Not at your service

I finally landed a work week that was a bit lighter and managed to read my way through the small stack of journal articles growing to the left of my computer. Directly on top was Not at Your Service: Building Genuine Faculty-Librarian Partnerships by Yvonne Nalani Meulmans and Allison Carr. Lucky for me, it was truly excellent and spoke to my own instructional issues. There’s something to be said about journal articles that take a strong position, define that position, and support that position with both theory and practical suggestions. That something is “More, please!”

In this article, the authors argue that librarians must cease being at the service of faculty. That is, librarians need to decline the aforementioned types of requests, especially when they are not in the best interest of students. Instead, the authors advocate that librarians must sometimes say “no” to such requests and instead question, engage, and converse with faculty. By doing so, the librarian then places creating learning environments and opportunities for students as guiding professional value, over and above an individual’s discomfort.”

In addition to providing a compelling argument for why instruction should not be viewed or treated as a service model, the authors give many suggestions for helping individual librarians define useful boundaries as well as for communicating points of collaboration to faculty. As suggested in this article, I plan to revisit and define my own teaching philosophy and FAQ over winter break. As a bonus, I can use some points from the article to frame the library presentation to faculty at President’s Meeting in January. Is there a word for the serendipity of the right thing falling into your lap at exactly the right time? After reading it I felt both calmed and energized, and I immediately put together a plan for the future. May your holiday break work-reading do the same for you.

One thought on “Not at your service

  1. I ❤ this article so hard. I read it at a time when I was having a sort of professional identity crisis and I think it completely hit the nail on my totally frazzled head. (

    Because I started working in an ARL library as a brand-new 26 year old librarian (who looked significantly younger than that despite my best efforts) I have always been really sensitive about the kinds of power imbalances that impact the work academic librarians do with students and faculty. We typically don't have PhDs, we're often significantly younger than our teaching faculty counterparts when we begin our prof. career (and often lacking in research direction or agenda when we begin), and sometimes we're even younger than our students (I had lots of non-traditional students)!

    There was a great #critlib chat a while back about the librarian image where, I think it was Annie Pho, raised this whole "service" model as being particularly problematic when it came to our work and growth as professionals. I'll have to find it and send you the storify…

    (Also, I'm finally getting around to reading through my feedly feeds (hence the late comments)!)

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