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Perceptions and Experiences of Precarious Employment in Canadian Libraries: An Exploratory Study

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-09-23
Abstract: 

Precarious employment is a labour practice characterized for employers by flexibility and economic efficiencies and for workers by vulnerability and uncertainty as to job duration, scheduling, and pay. It is increasingly common in Canada and can result in physical, mental, financial, and social strain for people who experience it. In libraries, it has the potential for negative effects on individual staff members, organizational health, and service quality. However, literature on precarious library work is scarce, and it is unclear how its effects on library staff compare to those described in the broader literature or how it affects the library field as a whole.

The purpose of this study was to gather information about library workers’ perceptions and experiences of precarious employment and to see how it played out in library contexts. Thirteen library workers both with and without experiences of precarious employment participated in qualitative, semi-structured interviews, which were synthesized into a narrative summarizing their thoughts and experiences. Results indicated that while there were some positive effects of precarious work, they mainly benefited library organizations from scheduling and financial standpoints, while negative outcomes were more numerous, more salient, and affected individuals as well as organizations. Awareness of such perceptions and experiences may help to spark conversations and support for those experiencing negative effects from precarious work, and it can serve to reduce or eliminate factors leading to those effects. However, failure to address them may result in negative outcomes for library workers and organizations, such as stress, turnover, marginalization, burnout, leaving the field, reduced service quality, and more. Accordingly, this paper provides some of the first qualitative information on precarious employment in libraries and may be used to support broader discussions about the topic.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

Let's Talk Precarity (Or Not): Libraries, Community, and Conversation

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-06-04
Abstract: 

Precarious labour structures such as contracts and on-call work are increasingly common in both academia and librarianship. Recent reports from the Canadian Association of University Teachers and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have measured the extent and impact of contract employment in academia. They indicate that individuals working precariously experience effects such as a sense of disconnection, poor mental and physical health outcomes, financial instability, and high levels of stress and uncertainty. Institutional effects can include declining quality of service, lower workplace morale, and increasing administrative load for managers and continuing staff. While these reports provide valuable data on the working conditions of contract academic staff, both determined librarians to be out of scope despite acknowledging that librarians are often part of faculty associations or bargaining units.

Our ongoing research study on precarity in libraries aims to address this gap in knowledge and provide new information on precarious work in Canadian libraries. Since November 2017, we have been collecting and coding postings from the Partnership Job Board into a dataset that lets us explore patterns in job postings and identify the prevalence of precarious positions. We have also sought to capture the effects and perceptions of precarious work through semi-structured interviews with BC library workers, and we are planning an online survey that will build on findings from these other components.

In this session, we will discuss findings from our job postings dataset with a particular focus on postings in academic libraries, and we will situate this information within the broader contexts of our other findings and of precarity in academia. We will also explore the following questions: How can academic librarians organize and advocate for the concerns of library workers in the context of precarity in higher education? How can we challenge the silence around this topic and make space for conversations about precarity and its effects? How can those with tenure or secure employment support and advocate for precariously employed colleagues? How can we build solidarity with precarious workers, within the library, in our institutions, and with workers across institutions? In doing so, we hope to inform attendees about the negative effects of precarious work and assemble a range of strategies to mitigate them.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

An Active Learning Approach to Teaching Copyright Essentials

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-10-10
Document type: 
Book chapter
File(s): 

Preparing To Publish: SFU Library Workshop for Graduate Students

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-09-14
Abstract: 

This workshop is presented by SFU Library for graduate students who are interested in publishing their work in academic journals. Graduate students are always encouraged to publish but often without really knowing what that means or how to start. This workshop focuses on navigating the peer review process and also touches on the topics of open access, working with an editor, and co-authorship.  It includes a discussion of copyright transfer agreements and licenses and provides insight into publishing venues for assuring your research has the best possible visibility, accessibility, and impact.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

Open Journals in the Classroom: Leveraging the Power of Social Learning through Course-Based, Online, Open Access Journals

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-05-23
Abstract: 

Drawing on our recent experiences with implementing and supporting several course journal projects at Simon Fraser University (SFU), this presentation explores opportunities for academic librarians to partner with faculty using open journals in the classroom to facilitate deeper, hands-on learning experiences for students around scholarly communications.

