personnel Administration in 1944. It was concerned with classification and pay plans, staff welfare and tenure, problems of civil service and merit systems. This Board released its
    Position Classification and Salary Administration in Libraries in 1951 and
    Personnel Organization and Procedure in 1952.

    ALA Council received and approved the “Library Education and Manpower” policy in 1970. It was reapproved, with removal of sexist language, as the Library Education and Personnel Utilization Policy in 1976. Significant revisions to the 1976 policy are currently being recommended by a task force resulting from COPE1 (the Library Career Ladders task force).

  • (2) Library Personnel Administration/Relations. In 1971 ALA Council established the Staff Committee on Mediation, Arbitration & Inquiry “to provide assistance to the membership in problems ranging from personnel concerns to status and intellectual freedom.” Over the next decade and a half, a number of issues arose, including (a) imbalance between available resources and potential demand, (b) lack of clarity regarding the basis for decisions, (c) the danger of raising member expectations that could not, in fact, be met. In the late 1980s, a special committee appointed by President Regina Minudri recommended that the focus shift from arbitration to mediation and inquiry, that relevant ALA policies be gathered and reviewed, and that SCMAI members receive regular briefing from legal counsel.

    In 1989, the Standing Committee on Review, Inquiry and Mediation (SCRIM) replaced SCMAI. SCRIM developed a policy document (approved by the ALA Council in 1990) and procedures. It received and acted on twelve cases between 1990–1991. Discontinuation of funding was recommended by COPES in the spring 1991, noting resource issues. In fall 1991, based on consultation with legal counsel, the ALA Executive Board voted to recommend to Council that SCRIM be abolished.

  • (3) Salaries—The ALA Pay Equity Commission was established in 1985 by ALA President E.J.Josey. That became the Pay Equity Committee. In 1989, ALA Council voted to encourage state associations to consider minimum salary guidelines, and to publish lists and sources of salary surveys.

  • (4) Public Recognition—This issue has taken different forms.

    (a) In the political arena, ALA has fought for appointment of librarians to key leadership positions—beginning with Putnam’s appointment as Librarian of Congress at the end of the 19th century and more recently with IMLS.

    (b) In 1991, ALA Council adopted a statement on the “Decade of the Librarian.” The resolution called for ALA to “shift its major focus from libraries to librarians” and outlined key strategic directions—expanded recruitment and scholarship support, education, creation of a more diverse workforce, competitive compensation (by providing decision-makers with appropriate information and librarians with appropriate tools), “repositioning” librarianship and increasing public recognition for librarians. More recently, the Campaign for America’s Libraries has sought to focus attention
    both on libraries and librarians.

  • (5) Recruitment—ALA history and Placement Center statistics (maintained for the past 30 years) show a constantly changing relationship between available jobs and job seekers. Neither vacancies nor applicants are evenly distributed between sub-specializations or between geographic regions.

    ALA has mounted several recruitment efforts, notably the “Each One Reach One” campaign of the late 1980s and the Spectrum Initiative of the late 1990s. The Spectrum scholarship/recruitment program has been “institutionalized,” based on a combination of Endowment funding (scholarships) and ALA operating budget. While the 1980s campaign was a general recruitment campaign, the Spectrum program is specifically focused on recruitment for diversity.

  • (6) Outsourcing and Privatization—Privatization surfaced as an issue within the Association with the 1980s attempts to “streamline”—and downsize—the federal government. ALA has acted in the public policy arena, urging Congress to bar further contracting out of federal libraries, and, more recently, in the ALA policy arena, to oppose “the shifting of policy making and management of library services from the public to the private sector.”

  • (7) Competencies—Definition of “competencies” has been sporadic and has tended to focus more on specialized competencies defined by ALA divisions (e.g. for children’s librarians) than on “generalist” competencies. Discussion related to competencies has tended to occur in relation to the MLS curriculum and accreditation. A task force was appointed following COPE1 to define “core competencies” for the MLS generalist. That task force is expected to deliver their final report by the end of 2001.

  • (8) Certification—At the 2001 Midwinter Meeting the ALA Council authorized establishment of the 501(c)6 related organized to enable certification within post-MLS specializations. Certification had long been considered by groups within the Association. In the mid-1990s, three divisions (PLA, LAMA, ASCLA) proposed development of the post-masters certification on Public Library Administration. The ALA Committee on Education was asked to develop a “framework” for such consideration. The 501(c)6 structure—as presently authorized—is narrowly drawn, focusing solely on certification.

In addition to ALA activities, several ALA divisions have standing committees or special task forces directly or indirectly involved with questions of “status.”

AASL - Competencies for Library Media Specialists in the 21st Cent. (TF)

AASL—Professional Development Committee

ALCTS—Education, Training, and Recruitment for Cataloging

ACRL—Professional Development

ASCLA—Library Personnel and Education

LAMA—Certified Public Library Administrator Certification (TF)

LAMA—Code of Professional Ethics for Library Managers

LAMA—Human Resources Section (HRS)—Economic Status and Staff Welfare

PLA—Workload Measures and Staffing Patterns

RUSA—Professional Competencies (ad hoc)

YALSA—Professional Development