Description Reviews More Details. Description How is it that some texts achieve the status of literature? The presence of a union or contract shifts the scope of librarian negotiations, elevating rank or position type as a more likely element of the ask, due to the financial implications of a higher rank or title. However, we also observed significantly lower rates of negotiation by union member respondents, potentially due to misconceptions as to whether individual negotiation is allowable within a collective bargaining context, or a lack of awareness of contract parameters to negotiate within and across.
Through interviews, we aimed to gain a fuller understanding of how librarians learn to negotiate, as opposed to what information sources were used during the process. While interviews confirmed a strong reliance on textual resources unsurprising for librarians! Regardless of union affiliation, the majority of librarians surveyed and interviewed stated that they did not receive formal, structured training. Most interviewees learned how to negotiate from either reading literature, talking to other people in their networks peers, spouses , and from the repeated practice of negotiating on-the-job.
As many of our interviewees pointed out, increased access to formal negotiation training could improve their confidence and skill in attempting to negotiate compensation, and thereby increase the frequency of negotiation in library workplaces, and improve outcomes. Training, however, is not a one-size-fits all solution, and pedagogical design impacts negotiation skill and outcomes. Our interviewees pointed to practice or coaching as a welcome assist, but we know that structured negotiation trainings should be carefully designed to align with evidence-based best practices to increase negotiation frequency and efficacy Practice alone does not make perfect.
Interviewees repeatedly stated that improved access to institutional or position salary data would aid them in negotiation, but we know from the literature that having the data alone is insufficient for negotiation training and improvement purposes We fully support full compensation transparency for all positions and institutions in addition to evidence-based negotiation training opportunities. Our research indicated that negotiation skills acquisition for academic librarians is currently informal, self-initiated, and network-bound rather than formally present in LIS curriculum or professional development training, which interviewees expressed would be desired.
If the goal is to have more people negotiating to raise the compensation bar for everyone in the library, people will need to receive better training in order to negotiate. Although our survey was widely distributed across the LIS discipline and represents librarians from a variety of library types, interviews were limited to a small number of academic librarians and represent only their experiences.
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We hope to expand on this work by conducting more interviews with librarians in other library settings. Survey findings demonstrating differences across library types raises additional questions, such as: Why are academic librarians negotiating at higher levels than other librarians? How do aspects of library employment practices and workplaces impact negotiation practices? Do conditions of the library workplace mediate the effect of union membership on salary negotiation outcomes? Other variables that we did not address in detail here, but came up as themes in the interviews, such as gender, length of time in librarianship, supervisory status, size of institution, and institutional funding structure, could also impact these findings, and we aim to examine these topics at a later date.
Simultaneously, we heard about the difficulties that nascent, new, and experienced library workers face in supporting their families, paying off student loan debt from MLS programs, and in contemplating lifelong careers in modestly compensated positions. In recruiting new librarians and promoting librarianship and library work as a viable career path, those of us in the field now must work to ensure that this work is good work in an economic sense — that it is well compensated and can support families.
Benchmarking library compensation levels by looking to librarian salaries alone is insufficient, as librarians may be one of the more well-compensated employee groups in the library. Raising salary thresholds for all workers in the library, especially the lowest-compensated occupations, is essential.
Our overall goal in sharing this information is to normalize negotiation in librarianship, as one pathway to improving library worker compensation. It is time to throw open the doors and speak freely. Library workers should feel comfortable negotiating, have access to evidence-based training, and openly share strategies and experiences with others in the field without fear of retaliation or shaming. We hope that more and better training, increased transparency with the sharing of experiences and with compensation information, will facilitate greater frequency of negotiation and increased self-advocacy in the hiring and promotion process, in a manner that complements and augments the gains to be won through union organizing and collective bargaining.
Ultimately, we hope this will facilitate a larger cultural shift in libraries that shatters the well-worn trope that library workers do not and should not care about getting paid, and replaces it with a shared vision of library workers with individual and collective agency that expect and ask for more. The authors would like to thank the many survey and interview participants for sharing their experiences and feedback, Curtis Lyons and Claire Stewart for funding the transcription of interviews, Ian Beilin and Leo Lo for their thorough and thoughtful review, and Sofia Leung for guiding the article to completion.
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