i dream of being possible

officially a bitter faux-academic librarian

In my last post about collective bargaining, I described a situation where the message we were receiving from York University is that PT librarians are not academic librarians. Not really. We don’t do research and we don’t do academic service. Thus, we are not academic librarians. It doesn’t matter that some of us do research and have done academic service, it wasn’t part of our ‘duties’ and thus irrelevant. That is York’s very firm position and they aren’t budging on it.

The interesting thing about between that last post and now is that I’ve signed a new contract. The last session I had with them they said that research had never been a requirement for our position. Four days later, I was signing a contract based on a job ad that explicitly said that research was required for my position. Indeed, after checking, it turns out that research has been part of my position since 2007. And, of course, during my time at York I’ve done research1.

I brought this up in yesterday’s bargaining session. Apparently both the requirement that I do research and the material fact that I’ve done this research still doesn’t matter. Since either a portion of my time has not been allocated to ‘self-directed’ research or this research is just to keep up with trends in my field. The first claim is false. I’ve been required to do research and my supervisor gives me time to do it – and I pursue my own interests.

The latter claim was interesting since if it were just to keep up-to-date with my field, I’m unclear as to why I’ve been publishing, presenting, and contributing code. Keeping up with my field doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll spend time creating Research Products(tm). Nor does a requirement to stay current entail producing anything. Which is interesting that this point was raised – by the head librarian no less – given that we’d already defined research as being Research Products(tm) used in tenure packages.

In any case, its clear that we are either trying to communicate across parallel dimensions or they simply have no interest in recognizing the work we do. The moving of the goalposts makes that pretty clear. They say its never been required, then we prove that it has. But then this required research isn’t ‘self-directed’ or whatever the fuck. But even if it is… then its really just to stay current in the field. And on and on and on.

I’m tired of this discussion.

And you know what’s really funny about this? Is that while York is focused on the roles and responsibilities aspect of this (bc they do Not want us to be pro-rata faculty librarians), I really only care about this insofar as it concerns academic freedom. They want to say I’m a grunt librarian who isn’t part of York’s scholarly community? I don’t give a fuck. But it’d still be nice to have academic freedom ffs.

Sidenote: One of the interesting things to come out of yesterday’s bargaining session is that I discovered that I think the academic freedom given to York’s contract (re: adjunct) faculty is too narrow. From what I can tell, they only have academic freedom as relates to the course they teach. So if they are teaching a class about environmental design ethics or whatever, but publish literary criticism that article is not covered by York’s academic freedom. Pretty fucking ridiculous, imo. Again the message is: You are Not part of Our Scholarly Community.

So we aren’t. And more to the point: we will never be. See my issue with being a faux-academic librarian is that my own institution wants to define my job in such a way that they’d never, ever hire me for a FT or tenure track position. Not ever. Which is kind of interesting, since it basically means that PT librarian positions at York are deadend jobs. If you work there for, say, more than one contract, you might literally doom your own academic librarian career.

This is despite the fact that since I’ve been working at York for four or so years, I have institutional memory. I have good relations (kind of) with my colleagues and with faculty. I understand the organization and its values. I’m actually (or was anyway) invested in York as an institution. I’ve been diligently doing my research in order to ensure that I remain a viable candidate as an academic librarian. But York would never hire me. Probably not even for my own position, if it were made FT.

Amusingly, though, this actually creates an interesting problem for York now. One of the other things that has irritated me for a long time is that our hours are capped at 17.49 hrs. If we work 17.5 or more, we allegedly should become YUFA (read: faculty) librarians. But since their position – and they’ve said this outright – is that we aren’t pro-rata YUFA librarians, its quite possible that YUFA’s collective agreement cannot be applied to us, since we are outside of its scope. If we aren’t academic librarians, then the collective agreement applying to FT academic librarians is irrelevant.

Basically: York wants to create a two tiered system for librarians. Some are academic librarians (YUFA) and some are faux-academic librarians (CUPE). If this is the case, then one wonders if there is a possibility to be FT faux-academic librarian. As in, get a FT position in which research and academic service are not required. Which, tbh, I think would be awesome. I’ve said before that I don’t particularly care about tenure.

I’m kind of excited by this since one my things since the beginning is that I’d love to work more hours. Like even just 21 instead of 17, so I could have three full days. I don’t think I’d be able to do full time given my disabilities. But I could probably swing an extra day, since it would also mean shorter days (working two fairly long days a week is pretty fucking exhausting).

Speaking of disability, before bargaining started I mentioned my sleep apnea and people (as always) asked about the cpap. My comrades, however, understood why I couldn’t afford one (they make the same money as me) but also my reasoning for trying to wait until bargaining is finished and we have health benefits. I mentioned how I was diagnosed two years ago and have been waiting and waiting and waiting. I’ve been waiting so long my prescription expired and now I have to go through the whole process to get another one.

And of course this has been taking so long bc York has been dragging its feet throughout this entire process. The fact that it was around 10 months after we formed our union that we finally managed to get them at the bargaining table. The fact that we’ve literally spent two months discussing academic freedom. The fact that they used to (until we bitched them out) show up incredibly late to our meetings. The fact that they come to the table clearly unprepared like 90% of the time.

Thinking about all of this made me realize: York’s admin has been directly contributing to my overall degraded quality of life. First by being stingy assholes and not just paying us better and giving us benefits to begin with and second by being assholes and drawing out this process as much as possible.

Look. Even if we just do unionizing time period. Its been two years that I could’ve been receiving treatment for sleep apnea and not feeling tired all the time and randomly falling asleep whenever. This would be devestating if I drove, since remember that my non-existent license has been suspended. A period of two of the most stressful years of my life (hey, getting sued is super relaxing). A period where I was so depressed and suicidal that I was involuntarily institutionalized. Also a period where I had to pay for my own autism assessment, which was like 5% of my annual income.

I’ve been bitching for years now that my only option for mental healthcare is pharmeceutical. Which I don’t mind taking meds, but this generally isn’t considered enough. I’m functional but nothing is actually better. I can’t afford therapy of any kind because I’m poor (bc York pays me shit all) and I don’t have benefits (again, thanks York!). Not to mention the stress of being poor and having to consistently beg for money on the internet to cover things like rent, food, and prescriptions.

So ask me if I’m bitter. Answer: yes. Also ask me if I’m 1000% done with trying to contort my brain into being ‘polite’ (read: not autistic) in these bargaining sessions. Answer: oh, yes.

One last amusing anecdote. So, York basically wants to ensure that these are deadend jobs. But left out pensions in our benefit plan. Lol. So they want to render us unemployable anywhere else (including York itself) but basically just work us into the ground. :D

  1. Remember that ‘research’ is being narrowly defined as anything that could appear within a tenure package. So peer-reviewed articles, conference presentations, and – in my case – code. There are at least two tenured librarians who included code as part of their tenure package. So.