Thursday, March 02, 2006

On Being Part of a Faculty

One of the things I found hardest to adjust to when I became a library director was becoming a law school faculty member. I had always chafed at the second-class status I felt as a "mere" librarian. In St. Louis University, I was a full member of the University faculty, and could participate in the University Senate, though to be a member of the law school faculty, I would have to be voted on, despite having all the credentials of most of the faculty: a JD, plus a master's in Library Science. And I took pride in publishing in peer-reviewed and professionally edited journals while most law faculty publishing is done in journals edited by law students.

So I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about law faculty. And yet, as a law student, I was properly over-awed by law professors, as well. When I came to a school where I knew nobody, and became the director, it was hard to make that leap and become part of the faculty. I had nothing in common with these folks. I was not from the area. I did not teach the same thing, or explore the same subjects, at least not in the same ways.

One thing that helped me a great deal was that one of the other professors had started a book group (yay!) and invited me to join. I have since tried multiple times to do this. It may be a function of the way people live, but it seems much more attractive to folks to have a movie group these days. At least, something that allows newer and more seasoned members of the faculty to speak together about the same thing, that has nothing to do with work or politics... what a terrific idea. A social hub. There are other ways to do this. I once announced a post-faculty meeting consolation group, by invitation only, and the only rule was nobody can talk about the meeting. We had a drink together and had to clear out by a time certain. We've only done this once so far, but WOW! what a consolation it was!

My other observations: It is a lot like being part of a family. You have those same mixed feelings about wanting to strangle folks that otherwise you are pretty fond of. I do think it is important for the library for the director to be a full and active member of the faculty. Not easy. You don't want to be perceived as "faculty lite." And as library directors, we work an 11 month contract -- no summers off, no time off between semesters. We also are scheduled for at least 8 hours a day, unless we manage things very cleverly, indeed. So scholarship and service (especially to our profession) tend to be taken out of our personal life. This makes it very hard if we want to do those tiny things like be good parents or take care of our health. Educate faculty and deans wherever possible -- try not to let this be the norm! Geez, who wants to live like that?!? Do you think the rest of the faculty would take a job that was that demanding? (at least after tenure?)

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