Friday, September 10, 2004

Post one

I'm a SLIS graduate of 1999, who came to Librarianship via an academic track in Music Composition, research in American Music History, and an interest in Archives. I've been working for three and a half years at Morris Library, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, as a Special Formats Cataloger, which in that case meant Music, Maps and Serials. I also had responsibility for Music acquisitions. After several years at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (its true name) as an LTE, I got to be painfully aware of what union membership would mean to me in terms of benefits and job security. What benefits you get as an LTE in Wisconsin stem directly from the unionization of professional staff--health insurance, contributions to Social Security and to ETF. So I was delighted to have the opportunity to join the Faculty Association (IEA/NEA) at SIUC, and served as Library Affairs departmental representative to the Association for three years. I look forward to sharing some of my experiences as a rep in class.

I'm taking the class to support a research interest in Libraries and Collective Bargaining which has emerged from my work with the SIUC Faculty Association. I gather from the syllabus and from chatting with Greg that the central theme of the course is the impact of the Information economy on working conditions and labor relations. For librarians, the immediate relevance is that the library "profession" has had ambiguous status historically. Claims of professionalism by and for librarians have helped to depress librarians' salaries and cut us off from rights enjoyed by other workers and by "real" professionals. As we chase that elusive professional status, the opportunity to recast ourselves as "information professionals" is dividing the profession into a library-drudge (pace Dorothea) proletariat and a wannabe elite of information specialists who see themselves as serving clients. Collective bargaining is a way out of this quagmire, if we can turn our access to and expertise with Information to our advantage and get a handle on our working conditions. The question I asked myself about why I got involved with a union was, "what do you do when they declare class warfare against you?"

Jeff Gibbens

1 comment:

Dorothea said...

Oh, Dorothea's not arguing with you on that point. :)