Document type: 
Conference presentation
File(s): 

Leveraging the Power of Social Learning

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-01-16
Abstract: 

A recent case study of a course journal using the Public Knowledge Project’s (PKP) Open Journal Systems (OJS) allows students to facilitate the creation of an online, open access journal by soliciting contributions “across mediums from artists, students, activists, and scholars” (Przybylo, 2018). As the benefits of Open Pedagogy for student learning and engagement become more widely recognized, programs such as SFU’s Library’s Digital Publishing division continue to “leverage the power of social learning” by allowing students to share their work in course-based, online, open access journals (Moore, 2018). Typically, students working on a course journal submit their own work to OJS while learning about the scholarly publishing process, reviewing one another’s work, and writing for a broader audience beyond “disposable assignments” (Stranack, 2017; Wiley, 2013). However, issues of student privacy have arisen, along with questions about the potential implications of students “putting work into the public commons that might reflect poorly on them because it is not polished or sophisticated” (DeRosa & Robison, 2017, p. 121). This case study addresses these concerns and increases students’ community engagement by allowing them to work in project teams which each take a focused approach to one element of journal publishing. In this model, students develop a deeper understanding of journal publishing options, opportunities, and challenges, while building relationships with community partners. In this presentation, we will outline this model of employing OJS in the classroom, with recommendations for implementing similar projects.

Document type: 
Conference presentation
File(s): 

Keeping it ReAL (Research in Academic Libraries) 2018: Add it Up Final Report

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-01-23
Abstract: 

This report documents the program "Keeping it ReAL (Research in Academic Libraries) 2018: Add it Up" that was held at the University of Victoria on October 26, 2018. This event is the third annual iteration of Keeping it ReAL, a free workshop with the aim of fostering a research culture and creating an open and supportive network for learning, sharing and supporting research among academic librarians in BC. The program focused on the middle stages of the research process, in an effort to enhance academic librarians' skills in gathering, managing, and analyzing research data. The event featured keynote speakers Baharak Yousefi and Shirley Lew, lightning talks on research projects by LIS practitioners, workshops on LIS theory and methodology, and a panel on indigenous research methods. Feedback on the workshop was positive; librarians found the structure of the day effective and appreciated the networking aspect of the event. The report outlines recommendations for continued funding, plans for future programs, and distribution.

Document type: 
Report
File(s): 

Card Sorting and User Scenarios: Usability Testing of SFU's Scholarly Publishing and Open Access Webpages

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2018-10-26
Abstract: 

Academic libraries are leading changes in the scholarly publishing ecosystem, and librarians are responsible for clearly communicating with researchers about this developing area. The purpose of this research project was to update SFU’s Scholarly Publishing and Open Access webpages to make the structure, language and content accessible and discoverable for a wide-range of users. We were investigating the question: Can users find what they need on the Scholarly Publishing and Open Access webpages? Our research was based on commonly adopted usability and information architecture principles, such as those described by usability.gov, Rosenfeld, Morville, & Arango (2015), and Nielsen (2012). We conducted two phases of qualitative data collection: An open, moderated, paper card sorting activity to collect initial data about the structure of the pages; and a usability-lab study with scenarios to test the resulting content. Data was manually coded into thematic groups, and webpage edits were prioritized based on respondent feedback. We anticipate conducting similar usability testing on an iterative basis to keep the webpages current, and our experience will inform our approach for future studies.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

"The Library Helps With That?" A Reality Check on the Integration of Scholarly Communications Support

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2018-07-30
Abstract: 

What if scholarly communications was truly collaborative, with researchers seeking out the best and most relevant resources available through their institution at all stages of scholarly communications? How close are we to meeting this goal?

SFU Library recently conducted usability testing with graduate student library staff on the newly revised Scholarly Publishing and Open Access webpages. We were surprised to learn that these students, who are open access and open source advocates, were completely unaware of many of the scholarly communications resources and tools offered by the library. When faced with a number of hypothetical scenarios related to graduate student research, they told us in no uncertain terms that they simply wouldn't come to the library website to look for information to answer questions about such things as applying for funding for open access, assessing the quality of journals, or measuring the impact of their scholarly work. Our initial goal -- to test the usability of the new webpages -- was suddenly unimportant when compared to the larger issue of the need to raise awareness of the services we offer to those who can benefit from them.

Our university libraries work hard to provide scholarly communications services to scholars, through web content, workshops, consultations, handouts, classroom instruction, digital publishing opportunities, and more. Many of these are developed in response to researchers' needs, while others serve to promote and advocate for sustainable alternatives to traditional forms of scholarly publishing. But all of these resources lack meaning if researchers don’t know they exist, or fail to seek them out because they underestimate their value.

It's apparent that university libraries have a long road ahead to become fully collaborative with researchers at our institutions. Developing new and more effective partnerships throughout the university is key to creating a collaborative process where researchers can tap into the most relevant tools and resources to support their scholarly work. At SFU Library, we plan to continue to build meaningful partnerships with relevant groups to better integrate library services into research and scholarly communications activities throughout the university. We aim to leverage our champions, researchers who use a wide range of scholarly communications services, to promote these services to their colleagues within and beyond their departments.

Document type: 
Conference presentation
File(s): 

20th Anniversary 1998-2018

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2018-11-03
Abstract: 

The history of the SFU Retirees Association and relations to CURAC and other organizations.

Document type: 
Other
File(s):